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December 18, 2014 / 26 Kislev, 5775
 
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Letters To The Editor

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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.

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74 Responses to “Letters To The Editor”

  1. Daniela Weiss-Bronstein says:

    To Ms. Mandelbaum -
    Your mentor telling you to get a nose job is not an excuse to tell others to bankrupt themselves so their daughters can have cosmetic surgery – how I wish I were hyperbolizing! You have lost touch with what Judaism is about. The tyranny of beauty can be summed up with “Can you believe that someone wrote an article in the Jewish Press saying that single women should consider cosmetic surgery?!” Your attitude is precisely the problem, not the solution.

  2. Seek Therapy says:

    Ms. Mandelbaum,

    You state that you suffered as a homely teenager. I am sorry for your suffering. I don’t know you at all, but I have read the article you wrote for Aish about your mother. Just playing pop psychologist here, but based on what you’ve written, I’d venture to say that your misery and lack of self confidence were directly related to your “withholding” mother, who gave you little emotionally. You then go on to describe how things got worse during your adolescence (right when you were really suffering with your nose and frizzy hair) as your mother became increasingly absent from your life.

    My dear Ms. Mandlebaum, I’m sorry you didn’t have the love and care you deserved as a child. The kind of love that would have made you happy to be who you are, no matter what you looked like. I am sorry that your happiness depended on something so silly and so fleeting as a very narrow view of beauty. I hope you have taught your own children better.

    Link to Aish article: http://www.aish.com/f/hp/pa/49499572.html

  3. Shoshanna Goldstein Sanders says:

    "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."
    The Jewish Press prints two letters, one negative and one positive, reacting to the Yitta Halberstam article. The author responds and basically says, "I don't like it either but this is reality" and again "I'm just trying to help". I don't think she has done anything here to calm the rage that her article provoked. I'm glad to hear that in her personal life she has tried to convince men to de-emphasize looks, but in this very public forum she seems to have given up the battle altogether. She also doesn't address the very serious question of whether her "helpful" attitude contributes to eating disorders and other mental health problems in the Orthodox community.

  4. Lynn says:

    If that is indeed the reality, that frum men are prioritizing looks, just how do girls without looks find shidduchim? Are those girls willing to overlook the negative physical appearance of some boys? If a girl is repeatedly turned down due to her looks, should she do anything to improve her looks? In that crowd, the few available boys are besieged with girls. Is it realistic to think that a popular boy will choose a girl who is not good looking when he has so many other prospects? Is there anything really wrong with encouraging women to look attractive within the realm of tznius? Plastic surgery is problematic from several medical and halachic standpoints, but there may be circumstances that require a consult with a rav. Is all plastic surgery treif? Should plastic surgery be limited to burn victims, accident victims, and those with birth defects?
    I know that to many, the answer is to educate the boys to prefer less good looking girls but we live in a day and age where the average man sees attractive and untzius Gentile women walking down the street. Are those expectations realistic?
    Anyone care to give answers?

  5. Lynn says:

    L’via, most women who are raising children are somewhat conscious of their own appearance. Kids know that their mothers buy clothing and make-up and may like going to the gym and may be weight conscious. Older boys may take notice of the diet foods in the fridge and see that their sisters, who go to school with other girls are always trading jewelry, shoes, and that they are into all of that. If the family shops in a mall, it may be obvious that general society pays attention to looks. I would be cautious about passing judgment on other mothers who may not be so successful in raising children not to value looks.

  6. L'via Weisinger says:

    And now for the rebuttal we've all been waiting for. A huge sh'koyach to Tova Ross (seems we in Bergen County have our heads on straight), a big shame on you to Leah Silverman (another eligible boy whose fax machine will probably go silent), and Yitta, your response is wholly inadequate. You and your ilk have raised those boys to place a priority on outer beauty – you only have yourselves to blame for the "shidduch crisis". You could have stopped at the make-up and hair and maybe had some sympathy and a fair amount of agreement. But you crossed a huge canyon of a line on so many levels, and then continued to defend it in your "apology". I was really hoping for an "aha moment" from you, a true statement of viduy, charata and azivat ha'chet. Not by a long shot. Shame shame shame. I hope your redemption is in that you are now the korban that will promote action to end the insanity and prevent anyone from ever taking your advice.

  7. ישראלה ישראלית says:

    it's not just the parents, they are as brainwashed as the kids are by secular culture

  8. Lynn says:

    L’via is busy heaping shame on a letter who praised Yitta Mandelbaum for advocating make-up and hair styles. The first letter writer did not mention plastic surgery. That anorexia is a problem, everyone realizes, but overweight is also a problem. Not everyone is attracted to people who are significantly overweight. If they are not attracted, does that make them bad people?

  9. L'via Weisinger says:

    if parents are willing and conscious of it, they can mitigate the damage of the secular culture – if they want to. someone who thinks she would never have gotten married had she not slimmed down, straightened her hair and gotten a nose job is not going to be a role model for accepting people as they are. if parents believe outer beauty is paramount, they will give that vibe to their kids, regardless of outside influences and what they supposedly urge other boys to believe. and those parents should certainly not be allowed to have any say in picking a mate for their kids.

  10. Lynn says:

    Shoshanna, if your son came home from a date and said that he was not attracted to the girl because she was not pretty and asked you to research that aspect of a shidduch a little better in the future, how would you answer him?

