Ottawa’s Stacy Goldstein is reviving an ancient art in the era of online dating. Writer Norah Mor discovers that the first step in making a successful match – knowing yourself and what you want in a mate – can be tougher than any university exam.
Stacy Goldstein, 34, is an overwhelmingly busy woman who brings a contagious energy and enthusiasm to everything she does. I’ve gotten to know her over the last year while, as a skilled chiropractor, she has been miraculously bringing my wrist back to life.
But, in addition to her work at the Hampton Wellness Centre, she and Rabbi Michael Goldstein are parents to three young children.
As Director of Community Building at congregation Machzikei Hadas, she oversees the Shabbat and Yom Tov youth programs, monthly family events such as Shabbat dinners and holiday parties, and outreach to families new to the community.
She’s a member of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa’s Board of Directors. She’s a distance runner and master challah baker. She even made time recently to lead a special tour of the Mikvah for Federation staff and area clergy.
Imagine my surprise (and delight, as a single) when she told me that she is now wearing yet another new hat: she’s become a matchmaker for the Jewish communities of Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto.
“My husband, Michael, and I started this organized formal dating procedure just a couple of months ago,” she told me when we met recently on a Sunday morning, the only time she had free between dropping her four-year-old off at gymnastics, serving breakfast to her six-year-old and putting the 18-month-old baby down for a nap.
“But this ‘business’ really started much before that. Over the years, people sometimes met organically at dinner events that Michael and I held.”
The couple realized that having somewhere to turn for help in matchmaking “is an overwhelming need that’s always growing.”
You might think that in the relatively small Jewish community of Ottawa, everyone already knows one another.
“This is not true,” Stacy says. “First, because it’s simply never like that. And, second, because the born-and-raised population of Ottawa does not necessarily take part in the same events that the newcomers engage in.”
In addition, Stacy adds, many singles are discouraged about the prospects of online dating.
“They tell me that it’s just a game, and that people do it for ego,” Stacy says. “For these reasons, we started creating these opportunities for people to meet.”
Since Stacy knows me so well after a year of appointments, I knew I could not pass up her offer when she told me about her new matchmaking service. I came to Ottawa from Israel three years ago to study. I’m 35 and single.
I thought: “She knows me well, and she also knows what she’s doing.” But I was dead wrong in naively assuming the process would be simple.
Filling out her questionnaire turned out to be almost like writing another school assignment – in fact, it was more thought-provoking than many of them. I ended up spending several hours of inward thinking in order to identify what I honestly believe and things about which I cannot compromise.
The art of shidukhim (matchmaking) is highly complex and long, Stacy says.
“It takes hours to make the initial match and then I need to be available so the couple can talk about the date,” she says. “I told my husband that I will never have free-time again.”
Once the questionnaire is done, the “real” work begins. Stacy and Michael put all the data into a spreadsheet and start to cross-reference with answers from people of the opposite gender.
“Dating is – and this is new to me too – a skill,” she told me. “It involves sensitivity, listening, courting and things like that – things that today we’re losing. When a date doesn’t work out, I talk with the couple and ask why it didn’t work out. Sometimes they tell me things they cannot tell the other person, somewhat embarrassing details.”
Stacy has rules for the people who come to her for matchmaking: “First, no touching on the first date.” This, she explains, “takes off pressure from both the man and the woman, and really lets them get to know each other.”
Second, she always encourages couples to at least try a second date.
“The first one is always awkward,” she said, effectively summing up the world of dating in one word.
Currently, Stacy and Michael are actively pursuing matches for more than 100 people (including yours truly). She estimates that about seven successful matches have been made so far through her and Michael, whether by their active shidukh effort or in a more organic manner through social occasions.
Stacy Goldstein would love to hear from any single, brave Jewish souls between the ages of 22 and 65. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.