How many times have I had the opportunity to discuss contentious and controversial issues with people and invited them to either submit a piece for publication or pen a letter to the editor? Often the response I hear is “We cannot do that because we still have children who need to get married.”
What that means is that people who harbor opinions about issues of the day often fear articulating them because they imagine it might endanger their standing in the community. They believe the fallout from expressing their opinion might impact on whatever shidduchim they would eventually enter into for their children.
To some that might sound a little nutty. But then, what is the point of calling something nutty or even crazy unless you can actually impact upon a situation and devise a way to effectuate productive change.
Very often, though not all the time, it is the top economic tier of people who have no problems finding appropriate shidduchim for their children. If you really want to know who is doing okay finding boys for their girls and vice versa, just take a look at who is sitting up front in shul. Often it is the same criteria that are used for both shul seating and shidduchim.
Yes, I also know some very financially successful people who have older children in the so-called parashah, but that is the exception, not the rule. You know what they say — if you do not understand the why or wherefore of something, just follow the money trail.
So just as a matter of full disclosure, last week my wife and I walked our youngest son down to the chuppah and then did the mezinka dance to mark the successful conclusion of marrying off our children. As one of the New York Mets announcers is famous for saying after the final out of a game is made: “Put it in the books.”
This marks several changes for me. First of all, I do not have to talk, email, WhatsApp, or text message the cavalcade of people who call themselves shadchanim anymore. And that is a relief because I have been doing that reluctantly and with a fair amount of apprehension for many years.
That is not because I do not like them or enjoy talking to them. In most cases I found those conversations both interesting and delightful. But they were not genuine, as they were essentially about whether the person I was speaking to had any ideas for my son or daughter, as the case might have been, and that was pretty much it. I did not really know these people, so what was the sense of speaking with them so regularly?
Actually I spoke to one shadchan the other night who became our friend during the last year, and he said that he was jealous of the fact that I no longer have to call people like him about ideas for my kids. (Full disclosure: Our oldest granddaughter is 12.)
The most interesting aspect of all this is when parents send a shadchan to pursue your child — usually it’s a son — and they call you out of the blue and talk to you like they are your best friend, like they know your kid, and they have a world class idea for them.
It would be much better for the shadchan to drop the charade and say: “Listen, so and so is interested in your child, and they asked me to call you and see if he is dating and available,” or something along those lines. But then again, that would be open and honest, and the reality is that does not always work either.
Last July, I was heading to a wedding in Tel Aviv when I got a call from a shadchan I had never heard of. He said he had an idea for my son — my last remaining single son who was married last week.
At first a call like that, when you are a passenger in a car on a Tel Aviv-bound highway, is very intriguing. It piques one’s curiosity at any time, but in this environment, for whatever reason, it was especially so.
What most likely happened was that the mother or father of the girl heard from someone who knows someone who knows us about my son and the potential suitability for his or her daughter.
As far as I’m concerned, that is enough for me to at least look into the matter, but that wasn’t the case here. On the phone with my son back in New York he said straight off the bat and without hesitation that he was not interested in being set up by or going out with someone suggested by a person who does not know him or had never met him.
I can minimally, and not forcefully, disagree with that, considering that most shidduchim are at their origin completely random and ideas that are thrown together without any real prolonged or deep thought.
But that is just one thought that occurs to me as I reflect now on shidduch issues from the past 15 or so years. So, yes, the system as it has evolved works just fine for many people. But for a significant number of families and individuals, it is a process that is broken and in desperate need of repair. And while we empathize and commiserate with those lost in the maze of the shidduch process, I believe not enough attention is paid to people stuck in this disjointed and unbalanced social quagmire.
I know people in my miniature circle whose daughters have few opportunities for getting redt dates by the shadchanim upon whom they have staked their entire future. I know of young women in their mid 20s who have not had a date in a year or more. I know of some older girls in their 30s who have not had a date in two or more years.
There are thousands of singles out there — both men and women. The more prolific shadchanim like PD Roth and Meyer Levy have orchestrated more than 350 shidduchim each, and while that is impressive, it is only a fraction of what is needed. The numbers of young people entering the shidduch arena is snowballing annually with no idea or innovation to deal with the situation.
For those who are outspoken and in leadership positions in the overall community, everything is good and fine. Their kids are getting redt shidduchim and are getting married in a timely schedule, for the most part. It is the next tier who have nowhere to turn and no one to listen to their complaints about their personal agony.
Responsible young men and women over the age of 20 are being kept separate at all costs in an effort to ensure that they do not contribute in any way to remedying a situation that victimizes them. If we hear of a couple who happened to meet on their own at a wedding or at a kiddush in shul, we are conditioned to think less of them than of those who are struggling socially and waiting around for someone whom they do not know to think of a shidduch for them.
And no, I do not have an easy solution to what has festered into a huge problem. One step in the right direction would be that some restrictions be lessened so young men and women could meet in a natural environment. Some will interpret that last suggestion as calling for absolute and total social chaos. If that is how you feel about the suggestion, then you do not understand the problem.
Families are stuck in a logjam and they need to know that there is a respectable solution. Everything being ok for you and your friends is not a solution.
Read more of Larry Gordon’s articles at 5TJT.com. Follow 5 Towns Jewish Times on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for updates and live videos. Comments, questions, and suggestions are welcome at 5TJT.com and on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.