By Larry Gordon

Heard In The Bagel Store

The shadchanim mostly agree—providing photos of a young lady to a prospective first date is fueling the so-called shidduch crisis and does not do justice to the memory of the 45 men and boys who died tragically in Meron on Lag B’Omer.

There’s a lot to unpack in that paragraph, so let me start at the beginning. There’s an initiative out there for shadchanim to break the custom that has evolved over the years of making it imperative when redding a shidduch to provide the prospective boy’s side with a photograph of the young lady along with a bio or résumé or whatever you prefer to call it.

The letter released last week by “Operation Nix The Pics” calls for a 30-day moratorium on providing photos of young women or men to potential matches; the letter says providing photos is an obstacle to successful shidduchim. If the frequent call to stop saying yes or no to a shidduch based on a photo continues to fall on deaf ears then, they say, at least do so for a month in memory of the 45 men and children who died in Meron.

Now while it is true that a shidduch being solely contingent on a good or not-so-good photo is not a good idea, I believe that attaching the initiative to the 45 people who lost their lives in Meron is not a very good idea either. There are certainly more appropriate ways to memorialize them.

It is important to understand that this may have been seen as an opportunity for people involved in the shidduch process to be taken seriously, as up to this point, despite the protestations, the suggestion has been largely ignored by most people.

If you read the letter carefully, the objective is to stem the tide of photos, mostly of young women, floating around the internet—but not completely. The letter writers state that shadchanim will still require a photo to be sent with the résumé. The reasoning behind that, the letter explains, is “so that we can more easily and readily keep a single in mind and make appropriate suggestions.” They say that the photograph will remain with them and will not be shared.

But that kind of smacks of an uneven playing field. I mean, why can’t the shadchanim match people up based on the information on their résumés? What purpose will the photo serve other than the one that we are trying to discourage people from indulging in?

A fairly active shadchan I spoke with last week refused to sign the letter. The shadchan asked to remain anonymous but added that, all along, this shadchan has shown pictures of prospective matches only to the parents, leaving it up to the discretion of the parents whether or not to share the photo with their dating child.

I agree with the letter writers that there was something innocent and even more interesting about not knowing who you were meeting until you met the person. Many of us grew up during a time when there was really no such thing as either résumés or pictures being passed around as a preface to a date. It wasn’t all that long ago, though with the proliferation of social media it just became natural to shoot a photo and a résumé as a way of facilitating a shidduch in a more expeditious fashion.

The system as it exists today, with pictures and résumés making the rounds, should have improved the numbers of matches being made instead of adding to what the letter refers to as a crisis.

There are a couple of other items that are an outgrowth of a matrimonial process that is almost exclusively dependent on the good faith of frequently disconnected third parties. This is one that I only learned about over the last couple of years. Sometimes, people whom I will refer to as “very yeshivish,” for identity purposes, will only agree to a shidduch with a young man who davka does not have a résumé.

The thinking on that level is that a really and truly highly regarded young man does not require a résumé to introduce him. So, you may be wondering, how will anyone know that he exists? This is the response I received from people who are in the market for this type of shidduch—they will just know. In fact, some families looking for a young man like that for their daughter say that if the boy does have a résumé he will most likely be eliminated from consideration because if he is a high-caliber young man he won’t need one. (Defining “high caliber” is, of course, a subjective matter.)

The Nix the Pics letter has made its way around, because even before this column was complete or posted anywhere, I received a letter from a woman taking issue with some parts of the letter and adding her own thoughts on the matter.

She says that she admires the initiative and adds that she dated in an era where there was no such thing as résumés or photos, and somehow most people managed to meet and marry and so on.

The writer says as follows: “I understand a boy would like to marry an attractive girl, so maybe there is a little wiggle room for a picture. What I don’t understand is why we put the parents’ occupation on the résumé. Why is that important to put out as the first thing right underneath the prospective girl’s name? What exactly are we gaining from that information?”

She goes on to suggest that this information might be facilitating the age-old practice of “gold digging.” She concludes the letter by stating that a boy looking for a pretty girl is normal, but that “gold digging is disgusting.”

That takes this matter in a completely new direction. My personal experience, aside from marrying off my own children, is that we are actively always seeking to set people up, and I have to admit that when it comes to a profession or a business of the parents of a boy or a girl, some of what is stated can be anywhere from a little fuzzy to misleading.

And the letter writer has a point there. Why do we need to know the parents’ occupation? What impact will that have on any shidduch unless economics is a factor at play? Also, why do we need a whole list of family friends and the young man or woman’s friends? No one knows what they are going to say, and I have seen numerous cases where comments by some references were an obstacle to a shidduch going forward.

I think the list of who the other children in the family married can be helpful as it speaks to what has been achieved by other people doing similar type of research that made their shidduch with the family possible.

Again, if a young man is making a decision solely based on a woman’s photograph then it is just a matter of immaturity. And besides, it just may be that the photo is more important to the parents than it is to the prospective couple.

The Nix the Pics letter was signed by about half a dozen rabbis and about 200 shadchanim from around the world. Perhaps they know best, but, then again, if they know so much and are so good at what they do, there would not be a crisis of this proportion.

A 30-day trial of going on dates with no photos in advance can be a refreshing experience for many. But my estimation is that most people are not going to pay any attention to the request and will instead just keep on doing whatever they have been doing until now—for better or for worse.

Read more of Larry Gordon’s articles at Follow 5 Towns Jewish Times on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for updates and live videos. Comments, questions, and suggestions are welcome at and on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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