Jun 20, 2010
Shadchanim, Do Your Job
Shidduchim SOS: After marrying off her children and arranging 9 shidduchim herself, Mrs. Riva Denburg of Miami Beach writes to COLlive what she thinks of Shadchanim and the Shidduchim process.
By Riva Denburg
I always said that I would write my "Tell All" on shidduchim after our last child gets married and that I would even sign my name. Well, here goes.
I have been involved in shidduchim for 8 years (since my older sister started with her children). For many mothers out there that is not such a long time considering, but every mother will say how different each child’s shidduch process feels and how with each consecutive child it seems to get harder and harder.
Today, the system of that time-honored approach, a shadchan as the intermediary whether it be a friend, an uncle or a neighbor happens less and less. It is of course the best way, since presumably this person will know the boy and/or the girl and will set up a date for the couple that they firmly believe has a chance to become a shidduch. But a lot of things happened to this ideal and in time some well meaning people became "official" shadchanim in Lubavitch. The thing is we really aren't in Clymovitch, Nevel, Schedrin or Anatevka anymore either.
Our community has become too big and too diverse to continue in this casual unprofessional way only. As a business woman I can see that no one can run a business with too much product and not enough sales.
Yes, my friends, if Shidduchim were a business it would be bankrupt.
Unfortunately too many shadchanim treat it like a business but without the heart a new business owner injects into his work to make it succeed. I understand that the shadchanim have busy lives of their own, their own children to marry off, their friends and families to deal with the constant phone calls, the pleas, the frustrations and stress. But...
But, if they took upon themselves the "official" title of shadchan for our community, they have to accept the responsibility. I know the system needs changing and I have many ideas for a proper shidduch system to be put in place, but a person who accepts the holy work of a shidduch has to be aware that they hold not only the life of a young girl and boy in their hands but also the entire families of the girl and boy.
How often have we as mothers lamented that the younger kids in our families are constantly bombarded with shidduchim talk? The stress permeates the home and family no matter how the mother tries to handle it discreetly among the younger children. Also, these young teenagers grow up quickly and sometimes they develop a cynical attitude and instead of embracing the excitement when it is their turn, they are hardened and weary from it all.
When a person accepts the mantle of being the shadchan for a shidduch between a girl and boy they should feel that they have the yoke of the world upon their shoulders. They should treat it as the most important mitzvah they can ever accomplish. In fact I believe it is the most important mitzvah! It is the mitzvah Powerball. It is chesed, it is Hakoros Hatov, It is Ahavas Yisroel, It is new generations of families, and I can go on and on.
Everybody gives a little laugh when they say the statement that a shidduch is like splitting the Red Sea - how difficult and miraculous it is when a shidduch comes to fruition.
I like to think of it in a slightly different context: How miraculous it is, that YOU were given a chance to make such a miracle happen! How unbelievable is it for you to have been given a chance to be the shliach for establishing a new family, new holiness for our world? Treat it as such! The effort, even if it doesn't work, is also huge. One takes time from their daily lives, they worry, it takes precedence, and it takes away sleep, personal time. Etc.
I have made 9 shidduchim in between my times as a mother with children to marry off too. I know how hard it is to be involved in it. I know how many times I cried to my husband that I can't do this; it's too much, and it's too hard. But, when I hear of a new baby being born to my BH happy couples, I thank the Aybishter for making me a shliach to such a wondrous mitzvah.
The main issue is the same across the world I find, whenever I speak to friends and acquaintances, the shluchim families, the business working families, everyone across the board: The shadchanim DO NOT call back.
Why do they give their phone numbers? And now, they can text! They don't have to get into lengthy conversations. They don't have to wait for the time zones to line up! Just email or text, or yes, call back “Hi, I received your call. I will try to get back to you in the next day, I am thinking of your child.”
How many of us have not received a call back and let the waiting build to frustration? How many of us have given up and lost self esteem from the pain? It's just a phone call! Are the shadchanim listening? It’s your job! How can you not call someone back, especially when you know a father or a mother is waiting anxiously for that phone call?
