| Counterpoint |

The Lonely Wait: the conversation continues

Last week’s cover story, “The Long, Lonely Wait,” drew many responses from readers. Below is a sampling

Time to Think Globally › F. M., Lakewood, NJ

I was very excited when I saw your cover page last week. The “Shidduch Institute” initiative sounds very positive, even necessary. However, the article left me feeling disappointed.

The “shidduch crisis” is not a national crisis. The frum community spans many countries, and in our modern world, they are all interconnected.

Countless compatible communities across the globe can be part of the solution. We must be ready to be open-minded to the fact that there are communities that share identical values, beliefs, and even cultures. How many couples do you know who originate from different countries yet are happily married?

True, we in the US have enough older singles. But by ignoring the rest of the world when pinpointing the issue and coming up with solutions, we are, in essence, stating that the “solution” will aim at Americans. We thereby compromise the result from the start!

As a shadchan, I can state that a vast majority of Americans will not even look at the résumé of a perfectly compatible shidduch for their child if the candidate lives outside the US. But location is such a minor, technical detail. (I am not referring to boys and girls who are mismatched in their language/type/culture/society/aspirations.)

If we want solutions, we must be ready to “sacrifice” some of our demands, which are mostly irrelevant to the resulting marriage.

Demands for common values, chemistry, and culture are valid and crucial. But we must know where they cross into boundaries of insignificant nuances that do not correlate with a successful marriage.

May we see the building of many Jewish homes with open minds and happy hearts and the emphasis put on valid concerns.


Contradictory Messages› Name Withheld

After reading the informative article about shidduchim this week, the issue of singles being selective and not realistic stood out for me.

I know no single needs any more mussar and guilt dumped on her not to be “picky.” My feeling, though, is that this is not only an issue for the singles themselves; this is an issue that applies to our entire society.

We have many strong values in our society, yet some contradict one another. Perhaps we need to be more sensitive to this when teaching these values and directing a person in finding her shidduch, or their personal derech. Since I am female, I speak from a woman’s perspective, but I’m sure there are similar problems from the man’s side.

We teach girls not to focus on materialism, yet after seminary they are thrown into a materialistic world — providing parnassah for a ben Torah and caring for a family — without enough ruchniyus ammunition (such as Torah classes, time and opportunity for davening) to hold them through. This feeds into the gender misalignment issue, where girls and boys are on different pages.

The more ruchniyus type of jobs, which also have better spiritual environments, don’t pay well (hello, teaching). We teach that family comes first, yet that a girl should support a ben Torah and try not to disturb his learning — and then we look down on couples who are not independent and rely on parents for support.

What would happen if a girl wants to have a less stressful job? Or after years of college decides that she wants to marry a more worldly boy? She would be looked down upon; people would say she doesn’t value Torah enough or that she lowered her standards.

There are deeper issues going on here. How can we as a society put more focus on inner value?


Know Them for Who They Are › Tzivy Reiter, Passaic, NJ

I am writing in response to “Splitting Seas, Drying Tears,” about a shidduch system that needs revamping. It is wonderful to read about the initiatives to address this challenge through tefillah, community assessment, and response.

While sometimes it may feel that we can’t control the outcome for many singles in this difficult parshah, there is much that each of us can do to create a more supportive and welcoming community. This stage of life can be challenging for many singles but does not need to leave them feeling isolated and marginalized.

I recall an episode from my own formerly single days, when I encountered a neighbor in shul, who loudly interrogated me, “Nu, when are you going to give your parents nachas already?”

Unbeknownst to me, my father, Rabbi Dovid Ross a”h, was standing within earshot. Before I could respond, he intercepted, proclaiming, “She already gives us so much nachas.”

To the community: Don’t be that neighbor, well-meaning but inappropriate and hurtful nevertheless. Get to know what is special and unique about your single friends and relatives, and don’t define them by the one thing they are not.

To the mothers and fathers out there: Be that parent, the one who sets boundaries against intrusive comments and protects their child’s feelings. Many singles take advantage of this time of life by cultivating their ruchniyus, talents, interests, and careers. Take the time to truly know and understand them as they grow and evolve, and show them with your words and actions that you value them for who they are.

It will make a painful time that much easier to bear, and will deepen your relationship with them in a manner that will reap benefits well beyond their single years.


The Logical Step› A. J., New York

This letter is in response to the article last week that discussed creating a new umbrella organization to help the klal with shidduchim. We do see that wherever there is a need, Klal Yisrael steps up and creates an organization to address the need. The fact that there are currently so many disparate organizations trying to tackle the complexities around the shidduch crisis really underscores what I think was the point of the article.

We seem to be dealing with many concurrent issues that are all impacting different subgroups of our community in different ways. While it is easy to hitch our wagon to a single cause based on our personal experience or observation, it is much more daunting to address various problems that may be rooted in our community’s approach to chinuch, the value system we model for our children, inadequate or antiquated resources devoted to the avodah hakedoshah of redting shidduchim, the financial realities of leading a frum lifestyle today, and so on.

Getting data seems to be a logical step in uncovering what the average frum family is grappling with for each of their children — the single son in BMG, the single son who is working, the daughter just back from seminary, and the older single waiting for the phone to ring.

I hope that rather than continuing to believe whatever we have previously assumed and just moving along with our day, each person takes the survey and contributes to the numbers, so that the thousands of neshamos looking for their other half are counted, seen, and understood.

May we all be zocheh to play a part in bringing the yeshuah that we so desperately need.


Master List for Us All › R. S.

Thank you to everyone who puts time and effort into redting shidduchim, setting up new initiatives, and any other aspect of helping single girls and boys find their shidduchim.

While I was reading the article “The Long, Lonely Wait,” something that constantly comes up in my mind resurfaced.

Can there be a way — even before all the data is processed — to create a list of all shadchanim, which everyone can access? It’s very upsetting for a mainstream parent who knows many people to meet a shadchan who says, “How come I’ve never heard your child’s name” (four years into the shidduch process) and for the parent to have never even heard the shadchan’s name!

It seems as if there’s a certain secrecy. Names of shadchanim are held back so only some people have access to shadchanim, and only some shadchanim having access to specific résumés. Doesn’t that handicap the playing field, instead of allowing for the largest amount of possibilities?

Baruch Hashem, shidduchim are being redt to my child, and yet I’m still finding these limitations frustrating.


Fulfill Your Obligation › Y. Y. Krausz, The Shadchonim Initiative, Gateshead, UK

In the article describing the admirable work being carried out by Rabbi Moshe Bender employing shadchanim, he urged others to create similar infrastructures elsewhere. I can testify to the success of such an initiative.

A year ago in Gateshead, UK, we launched an initiative whereby we pay shadchanim at an hourly rate for their work. Baruch Hashem, this has resulted in more successful shidduchim.

We recently spread our wings, recruiting shadchanim from Manchester, too, and have had requests to expand further south to London, too.

Inspiration for this work — and something that might inspire others who are considering initiating this in their communities — came in the form of a conversation we were privileged to have with the Rav of Antwerp, Rav Aharon Schiff shlita. He expressed that the “Yissachar-Zevulun” arrangement, in which the supporter receives a portion in the Torah being learned and all the accompanying brachos, applies equally to supporting shadchanim. Citing various sources from the Gemara, he explained that being a shadchan is an obligation on each person and is a segulah to be zocheh to good children. Financially supporting shadchanim is a route to satisfy this obligation, and a way to merit the same segulah!

In the zechus of us all taking part in this great mitzvah, may we merit simchahs and yeshuos.


Not about Money› Laia Abberbock, Baltimore

There has been lots of back and forth recently on the topic of the “shidduch crisis,” the causes, and the need to pay shadchanim more so they can be better incentivized. Perhaps there is truth to that, perhaps not.... I think we would do well to leave that discussion to our rabbanim. I would just like to weigh in with an account of my wonderful grandmother, the shadchan Mrs. Tova Klahr a”h.

My grandmother worked full-time, yet lived and breathed shidduchim. As a child growing up, I would see her with a phone at each ear and her index card boxes overflowing with her notes on countless men and women.

On our visits to her Far Rockaway home, we saw many single men and women coming to meet her. We children enjoyed the excitement as my grandmother schmoozed with these people on her porch or in her cozy living room as she really tried her best to get to know them.

My grandmother was a people person — someone who truly loved people. Hashem rewarded her efforts, and she was a very successful shadchan. She left behind a legacy of many happily married couples due to her intense efforts.

But the most important point I wanted to add that we, her family, pride ourselves on, is that my grandmother refused payment for her valuable work. Couples often presented her with gifts as a show of gratitude, but she made it clear that shidduchim was not about money. My grandmother lived and breathed shidduchim purely lishmah. We, her descendants, all dabble (some successfully and some not) in shidduchim as well, as we recall her fervor for this mitzvah.

