A Jewish Matchmaker Whose Hand Led Hundreds Down the Aisle
Raised in Detroit, Ms. Weinberg made her first match as a young woman in New York, where her mother had suggested that she move to find a mate. In 1976, as Ms. Weinberg recalled, an older friend, dedicated to matchmaking, asked Ms. Weinberg to help organize a singles party.
“At the party,” Ms. Weinberg said, “I meet this girl named Debbie, and I said, ‘You don’t know me, but I have this feeling you’d be perfect for my friend Mark Goldenberg.’ ” The woman was reluctant to meet a stranger. “There were so many hijackings, there was David Berkowitz,” the Son of Sam killer. “She said, ‘How do I know you’re not a mass murderer?’ I got on my hands and knees and said, ‘Do me a favor and have dinner with him.’ ”
The day after the couple’s first date, Ms. Weinberg heard from the man. “He called me and said, ‘I’m going to marry her.’ And they just married off their last child.”
Ms. Weinberg did find a husband for herself in New York, too. They moved to Pittsburgh for his work as a doctor, and she practiced dentistry for a time, but continued to make matches on the side. It became more than a hobby.
“There was so much intermarriage in Pittsburgh, I felt I had to do something,” she said. “I started talking to all these women’s organizations. I said: ‘Listen, I have men! My husband knows all these residents and interns. Give me your daughters, I have the boys!’ ”
Ms. Weinberg, who has five children and 15 grandchildren, is an observant Jew of the Modern Orthodox persuasion. She does not work or use electricity on the Sabbath, but nor does she cover her hair, as more strictly observant women do. There are dozens of other Jewish matchmakers, but most primarily serve Orthodox Jews, and many charge for their services. Ms. Weinberg is unusual for working with all branches of Judaism, and for refusing money.
“Baruch Hashem” — blessed is God’s name — “my husband makes a lot of money, so I can do this for free,” Ms. Weinberg said. A conversation with her involves a lot of listening; a lot of Baruch Hashems; and talk of finding one’s bashert, one’s destiny, or soul mate.
In 2004, investors approached her and asked her to help them start SawYouAtSinai.com, which uses matchmakers to pair members. When I visited Ms. Weinberg last week, the website had 18,344 members and 355 matchmakers, including Ms. Weinberg. On SawYouAtSinai.com, members can see only those profiles of other members suggested by the site’s matchmakers.
Tova Weinberg long ago left her career as a dentist. Credit Jeff Swensen for The New York Times
One of her primary tasks, on the website and for her private clientele, is to help singles be less picky, Ms. Weinberg said.
One frequent mistake she sees is “looking for something they think their parents want them to have,” she said. “And thinking they can’t compromise, like on religion: ‘I have to have somebody who is superreligious and learns all day long,’ or, ‘I have to have somebody who eats shellfish out, but is Jewish.’ ”
Women can be superficial — “A lot of women don’t like bald men,” Ms. Weinberg said — but men are worse. “I’ll have a singles party, they’ll come into the room, look around, say, ‘Bye!’ They don’t even get to know anybody. They don’t look at the neshama,” the soul, she said.
Some of the men have mommy issues, too.
“I have this one man,” Ms. Weinberg said, “whose mother used to be a ballerina, so he is looking for a woman with long legs, no chest. And he’s a rabbi!”
Ms. Weinberg will work with any client as long as he or she is Jewish by the traditional standard of maternal descent: “I work with everyone whose mother is Jewish. The father could be the pope.” And she will work with clients who are gay, as long as they are looking for a straight marriage.
“They have same-sex attraction,” Ms. Weinberg said, “but they don’t want to pursue that line. They want to marry a woman, and they want me to tell the girls they are homosexual but they don’t want to act on it.” Such a man “wants to have a normal house; he wants a house and a family.”
And even for these men, Ms. Weinberg said, there are women.
“I have to tell the woman” about the man’s situation, she said. “But there are women who are asexual, and there are women who don’t need to be — hugged and kissed, sure, but. ” She trailed off. “I have made matches like that.”
Ms. Weinberg will take extraordinary measures to help put a man and woman together for life. She told one of her sons she would give him $10,000 if he found a husband for his sister, and he did. She will also take certain liberties in the service of love.
“Something you should know about Tova is she creatively alters the truth under certain circumstances,” said Beverly Siegel. a documentary filmmaker from Chicago. Widowed after a long first marriage, Ms. Siegel met her second husband through Ms. Weinberg.
“She told Howard some things about me that were not exactly true,” Ms. Siegel said. “She told him that I was 55, but I was 59. She told him I was willing to relocate. Howard was living in New York at the time. My feeling was when you say you are willing to relocate, it’s a matter of how much, it’s a negotiation. But she just said, ‘She’s willing to relocate.’ Period.”
Ms. Weinberg also told Ms. Siegel that her prospective date, Howard Rieger, was “the most important Jew in North America.” Mr. Rieger was the president of United Jewish Communities, a national philanthropy, and so was one very important Jew. But Ms. Siegel now finds that description a bit dubious.
“I think it’s safe to say he wasn’t the most important Jew in North America,” Ms. Siegel said of her second husband. But they were married in September 2008, five months after they started emailing, four months after their first date.
“Tova is an amazingly talented woman,” Ms. Siegel said. “She is obsessed in a wonderful way.”
A version of this article appears in print on August 16, 2014, on page A20 of the New York edition with the headline: A Jewish Matchmaker Whose Hand Led Hundreds Down the Aisle. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe