Filling a gap left by Facebook
Avi Zuber, the creator of a new online community for English-speaking Orthodox women in Israel, admits his site has little to offer that Facebook, its role model, wouldn't have. However, he says it has already found a niche market and is on its way to profitability.
Ezrat Nashim (www.EzratNashim.com) - named for the women's section in an Orthodox synagogue - offers two unique features: Find-A-Sitter!, a searchable babysitter's directory, and a newsletter featuring a column by Yocheved Golani, an American-Israeli medical journalist, self-help coach and author of "It's My Crisis and I'll Cry if I Need To."
The site also features a forum, a chat room, an event list, an option to post blog-style articles, a newsletter and Sudoku. Photo sharing and private messaging between members are currently being developed, says Zuber.
The 22-year old, who moved to Israel in 2005 and recently joined the overwhelmingly English-speaking Nofei Hashemesh community in Beit Shemesh with his Philadelphia-native wife and baby son, founded his own company, BSDinc, last year. "One of the goals of BSDinc is to make life as an Anglo in Israel that much easier," the Boston native told Anglo File this week.
"A series of community portals and other services are some of my constantly evolving projects: A babysitter directory evolved into an online community and as soon as I found the time, I put it up." Zuber says Find-A-Sitter! is the main function of the site, but warned parents not to confuse the directory with a placement service and to ask for a reference before hiring anyone.
It took him "about a week of part-time work" to create Ezrat Nashim, he added. The concept seems to work: after about a month of being on the Web, the site has 180-200 registered members and is getting roughly 500 hits per day, according to Zuber. Once the site reaches 1,000 members, Zuber said, he could start making money off ad revenue.
In the meantime, he is working on other online services for Anglos in Israel. Some of his current projects include the Yellow Pages-style DirectoryIsrael.com, ShanaAlef.com for yeshiva students and Mikudeshet.com, a site about relationships for religious men.
Zuber said his sites are not exclusively for observant surfers, but hints to his deep religiosity permeate them. The very name of his company, for instance, is an Aramaic acronym for "With help from above." He said he would love to work in religious outreach but cannot find the time for financial reasons.
"I try to inspire people, from a religious perspective or not, whenever I can," he told Anglo File. "Finding religion, however, is a personal decision, and although I would love to help out, I am not interested in becoming a missionary. I would like to break down the 'social security fence' we have placed between the secular and religious, the moderately religious and intensely religious," he added.