By Baila Sebrow

 

Question

I see so much hypocrisy that I just want to scream! I’m a nice frum girl who went to Bais Yaakov schools and camps. My father davens three times a day, and my mother covers her hair, but people say they can tell that my parents are ba’alei teshuvah. It used to bother me, because even though I had a bunch of friends, they always made me feel like I was different. Their grandparents are all Holocaust survivors, and they also mixed in Yiddish words in conversations that I was never really able to follow.

My parents became frum as Carlebachians when they were both in college, and they made the decision to move to Brooklyn where they could raise a family. At that point they decided to become yeshivish. I always felt like an outsider, but I was hoping that when I would get married, I’d finally find my place in the world.

I am looking for a full-time learner who will commit to at least five years of learning. My parents are totally fine with helping us with money. I want a serious top guy in one of the better yeshivas.

My parents took me to some of the well-known shadchanim, and we thought that at least one of them would come up with the type of guy I want to marry. But the same thing always happens. They redd me to guys who are so off from what I want. For example, they will redd me a guy who is from a lower track in his yeshiva, or from a yeshiva that I would be embarrassed to be associated with. I don’t want you to judge me, but I don’t want to marry a guy who comes from the same type of family as mine, because I want to be treated like everyone else, and I want my kids to be treated like everyone else.

I learned from all this that those who go out of their way to make people frum would never let their good sons date me, and I’m not even a ba’alas teshuvah! It’s not my fault that my parents were not born frum.

I can’t hide that my grandparents are not frum, or that my parents went to public school. That’s where I come from. But, that doesn’t mean that I have to marry a guy who comes from exactly the same kind of family. Right?

Response

I can feel your frustration, and I understand where it is all coming from. Your parents chose a yeshivish way of life to bring up their children. They moved to a community which they felt would be most conducive to that lifestyle. That must have taken a great deal of courage and dedication. They did not have the privilege of following the customs of their parents, like those who are frum from birth. For them to follow the same lifestyle as the rest of the community entailed research, learning, and making many changes. It sounds like they were incredibly successful. Look at what a wonderful young lady they raised! You are ready to commit to a kollel lifestyle for the sake of Torah learning. Your parents deserve accolades for creating a sincere family of yirei Shamayim. They are to be held in the highest regard, as very few can walk in their chosen path.

I can understand your desire to marry a guy who is a serious learner. But why must he have attended “one of the better yeshivas?” Who is to say that one yeshiva is better than another? In many cases, it is not more than just a matter of opinion. What is this preoccupation that he has to be a top learner? Each yeshiva measures success using their personalized system and standards. A student who is acknowledged as top of the class in one yeshiva may be not be recognized in the same way in another yeshiva. When it comes to choosing learning institutions, there are men who would rather be in a yeshiva where they are placed in a lower rank, as long as they have the opportunity to study under a particular rebbe, while to another student, being assigned to the top rank is more important than whose talmid he might be. I believe that what you mean to say is that you want to marry a guy similar to the type of guy your friends are planning to marry.

Though not always the case, I will not disagree that what you say regarding kiruv is true. The same people who are active in outreach and go out of their way to encourage secular Jews to become frum are not necessarily so eager to allow their children to marry ba’alei teshuvah or even the children of ba’alei teshuvah. While it may appear that these people are being hypocrites, and that deep down they are biased against those who lived a former secular life, what it usually boils down to is that when it comes to marriage, people gravitate towards familiarity. That in no way excuses your friends who made you feel like an outsider. There is no justification for having treated you that way while you were growing up. It is those people I take major issue with.

The shadchanim your parents took you to may have tried to redd you to the type of guys you want, but if they or their families declined, then there is not much they can do about it. It would be prudent to find out if you are not being redd to whom you seek because they are actually declining you, or if it is because the shadchanim have thus far not even tried, and instead made their own determination about what is suitable for you. If it is the latter, then your parents might want to consider retaining the services of somebody who will advocate for you and will not hold your roots against you.

Let’s put niceties aside and get real. Do you know who ranks high as a human being? Not the top learner or the guy who made it to the best yeshiva of the year. All that amounts to nothing if he is not a mensch. Perhaps your definition of a “top” person needs to be redefined. A top person, one who ranks high in the eyes of G-d and man, is somebody of integrity who is genuinely sincere and unpretentious. Such people do not ever assume that they are better than the next. A high-ranking human being will respect all people whether they are just like him or different in any way. A top-of-the-line person does not look down on anyone. Perhaps you need to increase your networking of friends some more so that you can come to understand the difference between those who are hypocrites and an authentic “top-of-the-line” person.

Your narrow outlook needs to broaden for your own good. Believing that a man who comes from a ba’al teshuvah family will not be a good match for you is no different than the attitude of those who reject you and treat you in ways to make you feel that you don’t belong. Your attitude might be a simple result of following the masses, or it may stem from wanting to protect your future children, G-d willing, from the same disappointments as you endured.

The friends you have come to know your entire life do not represent all frum Jews. You happened to grow up among those who rank others as being one of them or not. There are large and small communities throughout the tristate area and beyond that welcome families such as yours, and will be happy to consider a young lady like you for one of their own sons.

But that would require that the changes start with you. You are never going to change people who only want to be with and marry their own kind. It could be that they are otherwise good people, but they are afraid of looking outside their circle, especially when it relates to shidduchim. Some people are most comfortable being meshadech with those who are like them, even going back generations. Not only do they want the same mechutanim, but in some communities, people will even go so far as confirming that the grandparents (living or not) are also of similar background, yichus, and hashkafah.

They do not think that there is anything wrong with what they are doing, because to them, it feels perfectly ordinary. It comes down to personal preference, and a shidduch is a subjective matter. People follow their own set of ideas and imposed structures when choosing a spouse for themselves or assisting their children because, as I said earlier, it makes them feel safe.

I will share why I think you should look at other groups of people. In many cases, people who come from a community with that mentality and end up marrying somebody from a completely different upbringing oftentimes do so because they are unhappy. That can come with a whole set of other problems.

Your best bet is to meet with shadchanim who are not within your community. Tell them that you are looking for a serious learning guy. You can describe the hashkafah you seek that is most compatible with you, and try to not be so hooked on specific names of yeshivas. Be open to a guy from a background like yours. Don’t look at who your friends are dating or marrying. Those shidduchim may not be shayach for you to begin with if they do not possess the character that will make you happy.

You need to approach the search for a shidduch with confidence in yourself, pride in your parents, and yes, even pride about your secular grandparents. They brought your parents into this world, and they raised them to be fine people who became steadfastly devoted to Yiddishkeit.

Reassess your priorities of what it takes to make a “top” guy and husband. If you need any leadership to guide you, you do have to go too far to find it. Look at your parents and let them be your role models. It sounds like they have tried to raise you with the belief that the “top” is only Hashem.

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 5townsforum@gmail.com.

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