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Why Risk Shidduchim?

Something has to change so that women don’t become so disillusioned that they simply choose to give up




hen I was a young adult, knew exactly what I wanted to be. I wanted to become a teacher and change the world, teach the next generation to love Hashem and the Torah and make a big difference to the Jewish community.

Entering the field, however, I experienced a reality check. I was paid a minimum-wage salary that didn’t even come on time, I encountered a general lack of gratitude, and I received minimal support to better my skills. Eventually I left teaching to find another more satisfying and lucrative field. And I learned that I wasn’t alone. In Mishpacha’s Inbox, I read that the girls’ school system is facing severe challenges finding qualified teachers.

A few months later, there’s a new crop of letters to the editor. These letters discuss how degrading the girls find the system in place available for them to meet their basherts. Every letter talks about single women feeling demeaned by the request for pictures, but feeling helpless to do anything about it. Most young women I talk to talk about how difficult it is to get a date at all. First someone asks you for a shidduch résumé, and then they never get back to you. When they ask what happened with the suggestion, they get a vague “He never got back to me,” or, “He said he was busy.” These are euphemisms for “They are not interested.” So many women talk about getting two to three dates a year, and feel like they have to “apply” for the date.

I don’t want to be shrill, or an alarmist, but I believe we must consider the real possibility that if something isn’t done to change this status quo, some women will chas v’shalom make the same decision about marriage that they have made about teaching: The process is just too degrading to justify the ends. Already now, I meet intelligent women who have voiced feelings to me that they find a lot of satisfaction in their jobs, and don’t necessarily need marriage to give them satisfaction in life.

Lest you think this is exaggerated, consider that this is what has happened in the American culture. Women in the secular culture have been educated that marriage denigrates them, and therefore they don’t see marriage as a goal or means to fulfillment.

History has shown us that as the general culture goes, the Jewish culture is not far behind. Last week, a reader wrote in wondering whether kids go off the derech because they are hearing an unspoken message of “we don’t want you in our schools or in our communities.” Young women are hearing a similarly degrading message in how they are expected to meet their basherts.

We need leadership to change the outdated shidduch system to one where women feel wanted, respected, and cherished, reflecting the derech eretz advocated by Chazal (Kiddushin 2b), “darko shel ish lachazor al ishah, v’ein darkah shel ishah lachazor achar ha’ish.” Chazal explain that this is comparable to someone who lost a cherished item. The owner seeks his item; the item does not seek its owner. Something has to change so that women don’t become so disillusioned that they simply choose to give up and look for satisfaction in life through other means.

Too much is at stake to let the current situation continue as it is.

R. L. , Far Rockaway, NY

Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 786.

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Comments (6)

  1. Avatar
    Debbie Greenblatt

    To R.L.:
    The old adage, “You can’t fire me I quit” tries to preserve the dignity of one who has been told they are no longer wanted, but it doesn’t really address the pain of that rejection. Talks of opting out of a system in which you don’t feel valued are a cry for help.
    That cry needs to be heard and addressed. El Ishech teshukasech, with that punishment to Chava, H’ instilled a keen desire in every woman to be deeply connected to her spouse. The women that claim they don’t need a spouse for fulfillment are longing for it to be so, and I don’t blame them. Unfortunately, desire alone does not create reality.
    I think the place to start is in our girls’ chinuch. A girl has to grow into a woman who has to a sense of herself as an Ovedes Hashem. Her personal relationship with her Creator and the middos she develops as an expression of that relationship have to define her more than any other external situation, be it her marital, financial, or community status.

  2. Avatar
    Name Withheld

    I don’t know how old R.L. is or what her experiences have been. But based on what she writes, they’ve been depressing and demoralizing. And it’s no one’s place to judge what she’s thinking and feeling now because of them.
    R.L., I’d like you to know that there is a third option: Instead of choosing marriage or choosing career — you can choose you. Because you are not defined by either of the above. And you are so much more than what happens to you.
    Put yourself at the center of this story. Take back the narrative. Do you want a husband and a family in your life? Then you are going to persevere. Because, you. Not because, society. Not because, normal. Not because, sheitel. Not because, minivan. Because you want this (if you do want this — and reading between the lines, you do) and no one gets to decide when or if or why you should give up.
    You mention that secular women don’t necessarily see marriage as a goal or means to fulfillment. While marriage can certainly be a means to very, very deep fulfillment, it shouldn’t be a goal — for the simple reason that goals are things we choose to work toward, and marriage is a gift. But you can set other goals for yourself. They do not need to be big. They do not need to be exciting. But they can help you become the person you were meant to be, irrespective of your current marital status, or even your career choice.
    You were born to strive toward completion. Not completion within marriage but within yourself. Marriage is a tool. Career is a tool. And both involve Yad Hashem. And the nisyonos involved in the pursuit of one or the other are also tools.
    I agree that society could do with some changes. I agree that too often, women get the short end of the stick. I also believe, though, that even with unfairness and injustice and struggle, Hashem will never forget about you. We can work toward making things better for other people (by writing, for example — and more single women should do it), while also believing that even the way things feel now, Hashem has a way to make things work out very, very well for each and every one of us.

