Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Dual Shidduch Crises – Solutions and Exploitations

Modern Orthodox Couple (Forward)
A wonderful woman I know quite well that lived on the Upper West Side (UWS) of New York City for many years had terrible dating experiences. I can only imagine the personal pain she experienced dating men from the community that had commitment phobias. I met one of those men. He was a very nice guy that had been dating her for a year or two… indicating that they would someday get married and ‘live happily ever after’. That never happened. After a very long courtship without any forward movement on his part, my friend through down the gauntlet.  She challenged him. Was he ever going to commit? After several  requests by him for more time – she finally gave up and broke up. This pattern repeated itself with every new relationship.

It seems that this is business as usual in on the UWS.  Eventually through a third party - she met a wonderful fellow that was not a part of the community and got married shortly thereafter. She was well into her late 30s by then. Thankfully she has been happily married for many years now and raising a wonderful family.

I don’t know how many people have suffered from the ‘syndrome’ of commitment phobia that is so prevalent on the UWS. While I’m sure that there are people that do get married there - my impression is that a huge portion of them never do.  They just have a singles type relationship forever. (I have even heard that there are some unmarried women that have been going to the Mikva so that if a sexual relationship develops - she would not be a Niddah which would be a severe violation of Halacha entailing  the Kares penalty. I don’t know if this phenomenon is true. But it wouldn’t surprise me too much if it was.)

I have to wonder how this UWS culture developed. What is it that created a group of young (and not so young) men that have commitment phobia as part of their personality? The fear of commttment is not exclusive to the world of Modern Orthodoxy of which the UWS is primarily made up. But I do believe that my friend’s experience is far more typical there than it is in the world of the right. If this isn’t a Shidduch crisis, I don’t know what is.

Thankfully there seem to be a new initiative designed for this community. From the Jewish Link
The Modern Orthodox communities of the West Side of Manhattan and Northern New Jersey have announced a new initiative, making available dynamic new programs for matching young Modern Orthodox professional men and women between the ages of 22 and 32...
 “As singles move past the age of 32 they tend to form less pliable frameworks in their respective lifestyles, making it more difficult to form serious dating relationships. The methods of matchmaking for the 32+ group are different and require much more intervention. We are trying to get more matches formed within a younger age group, thus allowing for more flexibility.”
The upscale events will have in attendance top-notch matchmakers. Tova Weinberg, a well-known matchmaker, has given her full support to the project. She said, “I think what you are doing for singles is amazing and I want to help you the best way I can...” 
This program is designed for what is called Modern Orthodox/Modern Machmir men and women who are serious about meeting a mate. I have heard this term before. I assume it refers to Modern Orthodox Jews that are meticulous about observance. The idea of a Shadchan in the MO world is not a very popular one. But I think it is a great idea. There is nothing wrong with a 3rd party recommendation for a date. That is – after all – what a Shadchan does. He or she puts together 2 people with enough in common to result in a succesful marriage. 

That doesn’t mean they can’t still date in the traditional MO fashion by incidental meetings or being ‘setup’ by friends. All it means is that their opportunities will now be expanded. That is a good thing. What about overcoming commitment phobia? My guess is that those that are meticulous about observing Halacha do not experience this problem as much… but might have fallen victim to it by simply living in the UWS environment.

New Shidduch initiative  in Monsey (The Thinking Yid)
But there is another Shidduch initiative taking place in the Yeshiva world in Monsey. I was linked to a post on a blog called the The Thinking Yid… where this initiative was excoriated! I tend to agree. It seems to be designed to make Shadchanim rich… or at least be paid extremely well. They capitalizing on a crisis. 

3 Shuls are involved. Shadchanim will be subsidized by wealthy private individuals to find matches for the children of these Shul members. What is troubling about it is that there will be double dipping. Shadchaim will not only be subsidized by  wealthy individuals. They will also be paid by the parents of these young people per date. And if the Shidduch is made, they will be paid a total of between $1500 - $1800 per match. Presumably by both sets of parents if they are members of one of those Shuls.

Follow the money. Desperate parents are being taken advantage of. The idea of setting up young people because it is a Mitzvah seems to be a value of the past. 

Now, if you want to get married, it will cost you up front – and cost you more if you succeed. I wouldn’t have such an objection to this, if this community would allow for other means of young people meeting. Such as singles events, or socializing between families.  But since these things are at best discouraged (if not outright banned) in the Yeshiva world I find this to be a highly mercenary tactic. ‘You don’t have money?’ ‘Don’t bother me!’ says this initiative. That’s called  taking advantage of desperate people.

I’m sure the wealthy people subsidizing this are well meaning. But for me the ‘double dipping’ puts this enterprise into question.

When my own children were dating (not that long ago - at about the time of the turn of the century) they had a variety of opportunities to meet potential mates. Which included asking people in positions to do so, to ‘Red a Shidduch’ - Yiddish for recommending my son or daughter to a potential mate. But my case, there was no fee. In those cases where the recommendation worked out, we gave the Shadchan a nice gift as a token of our appreciation. Which was graciously accepted. This is – in my view how it should be done.  Unfortunately the Shidduch crisis has given way to a new industry that capitalizes on the desperation of potential clients.  

This phenomenon is evident and even more egregious in all the Segulos for Shidduchim one finds being advertised. I’m sure many people have seen the ads where if you give a certain amount of money to a particular charity, then a large group of ‘Gedolim’ will pray 40 days and 40 nights at the Kotel or at some grave-site at midnight for your child to get married. With testimonials from successful clients! That is truly despicable! But paying Shadchanim exorbitant sums of money seems to be not that far behind in that kind of exploitation. And that’s just plain wrong.