NEW YORK — Not long ago, Jordan Rodman, a 23-year-old publicity assistant, was sitting shiva on the Upper West Side when her online dating life became a topic of conversation.
“Someone came up to me and was like, ‘Oh, Jordan, I know this guy and he saw you on JSwipe and I think you x-ed him but he thought you were really beautiful,’ ” she said.
Rodman shrugged. She had plenty of other takers on her favorite new app, JSwipe, which blends the Jewish exclusivity of JDate with the romance-by-swiping proficiency of Tinder.
Started last April (during Passover), the app is a faddish take on the age-old desire to marry within the tribe. Instead of attributes like favorite movies, users indicate their degree of Jewishness (among them: Just Jewish, Orthodox and Willing to Convert).
Swipe right and a Star of David with a happy face appears; swipe left and it wears a frown. When a couple match, animated figures appear doing the hora.
The similarities to Tinder are not by coincidence.
“As soon as I touched Tinder, I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is the next step that needs to exist in the Jewish community,’ ” said David Yarus, a 28-year-old entrepreneur who said he made the app “kind of as a joke.”
But he is taking it seriously now.
“I’ve unlocked this alignment of truth in my life where my passion and my profession and my expertise is all the same thing right now,” he said.
Yarus describes typical JSwipe users as “millennial Jews around the world whose grandparents and mothers are saying, ‘When are you going to marry someone Jewish?’ ”
He counts himself among the target audience. Though Yarus grew up in an observant Jewish household in Miami Beach and attends a synagogue in the tradition of the Carlebach spiritual movement in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, he calls himself “post-affiliation.” (“I don’t do labels,” he said.)
The app, Yarus said, currently has 250,000 users in 70 countries, with the bulk of users in New York, Los Angeles and Tel Aviv. He hopes to reach a half million by Passover next year. (Tinder, by comparison, reportedly has about 50 million users.)
“We’re like, young punks working out of a factory that are trying to make love free for the Jewish community,” Yarus said.
Much of the growth has been through word-of-mouth, with users acting like yentas.
“I’m going to Florida in like two weeks to visit my bubbe” — Yiddish for grandmother — “in Boca, and obviously she’s going to love it,” said Rodman, who uses the app a few times a week. “It’ll be a really good bonding activity.”
She is also curious to see what kind of men will appear, as the app makes suggestions based on location. For example, on the Upper West Side, where she lives, “You’ll get the Shulis, the Yonis, all the guys dressed in their IDF uniforms,” she said, referring to the Israel Defense Forces. “As you head more downtown, you get the Alexes, the Joshes and the Bens, and they have all their Birthright pictures in the desert.”
One guy she won’t meet is Michael Brand, a 39-year-old risk vice president at J.P. Morgan, who visited Boca Raton, Fla., last summer and downloaded JSwipe there for the first time.
“To be perfectly frank, I really didn’t take the app too seriously,” he said.
But soon, he matched with Samantha Rudnick, 26, a marketing strategist in Florida, though they didn’t talk until her 3-year-old niece commandeered her phone and sent him a string of garbled messages.
“I think he texted back asking if I was all right,” Rudnick said.
The toddler’s opening line worked. Brand proposed in January at Disney World, in front of Cinderella’s Castle. The couple wed last month.
“It was love at first swipe,” he said.