Luach.com is practically a doppelganger of Craigslist — except in addition to selling your old furniture, you’ll find opportunities to “Do a Mitzvah.”
With a title taken from the Hebrew for “calendar,” it’s a bulletin-board Web site serving the Orthodox Jewish community. Need a roommate in Clifton? Check Luach. Lost your car keys last Tuesday? The “Lost and Found” section of the site might help you out.
When Shmuel Laskin started Luach in the summer of 1997, his vision for the site was far narrower. The 50-year-old computer programmer from Monsey, N.Y., intended only to make a job board, and maybe advertise real estate. He lived in Passaic at the time, and launched the site mainly to serve the Passaic-Clifton area.
As an Orthodox Jew, Laskin saw the primary audience for the site as fellow Orthodox families — he had seen similar sites for other cultural groups, but none for his sect. He emphasized, though, that all were welcome to use it.
“I try to be as inclusive as I can; however, there are some things that the Orthodox community does not want on a site,” Laskin explained. Vulgar pictures and obscene language, often just a click away on Craigslist, are nowhere to be found on Luach.
Luach gained popularity almost entirely through word of mouth — and as he and others moved away from Passaic, Laskin started adding other regions to the site.
“We’re always getting requests from people in other communities,” he said. “You know, ‘We’ve moved to Podunk, and we don’t have it here.’ ”
The bulletin board now serves 43 communities in three countries: the U.S., Canada and Israel. But Passaic “is still the place we have the most traction,” Laskin said.
As with Craigslist, posting on the site is free. Laskin also sells advertisements to keep the site running, charging between $15 and $45 for a monthlong ad.
Elisheva Snow’s posts on Luach.com are brief and to the point: “20-year-old female looking for a ride from Passaic to Baltimore. Call or e-mail.”
“I do usually check out who they are,” she said. “Usually I end up getting a ride.”
It’s enough to make a parent swoon with fear, but Snow isn’t worried. The clientele of Luach, she says, keeps things safe.
Many of the posts on Luach are secular (“Does anyone have info on mold removal from basement with flood history?”), but Luach also provides listings for minayim, shiurim and gemachs (prayer meetings for men, Torah readings and good deeds). And the site offers a sense of security for those looking to stay within the Jewish community.
The popularity of Craigslist is rooted partially in its egalitarian nature — anyone with an Internet hookup can seek out a job, solicit a housing swap or post a missed connection. As long as it’s not bogus, illegal or obscene, the Craigslist administrators generally let it fly.
Rules on Luach are more stringent: Guidelines state that the site will not allow “any values that run contrary to the values of our readership.” Craigslist offers users a page to set up “casual encounters” and has a personals section for people seeking same-sex partners. While Laskin doesn’t preach, he also declines to post what his religion deems morally suspect.
The popularity of an Orthodox-only site isn’t surprising, says Rabbi Michel Gurkov of the Chabbad congregation in Passaic.
“You’re always more comfortable when you are using a type of Web page with people with similar backgrounds,” he said. “You know — or you hope you know — who you’re talking to.”
Gurkov’s congregation has been publicizing events on Luach for seven years, with positive responses. “People become wealthy on niches,” he said. “You’re catering to a specific community. There’s a need out there.” NorthJersey.com