Yitta Halberstam Mandelbaum Responds: I wrote the article with tremendous trembling and trepidation because I didn’t, chas v’shalom, want to hurt anyone’s feelings, and because I knew in advance there would be people who would misread it, miscomprehend it, misconstrue my intent and lash back in anger, as Ms. Ross has done.
I apologize profusely if you or your daughter was inadvertently hurt by my piece, but I promise you, it came from the depths of caring and a genuine desire to help girls in shidduchim, which I have been doing for the past 40 years.
Ms. Ross, if you read the title of the article carefully, you will see that I called it “The Tyranny of Beauty.” This should have immediately alerted you – and anyone else who misconstrued my intention – that I am actually horrified by the priorities of beauty that hold sway in our society. I deliberately shared my own personal story – which was very painful for me to do in such a public venue – about the suffering I endured growing up as a homely teenager.
I also cited the name of my dear mentor, Dr. Jean Jofen, a”h, who was universally beloved and respected by everyone who knew her, as the person who recommended I get a nose job. Jean was renowned for her hachnassas orchim, chesed and a singular, abiding interest in and love for all people – and she felt it was in my best interests to get a nose job. Which it was.
And I related the story of the concerns of the Satmar Rebbe, zt”l, about the appearance of a young girl who could not get married. He provided her with money for both dentures and makeup. If such a gadol could realize the harsh reality that appearance plays a key role in shidduchim, al achas kamah v’kaman those of us who dwell in far lower realms.
A friend of mine begged me to use a pseudonym to protect my identity, fearing I would incur some people’s wrath. But I strongly felt I needed to “come out” in order to give the article more credibility and integrity. Because, as I said in the article, if even one girl can improve her overall appearance and her chance for a shidduch because she read my article, the disapproval that comes my way will surely be worth it.
I have spoken to boys in shidduchim until I was blue in my face about “inner beauty” and “real values” and their own shallowness in seeking good looks in prospective partners. I have begged them to give the girls a chance – just one date.
Believe me, I have been doing this since I was 18, and I have, b”h, made several shidduchim that resulted in marriages. I also worked as a volunteer matchmaker for Saw You At Sinai. But during all my interactions with these men, I saw over and over again (and it broke my heart) that appearance counts with them, some less, some more. So as I much as I dislike – in fact abhor – men’s emphasis on outer surfaces, I feel we all have to face the harsh reality and try to accommodate it.
This was my message, and once again I apologize if I caused you pain when all I was actually trying to do was alleviate unnecessary suffering.