To you it’s another name on an exhausting long list of requests, to the mother or father at the other end of the line it’s their child, their life.
I understand the dilemma, truly. There are only several hours in a day and you have to compartmentalize. Especially those of you who have other full time paying jobs. But if you are known as an official shadchan, BE ONE! Show respect to the process. If you arrange a date for a couple, make sure you tell the boy and his parent to call EARLY the next day to give a “review”.
If they live far away, tell the mother to speak to her son after the date so he can call back the shadchan himself if it will take too long until the mother or father can get back to you. Remember there is another family waiting to hear. The boy always gives the first response. If it is an unequivocal no, call right away too and tell the boy or girl. If one of the parents does not call back quickly enough, you, the shadchan call the other side. Show respect. That is really what shidduchim are all about? Respect for the family.
I am not going to get into the issues of the pretense or the "incomplete" information that is given by the shadchan to the families, but that is not their fault. No real estate broker will tell you how many holes the roof has, but he will say the building looks great. It’s your job as a parent to look into the boy/girl, to get information that will give you that feeling, yes, this can work, or no, "It does't talk to me."
If the shadchan “knows” something and doesn’t tell you, that’s another story. I always asked when doing my due diligence, is there something that I should be asking and did not? If I heard too long a pause.. it means to check further. Sometimes parents do make too many phone calls and that can be negative because we all know that every question, or thought you express to the friend of a boy or girl will get right back to them immediately.
But that is an article for another time, the dating process itself. This is about our system and how it can be fixed.
I have a proposition for the Vaad of Lubavitch whoever they may be. I know that Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky takes care of the shluchim and their families. But who is the person busy with the kehila? Why can’t we set up an organization for shidduchim? An official organization with a board and vetted shadchanim. Perhaps voted for by the entire Chabad community. Salaries would be given to the shadchanim for their services so they don’t feel unappreciated by the kehila.
Shadchanim wouldn’t feel more motivated to work on shidduchim for people that will pay them rather than people who cannot pay for all the effort a shadchan thinks they have put in for a mazel tov shidduch.
Every girl after seminary or a year of shlichus whenever she feels ready should come for an official interview, with the shadchanim. The shadchan should interview her with a parent and then alone. A Bochur should get interviewed the same way after smicha. At that time he pretty much knows if he is going on shlichus or business/school. He might not as of yet discussed it with his parents but the shadchan has to be clear on what the boy/ girl is looking for in a spouse.
Then, the shadchan can actually make suggestions based on some personal knowledge instead of hearsay and a “resume” that reads like a hallmark card. I think it can work.
I know that many young people do go for interviews but often it is treated as a furtive, slightly embarrassing show. The shadchan is in middle of making dinner, or running into 770 for Maariv and glances at the bochur. That is not what I mean. A comprehensive application and a common sense matter of fact approach.
We all of us agree, our community is in crisis with this issue. We have so many things to contend with but one of the main issues is the constant influx of girls and boys coming from out of town to live in Crown Heights for shidduchim. Many come without family, or contacts. The friends they made in seminary are also busy with their own families and shidduchim.
This can be a bonus to parents out of town and I am sure that a registration fee would be a righteous expense since the shadchanim would meet the girls and boys.
The shadchanim would have to have weekly meetings to discuss progress, to divide the shidduchim according to their individual strengths and the group should be equally divided among women and men. Of course an attorney would be needed to provide confidentiality agreements for the office.
We have to take it out into the open. An official organization, an office, a matter of fact approach, optimism for the community and for sure a more unifying approach to this parsha.
I meant no disrespect to the shadchanim I know. In fact our last shidduch happened only because I trusted the shadchan (so thank you Raizy).
If we all agree to stop being passive, to stop complaining and to work on this as a community, we will not see lovely older girls walking and commitment-phobe young men passing them on Kingston Ave not seeing that their zivug is walking right across the street.