  11. Rachel says:

    Ms. Mandelbaum,

    Just as you will never give those wonderful girls second chances, you don’t get chances when you publish such offensive garbage.

    How sad that this one stupid article will make people forever remember you for your arrogance, superficiality, and now self-righteousness in your response. It’s too bad, since you are indeed a talented author and I can’t imagine you wanted to publically to ‘dis’ all the girls you met at the event-who by the way have probably read what you wrote, so I don’t know what you were thinking when you said you didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. But don’t delude yourself into thinking that you’re some martyr for the Shidduch Crisis, sharing your personal ugly duckling story so that others will be inspired and then find their shidduch.

    The least you could have done was get off your high horse and admit that you messed up and were insensitive. Instead, you turned it around and said that we all just misunderstood you.

    There are HUNDREDS of comments filled with words of shock and disappointment in you. Wake up lady.

  12. L'via, I just wonder how old your children are. Are you sure that while you are busy shaming people for advocating lipstick, are your sons really agreeable to dating girls who are not putting effort into their appearance? I have often seen that the best moms don't have children of that age yet so they can pass judgement on those moms whose boys want girls who at least try to look nice. I agree that some of our priorities need to change but we can't force our sons to marry girls that they are not attracted to. What is your plan for your sons? If they are young, it might be awhile before you really know if your were successful in raising boys who appreciate the inner person.

  13. Aliza Novogroder Fischman says:

    I see the letters to the editor, but where is Ms. Halberstam's response?

  14. Shoshanna Goldstein Sanders says:

    Let’s just say I would consider it a teachable moment.

  15. Batya White-Novogroder says:

    Lynn, I don't think L'via is "busy shaming people for advocating lipstick" as you put it. I think she is OUTRAGED at a well-respected author for advocating plastic surgery (such as nose jobs & other expensive body enhancement procedures) as a recommendation for impressionable young women in the shidduch parsha. I think she is fearful of how this article will impact on frum girls in our community where eating disorders is already such a HUGE problem. I think she fears that this kind of article will only exacerbate the situation & potentially cause life-threatening problems among shidduch aged girls who are made to feel that they are not pretty, thin or attractive enough to find a mate & therefore must take drastic & dangerous measures in order to make themselves worthy of a guy.

  16. Shoshanna Goldstein Sanders says:

    I think it’s important to care about one’s appearance and to impart that value to our children. But I think that was Ms. Halberstam is talking about is an acceptance of looks as the first and paramount criteria (she calls it “the dealbreaker”)in even considering a first date. And she recommends that families to everything in their power to “enhance” their daughters’ natural looks, up to and including going into debt to afford plastic surgery that will turn their average-looking, normal girls into “swans”. She also says the shadchanim are blameless for this system. I disagree. In the yeshivish world the shadchanim and the parents are the gatekeepers and have coomplete control over who meets whom. They and the parents who tell their sons to hold out for a gorgeous model are perpetuating the system…witness the commenter who offered to set up girls for free as long as they are pretty and slim! And the shadchanit who told a size 6 girl to lose weight to make herself more “marketable” has blood on her hands.

  17. Batya White-Novogroder says:

    Aliza Novogroder Fischman, it says Yitta Halberstam Mandelbaum responds above..

  18. Lynn says:

    Most of my children are Boruch Hashem married and although outer appearance was not the only thing that mattered, it was among the top concerns that each child had. I also always let it be their decision but none of them would have chosen someone with a serious appearance issue. While no one was looking specifically for someone super thin, they would have turned down a noticeably overweight person. L’via, do your children care if the person that they marry is considerably overweight or not? Have you raised them to not view “looks” as important at all or do they have some criteria of what they view as attractive?
    I think that the vast majority of both girls and boys today but considerable value on outer appearance. I don’t think it is fair to pass judgment on those who are concerned about that.

  19. Shoshanna Goldstein Sanders says:

    Lynn, no one can "force our sons to marry girls they are not attracted to", that's against Halacha as well as secular law. But we can and should try to instill our beliefs and values in our kids, and that starts from infancy. Isn't that what parenting is about? Isn't that what chinuch is about? I'm so upset with the commenters who say "I can't tell my sons what to do" or "I don't like it but it's human nature". Have we abdicated all responsibility for trying to inspire our kids to do more than just follow "human nature"?
    Unlike the mothers Ms. Halberstam refers to, we can and should have some shame in asking the shadchan the "dealbreaker" question, "Is she pretty?" When that's the first question to be asked, we are perpetuating the problem, not just accepting it.
    I'll let L'via handle the question about her boys but for the record I have three sons in their late teens and early twenties.

  20. here's what i don't understand (particularly about her response). why are we humoring these men? why do they hold the cards? if these men, whose main criteria are good looks, were to find that they couldn't/wouldn't get married because the women chose to remain themselves – 'au naturale' as it were – wouldn't they be the ones not fulfilling the mitzvot incumbent upon them? wouldn't they grow old and single and alone? halberstam seems to indicate that they don't care. so let them not care, let them age lonely and alone, and let these women marry the rest of the population who can see beyond the physical.

  21. L'via Weisinger says:

    Aliza Novogroder Fischman click on next page.

