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A Dating Service Gives a Nod to Jewish Gays

Published: January 8, 2006

One symbol for being gay is a triangle, and when two triangles like each other a lot, they make a Star of David. That, at least, is the idea behind a feature that has been added to JDate.com, the eight-year-old Jewish dating service, as part of its first redesign since 2002.

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Michael Falco for The New York Times

Dan Levin complained to JDate about its lack of same-sex search options. The site has since added them.

Under the new feature, which was incorporated into the site in November, it is possible to specify the sex of the person being sought; until then, people simply identified themselves as men or women - the assumption being that everyone was heterosexual.

Dan Levin, a 24-year-old resident of the East Village, complained about the matter to JDate's corporate offices. "I had felt left out of the whole JDate phenomenon," he said. Mr. Levin, who works for the nonprofit Jewish Coalition for Service, added that the JDate representative he spoke with had assured him that gay searches would start "in a few weeks."

Other JDaters looked for subtle ways to telegraph their preferences.

"I had a silent protest," said Lane Rosner, a gay JDater, whose profile name, since changed, was AlsoLookingForAJewishBoy. "I said I was looking for a Jewish girl who has a gay Jewish friend. I wanted it out there."

Mr. Rosner, a 23-year-old graphic designer who lives on the Upper West Side, is typical of some of the gay New Yorkers who turn to the site. He is a strict observer of Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, which allows no cooking, no spending money and no skipping out on praying at temple. Such rules make Friday-night dating difficult. He says he would like to find a man who is gay but not flamboyant and who is Jewish without being, as the joke goes, merely Jew-ish. As Mr. Rosner puts it in JDate profile, "I love surprising someone I'm with and being romantic from time to time, but I'm not into constant mushy gross stuff like making out while waiting to cross the street at a light."

One day, Mr. Rosner might find himself on a JDate with Lon Steinberg, a second-year student at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, in the Bronx. Athletic and lighthearted, Mr. Steinberg composes classical music in his free time, and even at 23, he talks about his desire for children, making him something of a Jewish mother's gay dream come true.

Mr. Steinberg is not observant, but he seeks a boyfriend from his own culture, and for him, JDate is digital manna. "In the gay scene, especially in New York, there's a lot of people who need to be filtered," he said. "It's just so much better than going to a gay club, getting wasted and having a bunch of random sex."

JDate is one of a number of specialty dating sites owned by Sparks Networks, which is based in Beverly Hills, Calif. Gail Laguna, a spokeswoman for the company, said the new feature was part of a general upgrade that included instant messaging and video chat.

"On JDate, there are now a total of 600,000 singles," she said. "The greater our diversity, the greater our need to serve a wider mix of interests."

Although JDate has no official count, a recent search of the site pulled up profiles of 259 gay men and 57 lesbians in the five boroughs.

Many of the city's Jewish singles said they welcomed the expansion of the site.

"The whole point of having a Jewish community is to be open to anyone who wants to walk in," said Rabbi Joy Levitt, an assistant executive director at the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan. A gay outreach program was among the first created at the center when it was founded on the Upper West Side 15 years ago.

Mr. Rosner, the graphic designer, has so far had two dates through the service. With the first date, there was no chemistry, he said, and the second one went worse. "I was more a therapist to him than a date to him," Mr. Rosner admitted with a groan. "He has some family issues. But gay or straight, everyone has issues."

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