Siblings Brad and Danielle Weisberg were checking out a dating website one day last year. When Brad left to run errands, their mother, Barbara, also in the room at the time, asked if she could sift through profiles for him in his absence. By the time he returned a couple hours later, Barbara had jotted down a list of 10 Jewish women’s screen names for him to contact. It turned out he was impressed by many of the profiles his mother chose. “My mother had put more effort and time into the process than I ever could or would and she enjoyed doing it,” said Brad.
While some young Jewish singles may think this scenario is the set up for a bad Jewish joke, and would have been mortified at the thought of their mother coaching them on a singles website, not Brad and Danielle. They appreciated their mother’s help, so much so that she gave them the idea to start a website called “The JMom.com” for Jewish moms—and some dads too—to match their single children up on dates with other Jews.
Brad and Danielle’s aunt also inspired them to create the site after she fixed up her own son with a woman, who he later married, so the siblings thought maybe there was something to this matchmaking mother concept.
Brad, age 30, and Danielle, 26—both single Jewish transplants to Chicago from Louisville—launched The JMom in November with their friend, computer programmer Matt Pulley.
Danielle, who initially dreamed up the idea for the site, fends off criticism that it’s geared toward pushy, meddlesome parents. “We’re close to our parents and they’re not overbearing or pushy by any means,” she said. “They care about us and want us to be happy—and that’s who the site is for.”
Their mother, who lives in Louisville, echoes her daughter’s sentiments. “As a parent, you are only as happy as your least happy child,” she said.
Back before the internet, during the Fiddler on the Roof era and much more recently too, it was common for parents to fix up their children. In fact, like so many Jewish couples, Barbara and her husband—Brad and Danielle’s father—met on a blind date more than 36 years ago, and they’ve been happily married ever since.
Unlike when she and her husband met, dating is more challenging today, according to Barbara, with life busier and more complicated for her children’s generation than it was for Baby Boomers. “Younger people today have seen the world—many went away to college and work outside of their hometowns,” she said. “They’ve had more life experiences. They’ve seen so much and they’re not going to settle.”
Brad and Danielle hope to modernize the old-fashioned way of parents fixing up their kids by bringing the setup to the internet, which means parents who live in different cities than their children can still fix them up hundreds of miles away.
Here’s how the site works: A parent—or another relative—writes a profile, including information and a photograph of their child and information about their family as well. Then, if the parent spots a potential set up, they contact the parent of the potential date. Once both parties agree to set up their kids, the profiles are emailed to their children. The kids then take it from there and can choose whether or not to email their potential match.
“There is no negative to it. You don’t have to go on a date with somebody if you don’t want to,” said Brad, “but it opens up a new network of people so you could potentially find the love of your life.”
As hopeful as they are that The JMom will lead people to their beshert, the Weisbergs are also keeping a sense of humor about the site. “The information the mothers are writing about their kids is hysterical,” said Brad. “Every parent thinks their children are wonderful—and they are in their eyes.” Barbara wrote profiles for both Brad and Danielle. “She said stuff like, ‘He’s a great dancer.’ I would never say that about myself,” said Brad.
The Weisberg siblings have had other funny interactions with people using the site. One mother recently e-mailed The JMom with a technical question, and then wrote the following: “I don’t have much time, I want grandchildren!” Another mom said she had signed her single child up without permission to do so and was soon found out by her kid. The busted mom e-mailed The JMom with this: “Take me off! I’m in trouble!” The site’s creators advise that parents get the green light from their offspring before signing them up to avoid conflict.
Ultimately, The JMom offers one more tool to fix up Jewish singles, according to Brad. “If we can match up 100 people and we get one marriage out of that, we’ve done our job.”