  22. Lynn says:

    It is certainly a teachable moment but if you truly feel that the selection of a girl is his decision rather than yours, and he feels attracted to a certain look, why would you not want to try to accommodate him, if his request was in reason? I personally do not pressure my children to continue to date people that they feel not attracted to. I think that broken engagements start that way. Most of my sons did prefer girls who wore make-up.

  23. L'via Weisinger says:

    I am the proud mother of 3 boys in teens and 20's, as well as 2 girls. They're outraged by the article, and in fact, the older ones posted extremely mature and well-thought responses. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I will let my boys be the arbiter of who they are attracted to. I will help them and guide them, if need be, to choose a girl with good middos and character – the rest is up to them – and Hashem.

  24. Batya White-Novogroder says:

    Perhaps mothers of girls in Shidduchim should also look into surgical enhancements such as gastric by-pass & liposuction b/c I've heard that guys often want to know "what size the mother is" so that they will know what to expect in 20-30 years & whether or not they think they will still be attracted to the girl then ;)!

  25. Batya White-Novogroder says:

    Perhaps mothers of girls in Shidduchim should also look into surgical enhancements such as gastric by-pass & liposuction b/c I've heard that guys often want to know "what size the mother is" so that they will know what to expect in 20-30 years & whether or not they think they will still be attracted to the girl then ;)!

  26. Adriane Tick Meyers says:

    Exactly! How can she say she does not like society's emphasis on physicality when she is playing right into those societal constructs! And yes, her attitude corroborates the existence of many problems related to body image.

  27. Lynn, you are missing one important point. She was NOT criticizing girls for not wearing makeup on a DATE WITH A BOY. She was criticizing girls for not wearing makeup to a meeting with the boys MOTHER,which should have been ALL ABOUT CHARACTER and NOTHING to do with LOOKS – which is all in the boys eyes anyway.

  28. I think this reflects a new phenomenon I have been noticing recently. It seems that some women are paying more attention to the looks of their children's mates more than ever before. As if the "classic beauty" quotient of the person their children are marrying reflects on them. As if their son's wife is a decoration for the MOTHER'S arm.
    I posted to true – sad, but true – stories about real life situations. One, I was in a car with a well-known Rav, when the mother of a girl called, and wanted to call off a Shidduch because the nice, sweet boy her daughter was engaged to was not very good looking, while the girl was the "classic picture of beauty" – she felt her daughter could do better – not that the guy wasn't nice, he just did not look too great.
    The other story was when a mother was complaining bitterly that the Shadchan mislead her, when the SHadchan told her that a certain girls was a size 4, when in reality she was between 6-8. Never mind that her son was head-over-heels in lover with the girl, and they were getting married, she felt that she would have not let it get that far if she was told the truth.
    These mothers are making decisions for who should date their children. I understand the system of parents making sure their children's dates are somewhat compatible – You don't want a person who only wants to stay home be married to a person who wants to party every night, or a boy who wants to be Chassidish to marry a girl who wants to wear a miniskirt. I get that.
    What I don't get is parents who allow looks to be a factor in the decision if the children would date.I understand a person saying "I don't want you to fall in love with a girl who is all wrong for you"
    Boys may see a beauty and fall in lust even is she is incompatible. However, I do not see the reverse happening.

  29. I think this reflects a new phenomenon I have been noticing recently. It seems that some women are paying more attention to the looks of their children's mates more than ever before. As if the "classic beauty" quotient of the person their children are marrying reflects on them. As if their son's wife is a decoration for the MOTHER'S arm.
    I posted two true – sad, but true – stories about real life situations. One, I was in a car with a well-known Rav, when the mother of a girl called, and wanted to call off a Shidduch because the nice, sweet boy her daughter was engaged to was not very good looking, while the girl was the "classic picture of beauty" – she felt her daughter could do better – not that the guy wasn't nice, he just did not look too great.
    The other story was when a mother was complaining bitterly that the Shadchan mislead her, when the Shadchan told her that a certain girl was a size 4, when in reality she was between 6-8. Never mind that her son was head-over-heels in lover with the girl, and they were getting married, she felt that she would have not let it get that far if she was told the truth.
    These mothers are making decisions for who should date their children. I understand the system of parents making sure their children's dates are somewhat compatible – You don't want a person who only wants to stay home be married to a person who wants to party every night, or a boy who wants to be Chassidish to marry a girl who wants to wear a miniskirt. I get that.
    What I don't get is parents who allow looks to be a factor in the decision if the children would date.I understand a person saying "I don't want you to fall in love with a girl who is all wrong for you"
    Boys may see a beauty and fall in lust even is she is incompatible. However, I do not see the reverse happening.

  30. Even if the main point of the article was to build up to encouraging invasive methods for those who could use it, the tone should be one of chizuk. Someone lacking in the beauty department likely realizes it. An article that says "do you have any idea how ugly the boys and mothers think you look" only causes them deeper pain. Sometimes it's how you say it.

  31. "shallowness in seeking good looks in prospective partners" – good looks or a requirement that she be drop-dead-gorgeous? Knowing that you need some attraction to a prospective partner is important – I once knew a boy who when asked what's he looking for regarding appearance said it isn't important. At the time I was impressed! Meanwhile, he married and soon after divorced, because he was not able to accommodate this wonderful spouse amidst his generally spartan and focused lifestyle.

