A Rabbi Invented Speed Dating
July 14, 2014

A Rabbi Invented Speed Dating

I heard a fascinating fact this week: the phenomenon of speed dating was invented by a rabbi. At a matchmaking event in Beverley Hills in 1998, the New York Times tells us, “Rabbi Yaacov Deyo brought along a gragger, the noisemaker Jews use during Purim.” Single men and women at the coffee house would change partners every ten minutes, when the rabbi twirled his gragger to signal it was time to switch. The idea was the result of a meeting a few weeks earlier during which Deyo and some friends brainstormed ways in which they could help the local Jewish community. Assisting busy, single people in finding partners as efficiently as possible was one idea, which went on to become a global phenomenon in a short space of time.

The success of his concept left Deyo with mixed emotions. Some of the kinds of events that his idea spawned have left him wondering what monster he had created. In 1999, Deyo saw a TV program in which, during 30-second dates, couples “jabbered at each other like auctioneers.” He called the producers to complain, but without success. He and his partners tried to trademark and patent SpeedDating, but the thing had already gotten out of control and beyond their influence, so he decided to let it go out into the world unchecked. On the flip side, Deyo could content himself that he had released a lot of good into the world, too, more so than bad, helping millions of people to find love and start families. The Jewish concept of zechus, good karma, left him satisfied that he made a positive contribution.

I must say that my own solitary experience with speed dating is, sadly, more towards the end of the scale that Yaacov Deyo have might winced at. It was at a backpackers’ event in Australia, more of an excuse for a good time than a vehicle for meeting life partners, given that everybody came from different parts of the world. Of course, many people have fallen in love while backpacking, but the main purpose of this affair was to get drink alcohol and play a bit of a game. In fact, the whole thing was a competition, with each partner being graded and a prize going to the highest scoring male and female respectively. I am pleased, and still utterly shocked, to say that I won the men’s category. My high didn’t last long, though, as an Australian girl I had ‘dated’ came over to me at the bar and asked me to put my finger in her mouth. A little odd, and certainly a touch forward, but as I was on the road for odd experiences, I obliged. She then proceeded to bite it so hard that I really thought it might come off, and I had to treat the wound for days afterwards. She walked away without explanation, and, as I was sure I had mostly achieved high scores by being polite and friendly, I was at a loss as to why I had been assaulted so.

Other personal experiences of alternative forms of dating have been kinder, though. I am in favor of online dating, believing any remaining suspicion of it to be completely unwarranted, as unwarranted as the suspicion of booking a flight online. However, my most notable experience with meeting somebody through the Internet is even more unorthodox than the concept of cannibal speed dating. I had an 18-month relationship with a lovely person whom I got to know after she sent me a Facebook friend request by mistake, believing me to be someone completely different with the same name. We got to chatting and realized we lived only a couple of hours apart, and eventually, happily, got into a relationship. One might say we invented ‘Mistake Dating.’ But I am not going to try and patent it.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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John is a freelance writer from the UK, currently living in Japan and thoroughly enjoying their food and whiskey. His first novel, Three Little Boys, and his travel book, Following Football, are currently available on Amazon.com.

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