Thursday, May 31, 2018

Shidduch Fraud

Family. That is one of the most important and recognizable facets of the Jewish people. It is one reason so many Orthodox Jews marry so young.  And it is why we have something many people refer to as a Shidduch crisis. The idea being that not getting married is almost a fate worse than death.

While that term is usually applied to women, men feel it too. Depending on circumstances there are many instances of men who want to get married and are unsuccessful in doing so for a variety of reasons. Some legitimate and some not.

But the focus is definitely on women. It seems that they are in the majority of those who seek matrimony unsuccessfully.  While I believe there are a variety of reasons for the disparity between men and women in this regard, a lot of it has to do with age. There is a false notion that the ideal age range for a woman to get married is between 18  and 23. Men can wait a lot longer and still be considered the right age.If a young woman isn’t married by age 23 she and her parents might go into crisis mode. Once she hits 30, thoughts about spinsterhood enter into their minds

That is of course patently untrue. Women can and do get married beyond age 30, even in Orthodox circles. But that doesn’t stop the fear when after a few years of dating – nothing clicks.

I must admit that when my own children were in the Parsha (a euphemism for Shiduchim - dating for marriage purposes) I too was worried. Until they were all married, my wife and I were in ‘Shidduch Hell’!

I mention all of this as a preface to an article in Arutz Sheva entitled  The Shidduch Fraud by 5 Towns Jewish Times editor in chief, Larry Gordon. He tells us about his own  experience. One that is surely the result of the above mentioned kind of thinking.

The short version is that he was swindled out of about $2500 by a fellow named Yechiel Pearlstein. Pearlstein used the Shidduch crisis to his advantage by promising worried parents that his particular Segula wil guarantee their child getting married in very short order. He asks for some up front money and the larger balance to be paid by a check he will cash after the Segula is performed. But he ends up cashing the check immediately. When he is caught – he claims it was cashed by mistake promising to pay it back. But never does.

He has swindled a lot of people out of money with these promises. Unfortunately swindlers abound in the world. Including in our own. Preying on desperate people is the second oldest profession. It is all too easy to fool people into paying you money for promises to help you get out of a Jam.

This was probably not the first time people worrying about their children getting married were scammed. And it probably won’t be the last.

But scams are not limited to criminals like Pearlstein. A lot of charitable organizations do it too. They may actually do what they promise to do. But I have to wonder if their claims of success are any more realistic than Pearlstein’s claims. Reading their ads, which often include testimonials - make it seem like a sure thing. I know they need the money. And I’m sure it all goes for a good cause. But that practice is deceptive and ought not be used. Preying on vulnerable people is a disgusting tactic. The ends do not justify the means.

These organizations have been rebuked in the past to no avail. I keep seeing ads like this all the time.

I’m not here to say I can do anything about it. Desperate people seek desperate measures. As long as there is a Shidduch crises, the Pearlsteins of the world will continue to take advantage of it. As will these charitable organizations.

But I do have some suggestions that I know will help – even as I know they will likely fall on deaf ears as they always have in the past. But after reading this story, they are worth mentioning again.

The entire paradigm has to change. While using a Shadchan is a legitimate method of dating, it should not be limited to that. Recommendations by family members and friends are a legitimate way to date too. That does happen.

What does not happen is men and women that are serious about getting married -  meeting on their own. That is so frowned upon that if tried by someone, they are considered bad marriage material.

In the modern world where men and women get together frequently, there ought to be a way for them to meet on their own in Halachicly acceptable ways. Whether at a wedding or any other Simcha where men and women are in attendance. Mixed seating ought to not be disparaged. It ought to be encouraged between young men and women of marriageable age. But men and women sitting together at a wedding dinner is so frowned upon that it is avoided like the plague. In my view that exacerbates the problem by limiting opportunity.

Another way young people can meet is through their families. Families that have high school age children ought not fear inviting families to a Shabbos meal a family whose teenagers are of the opposite sex.

Once a young woman or man is in the ‘Parsha’ - socializing ought to be encouraged. Not discouraged. The way things stand now, it is so discouraged that anyone who tries is seen in a bad light!

The argument is that with a Shidduch system a lot of time is saved by the Shadchan allowing the parents to do the ‘dating’. Meaning that they do all of the research so that by the time the couple meet, half of the dating is done. The parents find out what might takes several dates or more for the couple to find out on their own - piecemeal as they date. But that is a double edged sword. Sometimes good marriage prospects are written off for the silliest of reasons.

One thing is certain, the current status quo has yielded some unintended consequences.  Some of which could be reversed if the paradigm changes along the lines I suggest.

That said, it is no secret that MO enclaves where dating is more casual and men and women  meet more freely (like the Upper West Side of Manhattan) has becomes a nightmare for those who want to get married.  But there are reasons for that not necessarily related to their more casual setting.

I have no doubt that the Shidduch crisis could be reduced if my ideas were implemented. And any collateral damage that such changes would entail must be measured against the very real damage the current situation now engenders. Isn't it worth a try?