How long can anyone keep up such a demanding schedule for almost no monetary compensation before they burn out?
everal years ago, when my oldest children started shidduchim, I noticed right away that shadchanim are quite hard to reach. I’d leave a message; they wouldn’t call back. I’d try again. And again.
It wasn’t that they were ignoring me. When I went to meet them in person, the reason was evident — their phones are ringing off the hook. People call shadchanim nonstop, and these dedicated people can barely catch their breath trying to keep up with the calls.
The recent article about shadchanim (“Playing with Matches,” Issue #931) brought to light one important but often-overlooked aspect of their job: Our shadchanim are working around the clock, and most of it is pro bono. Think for a moment about how many hours of effort are invested before a couple even goes out. The shadchan meets the boy or girl, speaks to the parents, combs through a database, makes calls back and forth… And then, if it doesn’t work out — which, statistically speaking, it usually doesn’t — all they get for their efforts is a thank-you.
Yes, our shadchanim are doing this because they’re driven to help Klal Yisrael. But how long can anyone keep up such a demanding schedule for almost no monetary compensation before they burn out? Furthermore, the way our system is set up now, with shadchanim getting paid only when a shidduch is successful, it’s in a shadchan’s best interest to work harder for wealthy girls.
Shadchanim are public servants working on behalf of the klal, no different from someone who works for a yeshivah, Hatzalah, or Bonei Olam. We all understand that these people deserve salaries. (Imagine predicating payment to employees of a fertility organization on whether or not a baby is born!) Why should shadchanim be any different?
About a year ago, I decided to start an initiative to provide salaries for shadchanim. My oldest child had recently gotten married; I felt such hakaras hatov to HaKadosh Baruch Hu that I wanted to do something to help those who were struggling to even get a date. I realized that if we want to provide an incentive for our best shadchanim to keep working their hardest, we need to do something about paying them on a more consistent basis.
I joined forces with Kesher, a Lakewood-based organization that promotes shidduchim by bringing shadchanim together for regular information-sharing and brainstorming meetings. They were already paying these shadchanim a stipend. I approached them and said, “I’m going to up this. Let’s make this into a more respectable salary.”
My idea was to bring together some of our best shadchanim and pay them a salary to put in their best efforts doing what they’re good at — making shidduchim in Klal Yisrael. Volunteers are nice up to a point, but if you want hard-working people to truly devote themselves to a cause, you need to compensate them. That, together with shadchanus, can earn them a respectable parnassah.
We don’t dictate quotas or apply pressure; we trust them to do what they do best, and support them in that. I fundraise all the money to pay their salaries and overhead costs for office space and administration.
Today, we have 18 shadchanim on our payroll — ten women and eight men — who have regular office hours, four days a week. They meet with girls, discuss ideas with each other, and redt shidduchim. While it’s based in Lakewood, the girls come from all over. As they meet with several shadchanim at a time, their chances of being set up are multiplied. Our male shadchanim are connected with the bochurim in Lakewood and present the boys’ names at regular group meetings.
The feedback from both the shadchanim and the parents has been overwhelming. In the last eight months they’ve made 130 successful shidduchim, and have redt thousands.
The formula is simple: When you empower shadchanim, you empower shidduchim to happen.
The initiative has been such a success that we’re already starting a program in Far Rockaway, and I hope in the future to open a branch in Monsey. Of course, my dream is for this to spread to communities around the world. I believe that this is a model that can work in every neighborhood in the world, as long as you have people willing to put in the work and raise the funds.
There are other communal initiatives to improve compensation for shadchanim; all are great ideas that, if executed well, could be quite effective.
We as a community have a very high stake in improving our shidduch system by upgrading our hishtadlus. One obvious way to do that is by giving our shadchanim — the frontline workers in shidduchim — the financial peace of mind they need to do their jobs properly.
Rabbi Moshe Bender is the segan rosh hayeshivah of Yeshiva Darchei Torah in Far Rockaway, New York, and the founder of Bnos Basya High School in Lakewood. He is actively involved in the Kesher shidduchim organization.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 941)
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