As years pass, yeridas hadoros is inevitable. I think we would do well to pause and reflect on past generations. Yes, we are a different generation, and our needs may differ now. But let’s remember that we are a Holy People and that fact should be our biggest motivation in this pursuit.


Wrong Line of Business› A. W., A Problem-Solving Torontonian

I’d like to share a few points that might be worth considering when trying to solve the issues plaguing the shidduch system.

Just for some context, I have both academic and hands-on experience in solving systemic issues, particularly in the Jewish community. I’ve helped organizations and shuls solve and prevent problems using root cause analysis and other failure assessment tools. I wouldn’t say I’m the best person to fix the shidduch system, but I definitely have a better chance than most. So here we go:

  1. If you’re a shadchan and all you’re getting is no after no, it’s likely the result of consistently suggesting ideas that are way off the mark. Some people just don’t have the ability to see the nuances in singles, which is essential to matching them up properly. And I understand that the longer you’ve been doing it, the harder that pill will be to swallow. Denial is a natural reaction and it pushes back hard.
  2. Shidduchim can be looked at as a chesed or a business, but not both. If you treat shidduchim as a money-making opportunity, then don’t expect the gratitude as if you’re doing a chesed. Nobody in the business world expects any form of appreciation for cold-calling clients, no matter how much time and effort they put into it. (Even more so if their ideas are consistently off target.)
  3. Sending a gift to a Hatzoloh member is a very nice gesture. But no paramedic joins Hatzoloh for the gifts and gratitude. They do it because they truly care and want to make a difference (which is why you’ll never see an article about Hatzoloh members feeling underappreciated). The shidduch system should be no different.
  4. The singles in the shidduch system are the ones going through a tough time. Any resources devoted to making shadchanim happier and feeling more fulfilled and appreciated is simply wrong. If you’re not feeling “fulfilled” or “recognized” enough, you’re in the wrong line of business.
  5. The current metric used by shadchanim to gauge success is grossly inaccurate. Stating the number of shidduchim someone made is like stating how many successful surgeries a doctor has performed — the number is meaningless unless you also know how many surgeries they failed.

Making shidduchim is obviously great, but there are negative consequences to suggesting (and pushing) bad ideas on singles. Without that ratio, the “success rating” is incomplete and misleading. (And for those who boast the number of dates they’ve set up, they’re only showing people how pushy they are, not how successful they are at accurately matching up singles.)

Don’t get me wrong, I have the utmost appreciation for shadchanim who are successful at what they do and are sensitive of the singles they help. As for those who are not successful and feel like it’s somehow the fault of the singles, I wish them the best of luck in realizing speedily that they’re in the wrong profession.

I understand that I’m undermining many of the mindsets that we’ve held for years, and my approach may sound radical to some. I don’t expect anyone to believe me overnight, but time will slowly show that the above points are a step in the right direction.


A New Role in Shidduchim › Talia Rosen

The Shidduch Institute names limited shadchan capacity as one of the current issues in our shidduch system today. A few weeks ago, an inbox letter (in response to Rabbi Bender’s article about paying shadchanim) commented that shadchanim spend precious time coordinating dates that could instead be utilized redting shidduchim. This letter-writer proposed that the boys and girls communicate and make the dating arrangements themselves.

While I don’t see that happening in the mainstream shidduch system, I do have another suggestion that allows the shadchanim to focus on redting shidduchim.

I work in a corporate consulting firm and observed how the recruiting team is structured. The recruiting team has an assistant called a “recruiting coordinator.” The coordinator’s sole responsibility is to communicate with the interviewees and arrange interviews. This allows the recruiters to focus on finding talent without being bogged down by detailed schedule arrangements.

This same model can be utilized for the shidduch system. A “shidduch coordinator” role should be created, so the shadchan can delegate the task of scheduling and coordination of dates. The coordinator will be a reliable person who can deal with making the arrangements between the boy and the girl. This individual can coordinate flights, pick-up times, car rentals, and any other arrangements that need to be made.

Of course, the shadchan will still be utilized once the dating begins, for coaching and guidance. With more time available, the shadchanim can focus on what they do best, redting and facilitating shidduchim, without being distracted by the myriad details involved in coordinating dates.

This shidduch coordinator can be an assistant for one or more shadchanim, depending on their scale. They should be paid a salary from the organizations paying shadchanim and from the parents after the closure of a shidduch.

While creating a shidduch coordinator position will increase operating costs, the recovered time and energy to the shadchanim will make it worthwhile.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 946

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