  32. Shoshanna Goldstein Sanders says:

    Chaim Saperstein wow, I must be very naive. I had no idea such MIL's from hell really existed. Clearly in these cases the mothers were not acting in their children's best interests. However, I think even where parents have the best of intentions, the high pressure, and fast pace of the formal shidduch process does not allow for the natural, organic development of true attraction, and instead focuses on a superficial, lowest-common-denominator definition of attractiveness.

  33. All kidding aside, what this woman portrays is perhaps one of the reasons there is a crisis.
    One of the problems is, that there are many "gatekeepers" people have to pass before they meet. They must fulfill certain criteria like family, background, economic and others before step 1. Then the mother must approve the midos and character, and only then do they meet.
    Now, our author is ushering a new era. Now, after they pass muster in all above criteria, the MOTHER of the boy must feel that her looks reflect positively on the mother of the boy. This is just one more obstacle for the girl to pass. God help her.

  34. Shoshanna Keats-Jaskoll says:

    Of course people want to marry people they are attracted to- the problem with this ridiculous system is that there is no chance for being attracted to the person as a PERSON and a being. This stupid resume & question game denies the humanity and character of the young people so that ALL THEY HAVE TO GO ON after a list of disgusting and mind numbing questions are the person's looks! The system causes the problem! For Gds sake let these people meet each other in natural settings. I know had I met my husband in this ridiculous way I wouldn't have ended up married to the most wonderful man I've had the privilege to know. On paper- neither of us were what the other thought we needed.

  35. Shoshanna says:

    Of course people want to marry people they are attracted to- the problem with this ridiculous system is that there is no chance for being attracted to the person as a PERSON and a being. This stupid resume & question game denies the humanity and character of the young people so that ALL THEY HAVE TO GO ON after a list of disgusting and mind numbing questions are the person’s looks! The system causes the problem! For Gds sake let these people meet each other in natural settings. I know had I met my husband in this ridiculous way I wouldn’t have ended up married to the most wonderful man I’ve had the privilege to know. On paper- neither of us were what the other thought we needed.

  36. you tell em sista! love you!

  37. Shelley Shafran says:

    yitta writes: "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."

    so, before inviting this hailstorm on herself, did mrs. halberstam write an equally public piece decrying the abhorrence of the men's shallow standards? if this is indeed the crux of the problem wouldn't it be responsible to address the problem (as she perceives it) at its root?

    but then that would involve some very serious mesirut nefesh, time and resources to come up with a plan to educate the future fathers of the jewish people and we all know how much easier it is to throw on a sparkly shade of lipgloss.

    problem solved.

  38. Shoshanna Keats-Jaskoll says:

    Shelley Shafran and I'm saying its the system- people are people- they want to be attracted to their spouse – they should be! But this makes attraction all about physical proportions! Gd help us all.

  39. Melissa Danto Rayman says:

    this reminds me of the twilight zone where everyone has pig noses and the "beautiful" woman tries for surgery to fix her face…

  40. Shoshanna Keats-Jaskoll says:

    meaning- the system forces the men to rate women on looks alone by not letting them see their character and at the same time tells women they must be modest and have inner beauty- talk about shooting ourselves in the face- I'm surprised there aren't more suicides.

  41. Shelley Shafran says:

    right. and here's the thing, beauty is not tyrannical unless you believe it to be so. hakadosh baruch hu put physical beauty in the world for a reason, certainly as a facet in helping men and women find their zivug. attraction is vital and physical beauty is not to be ignored but it is just one facet in a myriad of qualities to look for in your spouse, one that will objectively fade with time. the jewish people are in for a world of hurt if we continue down a path of catering to man's most superficial and base urges rather than working to elevate it.

  42. Ben Waxman says:

    Shoshanna Keats-Jaskoll amen to this. my wife and i also wouldn't have met had we done it through the approved channels.

    people think that we live in a torah world which protects us from the outside values. that is so, so false. we only want the newest, bestest, fastest iphone and we only want (what seems to be) the bestest shiddiuch. in neither case do we bother thinking about what we need.

  43. Shoshanna Keats-Jaskoll says:

    Shelley Shafran and women should know it is ok to be beautiful in a appropriate way- the psyzophrenia of modesty vs beauty of nigia vs sex is an unbearable burden and sucks the joy out of life Gd intended- for both women and men

  44. Ben Waxman says:

    Batya White-Novogroder exactly. this inability to differentiate between basic grooming and surgery is simply unbelievable! look everyone knows that at job interview you dress better than what you do at work. but to go and lie on your CV? that is what the rebbetzin is advocating!

  45. Shelley Shafran, I'm trying to figure out if "problem solved" refers, sarcastically, to "throwing on a sparkly shade of lipgloss" or if it refers, realistically, to changing men's natures. Thanks.

  46. Shelley Shafran says:

    Phil Silverman, I was being sarcastic. and I did not say we need to change "men's natures". physical attraction is crucial to maintaining a healthy marriage and a woman's beauty may be what first draws a man to her but for a generation of men to chose a wife with increasing importance placed on her outward appearance is not something we need to be capitulating to. changing "men's natures" is not in our hands but community leaders, teachers and rabbis can certainly help shape a more respectuful attitude towards dating and women in general. don't we teach to not negate our nature but that as human beings we are given the ability to not just function by our base nature alone?

    it is both irresponsible and demonstrative of a low level of faith on yitta's part claim defeat at the hands of "men's shallowness."

