| Counter Point |

Shidduch Photos: A Necessary Evil?  

"Are the areas of holiness and tzniyus to be left only for the chassidim? Do we in the yeshivah world not value them as well?"

 

 

The conversation surrounding widespread digital distribution of shidduch photos has only gotten more passionate with the publication of Rochi Kichel’s shidduch-photo saga. Here is a sample of the letters we received

 

HOW CHANGE HAPPENS› One Mother

Dear Rochi Kichel,

How I laughed, cried, and sighed when I read your latest shidduch episode. You may not believe it, but the same thing happened to my daughter! The shadchan begged for a picture “just for herself.” Then she sent it to someone who sent it out to a bunch of people. Eventually the picture ended up getting sent to my daughter — who then had a major waterfall. No — a tsunami!

What is the solution to this tzniyus breach? The good news is that mothers of boys tend to also be mothers of girls. As Rav Yisrael Salanter says, we cannot change the world; at most we can only change ourselves.

When my son was in shidduchim, I did not ask for a picture. I’m just one mother, but that is how change happens. One mother at a time.

Dear mothers, we can change the status quo if we only have the will to do it. To the Rochis out there, take heart: My daughter did get married in the end.

 

HORRENDOUS CORRUPTION› Chaim Zvi Lebovits, Toronto

I find the letter from the “anonymous bochur in shidduchim” disturbing for several reasons. Anonymous letters have little weight, as the author doesn’t have the courage to stand exposed behind his opinion.

More disturbing than his self-appointed spokesman status is the idea that the opinion of yeshivah bochurim is to be considered at all. Do we ask them to determine the schedule of learning and davening in yeshivah? Do we ask them the proper dress code for a bochur?

The hanhalah who get their hadrachah from chachamim and rabbanim are the ones who make those decisions. So too the issues of holiness and tzniyus are not in the purview of yeshivah bochurim, but the chachamim and rabbanim.

I am 47 and only in a position to speak for my family. Educated by Reb Dovid Noach Kaplan and by Rav Scheinberg, I will say what I believe.

Are the areas of holiness and tzniyus to be left only for the chassidim? Do we in the yeshivah world not value them as well?

Chassidim would never entertain such a breach in their hanhagas hachayim. To allow and even promote the idea that pictures of young erliche women should be traded and available in a public forum is for perutzim and perutzos. To say that this that this is necessary because it saves a bochur time is a horrendous corruption of priorities.

This fellow has shown only how his opinion is based solely on his agenda, not taking anyone or anything else into the picture. This, to me, is the very definition of immaturity. For all he cares, the foremost trait of bnei Yisrael — being baishanim — can be destroyed.

As an aside, my wife and I saw our two daughters-in-law for the first time when my sons decided they were bashert.

 

NOT A BASIS FOR MARRIAGE› Someone who’s seen an alternative that works

I’ve been following the back and forth about shidduch-résumé photos. I would like to share that here in Israel, in most communities, we do not put photos on our résumés and it works beautifully.

I agree that attraction is a key factor in marriage, but it is not what a marriage should be based on. An ideal marriage should be based on shared goals and values.

The letter writer who signed off as “a bochur in shidduchim” said, “Yes, we know that for some reason girls send out pictures of themselves that don’t do themselves justice. We also know that many times the opposite is true — they send pictures that look much better than their actual appearance (which happens to be counterproductive, as a boy who sees the picture and then meets her will be disappointed).”

This only proves my point further. These photos won’t benefit you in any way. You will either be disappointed after meeting a girl who doesn’t match her photo, or you’ll nix a prospective shidduch who may just not be photogenic.

A marriage based on attraction alone will just put you into shock when you realize that as people get older, they change and don’t always look the way they did on their shidduch résumé 30 years earlier.

I would like to suggest that those of you who voiced your opinion against shidduch-résumé photos, but live somewhere that “enforces” them should really try and do something about this issue — as a team. Much hatzlachah!

