By Baila Sebrow
Am I the only one who read your May Dating Forum column and was left thinking: “Did we just read the same opening letter?”
Larry Gordon has previously written about “production issues” being caused by complications in Ukraine. Did the reader’s query somehow get attached to a different column’s reply? Other than that, or, possibly, a pressing deadline, how could something so obvious be so wrong?
The fellow writing is not having “cold feet.” Rather, he is recognizing that his kallah and her family are what I call “fake frum,” or Orthodox Jews who publicly go through the motions of living a morally elevated life but in private will manipulate that observance to justify their own untoward behavior.
Almost anybody who lives or associates with Orthodox communities—“Modern,” “middle of the road,” and “chareidi”—has encountered these folks, unfortunately.
There are lots of couples who become engaged and legitimately develop “cold feet.” And, yes, too often the powers-that-be assess them that way. Why not? It’s easy enough.
But our chassan’s self-description clearly indicates otherwise. Further, his anecdote about his father-in-law was not, as your columnist described it, a “rant”—defined as “writing in an angry or emotionally charged manner”—but served as an eye-opening observation of “fake frum” depravity—and a darn good reason as to why his children should be wary of spending too much time with him and those who model his behavior.
Though your letter was written as a Letter to the Editor, I wanted to respond to you in a proper forum, specifically because of the messages you conveyed in your tone. To refresh the memory of my readers, in the May 6 issue of this column, an engaged-to-be-married young man wrote to me about the kallah’s family’s perception of how others in their community view them, and his concern that it could have affected her views. What brought the situation to a head was that close to the wedding, his future father-in-law wanted to purchase for him a more elaborate tallis zeckel that he will use during the week when everyone sees him carrying it. He disagreed with that viewpoint, and it was then that he began to question going ahead with marrying the young lady, though he thought she was right for him when he became engaged to her.
In my response I addressed the issue of the chassan experiencing cold feet. “Cold feet” is felt by a great percentage of people in relationships, particularly when they are moving closer to the wedding. It can be based on serious circumstances or not. And even if the circumstances are serious, that does not necessarily always call for a quick fracture of the engagement. At times it takes a skilled mediator to resolve the issue. Oftentimes the disagreement stems from miscommunication or a misjudgment. It is sad when a relationship that could have been salvaged is instead allowed to be destroyed.
Change is scary, and anything that even slightly deviates towards a diverse or distinct view can cause one to overanalyze the situation to the point of demonizing it. I have seen cases where the attribute that a person found endearing in his or her significant other suddenly turned black in that person’s field of vision as the relationship headed to the next major milestone.
As a shadchan, I have seen too many real-life tragedies where people have been wrongly advised to break their engagement without examining the situation from a clear, level-headed, objective position. But that can only be achieved with the assistance of a therapist who is trained to deal with such issues. That said, I strongly advised the young man to not run around searching for someone who will tell him to break it off. My concern was that he and his kallah should not have future regret, and, if need be, they should have healthy closure. No one other than a person trained in this field can help the couple achieve what they are emotionally entitled to.
After the letter was published, I received a few offensive complaints that I suspect are coming from the same source, infuriated that I did not advise the young man to break his engagement. This poor kallah is very much despised by those close to the chassan’s life, and from the way they expressed themselves, they cannot fathom how I don’t see it their way.
Based on what the young man disclosed in his letter, there was not enough evidence for me to advise such harsh advice of finality. Had the young man disclosed unexpected financial demands made of him or any abusive conduct, including family intrusion, I surely would have placed the idea of breaking his engagement with her in my response. However, that was not the case. Moreover, had I advised him that the kallah and her family are bad people, and to run away, not only would I have been practicing quackery offering such bad advice, but centered on what he disclosed it would have been morally and ethically criminal of me to do so.
Why did I specifically choose to address your letter in my column? To give it the credence it deserves regarding how stereotyping adversely affects shidduchim today. I am specifically addressing your statement, “Almost anybody who lives or associates with Orthodox communities—“Modern,” “middle of the road,” and “chareidi”—has encountered these folks, unfortunately.” Who are “these folks” you are referring to? “Fake frum,” as you call it?” Where does such labeling even fit into Yiddishkeit? It doesn’t! All that stereotyping has ever accomplished is to turn people off from Judaism. No one other than Hashem can determine and judge who is “real frum,” and who is “fake frum.” And this malady in our society is the key factor that is keeping singles in their status quo.
You say that living a morally elevated life but privately manipulating that observance to justify their own untoward behavior is “fake frum.” I can agree with that sentiment. However, unless you are living with such an individual, with all due respect, you cannot make such a subjective statement about them and expect that to be taken as final judgement by everyone else. You are projecting that belief onto the chassan, who did not state those words.
I am often outspoken against résumés in shidduch dating. The main reason is because résumés allow people to categorize another, often unfairly, based on what they are reading on a piece of paper. Singles and their family members are quick to dismiss somebody based on the school or camp attended as well as where the family lives and shul they daven in. My favorite story is about a young lady who was raised in a chassidishe home, attended a Bais Yaakov type of school, but had been leaning towards a Yeshiva University type of hashkafah. Her mother tearfully reached out to me for assistance, because every shadchan’s door was slammed in her face. I agreed to help her daughter, and after conversing with the young lady, I had a shidduch in mind for her.
I contacted the guy, and of course he asked for a résumé. Based on all that was written referencing the hashkafah of her family, he immediately dismissed the shidduch, refusing to meet the young lady even for a few minutes. Never one to be discouraged by such circumstances, and believing in this shidduch so strongly, I went above and beyond to arrange that these two young people meet each other. I truly believed that if they would meet and talk, they would find each other attractive and compatible in every way, and, most importantly, that the shidduch would surely come to fruition. And so it was! After all the hoops I metaphorically had to jump through to get the guy to meet her, the couple became engaged in less than a month of meeting and conversing with one another. They are now, baruch Hashem, the proud parents of several children, and have a beautiful Torah-filled home.
Who decided that people with differing viewpoints or hashkafahs cannot marry one another? Who decided that affluence cannot marry non-affluence? In that very letter that you have responded to, I referenced a case where a man who was about to get engaged and was experiencing cold feet told his rav that the young lady lives in an affluent community. The rav determined without speaking to the girl that she would not fit into the community where he and the man live. It’s not even just about community. I was also the shadchan of a shidduch where someone of authority advised the young man to break off the match because of the seminary the young lady attended, assuming that she was a rigid person. In both examples the advice was incorrect and based on wrongfully stereotyping people.
Instead of automatically nixing a shidduch, how about finding a way to make it work? Instead of breaking a relationship or engagement, how about finding a compromising manner to help bring the couple to the chuppah and building a bayis ne’eman b’Yisrael? Instead of allowing singles to get older without finding their match, why not do everything that is within one’s power to find shidduchim for those who need it? Specifically focus on the shidduch that is typically nixed based on a viewpoint or hashkafic leaning. Let’s take an example from our Avos and Imahos, who married spouses from families of idol worshippers? Would we have a Bnei Yisrael today if they held from a higher-than-thou philosophy, as people do nowadays? Let us all think about that before we dismiss another Jew.
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. Baila also hosts The Definitive Rap podcast for vinnews.com, Israel News Talk Radio, WVIP 93.5 FM HD2, and talklinenetwork.com. Questions and comments for the Dating Forum can be submitted to email@example.com. Read more of Baila Sebrow’s articles at 5TJT.com.