Monday, February 21, 2011

Yitznewton’s List

I have been married for over 40 years. 40 years ago the Shidduch scene was as different from what goes on today as night is from day.

There were many ways to go about finding a mate back then. Frum young people would meet wherever they would find each other like colleges, or community events including weddings Bar Mitzvos or even a regular Shabbos Kiddush. Mixed social organizations like Bnei Akiva in high school and Yavneh for college students were a common way to meet. There were introductions by mutual friends or family. There was growing up with family friends who had sons and daughters of the same age. There was even cold calling someone you met.

And of course there were also Shadchanim - professional and otherwise. For right wing Yeshiva Bachurim, Shadchanim were the almost exclusive method of finding a Shidduch – although there were - and still are plenty of exceptions. The rest of us availed ourselves of all methods.

Today we live in an entirely different universe. The move to the right over the last 40 years has made the Shadchan a far greater force in finding a Shidduch. I’m not going to go into go into all the attendant problems that 40 years of ‘moving to the right’ has done to the Shidduch scene. It would take more than a single post to do that – although I have in the past touched on just about all of those issues.

One of the things that the increasing reliance on Shadchanim has done is that it has increased the idea of researching a potential mate even before meeting them. It is no longer enough to know that a potential couple comes from similar backgrounds. Long lists have been developed that have the most ridiculous questions on them. Like the infamous ‘tablecloth’ question – ‘what color is the tablecloth used in your home on Shabbos?’

One can understand the logic behind lists. The more you know about someone the better. The more things a couple have in common the greater the chance of success. In my view such are valuable up to a point. If for example the young man wants to live a modern Orthodox lifestyle with a TV in the home and the other wants to live a Yeshivishe Kollel lifestyle where TV is as seen as bringing virtual Avodah Zara into the home - that Shidduch should probably never happen. But at some point these lists become counterproductive and ridiculous. Is it really important to know what kind of tablecloth is used by a parent of a potential Shidduch? Where do you draw the line? Which questions should never be asked and which ones should always be asked?

The internet has added another dimension to finding a mate. We now have the virtual Shadchan better known as Frum internet dating sites. They too have lists.

Bearing all this in mind I present Yitznewton’s List. He is an occasional commenter here and has devised a list that is a replacement for those commonly used on current Frum dating websites. Good idea... or bad? Should there be more questions or less? Or none at all? If more - how many more and what should they be? I present it now with his own short introduction.

B"H I've been married for several years, but before that, I was active on one of the main online dating sites. I remember one of the weakest things about the site was the lack of matching criteria. They had a choice of:


They added Yeshivish Modern to that, and since I got married I see they've added a couple more. Obviously these categories are subjective and overlapping, and so largely useless for someone in the middle of the spectrum.

It occurred to me today to implement a system I saw in some non-Jewish dating sites: ask a bunch of simple, specific, non-ambiguous questions (in addition to the essays), and rank potential matches for similarity of responses. This would eliminate the irritating labeling problem altogether. Questions that, together, would form a reasonable social-religious compatibility profile of a person, such as the following, with options of "definitely yes," "definitely no," "maybe":

TV at home?
Movies regularly at home?
Movies regularly in theaters?
Sporting events?
Hair covering for her?
Live in Israel?
Eschew chalav stam?
Full-time learning forever? for a few years? not at all?
Stay-at-home mom?
Learning for him...
Internet at home?
Mobile internet?
Male-female friendships?
Holding hands before marriage?
Secular pop music concerts?
Secular pop music recordings?
Jewish pop music concerts (e.g. Lipa, Schwekey)?
Jewish pop music recordings?
Sesame Street?(some more about kids' culture; I'm out of date)
Blue shirts for him?
Polo shirts for him?
Shorts for him?
Pants for her?
Black hat on Shabbos?
Suit on Shabbos?
Mixed singing at the Shabbos table?
Land for peace?
Zionism evil?
Torah Umadda?
Academic Jewish Studies?
Documentary Hypothesis?
Women Rabbis?
Gedolim know what's right for me?
Cheating on a college test?
Co-ed schools for your children?
Would you feel comfortable with your children going to:
- Touro?
- YU?
- Queens/Brooklyn College?
- Brandeis?
- Yale?
- FSU?
When Rabbi Slifkin's books were banned, I:
- approved
- was appalled
- didn't know what to think
- Rabbi who?

Update: (11:26 AM CST) Yitznewton has added additional points which I have now combined with the original list.