Browsing for Beshert on Valentine’s Day

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Valentine’s Day may not be the most Jewish holiday (well, actually, it’s not a Jewish holiday — at all), but it’s always important to take every available occasion to cherish and value the lox to your bagel, nu?

For that very reason, Lori Salkin’s phone has been ringing off the hook for the past week.
While that’s not uncommon for many entrepreneurs, Salkin, who lives in Merion Station, is a matchmaker. So it’s safe to say her business and livelihood become just a little bit busier as Valentine’s Day approaches.
Salkin is a head matchmaker for the online dating service SawYouatSinai.com and its new app, JBolt, and has been in the business for seven years.
While some of us — not naming names here — choose to spend Valentine’s Day on a double date with two NJBs named Ben and Jerry or spend the day before with all of our best girlfriends (otherwise known as the should-be-national holiday, Galentine’s Day), others head to the virtual world to find love.
“Finding love is a matter of luck and timing,” Salkin said, “but  it is also having a matchmaker on speed-dial — around Valentine’s Day, we have a surge at SawYouAtSinai and JBolt in signups.”
Salkin wasn’t too surprised to see the higher number of users registered. Holidays tend to create more signups, though walking past a CVS and seeing displays of heart-shaped candy and gooey Hallmark cards probably doesn’t help either.
“People really never give up on love,” Salkin said, “and you see those numbers come up on Valentine’s Day, any time when there’s holidays — Rosh Hashanah, Passover — and people are going home to see their grandmother who asks them, ‘Have you met a nice Jewish boy yet or a nice Jewish girl yet?’ ”
However busy it makes her, Salkin is always game to help.
“I really believe that if you feel it and the calendar says it’s time for love, then let’s go find the love,” she said. “Let me help you find your match.”
She balances a home life with her husband and three young children with her increasingly busy work life because she wants to be able to find someone their perfect match — though, right now, she said, she has more social media follower requests than she know what to do with.
“My intern needs an intern,” she joked.
Being in the business for so many years, she has gained some wisdom and tips to share with those looking for love this season.
For one thing: Don’t forget Valentine’s Day.
“Do not forget!” she said with a laugh. “Do acknowledge Valentine’s Day. Even if you’re working, even if you have a deadline — if you’re anywhere past a first or a second date with somebody and you’re in an established relationship, do something special.”
It can be difficult to make the time, she said, as people are working or on deadlines or don’t have time for a big, elaborate date.
Instead of just not acknowledging it at all, really try to make the time to do something, even if it’s small.
“Sending flowers or stopping by on a lunch break with a single rose, or even stopping by with their favorite Starbucks drink — something that says, ‘I thought of you and I took time out of my life to do something for you, and acknowledge you on what is “the love day” ’ is so huge,” she said.
Another tip: Don’t forget that Valentine’s Day isn’t just for those who aren’t married.
 “Valentine’s Day is not just for dating couples, it’s not just for engaged couples, it’s for married couples, too,” she said, adding with a laugh, “I hope my husband reads this article.”
However, if this is your first date with someone, making it on a holiday where you will be surrounded by couples already dating and comfortable eating spaghetti in front of each other might not be the best idea.
“If it’s a first date, don’t make it on the 14th,” she advised. “Do not have a first date in a restaurant where everyone around you is coming in with huge bouquets and boxes of chocolate and look like they’ve been in love for months and you’re sitting across the table with someone who’s essentially a stranger.”
She also wants to remind couples to acknowledge their milestones. Before rushing to buy a $100 bouquet of roses and a four-course meal for someone you’ve only recently started dating, do something that is right for the stage of the relationship.
“You don’t want either party of the relationship to feel like, ‘Whoa, that was a little bit much, we’ve only been dating for three months and I’ve gotten like $200 worth of Valentine’s Day gifts,’ ” she said. “Take everything in stride, realize where you are in the relationship — and there are definitely benchmarks and milestones for the relationship.”
