During 2012’s Hurricane Sandy many people in the Far Rockaway area were displaced. Shabbat.com was able to place many families. “We had a family that stayed with us for a month due to hurricane damage,” R’ Klatzko shares. “They connected with us through our website.”
After army service, many Israeli soldiers tour the world. Prior to Shabbat.com, if there was no Chabad in the area, soldiers who would have gladly celebrated Shabbos might have ended up in a Tibetan ashram, but Shabbat.com has connections in 4,000 cities in 113 countries, so there is now a chance they can find a Jewish family near them willing to host guests. As a matter of fact, Rabbi Klatzko adds, the Israeli army was so happy with the services provided by the website that it made a video to say thank you.
About a year after it’s launch, the Shabbat.com team realized there were a lot of unmarried individuals coming to families for Shabbos. “Once we had all these singles, we thought, why not allow them to find each other?” R’ Klatzko shares. “So we created a network for shidduchim as well.” This site is better than a traditional dating website in a number of ways, he asserts. First of all, the normal phobia of joining a dating site doesn’t exist. There is no stigma like that which is sometimes attached to a person using a dating site to find his or her bashert. Shabbat.com is about Shabbos. It is not a “matchmaking” website, although R’ Klatzko claims that nearly a shidduch a week is made on the site! It’s also better than a traditional dating site in that anyone can play matchmaker because everyone has access to all the profiles. It’s not just marital matches, either, he adds, since a person can refine his or her search by occupation, job networking can also be facilitated.
Recently, R’ Klatzko shares, a film crew producing a documentary on Jewish matchmaking approached him with a request to film a real-time matchmaking scenario. R’ Klatzko put the word out to singles apprising them of this opportunity but informing them that the process would be filmed. A mother came with her daughter and, while on camera, R’ Klatzko accessed all appropriate single profiles on Shabbat.com. They found someone suitable and “the story is not over yet,” R’ Klatzko relates, “The couple have been dating for a while now.”
Perhaps one of the most personally gratifying stories is how R’ Klatzko found his own daughter-in-law, Gemma, on the site. Gemma lived in Scotland, had discovered Shabbat.com and signed up. She wrote that she had never kept Shabbos, kosher, or learned Torah. As a matter of fact, she had never met another Jewish person in her life. She said that her greatest wish was to experience Shabbos. Every new person who signs up is posted for all to see (and invite) on the site’s “activity wall” so after reading what she wrote, R’ Klatzko offered to help. And she accepted. He sent her a ticket and made arrangements for her to study in a religious program in Israel.
Providentially, two days after Gemma arrived in Israel, she got sick and was hospitalized. After she left the hospital, having no family in the country, she decided to return to Scotland. El Al, however, refused to let her board because they feared she was contagious. A rav and rebbitzen in Har Nof took her in to their home and nursed her back to health. While she was there, she received a $2,000 hospital bill. Gemma was distraught, as she had no means to pay this huge amount. The rebbetzin said she would see what she could do and left the room. After a few minutes, she returned and said, “Don’t worry, everything is taken care of. I called a few people in the community and they agreed to foot the bill.” At that point, Gemma broke down and said, “I cannot believe the kindness of the Jewish people. All my life I have been waiting to meet people like this.” She decided not to return to Scotland. Instead she enrolled in Neve Yerushalayim, a seminary for young women interested in learning more about their heritage.