 

WE CAN END IT TOGETHER› On Your Side

I have been involved in shidduchim for almost 25 years and I am completely opposed to pictures. I have the backing of my rav, a talmid of Rav Moshe, whose opinion he espouses. Who has the audacity to argue with Rav Moshe?

S.M., I am so sorry for you and your friends having to go through this. It makes no sense hashkafically. Please know there are shadchanim out there who do not request pictures, and plenty of girls who send me their résumé sans a photo. If someone requests one from me, I simply respond, “I don’t do pictures.”

I’m left to wonder in whose hands the solution rests. What if girls stopped sending pictures? If the shadchan says he/she only works with girls with pictures, then maybe we need to empower our girls and their parents to decline their help. What if girls only worked with shadchanim who don’t demand pictures? A message will spread: We’re done with this awful breach of tzniyus.

Hashem will not disappoint those who are tzanuah and do the right thing. In my day (25 years go) there were no résumés or pictures and we all managed fine. We did have that “first phone call” — how awkward was that? We couldn’t stand it, but it was par for the course. Baruch Hashem, someone put an end to that pointless “minhag.” That gives me hope that we can do the same now regarding pictures.

I do have a question for these boys’ rebbeim. Numerous times I’ve had boys tell me, “My rebbi told me I don’t have to give a yes without a picture.” Why are you perpetuating this degradation, and what shallow message are you conveying to these boys? If collectively we get on the same page and girls and parents turn down shadchanim who demand pictures, while rebbeim get out there and decry this despicable practice and advise the boys accordingly, perhaps the shidduch crisis will diminish greatly.

I wish all singles much siyata d’Shmaya during this challenging journey.

I can be contacted through Mishpacha.

 

DEHUMANIZING PROCESS› S. M. J.

Mishpacha magazine has consistently provided a service to the community by airing important issues that need to be addressed. The Kichels showcasing our society’s treatment of our precious girls was no exception.

A recent serial in the Family First magazine, expertly written by Leah Gebber, brought an unfortunate period in our Jewish history to light. In this serial, young Jewish women were exploited and taken from their homes in the shtetl and subject to unspeakable horrors. Unfortunately, the atrocities were executed by fellow Jews.

The recent letter that you published, “Necessary and Justified,” made me think that perhaps we as a society have not come very far. Thank G-d, women are not being sold into slavery. But they are being objectified, treated by boys and shadchanim alike as props, or objects, rather than as the beautiful bnos Yisrael that they are.

The yeshivah bochur who authored the letter wrote of the “pain of being inundated with dozens of résumés,” thereby creating a process where bnos Yisrael are treated like cattle — with pictures sent around cyberspace, and boys can have their pick of the shiniest prize. It is beyond degrading. It is dehumanizing, and to me, eerily reminiscent of the terrible period in our Jewish history where women were treated as objects for sale.

It has been said that a society is judged by the way it treats women and girls. If that is the case, and young girls are treated as objects in our society, this does not bode well for our nation.

Thank you for bringing this important issue to light.

 

WHOSE EFFORT?› S.J. S.

Dear Bochur,

Wow, just wow. The tone of you letter just blew me away and not in a good way.

You need to see a girl’s picture because it helps you wade through the dozens and dozens of résumés you get? Even though you yourself admit the pictures leave a lot to be desired as far as depicting their subject fairly.

Let me tell you a story. Back in the Stone Age, when people had no pictures and no résumés (and everyone got married anyway) a bochur went to a shadchan and told her what he was looking for in a zivug: all the middos, the values, etc. Then he told her there was one more thing that he needed: He wanted her to be beautiful.

After he left, the shadchan didn’t know what to do. She had a girl in mind who had everything the bochur was looking for — except she wasn’t beautiful.

So she called her rav. He advised her to redt the shidduch.

After they got engaged, the bochur called the shadchan to thank her. “She is everything I was looking for,” he said, “and she is so beautiful.”

You write that at the end of the day, résumé pictures save so much effort and energy. Perhaps if you expended a little more effort and energy, you would meet your bashert sooner.

Wishing you much hatzlachah in your quest.

