My wife and I were lucky to find each other, albeit late in life. We are both from the New York area, born and raised. After our wedding we decided to move far away and start a new, quiet life with the hope that a calm environment would help us have a child. When that didn’t happen, we made the decision to adopt.
Our daughter is our pride and joy in every way possible. We always told her the truth about her adoption, and it was never a problem. The community we lived in has a Chabad, but not too many frum people. Because of that, we decided to come back to New York to find our daughter a shidduch.
Our relatives told us not to say anything about her adoption when we talk to a shadchan, because the shadchanim love to gossip with one another (they had bad experiences with shadchanim), and that nobody will want to set her up with a normal boy because she was adopted.
We are looking for a wonderful boy who will treat her well from a nice family that will accept her and us, so we are not sure what to do. The biggest problem we have now is how to find the right shadchan who could help us find our daughter her bashert. I am ready to pay whatever they ask, and when I tell people about that, they talk me out of it, and they encourage me to hire a shadchan who does it for the mitzvah. But, how do we even begin the process? Who has the better shidduchim? I realize that this is a difficult case. Any advice you give us will be much appreciated.
Shadchanus is a mitzvah whether the shadchan charges for his or her services or not. Gossiping is unacceptable, and I am sorry for the experiences your relatives had, but that does not characterize the same lack of professionalism in every shadchan you will come across. Searching for one’s shidduch is one of the most humbling experiences and a major challenge that a person may have to endure. And that is when things are going smoothly! There is a good reason why finding the right shidduch is compared to the splitting of the sea. But because Hashem is the ultimate Shadchan and nothing is too difficult for Him, shidduchim come to fruition, and what one may consider a difficult case may end up appearing uncomplicated when the shidduch happens. Having said that, the role of one who seeks a shidduch is recognizing the Higher Authority in action, but still employing all means of hishtadlus possible.
Though people who live outside the New York area obviously do get married, you and your wife made an educated decision to move back to New York where because of sheer numbers there might be a wider selection available, thereby maximizing your daughter’s options of finding an appropriate match.
As sensitive, caring parents, you understandably want the best for your child. You need to determine what type of shidduch would be fitting, suitable, and realistic for her. Oftentimes, people are determined to find what they are looking for in a shidduch without giving much thought to assessing realistic compatibility factors as they pertain to the other side.
The question you should be asking your daughter is if she is looking to go on dates for the experience of dating or if she is looking to date specifically for marriage only. The two can most definitely overlap, but I will explain why you need to find out exactly what her needs are now. Any shadchan with whom you and your daughter feel a good rapport and can retain will hopefully be doing due diligence in finding her the type of guy she is searching for. But here is where it gets tricky. If you pay a shadchan a fee to search for a shidduch, he or she will be extra-pressured to produce dates for your daughter.
Shadchanim who work for a fee typically feel that the most essential aspect of their job is to prove that they are working on behalf of their client like any other contracted person for hire. They must show exactly what they are doing with their time to legitimize their fee. Such shadchanim are under stress to prove production. In theory, that sounds like the perfect arrangement for optimum results. However, since shidduchim is not an exact science, in the mind of a shadchan-for-hire, production means rapid suggestions and dates.
Resultantly, because the pressure of proving work performance is so high, there is little time for the shadchan to utilize insight and discernment, which is so vital to determine accurate compatibility. The critical focus is finding clients as many suggestions and dates as possible to appease them that they are getting their money’s worth. Thus, it becomes like mass production. As a result, in many cases, those dates will not materialize in marriage. But from the shadchan’s perspective and on paper, the job was well-done, regardless of how satisfied the client may be.
Conversely, those shadchanim who practice shadchanus lishma do not need to prove anything (other than their previous successes and achievements) because they are not paid a weekly, monthly, or any other arranged fee, and therefore do not conduct their job like an employee who clocks in and out. Shadchanim who work exclusively lishma will have the time to contemplate whether the shidduch they suggest is on target, and they will not send your daughter on a date unless they feel convinced that the shidduch has strong marriage potential. However, fewer guys will be sent her way, and consequently your daughter may get fewer dates. The advantage with such a shadchan is that there’s less likelihood your daughter will experience dating burnout.
Regarding who has better shidduchim, the paid or unpaid shadchan, the answer is that nobody has a monopoly over human beings. There are shadchanim (paid or unpaid) who work with specific types of people and then there are those who work with everybody.
If you have kept your daughter’s adoption a confidential matter, then my advice is for you to continue doing so. There is no need to share the details with any shadchan you speak to. It takes a long time to build trust with any person who is a stranger to you. You need to bear in mind that there are multitudes of WhatsApp shidduch groups of which shadchanim are members, and there is plenty of chatting going on in many of those groups. You never know what may inadvertently slip out from somebody that can then be screenshot and forwarded.
Finding a shidduch for your daughter does not mean giving up your right to privacy. You need to consult a mara d’asra for halachic guidance regarding her adoption, and about specific types of guys she may need to refrain from dating. What the rav tells you does not have to be shared with a shadchan. You can decline a suggestion if it does not meet with halachic approval, without stating detailed reasons.
However, I urge caution here. Under no circumstances should your daughter get involved with a guy unless she informs him about her heritage. As it relates to divulging information, there is much debate as to when the right time should be. I am from the school of thought that it needs to be done after one or two dates with a young man if it is hypothetically leading to a budding relationship. It is always best that the information be shared from your daughter’s mouth rather than a shadchan presenting her as “I have a girl who was adopted, so let me know if you are interested.”
You and your wife are newbies to the shidduch system, and so I will make another suggestion. You say that you lived in a community that had few frum people. I will assume that your daughter was not raised in a right-wing environment and therefore she must have communicated with boys while she was growing up. Your daughter does not have to rely strictly on shadchanim. There are other methods for a young lady to meet her bashert. Frum dating websites, dating apps, and singles events (post-COVID) are all good opportunities for your daughter to meet a guy she feels compatible with. If she meets a young man on her own and he likes the ways she presents, then her adoption or anything else she shares with him will be of little to no significance.
If it will make you feel proactive, and as long as you are ready to pay somebody for the service of finding your daughter a match, spend your money on an online dating service or app or a singles event where she can control the type of suggestions she will accept. That is in addition to reaching out to the many shadchanim who are ready to assist your daughter l’sheim mitzvah only. May her journey to the chuppah be smooth.
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 email@example.com.