Like many bustling urban centers, Berlin, Germany, is abuzz with a hip, artsy, techy, and finance-driven scene of young adults. Amid the hubbub, you’ll find many Jewish members.
This buzz of activity and overload of opportunity leads to a vexing paradox: it’s so much harder to find a suitable soulmate. With so many options and a population looking for experiences rather than serious life decisions, finding someone wishing to embark on a committed life’s journey can be a tough nut to crack.
Alex Parhomovski, a resident of Berlin, was very keen on this challenge. So when he finally encountered Met @Chabad, a revolutionary new program from Chabad Young Professionals International that is changing the Jewish dating landscape, he was very excited. A thoughtful program that combines years of experience, reams of data, and a generous dollop of personal heart, the impact of this new venture is beginning to make its mark.
Alex and Shirley’s engagement this past month is proof in the pudding.
“There are, thank G-d, so many organizations in Berlin competing for the young Jewish community’s attention,” said Alex. “What I quickly discovered at these events was that people don’t have a clear goal of marriage in mind. They approach the entire dating scene with a mindset of, ‘Let’s see what happens’ without giving any real thought as to what should happen. This leads to a lot of heartbreak. People get stuck, they change partners often, and overall, they’re just unhappy.
“I was very taken by Rabbi Manis’ Friedman’s lectures curated by the team at Met @Chabad. His big idea that you must first fall in love with the idea of marriage before falling in love with a person really resonated with me. With that idea squarely in my mind, it brought matters into focus and made my search far more productive.”
So when Levi and Mushka Pinson of CYP Berlin invited Alex to a Europe-wide speed dating event in December of 2021, he jumped on the opportunity.
“Our community is close-knit,” said Pinson. “Everyone already knows the singles in the area. With Met @Chabad, they can meet people far beyond their localities—in the whole country or even across Europe.”
A virtual event hosted by Met @Chabad, this speed dating experience is quite unique: members are required to fill out a questionnaire to help them determine their core values and hone in on what they seek in a prospective partner. The results are then verified and processed by the Met @Chabad algorithm that pairs them with a potential seven suitors who share similar values and life goals. Over the course of the speed dating event, members date each prospect for eight minutes in a focused and serious setting.
If both parties express interest thereafter, they log their impressions into the system, which then notifies both parties of their fortuitous beginning, exchanging their contacts. The couple is then free to pursue their shared spark together to see where it goes.
Sure enough, Alex found that spark with Shirley, a fellow German resident from Dusseldorf. “What immediately struck me was how much Shirley shared my conception of marriage. She had the same desire as I did, and she was brave and unhesitant about it. It was a refreshing attitude in the modern Jewish community I frequent. From that strong foundation, we were able to explore our shared values and interests, and the rest is history.”
For Rabbi Beryl Frankel, director of CYP International and the heart and soul pushing Met @Chabad since inception, news of the program’s first jackpot had him dancing on the office floor. “Alex and Shirley’s story really encapsulates everything we’re trying to accomplish: to generate a seismic shift in the minds and hearts of so many young Jews away from a causal model of dating towards the Torah’s timeless wisdom of marriage-oriented, values-based dating,” said Frankel.
What started as a faint dream just a few years ago has, thank G-d, burgeoned into a real tour de force. “That two young Jews in Germany who followed the Rebbe’s guidance to their bashert is a true source of nachas,” said Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, vice chairman of Merkos L’inyonei Chinuch, “But we cannot rest. It’s our fervent wish that by the time Alex and Shirley stand under the chuppah, hundreds more will already be exchanging cries of ‘Mazal tov!’”