(New York Jewish Week) — When Lea went on her first date with a guy she met on Loop — a new dating app that relies on its users to do the matchmaking — she wasn’t nervous, for a change.
“I felt more comfortable going into it knowing that he wasn’t a complete stranger,” the 23-year-old Modern Orthodox Murray Hill resident told the New York Jewish Week. Lea and her date had a handful of mutual friends — in fact, five of them suggested, via Loop, that the pair would make a good match.
Lea and her date met up for coffee and walked around Rockefeller Center. And while the connection didn’t go any further, it’s an example of how Loop works: Instead of an algorithm or matching based on proximity, Loop relies upon users’ personal networks to help set them up. This means when a potential couple meets up IRL, they know they have at least one point of connection between them, plus the reassurance that someone they know thought they would make a good couple.
“Loop is bringing traditional Jewish wisdom to the world at large,” Loop co-founder Lian Zucker told the New York Jewish Week, referring to the time-honored Jewish tradition of using matchmakers. “We’re bringing this 1,000-plus year-old tradition and giving it a digital facelift.”
Zucker, 32, her co-founder, Moriya Blumenfeld, 35 — who both live in New York City — and Zucker’s younger brother Adam, 28, who lives in California, launched Loop in May. The app has grown to 13,000 users and has had over 2,100 set-ups, most of which have been in the New York area, according to Zucker.
Though the app isn’t explicitly Jewish — anyone can join — it does have a Jewish concept running through its veins: that of the “shidduch,” the Yiddish word for matchmaking. And within the Jewish community, especially in more observant circles, Loop has swiftly become the dating app of choice for those looking to meet their bashert, the Yiddish word for soul mate.
“A lot of the time you have people who come from religious backgrounds look at a ‘secular’ app like Hinge and immediately say, ‘Oh, that’s not for me. I can’t do that.’ It’s like throwing darts at a wall — even if you set your profile to ‘Jewish,’ that could mean anything,” said a 24-year-old Modern Orthodox man in Manhattan who wished to remain anonymous. “With Loop, if all your frum friends are on it, and your married friends can set you up with people they know or offer a personal connection, it’s a lot easier to want to join and use.”
As it happens, the founders of Loop got together — professionally — by a mutual friend who set them up.
Zucker and Blumenfeld were introduced via a man they both dated, whom they refer to as the “OG Matchmaker.” Zucker met the man in 2020 via Bumble. Their date was over Facetime due to the pandemic, and the two spoke about her career in startups. Zucker said her next idea was for a dating app, but she wanted to work with another founder to get it off the ground.
The OG Matchmaker recalled a Tinder date he had gone on five years earlier with Blumenfeld, who had similar goals and ideas. He connected Zucker and Blumenfeld, and the rest, they say, is history.
“We were essentially match made through these failed romantic connections on two separate dating apps,” Zucker said, who added that the OG Matchmaker has remained a good friend.
It is setups like these that inspired Zucker and Blumenfeld to start Loop. After all, so many successful or promising relationships are the ones made within a person’s own network — either their friends, or friends of friends, or even one more degree outwards.
On Loop, users make a typical dating profile. But unlike other apps, they are not given a slew of random options to swipe through. Instead, users make a “Loop” by connecting with anyone from their contact list who is also on the app. They then have access to those connections’ “Loops” — their friends and contacts — after which they can scroll through their friends’ friends.
If they find someone they are interested in, they can request that the mutual friend set them up for a conversation and take it from there.
Unlike other dating apps, non-singles can also make profiles and participate — because the app relies on set-ups, it encourages both non-singles and singles to set their friends up. The matched-up parties both need to accept the match in order for the conversation to move forward.
That means parents and others in the community can also get involved. “There’s all these parents who want to set people up but don’t really have a modern way of doing it,” Lea said, adding that her father is on the app. “Some will ask for resumes or bios, but a lot of people our age don’t really have those. So sharing your dating profile on an app like this is a better way for them to get involved.”
The 24-year-old Manhattanite said that, within his Loops, many users he has seen put their “shidduch resumes” — a standard tool in Orthodox dating circles — in their profiles. Potential matchmakers can use the information to start setting them up with others who have the same observance level, life goals and preferred backgrounds.
“All three of us come from a Jewish background and it’s a huge part of our identity,” Zucker said when asked whether Loop had a Jewish origin story. “We knew full well about the tradition of matchmaking and shadchans [matchmakers] in Judaism and the saying that as a matchmaker if you set up three couples successfully, you will go to heaven.”
However, Zucker added that she and her co-founders have learned that matchmaking is prominent in Indian, Persian, Korean and other Asian and South Asian cultures, as well as in other religious communities like Mormons.
”We really believe that Loop has universal appeal,” Zucker said. “We are not building for any type of specific demographic, whether that’s religious or cultural, or for a specific gender orientation, or really anything else.”
Still, it means a lot to them that the app is popular among young Jews. “It’s been our absolute honor — from a very emotional place, too — that it has gotten a lot of early traction in the Jewish community,” she said. “Quite frankly, regardless of which community, none of us expected this kind of explosive traction.”
“There’s this whole nature of setting your friends up,” said Lea, who uses the app as both a matchmaker and for her own matches. “It’s something that I was already doing, and I think it’s like a big part of the Modern Orthodox Jewish world. So it was a no-brainer for me to download it and send it to all the friends of mine who had been saying, “Oh, do you know anyone to set me up?’ It really helps because you see all of your friends in one place that you might have not thought of.”