  3. Avatar
    A Daughter In Pain

    This struck a sensitive chord within me. I am what people refer to as a “great girl.” All modesty aside, I am eidel, I am smart, I am capable, I am put-together, I am friends with other “great girls,” I possess strong hashkafos, I went to a top seminary, I have impressive teaching jobs, and my parents are ready and willing to stretch themselves (although they already struggle financially) to help support me and my future husband in kollel with what is considered standard.
    And despite all this, I am one of those who are “sitting home, without a shidduch prospect in sight.” When I read R.L.’s alarm about those who get “two to three dates a year,” I bit my lip and thought: For many of us “great girls,” that would be considered fantastic! I try to work on my emunah and trust in Hashem that there is someone out there waiting for me, and appreciate all our community does to help us singles, but I still find myself struggling every day not to become disillusioned and angry with a world that I was always a happy and idealistic member of, a world in which I now feel invisible and unwanted, a world in which a boy receives 100 resumes in the span of one year (true story) and a girl receives none.
    I don’t want to ever become a bitter “system-basher” or entertain thoughts of heading to supposedly greener pastures, yet it is a huge and ongoing challenge to keep my mind and heart positive and not take the short trip from frustrated to resentful. Something needs to change about the way we make matches nowadays between our singles, because right now I’m feeling bewildered about and rejected by a community that I know is truly wonderful, beautiful, hard-working, and well-meaning.

    1. Avatar

      Among other great sounding things about her, ‘A Daughter in Pain’ says that her parents “are ready and willing to stretch themselves (although they already struggle financially) to help support me and my future husband in kollel with what is considered standard.”
      Perhaps this girl might consider widening her perspective of the circle of boys she is willing to consider for marriage. It sounds like she is limiting herself to the group of boys expecting to be supported in learning after marriage. Perhaps if she were to consider boys who were willing to live a much simpler lifestyle, and spend years in learning not supported by parents, but making it work on their own with their wives; or even consider serious bnei Torah who are not planning to go to kollel; that may be a way of expanding the group of boys she’s willing to consider.
      Instead of only pursuing names in a too-small group of inaccessible boys, and being disappointed that they are not accessible, she would be pursuing names in a wider group and hopefully get more dating options.
      I’m not discounting the pain the writer describes — I spend huge amounts of time trying to help girls like her. But perhaps being open to a wider perspective may help a little.

    2. Avatar
      Debbie Greenblatt

      To A Daughter in Pain: You are a great girl who doesn’t get dates, and feels that the system failed you. You did everything right and didn’t get the payoff. It indeed batters the ego to hear about girls who weren’t so great get date after date while you sit home.
      It is imperative that we remind ourselves of several realities.
      It’s not a race to the finish. Collecting dating stories is not like buying Hotels on a Monopoly Board. While its completely normal to want to have dates, know that all those dates are not free. They come with an emotional price tag, which ultimately weighs the dater down, and after a while makes it harder to respond in a real and natural way when Mr. Right comes along. Girls with lots of dates also run the risk of making a composite of all the good qualities of the individual boys they date, creating a vision of a young man that doesn’t actually exist. I know girls who have many dates, and every date that doesn’t work out grows their despair of ever meeting the right one.
      I hope you will have dates, but more importantly I daven that when you have a date, he should be a fabulous prospective for you, and spare you the emotional baggage of too many ‘dating stories’.

  4. Avatar

    While I am completely sympathetic to, and in full agreement with, the writer of “Why Risk Shidduchim”, I wanted to point out another side of the picture. As someone who has been involved in facilitating shidduchim for years, it has happened to me frequently that a boy really is busy. So when I truthfully tell a girl or her family that he is still busy, I am not just trying to push her off or offer “euphemisms,” as she claimed.