My son is 23 and has just started dating. A very pretty girl was recently redt to him, who also comes from a fine family like ours. My concern is that this girl went to many schools in her life. She attended five elementary schools and three high schools.

When I asked about why she went to so many schools, I was told that she wasn’t happy with her classmates. Right now this girl is in a seminary/college program and she also works in a high position. This girl now has a nice group of friends, but I heard that when she was young, she had no friends.

My son is very interested in this shidduch, because she lives close by and he sees her very often. Do you think I should pursue this shidduch for my son? Do you think that I should overlook her sketchy childhood?


By Baila Sebrow

Without knowing more details, the first thought that pops into my head is that it sounds like this girl might have been a victim of bullying during her childhood. Switching to several schools in short periods of time due to discontent with classmates is indicative of a serious social matter. Oftentimes, parents transfer their children to different schools in the hopes that it will improve the situation. But frum circles are small and, especially if the new school is in the same vicinity, unfortunately the situation rarely improves. Kids see each other in camps or shul groups, so when one child is singled out for a particular reason it becomes newsworthy and interesting to their peers. When a child has issues with her classmates, it is usually best to solve the problem by nipping it in the bud within the school where the problem first originates. Switching to another school sadly only creates a contagion-like situation, where the same problems seem to follow that child. In this case, there were many schools.

As with all forms of trauma, bullying carries lifelong consequences. Years ago people assumed that childhood bullying is a normal part of growing up and is long forgotten during the adult years. Psychologists in this day and age have proved otherwise. There have been studies where brain images were taken of victims of bullying. The results were fascinating in that it showed areas of the brain that were affected by psychological trauma. Pathologically a scientist can ascertain that abuse and trauma such as bullying has occurred. This confirms the theory that the damage sustained in bullying may be permanent.

Evidence of such damage can be manifested by depression. Attending five elementary schools in eight years, and three high schools in four years, is quite extreme. You do not seem to know if this girl has actually suffered from depression, but her claims that she was unhappy with her classmates as the explanation for her frequent school transfers is cause for concern. Having no friends during the formative years, especially for a girl, is detrimental to her emotional well-being. I hope that the parents of this girl sought professional intervention and guidance in dealing with whatever issues were present at the time she was growing up.

I understand that this girl’s life now appears stable, as she is in a seminary/college program, works, and seemingly has friends. But I am not convinced that her past is buried and forgotten. No one goes though such negative extremes and emerges as though nothing has happened. Of utmost importance to parents when their daughter or son enters the shidduch parashah is the impression the shidduch candidate makes on others. Imperfections–be they physical, emotional, or familial–are thickly camouflaged. The most sophisticated and worldly parents fall into that school of thought. In the way you are describing this girl as she comes across today almost makes it seem as though she had the perfect childhood. However, I am afraid that she is guided in covering up whatever issues might in actuality be plaguing her.

Those who go through harsh experiences will naturally develop sensitivities. Their reactions to certain words or comments can trigger negative responses. Someone can utter a seemingly harmless word, but to the traumatized victim it might appear as an attack. In the end, both parties feel hurt when no harm was meant in the first place. This scenario repeats itself in various types of relationships, especially marriage.

That said, if your son is interested in this particular shidduch, you need to look into this girl’s past. You need to find out the facts as to why she switched schools so many times. In addition, you need to find out how her situation was handled.

You question the pursuit of this shidduch based on what you consider to be her “sketchy past,” which is something that your son needs to be aware of also. Of utmost importance is finding out what sort of help was provided for this girl during her times of heightened stress. In addition, you need to ascertain whether she is receiving ongoing therapy and if she is taking medication. That is something that your son has every right to know in order to make an educated decision about forming a relationship with her. Most importantly, if it turns out that she currently has a firm handle on her life and seems ready to mark a new milestone in her life in the role of wife and mother, do not hold her past against her.

The way this girl appears to have risen from the depths of her lows is indicative that she possesses strength of character. Whether that strength was always in her or came about as a result of her young life experiences, it is nevertheless meritorious. There have been countless stories of people who suffered in their early years and grew from those experiences to become leaders and pillars of their communities. Hopefully, this girl will turn out to be a shining example of this type.

Baila Sebrow is president of Neshoma Advocates, communications and recruitment liaison for Sovri-Beth Israel, executive director of Teach Our Children, and a shadchanis. She can be reached at v

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