By Baila Sebrow
We are a “rebbeshe” type of family, but my husband is a businessman. In my younger days, we used to be called American Chassidim. My husband wears a bekeshe and a shtreimel. I wear a hat on my sheitel, and even though I dress in fashionable clothing, everyone can see that I am a chassidishe woman.
We have a large family, baruch Hashem, and we have nachas from all our children, except our daughter. She decided to become modern, and it’s causing problems for our other children with finding a shidduch, and for her as well. She can’t find a normal shidduch, and she’s 26 years old already. No normal boy and family want to hear from such a shidduch, and we don’t know what to do about it. My husband and I are losing health over this.
In the meantime, she found herself a group of modern friends, and who knows where they go and what they do. I looked into her friends, and though some of them have nice parents, they’re very modern, and my daughter was dragged into their lifestyle. I once heard her talking on her phone, and she told someone that wearing a sheitel is not the most important thing in the world! I am sick over this.
I have an elderly mother who told me I should just kick her out of the house and make her go live with those friends. But I’m afraid that would make it worse. Right now, she is off the derech; I don’t want her to completely give up Yiddishkeit. How can we find her a good shidduch that will also help her come back to the way she was? We don’t want a modern boy, just someone like us who could help her.
Your last sentence is baffling. If not for the fact that I’m a shadchan and I’ve seen this misguided approach, I might have assumed that you meant a therapist or counselor of sorts when you said you want “someone like us who could help her.” Marriage is not a cure or solution to anything. Sadly, in many frum communities, parents who have a child who is not walking the path they approve of push marriage on the child on the assumption that standing under the chuppah will miraculously repair whatever they feel needs fixing. I don’t know of any case where a person got married in order to resolve an issue and it worked. On the contrary, that is when the problems get even worse.
Marriage cannot be used like a Band-Aid over a bleeding wound. One first needs to address the person’s situation, find the root of the problem, if there is any, and then allow her or him to do what feels right and compatible as long as it is a healthy situation. If there is something unhealthy going on, then one can bring in intervention.
From what I understand about your letter, the root of your dilemma is not that your daughter became modern while the rest of your family is chassidish. That is only a small sign that there is a huge issue going on, specifically involving unresolved conflicts that could be stemming from something she experienced, and she therefore no longer subscribes to the chassidishe way of living and dressing.
When children are very young, they yearn to be like their role models. They will sometimes even play dress-up and talk like the adults they love and admire. As they get older, they want approval and pride from their family, especially their parents. However, when something turns distasteful to them for whatever reason, that’s when they want to be different. I have a hunch that although you shared nothing about any events leading up to the changes in her hashkafah, you know exactly what I am talking about.
Moreover, the reality of relationships is that we are naturally drawn to what we are accustomed to. We first see that in children when kids begin to form friendships in preschool. As children grow into adulthood, they try as much as they can to stick to their roots, because people feel most secure with what is familiar to them. In most cases when somebody veers to the left, there is usually a good reason for it. As much as you may resent your daughter’s new hashkafah, please understand that altering oneself is not an easy thing to do. She is likely dealing with much pain, and whatever changes she has made must have come with anguish.
I am happy to hear that you did not take the advice of your elderly mother. Many years ago (and probably even today, in some instances) it was common to banish a child who did not follow in the path of his or her parents. Parents who did that were of the opinion that this sort of punishment would force the child to listen to the parents. Unfortunately, all it usually accomplished was tragedy of various degrees. Some parents also felt that such a child brought damage to the other children, and by sending the problem child away the children would no longer have a modern influence in the home. However, the children end up hating the parents for doing something so harsh to their sibling. You and your husband need to put your energies into understanding the challenges that your daughter is going through right now.
What your family is experiencing is not a first. There are chassidishe young men and young ladies who, for various personal reasons, come to the decision that becoming modern and marrying a modern spouse would be best for them. And besides, forgive me for pointing this out, but how is becoming modern considered “off the derech?” Other than the way she dresses, you make no mention of your daughter not being frum. From what I gather, she is still frum, just differently than your family. She should not be redd shidduchim of chassidish men who live a chassidishe lifestyle. That would be a recipe for a major disaster.
It is also possible that your daughter may have become modern because she felt that a chassidishe shidduch is not for her, for whatever reason, and in order to be shidduch eligible for a modern man, she needed to alter her appearance and lifestyle.
Even with all that your daughter has been doing with regard to changing her lifestyle, finding a shidduch may still come with many challenges. In my shadchanus, I often deal with these issues. Those who used to be chassidish and marry outside of their circles experience much rejection. That, along with the guilt for what she is being accused of subjecting her family to, is a lot for your daughter to carry on her young shoulders.
Families who are not chassidish may be concerned with what the neighbors, people in their shul, or anyone else would say about why their son married a chassidish or former chassidish young lady. Their apprehension stems from people assuming that there was a problem with their son or within their family. And just as your daughter cannot marry a chassidishe guy, the non-chassidishe guy and/or family may feel the same way about marrying a young lady from a chassidish family.
From a guy’s perspective, he might be concerned that although your daughter may appear modern on the outside and might even take on a modern hashkafah, one way or another, her chassidishe background can create an uncomfortable situation, and she likely endures rejection after rejection that you may not even know about. Why is that? Because as I indicated earlier, people gravitate toward what they are accustomed to or familiar with. Marrying someone similar in hashkafah and values feels more secure. Even when people marry someone similar to themselves, there will still be differences—subtle perhaps, but differences nevertheless. How much more so when marrying someone of a different background! When all is said and done, we don’t know how she would feel being married to someone from a vastly different background.
Please do not create any distance between your family and your daughter. It is imperative that she should feel connected to her loved ones, and not only accepted, but also embraced. She needs to believe that you are all on her side, on her team, and that you will do whatever it takes to help her find a shidduch.
I will suggest a possible option with regard to meeting a nice young man. Your daughter might ultimately feel compatible with a ba’al teshuvah. Ba’alei teshuvah, for the most part, get what it means to change one’s hashkafah, because that is what they did, too.
Please call for a family meeting and discuss with them your letter to me and my response. Then bring in your daughter and tell her that you understand her, love her, and that her happiness means more to you than what anyone in the community might think or say. You will be surprised to see that you will form an unshakeable bond. At that point you can talk about shidduchim and make the ba’al teshuvah suggestion. She may not be open to the idea, insisting that she would rather meet a young man on her own. Still, put out the idea that you would be willing to do some footwork for her and find shadchanim who would be willing to help her.
It does not necessarily have to be only ba’alei teshuvah. There are Modern Orthodox men who, because they are out in the professional world, are more open-minded and will understand who she is, where she is coming from, and judge her for the person she is on the inside.
Another possibility to explore is that there are young men who come from a chassidishe background but would like to live a modern lifestyle. The bottom line is that as long as your daughter plans to continue being religious, you and your family should emulate the middah of Hashem and evaluate her by the way she dresses her neshamah, not her externals.
Baila Sebrow is president of Neshoma Advocates, communications and recruitment liaison for Sovri-Beth Israel, executive director of Teach Our Children, and a shadchanis and shidduch consultant. She can be reached at Bsebrow@aol.com. Questions and comments for the Dating Forum can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more of Baila Sebrow’s articles at 5TJT.com.