  47. Lynn says:

    As long as people are willing to follow a system where women pick their daughter-in-laws, only the best will do. Women have different expectations for their sons and different relationships with their sons than they do with their daughters. Women don’t want to pick wives for their sons who will neglect their appearance. Boys and girls are equally concerned today about marrying someone that they are attracted to. Most girls are turning down boys who don’t have the attractive looks that they are seeking. We can’t just say that a generation of men have been raised to superficial standards.

  48. Let's see if I understand this correctly.

    The writer of this article decides who her son will be able to meet and date. She is the one who decides that certain women are not suitable for her son because they don't wear enough makeup or need surgery such as a nose job.

    After she has rejected these women – and won't let her son meet them and decide for himself – she blames men for being shallow.

  49. Chaim Saperstein, In the peculiar society portrayed by the writer, do mothers accompany their sons into the yichud room after weddings?

    Just wondering.

  50. After thinking about this article for many days, I finally am able to put my finger on what really bothers me.
    There are two types of beauty. The "You are so beautiful to me" beauty, and the "Look guys, see who I have on MY arm!" beauty.
    The first type, is more subtle. It is the way she tilts her head when she is in thought. It is the sparkle in her eye when she is excited. The flush on her cheeks when she is happy. The glow on her face when she just did the miraculous act of giving birth (b"h, I have experienced that several times), the way she looks at you that tells you that you mean the world to her (I have experienced that more times than I deserve).
    This type of beauty is real, physical, attractive, and can NOT be accomplished without botox, nose jobs, and gastric bypass. And, it can be judge by one person alone. The boy. What everybody else, including the boy's mother thinks, is irrelevant. Best of all, it is not subject to the "tyranny of beauty".
    The second type is more universal. It is the picture of physical perfection, yet is completely and utterly disconnected from any mood, passion and feeling. It can only be accomplished by either perfect genes or surgery, and is guaranteed to fade over time. It makes a great first impression, yet is devoid of any indication on the inner beauty. This kind of beauty is subject to universal acceptance, can be judged by others – and the sad part is, people who seek this kind of beauty seem to crave the acceptance of other – no matter what the girl is truly like.
    What is extremely bothersome is that this article seems to push the second type of beauty, and ignore the first.
    Physical attraction is important. There is no denying that, and to all the people who keep supporting this article with that kind of statement: We know it is important. It is extremely essential. We know.
    But the author is completely discounting the first kind of beauty, which comes from meeting, talking to, and getting to know the girls. This type of beauty is just as real, and just as important, if not more important.
    Instead, she goes straight to universal beauty, and discounts the girls if they don't possess it.
    If the mothers of our boys focus only on universal beauty, and not on "personal beauty", how can we expect boys to focus on what is really important?

  51. After thinking about this article for many days, I finally am able to put my finger on what really bothers me.
    There are two types of beauty. The "You are so beautiful to me" beauty, and the "Look guys, see who I have on MY arm!" beauty.
    The first type, is more subtle. It is the way she tilts her head when she is in thought. It is the sparkle in her eye when she is excited. The flush on her cheeks when she is happy. The glow on her face when she just did the miraculous act of giving birth (b"h, I have experienced that several times), the way she looks at you that tells you that you mean the world to her (I have experienced that more times than I deserve).
    This type of beauty is real, physical, attractive, and can NOT be accomplished with botox, nose jobs, and gastric bypass. And, it can be judge by one person alone. The boy. What everybody else, including the boy's mother thinks, is irrelevant. Best of all, it is not subject to the "tyranny of beauty".
    The second type is more universal. It is the picture of physical perfection, yet is completely and utterly disconnected from any mood, passion and feeling. It can only be accomplished by either perfect genes or surgery, and is guaranteed to fade over time. It makes a great first impression, yet is devoid of any indication on the inner beauty. This kind of beauty is subject to universal acceptance, can be judged by others – and the sad part is, people who seek this kind of beauty seem to crave the acceptance of other – no matter what the girl is truly like.
    What is extremely bothersome is that this article seems to push the second type of beauty, and ignore the first.
    Physical attraction is important. There is no denying that, and to all the people who keep supporting this article with that kind of statement: We know it is important. It is extremely essential. We know.
    But the author is completely discounting the first kind of beauty, which comes from meeting, talking to, and getting to know the girls. This type of beauty is just as real, and just as important, if not more important.
    Instead, she goes straight to universal beauty, and discounts the girls if they don't possess it.
    If the mothers of our boys focus only on universal beauty, and not on "personal beauty", how can we expect boys to focus on what is really important?

  52. Ari Mendelson says:

    Ms. Halberstam,
    I admire your courage for taking on a controversial and politically incorrect topic. I can't say I disagree with your assessment that much. The fact is that men are attracted to beauty. Men are what they are. We cannot change human nature. We can only act in ways that maximize our chances of success given the sad facts about human nature.

    But what I think you missed, or I think you can emphasize in another context is this: while men are attracted to youth and beauty, women are attracted to power and status. You hear, in the secular world at least (and I'd be surprised if it didn't infiltrate the religious world to some extent) how the most attractive women, who have their choice of men often shun "nice guys" and instead date jerks. Those jerks, being the ones who act as if they have the most power and status.

    Some people call the desire to find the most attractive or highest status partner "hypergamy." You can call it that. You can call it the workings of the Yetzer Horah. It's all the same.

