Rabbi helps young Jews find their ‘corona crush’

Rabbi Yossi Abenson and his wife, Goldie, direct Chabad of the Central West End.

Bill Motchan

Rabbi Yossi Abenson and his wife, Goldie, serve a unique segment of the St. Louis Jewish community. The Jews who connect with Chabad of the Central West End are largely young professionals, often in the medical field, as well as graduate students. Many are single and don’t have family in the area. The pandemic has made their dating life especially challenging, Abenson said.

“Dating in general is one of my big interests. It keeps me up at night coming up with ways to get people together,” Abenson said. “When we moved here, we started to create a community for young Jews to meet each other, create healthy relationships and eventually build a family.”

Achieving that goal during 2020 became tricky, so the Abensons worked with 15 other Chabad chapters in North America that serve a similar demographic. The online meetings enabled single young adult Jews to connect with people outside their immediate social circle. 

It was such a success that Abenson decided to make speed dating more accessible. In late February, he helped add St. Louis to the virtual Jewish dating app CoronaCrush. St. Louis becomes the fifth U.S. city for the international Facebook group, joining Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

CoronaCrush’s creator, Ian Mark, said he and his team initially started the group to help their single friends in Israel meet each other during quarantine.

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“We’ve partnered with over 25 organizations on speed dating events, and we’re always looking for more,” said Mark, 32. “Rabbi Abenson found me through a Chabad rabbi in New York who I worked with on three prior events.”

Abenson sees CoronaCrush as another option for single Jewish St. Louisans who haven’t found a successful match in their social circles or via existing dating apps. If they make a successful connection on CoronaCrush with another single who lives in Tel Aviv, Australia or London, it’s up to the couple to figure out dating logistics.

“If they choose to date long distance, then it’ll work like any long distance relationship,” Mark said.

Abenson said that since Chabad of the CWE announced the CoronaCrush opportunity Feb. 21, it’s already generated a lot of interest and positive feedback.