The program is working, said Gutman, who, soon after the initiative was announced a month ago, got a call from a matchmaker in Flatbush, Brooklyn, N.Y., who had a roster of men.
They will be welcomed here by the many single women who applaud the Star-K program. "It's great that the whole world has an incentive to work for Baltimore girls," said Rachel Goldstein, 36, a Baltimore accountant who is single and looking.
Others are offended.
"It's not a natural way, if they throw money into it," said Leora Allen, a Pikesville single. "What are we? Something to be sold?"
"Twenty-two?" said Allen, 21, a nursing student at the Johns Hopkins University. "That's not old. That's really young!"
Young men also have found fault with the program. Chananya Weissman, 26, a New York resident who started Endthemadness.org, a Web site that combats "the angst and hardships" of Jewish dating, recently had a letter in The Jewish Times that criticized Star-K.
"It's spraying bullets all over the place," he said. "They're going to end up setting up a lot of bad dates."
The money could be much better spent on programs that would allow religious Jews to socialize without third-party interference, Weissman said, rather than limiting the search for love to matchmakers.
"It wasn't always the only way," he said. In Old Europe, romance sometimes blossomed at village weddings, he said. In the Torah, people had luck at wells.
"Moshe met his wife by a well. Yaakov met Rachel by a well," he said, speaking of the Old Testament figures Moses and Jacob.
In the age of modern plumbing, though, even non-Jews have turned to the tried-and-true matchmaking system, using electronic variants like eharmony.com or dating services.
The Star-K program doesn't reward only professionals. It encourages everyone to play matchmaker, to scrutinize telephone books and buddy lists and wrack their brains for ideas.
"What we're doing in 2004 is the ancient matchmaking art, but it's state-of-the-art," said Margie Pensak, a former matchmaker who is Star-K's director of public and media affairs. "It's not the little old lady with the rocking chair and the shawl."
Already, the wheels are turning and e-mails are flying, Pensak said. On the Web, she recently saw a posting by an Orthodox man in New York who once turned down a date with a Baltimore girl.
"He was too busy," she said.
But now that someone stands to gain $2,000, it seems as if the pressure is on. "He said he's not busy now. He said, `What about that girl in Baltimore?'"