Aaron Rahimi, the founder of MeetJew University Dating, is a 24-year-old political science student at San Diego State University. As the grandchild of an Auschwitz survivor, he was brought up with traditional Jewish values, but says he was by no means “religious.” When Rahimi attended a Birthright trip to Israel at 19, however, he began to be involved with all things Israel on campus and started to attend Chabad regularly.
When the pandemic began, Rahimi was facing a number of unrelated health concerns, discovering that he had three herniated discs in his spine. While undergoing physical therapy, he had the idea to start a Facebook group for university students with the goal of fostering romantic connections online with people who may have not had the opportunity to meet otherwise.
On March 17, 2019, just after the coronavirus lockdowns, Rahimi launched MeetJew University Dating, a Facebook group for Jewish college and university students. Members use the group to chat informally and meet each other; the group also includes a featured “NJB/NJG (Nice Jewish Boy or Nice Jewish Girl) of the Week”—originally titled “Corona Cutie of the Week”—which spotlights one lucky person’s bio and photographs. Most users will use the Facebook group to post about a friend, or themselves. Then, others can comment or begin a private conversation with the featured person through Facebook Messenger.
The Facebook group, which attracts members from different branches of Judaism and across all sexual orientations, drew more than 10,000 members in the first week of its existence. Over time Rahimi and his team created three other Facebook groups—MeetJew Post-grad dating, MeetJew Social and MeetJew 30+ dating—as well as Instagram and TikTok pages, with more than 60,000 members in total across all platforms.
During the first six months of the pandemic, Rahimi reports that the university group’s member count grew by approximately 1,500 members per week. Currently, Rahimi says that the post-grad Facebook group is growing the most rapidly, at about 100 new members per week, while the university Facebook group is growing at about 50 new members per week.
Beyond the Facebook group, Rahimi and his team are working on a website launch and a MeetJew Israel Birthright trip, and they are talking about launching an online dating show. Rahimi says that these steps will help him to eventually create a business model out of what originally began as a simple social media endeavor.
Most recently, MeetJew University launched a more structured way for members to meet each other, similar to larger dating apps and websites: Every week, it puts out a dating survey that members can take Monday through Friday. On the weekends, the survey gets taken down so that Rahimi and his team can process the results. The survey then gives each responder a compatibility score, and that’s where Rahimi’s “tech guy,” Justin Cohen, comes in with an algorithm that comes up with matches and sends the survey respondents the contact information of their potential matches. Over the course of the last year, more than 10,000 people have taken the survey. In addition, the team is beginning to host in-person meet-ups, including a recent wine mixer in New York City’s Lower East Side, which cost $30 to attend.
Even after the pandemic is behind us, Rahimi’s intention is to keep the Facebook groups up and running. “I think it has benefit, and I think it’s an outlet for young Jews to socialize and connect,” he says.
To date, one married couple, two engaged couples and more than 30 couples who are dating credit their relationships to MeetJew.