Matt Green said that Grindr, perhaps the best-known location-based gay dating app, is not only about looking for love or hookups. It can also be a platform for finding spiritual, or even religious connections.
Hailing from Ann Arbor, Green is a second-year rabbinical student at New York City’s Hebrew Union College. He’s known as “The Grindr Rabbi” and uses Grindr to reach out to gay Jews in New York City.
Green said it all started when he came back from rabbinical school in Israel last year. He downloaded Grindr and posted to his profile that he was on his way to becoming a Rabbi.
He said he began fielding questions, “What’s that like?” and “Can you be a gay Rabbi?”
“And basically I had this idea that there had to be some way of bringing all of these people together,” Green said. “And essentially that was the beginning of the project.”
He jumped on a program meant to inspire entrepreneurship and used a micro grant to birth his project, to start helping people connect spiritually via Grindr.
Green said some were skeptical, but a majority were open minded. Hebrew Union College follows the Reform Movement of Judaism, which Green referred to as “the biggest movement of Judaism” and “the mainstream liberal movement of Judaism.”
“So in general, gay rights is pretty important to the movement,” he said. “I had a conversation with a conservative Rabbi... and he pointed out that people who are on Grindr are searching – they may be searching or looking for all kinds of different things – but one thing they are looking for is connection. And connection is assumed to mean a romantic or sexual connection, but realistically it’s also a communal or social connection.”
Green has begun hosting Shabbat dinners on Friday evenings in which groups of people he’s met on Grindr, ten to twelve usually, come together.
“They come to my house and we say the blessings for the wine and the challah bread and then we continue on with a really spiritually uplifting dinner of kosher food in which we’re together as Jews talking about things that matter to us as Jews and as gay Jews, which I think is a very important void to fill,” he said.
Green further noted that Grindr has the potential to be used by other pastoral figures.
“The community organizing piece and the one-on-one nature of the pastoral piece of Grindr actually do speak really promising to the goals and objectives of liberal religion,” he said.