So much has been written about the “shidduch crisis” within Orthodox Jewish circles. There have been many potential explanations offered by various rabbis, community leaders, and organizations, ranging from the reliance on shadchanim, separation of genders, lack of appropriate meeting places, parents meddling, etc.
In my experience as a woman in her early thirties living in the New York area, I have found that the single most deterring factor has been the judgmental, closed-minded, and stubborn mentality of many (but not all) singles. I can only speak for the men, although I am sure there are plenty of women out there who do the same judging — judging about what schools you went to, what community you grew up in, your current living situation, etc. For example, I grew up in Brooklyn and went to a typical Brooklyn girls’ high school. I have been turned down because I did not go to “SKA” or “Bruriah” or “Central” types of schools.
It goes further, to seminary. I have seen résumés of guys who list specific seminaries they would like their future wife to have attended. Why any of this matters 10+ years later baffles me. Yes, if someone had an extremely different upbringing than yours (for example, grew up chassidic or Conservative), I can see how you might look into their schools and think about how they grew up, but even then, if the person is currently compatible with your religious level, why does it matter? This can be said about location, too. I have met guys who say they do not date Brooklyn girls because they are shallow, entitled, stuck-up, etc. Why are people so quick to judge? There can be shallow and mean women in Teaneck, Riverdale, the Five Towns, and Chicago, too! Location does not automatically determine personality. Why not speak on the phone or meet for coffee and find out for yourself?
I have had countless shadchanim play into this by just being OK with a guy turning me down based on these reasons, instead of explaining to the guy that you can only get to know someone by meeting him or her. There are too many rejections before anything can even start. There should be more education on the part of parents and shadchanim regarding what is truly important to look for: Shared values, goals, and overall compatibility. It is very sad and upsetting, and I feel like there is no end in sight to this madness. Please publish my letter so that as a community we can start having these conversations.
I totally agree with you that when it comes to shidduchim, people get very picky about what they want, and, in most cases, even nonsensical. It goes even further than all the things you mentioned. As a shadchan I have had situations where singles turned down seemingly good shidduchim because of a camp one attended, too few children in the family, and even where one of the parents attended school. This is not a new phenomenon. Throughout history, there have always been people who are consumed by their egos, and when it comes to a shidduch they want what they want, and they won’t budge.
But here is where I disagree with you. A shadchan is no different than a realtor. The realtor can show his or her client a home, but if the buyer refuses to buy, or the seller refuses to negotiate the asking price, the realtor could try to change the minds of both parties, to no avail. And in the end, in most cases, nobody will blame the realtor. The realtor will still receive words of gratitude for trying. Yet, when a shadchan redds a shidduch to somebody who declines the suggestion, and the shadchan tries explaining all the reasons why the couple should meet but the person still refuses, the shadchan oftentimes gets flak.
The only time a single person may relent after having first declined is if it is ever possible for the shadchan to clandestinely arrange a meeting. I will share with you an incident that took place in my shadchanus. One of my clients was a beautiful, accomplished young lady who came from a heimishe home and upbringing and attended a Bais Yaakov in a specific community. The problem was that she did not want to date and marry a guy who was similar to her hashkafah. Instead, she insisted on dating a YU type of guy. So, I had an idea to introduce her to a guy who lived in a different state that she was amenable to moving to. I sent him the young lady’s information, and I also called him to discuss the prospect. The young man refused to take my calls and did not respond to my emails and texts. I persisted, and he finally answered his phone. He boldly told me that he is not interested in going out with the young lady I suggested because she did not attend YU type of schools, and because of where she lives.
No matter how much I tried to convince him that he should at least meet her, he remained steadfast in his decision. It was upsetting to me, because I truly believed that if these two people met each other, they would be drawn to one another. Shortly thereafter, I organized a singles event, and I invited them both to attend. The young lady immediately accepted the invitation. And then I went to work on the guy. I called him and I personally invited him to join. He said, “It’s not my thing.” I then invited to come as my guest. He still refused. I was not going to give up at this point. I told him he could also bring a friend as my guest. He started to sound more interested. I then invited him to bring two friends as my guest. Woohoo, he agreed!
The night of the event I was more nervous about getting this particular couple together than the event itself. The young lady arrived early, and he showed up with his two friends about an hour into the party. I quickly ran over to the young lady, and I brought her over to him and I introduced them to each other. As Hashem is in control of shidduchim, within three weeks this couple became engaged! The feedback I got was that from the moment they met, they were inseparable. They are now, baruch Hashem, happily married with children, and they recently made an upsherin for one of their sons.
I am recounting this story because I want you to understand how I had to jump through hoops to get this shidduch to happen, and the only reason why my efforts proved fruitful was because the circumstance presented itself in such a way that it was made possible. But, sadly, in most cases when a person declines a shidduch, the shadchan can talk till she or he is blue in the face and it does not help in convincing those who are stubborn about the type they want to date.
You are correct that the primary deterring factor that prevents people from finding their bashert is the judgmental, stubborn mentality of many. It is ridiculous to assume that more than 10 years after high school, the school someone attended would determine who they are now. We all know people who are completely different hashkafically from the way they were as a teenager. Everything that you are saying is true, including that singles should give each other a chance and just meet for a cup of coffee. But here’s the thing. One cannot change others. No rabbi, shadchan, or community leader can convince people what to do, what they are doing wrong, or how they should go about conducting their dating life. However, here is what you can do. You can change yourself. You can change the way you are going about the process. I will suggest a few pointers.
Think about the type of guy you want to marry. Why does it have to be the kind who will judge you, a woman in her early thirties, based on where you went to high school or seminary? Clearly such a guy is not for you. So, in essence, they are doing you the biggest favor in the world by declining you. These guys are weeding themselves out of your garden of beautiful choices!
Become the best version of yourself in whatever it is that you are doing with your life, whether it is in professional areas or even hobbies. Utilize those strengths to join clubs and organizations. When you become a member, seize those opportunities to introduce yourself to people there. The benefit is that you will get to know like-minded people to date, or someone may know somebody for you. Make sure you inform everyone you know that you are available for dating.
Now I want to focus on another area, and please understand that I am saying this to you with your best interests at heart, for your own benefit. I have seen it happen that when people experience pain and rejection, it becomes part of the way they present themselves and how others view them. You need to believe that those guys who rejected you for frivolous reasons are silly people who are not worth your time. You are above them, and you need to develop that demeanor. The image that people project is the way society perceives them. Remember, you are just way too good for those guys. Let that become your mantra.
Another point is for you to consider dating men you never would have regarded as your type. Sometimes singles believe that they are compatible with a certain class, society, and hashkafah, and they spend years of their lives looking for love in all the wrong places. It can happen that people do find love in the wrong place, but, ultimately, they are not happy. It is like trying to squeeze large feet into a too-small pair of shoes.
Think outside your daled amos. Broaden your horizons, and if it means getting out of your comfort zone, do it. Close the previous chapter of your dating life and begin from scratch, using some of the suggestions I mentioned. But even there you still need to prepare yourself that when you deal with human beings and emotions, there can be disappointments, perhaps of a different kind. If that happens, move on. Dating is a journey. When you hit a snag in the road, don’t stop; focus on the objective of getting to your destination. You’ve got this!
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.