    But I find it troubling that men's shallow obsession with looks is condemned but that women's shallow obsession with status, etc. is tolerated without comment.

  53. once in college, and then once post-college, i was thrown into work projects where i had to spend many many days/weeks working side by side with men whom i know, if i had passed fleetingly on the street, i wouldn't have given a second look…"just not my type" as it were. but sitting there for hours and days and 2-3 weeks in one case, i will tell you that i fell in love with these 2 respective men. i got to know them…their souls and their hearts. and i no longer even "saw" what they looked like physically…indeed it became irrelevant and i was attracted to everything about them. in halberstam's world this possibility becomes an impossibility.

  54. Lynn says:

    Traci, to a very large degree, girls play the looks game as well as boys do. Most girls want good looking guys. They are not all just looking at the character or midos. They also want a physical attraction. My unmarried son recently attended a series of classes for single guys in shidduchim. It is possible that with education, boys could tame their desire for models, if indeed a large percentage are looking for models. I don’t think it is realistic to teach boys not to care about appearance at all because all people have some idea of what kind of person that they view as attractive. I think that since the human race began, beauty has been a coveted item. The shidduch system gives mothers free reign to choose her “successor”; in other words, the new woman in her son’s life. The mother-in-law-daughter-in-law relationship is different from the mother-in-law-son-in-law relationship. Obviously if men and women were free to meet without interference, many current barriers would break down but at present, boys mothers are given the task of predicting in advance what type of girl their sons will be attracted to.
    Of course, when raising children, it is important not to make statements such as “I am so disgusted with myself, I gained 5 pounds on yomtov.”

  55. Yitta, I could have told you this would happen. I absolutely understand where you were coming from to write this article. And I absolutely understand the horror and disgust everyone is responding with. What you describe as the "reality" is true on so many levels. However, the solution should be to CHANGE the reality rather than succumb to it. Is there a way to teach boys when they're younger that they should not be like this when they're older? How can we undo whatever it is that's causing this problem? We can't go on like this, and it has to be the men who change — otherwise, when we teach our girls to accept the way they look and love their bodies the way they are, we had better also teach them that if they continue to do so when they're of dating age, many men (or their mothers…) are going to reject them. The eating disorder epidemic among our girls is terrifying. When we're teaching our girls not to succumb to that pressure, and to focus on inner beauty, etc., are we also teaching our boys to be attracted to inner beauty above physical beauty? Is it possible to teach that? Can't we find a way? And why do shadchanim continue to indulge men whose demands perpetuate this problem? Because of supply and demand? That is not a valid reason. Our communal leadership should be addressing the source of the problem and coming up with creative solutions to eliminate it — or at the very least refusing to help perpetuate it. No one who has not experienced what Yitta and others have experienced when trying to make shidduchim can possibly realize how pervasive this behavior is — even among "nice" boys, "top" boys, boys who have outstanding reputations as b'nei Torah and baalei middos. It took years for me to stop refusing to believe how bad it is, and how many men are like this. So now that I believe it, I feel disgust not only for the behavior and attitude of the men, but for everything that contributes to it. But my disgust doesn't solve anything. And I fear that this article, however well-intentioned (and believe me I DO understand your motivations for writing it), will become one of the things that contributes to the problem. It is incumbent upon MEN to end the tyranny of beauty. It is not incumbent upon women to join it. Though unfortunately, the way things are now, you are right — if they don't join it, they will very likely not find a husband. Perhaps they will be better off. But that is a choice only they can make. In the meantime, the rest of us should be doing what we can to change the reality, not make it worse.

  56. Shoshanna Goldstein Sanders says:

    Exactly! And the first type of beauty takes time to appreciate, the time it takes to build a relationship. With the pressure to make a quick decision about a person within a few dates, there many not be enough time for for people to see the beauty in each other.

  57. Shoshanna Sanders says:

    Lynn, please see Breishis 2:24. Your son’s wife is not your successor, she’s his partner. Step aside and let him do the choosing.

  58. Shoshanna Goldstein Sanders says:

    Ms. Halberstam, you say that before writing this article you "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 don't think Ms. Ross, or the writers of the hundreds of negative online comments have misunderstood you one bit. I think you made your views quite clear, and even repeated and defended them in your response. Nobody misunderstood, but we strongly, vociferously, and passionately disagree. Ms. Halberstam, do you understand us?

  59. Lynn says:

    What I think that we are misreading in Yitta’s article (I corresponded with her by email) is that she is not saying that all women in shidduchim need to go to the ends of the earth to look beautiful because beauty is important to men. I think that what she is saying is that despite efforts of mothers to educate their children as to what is important in marriage, looks are still a high priority. She is saying that there is much competition for the best boys and that mothers who are inundated with resumes are not going to deliberately choose an unattractive girl or view an unattractive girl as possessing better midos because of unattractiveness. She is saying that they mother will view lack of concern for appearance as a negative quality. She makes a lot of shidduchim and opens her home to singles for Shabbos meals. She has seen women grow older, not understanding that men are turning them down because of their homeliness. She feels that any woman, no matter how unattractive that she is, could be made beautiful so that a man would be attracted. If dozens of frum men are turning down these women, who exactly is the one point the finger of blame at?
    Should we blame, men, mothers, rabbonim, shadchanim, etc…? Are frum men supposed to be blind to unattractiveness? Is there somewhere in the Torah where it says that looks are unimportant? Is there anything halachically wrong with trying to beautify oneself? Also, BTW, many girls in the yeshivish crowd do use some make-up.

