In previous articles, I wrote about what I felt was an excellent way for young people to meet, and that was through setups by recently married couples. The thought behind it was that since the young husband and wife were compatible, it was likely that their friends would also have hashkafot, personalities and interests that would be well-suited – in keeping with the adage, “Birds of a feather flock together.”
However, after spending a recent Shabbat with my son and his family, I think this concept of having singles as guests as a way of collectively “introducing” one another, should be expanded.
In addition to my being at my son’s Shabbat table, so were my machatunim, their son who was home from yeshiva; a middle-aged divorced man; and two of my daughter-in-law’s friends, who are not yet married.
During Friday night dinner, there was much back and forth conversation, with everyone asking or answering questions, (the typical “where are you from, what do you do” ones) and what struck me was the fact that even though some at the table were married, some single, some in their 20’s, some a bit older (actually quite a few years older, but who’s counting) – we were really getting to know one another.
Even better, we all hailed from different cities and Jewish communities – and most of us of us had, over the years, lived in quite a few, and had friends, relatives or acquaintances all over the United States and Canada.
It occurred to me that our gathering had provided an incredible networking opportunity for both the younger and older singles. Conceivably, one of the 20 something girls – both of whom came from the mid-west, might know of a widow/divorcee looking for a husband in his 40’s and suggest her to the divorced man she was chatting with. Or likewise, my machitim could know of a bachur who learns at his Daf Yomi shuir who closely matched what one of the girls had described as her ideal mate. With or without an immediate “ureka! moment”- we could still keep them in mind.
This networking opportunity can and should be replicated at Shabbat/Yom Tov tables in all our communities. It wouldn’t matter if there is an age/ hashkafah difference between hosts and guests. Kollel and yeshivish families, for example, have friends or relatives with sons who are “working boys” who might be compatible with their Shabbat guest who is looking for an “earner”.
Or 10 year old “Avrumi” whose best friend’s mother is divorced, might think that she’d really get along with that funny, friendly, divorced man sitting across from him, cracking those awful jokes – and say something.
The fact is that everybody – married or single, young or old – can suggest a shidduch. No one lives in a vacuum. In our community, where it is common to grow up in one place, go to school in another, and work elsewhere – people know people.
Of course, many suggestions might be totally out of the ball park – but that is the case in many shiddichim, even those presented by professional matchmakers.
But there is always the possibility that there will be a “home run” – and two fewer singles struggling to meet their basherts.
Perhaps baalbatim can get in touch with shadchins for the names of singles who either live or are visiting their community, and invite them as guests for a meal or two, along with a married or single neighbor or friend from the community who also might be from somewhere else originally.
For example, a shadchin in Flatbush tells a baal bayit or his wife that a young man is coming in from LA, and they invite him for Friday night dinner. He also invites a married member of the shul whose wife is from Montreal. Chances are, after doing “Jewish geography” (and even discovering mutual acquaintances – who can be used as references) that a light bulb might go off in someone’s head. The former Montrealer might have a childhood friend who moved to Toronto whose daughter is in the parsha and currently studying in New York.
And who knows, a previous guest might one day be instrumental in setting up the hosting family’s son or daughter who he/she met when they were teenagers and who are now dating.
It’s a win – win situation that involves fulfilling the mitzvah of chachnashat orchid, while potentially being an efficient weapon” against the scourge of the shidduch crisis.