Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Ethnic Dating On The Rise

Teena Verbit didn't think her daughter was dating anyone ``spectacular.''

So she wrote a personality profile for her daughter and posted it on Jdate.com, a Web site for Jewish singles.

``I didn't think she would do it,'' Linda Verbit, 23, said of her mom, ``but she did. She put me on Jdate.''

Teena Verbit now approves of the young man her daughter is dating. ``My mom has never been shy about telling me her opinion,'' said Linda Verbit, who lives outside Philadelphia.

Finding a companion on the Web is hardly new. But now parents are jumping into the online dating and matchmaking game, penning profiles of their children and paying to have them displayed on sites catering to specific religious or ethnic backgrounds.

``My parents signed me up'' for Shaadi.com, said 30-year-old Sejal Patel. Her dad even enlisted a Web-savvy friend to help him post her profile on the Indian singles' site.

``It seemed like everyone in the world knew about my Shaadi profile before I did,'' said Patel, who began getting up to 30 e-mails a day. Her parents wrote the profile -- saying she likes family picnics, cooking and helping out at home -- and paid for the service. The Web site costs $110 a year for a platinum membership, which includes a bold-faced listing and more personalized matchmaking services.

But not everyone buys into religious online dating sites.

``I prefer to meet them as a person, not a profile,'' said 29-year-old Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Chicago Council of American-Islamic Relations.

While he has visited Naseeb.com, an increasingly popular site for Muslims, Rehab is not a member. Nor does he know of parents pushing such sites on their children, but that wouldn't surprise him.

Online dating is one of the Web's oldest businesses, with the most well-known sites experiencing flat to modest growth. But sites focusing on religion, race or ethnicity have soared. At Shaadi.com, for instance, traffic grew 73 percent from June 2005 to June 2006, according to ComScore Media Metrix, which measures Internet activity. Unique visitors to Jdate.com grew 43 percent during that period, and the site is so used to working with people like Teena Verbit that they even have a name for them: ``Jmoms.''

Other religious dating sites target Baptists, Catholics, Christians and Latter-day Saints, among others. There are also sites aimed at blacks, Greeks, Hispanics and practically every other slice of life one could imagine.

The number of dating sites jumped to 1,122 from 850 in July 2005, according to data from Web site tracking firm Hitwise.

Such sites are ``a great tool for targeting and filtering information,'' said Sara Stevens, director of industry solutions at ComScore.

Prices vary, from free sign-ups and trial memberships to costly plans, such as a $251 annual fee at eHarmony.com, which focuses on personality traits in trying to foster relationships.

Spark Networks, which operates Jdate and other specialty dating sites, is quite familiar with well-meaning parents. A survey recently posted on Jdate.com found that 22 percent of members' moms paid for their kid's Jdate membership.


Single Jewish Female: A Modern Guide to Sex and Dating