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‘Incels’ — and why I’m a matchmaker

Dear Rabbi Bernath,

I’m writing you because I know you are matchmaker and involved with trying to help lots of singles in the community. I was wondering if you think there’s a relationship with online dating that the obscure Internet “incel” subculture that has been dominating mainstream media coverage since the vicious attack in Toronto?


Dear Eric,

That’s a great question.

There are two kinds of matchmakers: those who do it for a living (as in, they get compensated well), and those who do it for some kind of inner purpose.

(Not all CJN readers will know this, but there is a rule amongst observant Jews that you must compensate your matchmaker. A successful match (one that reaches engagement) can generate a bill in the thousands… to each side.)

For those who do it for a living — and are successful — there is lots of money to be made, and a lot of nachas to come by when making other people happy. What greater gift is there than finding someone their match?

Of course, economics plays a role. It’s natural that this first type of matchmaker will focus on the most profitable supply of singles — normative, Torah-observant youths with parents who will foot the bill.

And there’s nothing wrong with this — I’m not here to knock the system. It’s worked very well for a large number of people — and for a very long time.

But there is a second type of matchmaker — one who has some sort of inner meaning or purpose that motivates what they do. Like the convert who, once married, helps set up other converts who generally may have a harder time; or the older person who gets married, and wants to help out fellow older singles. Of course, some matchmakers are a mix of both.

When it comes to myself, I have a bit of a mission. After spending a lot of time with young Jews in Montreal, and listening carefully to their dating struggles, I realized that matchmaking could change a lot of lives for people who would not normally consider it.

To understand this, let’s take a look at current events. Ever since the terrible attack in Toronto, an obscure Internet subculture has been dominating mainstream media coverage — the “incels.”

There is so much wrong with incel culture. As Jews, we believe quite clearly that intimate relations is not a right — they don’t seem to get this. A lot of their forums are filled with misogyny of the lowest order.

But as the Torah teaches us, every lie and evil in the world contains a kernel of truth that serves as its foundation. What is the essential angst that motivates these terrible ideas?

I don’t believe that the incel subculture is really just motivated by carnal desires. If that was the only goal, their problems could be solved with some money and the back page of a newspaper.

I think that it’s about feeling valued in the delicate dance that happens between the genders.

In our pickup culture society, the people who are most advantaged are the ones with the best first impression — consisting of good looks and smooth social skills. If you don’t have that, you’re fighting uphill.

To help solve that inequality, as a matchmaker I get to know people in person and listen to what they say about themselves. Then I put two souls in a room, blindly. You get two hours to make an impression, not five seconds. If you’re nervous in group settings or when meeting new people, you get enough time to demonstrate who you really are.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve set up a match, and let slip the name. “Oh, I already know her, rabbi… we met at a party.” They’re married now. I guess he didn’t really know her, did he?

One of the reasons I believe in matchmaking, and even helped found an international web platform designed to bring matchmaking to young, unaffiliated Jews, is that it’s so equitable.People are matched for their inner traits — hard work, good character, and compatibility, not just how outgoing they are.

The inherent philosophy is that there is a match for everybody… not the hate-filled incels of the world, I’ll give you that. But almost everybody. And I’m here to help you find them.

Rabbi Yisroel Bernath

Have a question for Rabbi Bernath?

Originally published at on May 8, 2018.

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