 

PASSING THE PRETTY TEST› Name Withheld

I’m writing in response to the bochur who sees shidduch pictures as justified. To say I’m appalled is an understatement; in fact, I am shaking with anger as I write this.

I’m sorry to be blunt, but a girl needing to pass your “pretty test” before you give her the time of day, despite the fact that it causes her to feel violated, is terrible no matter how eloquently you write it.

I would know. I’m one of those girls.

Our dignity should be worth more to you than a possible wasted date. Pictures teach girls that what they want is not important, that only what the boy wants is important: He must like your looks, he must be happy with you, but you wanted taller? Stop being so picky and give him a try!

Attraction is important, for both of us, but pictures aren’t accurate and it’s simply not worth the way it makes us feel.

 

SHALLOW VIEW› A girl in shidduchim

Last week’s letter from a single bochur explaining his reasoning for requesting shidduch pictures contains multiple problems. But the main one, to me, is his belief that attraction can be judged in a few seconds.

Seminary teachers, shadchanim, and various dating coaches have repeatedly told me that I do not need to consider physical attraction on a first date. It develops over time, I’m told. The definition of “later” varies, but it’s never earlier than three dates in.

I recognize that boys don’t go to seminary, but is no one telling them that this shallow, external view of instant compatibility is wrong?

I can’t change the system. But if girls will be forced to share their pictures, I see no reason that boys should not do the same. And if the idea of a girl judging his picture makes a boy uncomfortable, well, then maybe he shouldn’t be asking for pictures in the first place.

 

AGREE ON ONE THING› Mordechai Kushner, Wesley Hills, NY

I have been following the conversation regarding shidduch pictures in recent weeks. Clearly, there are reasonable arguments on both sides of the debate. Considering the broad spectrum of Mishpacha’s readership, it is probably unrealistic to expect a one-size-fits-all answer to this question in these pages.

That being the case, perhaps we can all agree on one thing: Everyone involved in shidduchim — including the singles, their parents, and the shadchanim — should be consulting with a trusted rav or rebbi for personalized hadrachah on this issue along with the many others that may come up while navigating through shidduchim.

Don’t just assume something is acceptable because you see other people doing it. They might not have thought to ask a sh’eilah, and even if they did, the right answer for them isn’t necessarily the right answer for you.

 

WE HAVE THE POWER› Shlomo Muska

To my fellow bochurim,

There is broad consensus among our rebbeim that our community’s approach to shidduchim has reached an inflection point. A girl in shidduchim is in a vulnerable position, often waiting weeks if not months between dates. It is utterly unconscionable to abandon an individual to fight the system alone. We need to step up and we need to do it now.

As those who ostensibly benefit from the disturbing practice of shidduch photos, we are uniquely positioned to put an end to it. Within our ranks there exists a critical mass who are disgusted by the present state of affairs. If we harness the power of our collective voice, we can effectuate meaningful and lasting change. All it takes is a simple conversation with our parents.

We can instruct them to respectfully inform shadchanim that we will no longer tolerate the wholesale degradation of bnos Yisrael. We need to communicate in no uncertain terms that photos are no longer welcome, and on the contrary, we would strongly prefer a girl courageous enough to buck the tide.

This effort can create a paradigm shift. Overnight, a girl’s convictions would be transformed from a liability to an asset, and more girls would have the confidence to embark on the dating process in a refined and dignified manner, as befitting a bas Melech.

For far too long girls have been told “this is how the system works.” But if girls are compelled to demean themselves, to the point that a professional-grade photograph is mandatory, the system is badly broken. As bnei yeshivah who aspire to build Torah-true homes, it behooves us to take a stand.

We can b’ezras Hashem ensure that generations of bnos Yisrael will not be subjected to the indignity of having their pictures tossed around like baseball cards. If you wish to join me in this effort, please reach out (I can be contacted through Mishpacha) and I will be happy to refer you to shadchanim who share this perspective.

May our resolve serve as a zechus for the shidduchim of Klal Yisrael.

(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 849)

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