  60. Lynn says:

    The Torah instructs men to leave their mothers and marry a woman. The relationship that exists before marriage between a mother and son is different than that between a mother and daughter. The relationship changes more between the mother and son than between the mother and daughter.
    The shidduch world offers women the chance to pick their daughter-in-laws. Few women would say that they want to pick a girl that they don’t feel is good enough for their sons. Why would the mother do that; in order to be socially correct in cyberspace? Unless people are allowed to meet without the mother involved, the playing field will not be very level. It is what it is.

  61. Shoshanna Sanders says:

    Not everyone in the frum world wants to follow the system you describe. I love my mother-in-law and we get along great, but I’m glad I was picked by my husband, not her. Nor do I want to pick my daughters-in-law. I want my sons to be happy and I want what’s best for them. I’m sure you want no less for your own children. But for my own family I think the best way to assure that is to let them decide for themselves who they are attracted to and who is appropriate for them. Why do you feel you are in a best position to determine that? I’m not playing games with you here, I really don’t understand. I know that you wouldn’t let your boys meet girls on their own, but why not let the shadchanim deal with the boys directly? Yes, they are young and they may need or want guidance from those who are wiser, but they can seek it out from rebbeim, friends, or other relatives or just date longer until they are a bit more mature. Do you really feel that only you can determine who is “good enough” for them?

  62. Lynn says:

    Personally, I feel that people who want to set a couple up and want to bypass the mother, or get the couple to consider dating each other, should invite them to a Shabbos meal so that they can see if they would be interested. In my circles, either the mother, or if she is too old and out of circulation, an older sister, are the keepers of the marital gate. If my son were to meet a girl without my help, I would welcome her with open arms but most mothers in our circles don’t want to give that up, nor do their sons want them to give that up. The mothers usually call the girl’s friends to inquire about the girl. The bocher should not do that himself as it is considered a breach of tznius. Modern Orthodox Jews often get upset at the way that RW Orthodox marry off their kids. They feel that it is unfair to women.

  63. The only case in the Torah of a mother finding a wife for her son is with Yishmael – his mother found him a wife from Egypt.

    It seems that the community described in this article is more open to non-Jewish customs than the rest of religious Jewry.

    I wonder whether they'll also adopt the other custom practiced by the descendants of Yishmael of "honor killings"? Who know? Maybe that would solve the problem of people going off the derech.

  64. Lynn says:

    If you re-read her article, she in no way discounts spiritual beauty. She in fact states repeatedly that this is the more valuable type of beauty. The laments the fact that this generation of boys has not internalized a feeling that spiritual beauty trumps physical beauty. People are very caught up in her recommendation of surgery for those very few women who might hypothetically benefit and they fail to see that she is not advocating looking only at the physical. What she is saying is that the competition for those few top boys is so fierce and their mothers are so inundated with resumes from interested girls that the boys have an unnatural advantage. Most girls have done some chessed and most seem “amazing” when it comes to their midos. As she stated in the beginning, the resumes all sound alike. It then goes downhill from there into a beauty pageant because the boys are aware that they are sought after commodities. They can serial date and turn down girls because another is always waiting in the wings. Meanwhile, working boys go wanting for nice girls to marry. It has been so drummed into the girls to marry a learning boy that otherwise nice boys with a lot to offer are not getting the attention. While we are busy casting blame at a single individual who is merely trying to bandage the wound, why don’t we see the entire picture. She is merely trying to suggest that if women are trying to compete for the best boys, understand the competition.
    In some frum communities, marriages are in trouble, the divorce rate is too high, and we need to reexamine what our priorities are. Meanwhile, it is not a radical notion for women to wear a bit of make-up to please their mates or get a shidduch. I am having trouble understanding the objection to that.

  65. I rarely reply to these articles, but I really feel that I must.

    The problem is not that people have misconstrued your article. The problem is that you absolutely do NOT get it, in the least bit.

    Let's start with your mentor's recommendation for plastic surgery. Your mentor may hive give you the most appropriate advice. However, it is quite clear that advice of that nature is TOTALLY individual, to say the least. Advising surgery of ANY sort as a general practice, and especially cosmetic surgery, which carries clear Halachik issues, is ridiculous under any circumstances, and outrageous in an Orthodox Jewish contexts.

    Secondly, if men have ridiculous and outrageous expectations (ie that they can only even consider a "Miss America"), is the appropriate solution really for women to cater to those demands in ways that are physically, emotionally and spiritually unhealthy or even dangerous as a general practice? Plastic surgery DOES carry real risks. Contact lenses (where not medically appropriate) also carry real risks, as well. Besides, why stop there? Why should we hesitate to mandate exposure to toxic chemicals, and starvation diets? What makes them any different than plastic surgery?

    The message that you send directly is that men can set whatever agenda they want, no matter how outrageous it is, and women need to fall in line because getting married is the ONLY value that counts. Nothing else – not health, sanity or even ability to function matters. The unstated corollary is that all a woman is worth is to please some man (and his mother.)