But — while you do acknowledge your relationship milestones — don’t overdo it. And don’t be cheesy, she said.
“No matter how seasoned you are as a couple, no matter how long it’s been, don’t be cheesy on Valentine’s Day,” she said.
From her own experience, she also recommended not planning a surprise that could backfire.
Her husband, on one of their first Valentine’s Day dates, had surprised her with a ride on the Spirit of Boston, a dinner-and-dance cruise. But, as he didn’t want to spoil the surprise and tell her anything beforehand that could give it away, he bought her a dress — that was seven sizes too big.
Luckily, she had already been wearing something that was appropriate, but there was a valuable lesson to be learned.
No matter how your holiday goes, taking the time to show appreciation for someone you love is important, she said.
“Whether you observe Valentine’s Day or not, whether for religious reasons or not, it’s an opportunity to show someone you love — the same way we observe MLK Day and Presidents’ Day and Parents’ Day, Grandparents’ Day, whatever’s on the calendars these days — this one’s for your love, your spouse, your boyfriend, your girlfriend, your fiancé(e). I believe every day in a loving relationship should be Valentine’s Day.”
But David Yarus, founder of the popular dating app JSwipe, said Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be such a big deal.
JSwipe is hosting parties in New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. to celebrate Valentine’s Day, with an estimated 1,000 attendees in New York and hundreds in the other cities. The app will be bringing people together from their phones into real life.
“We want to bring people together off as well as online,” Yarus said.
But for JSwipe users, he advised keeping cool about the holiday.
“Don’t feel like you need to take it so seriously,” he said. “It’s a good way to meet new people and connect.”
If you do have a Valentine this year, Yarus said, just have fun and try a nontraditional activity, like finding an Airbnb and taking a trip somewhere new.
“On the flip side, if you don’t, it’s totally cool,” he added. “We’re in this era of an empowered single life. It’s going to be a good day for swiping.”
But for sites like JMom, matchmaking takes a more familial approach.
Imagine your mother trying to set you up with so-and-so’s son, a nice, young dental hygienist — except now she’s doing it virtually — and without your knowledge.
JMom has been allowing Jewish parents — usually persistent mothers — to create profiles for their children and browse the website for potential sons- and daughters-in-law for about six years now. The site is active across the U.S., Canada and Israel.
Steve Dinelli, CEO of JMom, has been in the matchmaking business for about a year, and he said thousands of pairings and three marriages have been made since its existence.
Notably, Dinelli said, parents’ surprising their children with potential mates has been fairly well-received — at least after moms took the time to find the right partner.
“When it’s brought up before, like, ‘Hey can I put you on this site?’ it doesn’t go over well. But when the parents just do it and find someone for their kid, it goes over really, really well,” he explained.
Dinelli, who lives in Chicago, said there is a definite increase in users after New Year’s.
“I think what happens is, a lot of people go home for the holidays and moms ask, ‘Why aren’t you married yet? What’s going on?’ Then they come across the site,” he said. “Valentine’s Day obviously comes after that, so I think people definitely try and be a little more active on the site leading up to Valentine’s Day, trying to make something happen.”
However, Dinelli noted that parents should keep their children’s wants in mind when browsing for beshert.
“They don’t want to introduce their child or children to somebody who they don’t think is going to be perfect, so they aren’t afraid to look at every profile,” he added. “If they’re going to be a matchmaker, they really need to look out for what the child wants, not what they want.”
Dinelli also suggested that geography should not be a barrier when it comes to being the go-between to finding the one.
“All the marriages that have come from the site, the children have lived out-of-state, and the parents connected on the site and ended up flying their children to meet each other,” he said, though it is not necessarily the norm. “It’s really exciting seeing the connections that happen on the site and seeing how excited the parents are when they come across it.”
Dinelli is in a relationship, but he’s sure his own mother would know where to go if he wasn’t.
“If we weren’t together, Mom would definitely have me on there,” he laughed.
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