    And, this totally ignores the longer term problems. What's going to happen when the girl who messed with her bosom to make it the "right" size can't nurse her child(ren)? What happens when a woman's health is irreparably damaged by the measures she took to look "right"? And what kind of married relationship can you expect when a couple comes into marriage thinking that the woman's entire role is to please a guy, no matter how dangerous the actions expected of her are?

    Lastly, you misunderstand the problem. The issue is not that men want to marry girls who are attractive. The issue is the distorted view of "looking good", and the unreasonable expectations of getting the "perfect" wife. Feeding that kind of insanity will never have any real effect on the issues, because the more you feed it the larger the problem grows. "One who has 100 coins wants 200". The same thing applies here – the expansion of the list of "required" traits only grows, and the bar only moves higher as long as society tries to meet each unreasonable demand as it happens.

  66. Lynn, I have read your various responses, and would like to say this.
    In my responses, I have mentioned many times that there is no disagreement that physical beauty is important. However, in most Shidduch cases that I am aware of, if everything else works, and the only drawback is that the boy is not completely blown away by her physical appearance, there are two kinds of reactions from the boy. One is, that if you are happy with the rest of the picture, go out with her again and see what happens. The other reaction would be to just drop it. I find that the kind of boy with the first reaction is probably a much better "risk" in a Shidduch than a boy with the second kind of reaction, which is kind of shallow.
    The beauty of character as I emphasized before, that depend on the expression on the girls face is not "spiritual beauty" as you have said before. It is real, physical beauty.
    What most people who read this article are incensed by, is that this author is "appalled" that there exist girls who are overweight. That there are girls out there who have noses that are not perfect.
    I would leave you with this thought.
    You not only want your daughter to get married, you want here to have a happy life after marriage.
    About who is it said more often, that they "got married for all the wrong reasons", the boy who marries the supermodel, or the boy who marries an average looking girl?
    People here have talked about the divorce rate going up. Is that because boys marry girls who are not beautiful enough, or is it because boys see a girl with a Barbie doll figure get so salivating over her, and can't wait to get at her that they can't wait to marry her and do so even if she is all wrong for him?

  67. Shoshanna Goldstein Sanders says:

    Lynn writes, "it is not a radical notion for women to wear a bit of make-up to please their mates or get a shidduch. I am having trouble understanding the objection to that" (this is a response to a post that appears on jewishpress.com but not via facebook.) Others have also said "what's the big deal about wearing a bit of makeup?"

    Let's clarify again what the article said and what it didn't say. This is NOT an article in Seventeen magazine advising girls to wear a bit of blush and lipgloss. I think Ms. Halberstam's words speak for themselves, if only people would take the time to read them carefully. Ms. Halberstam mentions plastic surgery explicitly THREE times, ALWAYS in a positive light, NEVER with any caution or reservation about medical risk or need for halachic consultation. She NEVER said that she recommends surgery for "for those very few women who might hypothetically benefit" as Lynn puts it. Rather she states, "There's no reason…why ANY GIRL can't be TRANSFORMED INTO A SWAN. Borrow the money if you have to." She talks about the importance wearing makeup not just to look presentable but to go from "plain Jane to truly beautiful". According to eyewitness accounts, the girls at the event were in fact wearing makeup, but that apparently wasn't enough for Ms. Halberstam. She laments the fact that they didn't "go overboard" and spend at least a "mere half hour" on beautification. Furthermore, she believes that it is "iimperative" for a young woman, any young woman, to "enhance her appearance". Apparently, there is no such thing as a natural beauty. Given a chance to soften her comments in her response, to express any reservations about advising hundreds if not thousands of young women to go under the knife in order to get a shidduch, she extols the tzidkus of the mentor who advised her to get a nose job. See, it's such a wonderful thing, it's endorsed by the greatest righteous women! Call for your appointment today!

    Make no mistake, Ms. Halberstam wants to turn our daughters into plastic Barbies in order to appeal to our sons, who are apparently such fetishists that they can only be attracted to a very narrow range of physical proportions and features. Yes, she laments the materialism in our society but believes the answer is just to indulge it. What a shame, as a noted author and speaker she has some influence. She could have gotten up on her soapbox and used her bullhorn to wake up parents, educators, rebbeim, and shadchanim to the skewed priorities in our community and to work to change them. To work on being michanech our children properly from the time they are small children, not to wait until they are in their twenties and we have to argue with them until we are "blue in the face". Instead she recommended that the girls doll up in order to impress the tyrannical mothers-in-law who stand as gatekeepers to their children's happiness. Instead of bandaging the wound she poured salt on it. Instead of being the change, she chose to be part of the problem.

  68. We teach what's right,and thanks god my son didn't read it !

  69. L'via Weisinger says:

    sh'koyach shoshanna!! well-said!! but you know what? I think her article is actually becoming a bullhorn to everyone to wake up and smell the spoiled coffee. by sharing those ideas and thoughts that she and others possess, she exposed how sick and demented the system is – while pouring salt on it, she exposed the festering wound for everyone to see in their own mirrors. Perhaps they will be inspired to reevaluate their priorities and attitudes now that they see it starkly in black and white, and read the overwhelming responses against that demented value system. At least I hope and pray.

  70. Joseph-Chanie Berman says:

    Wow. Is this what we have to look forward to?

  71. if you truly "abhor men's emphasis on outer surfaces" encouraging that type of behavior and attitude through your article will only perpetuate that twisted reality.

  72. Rachel Erlichman says:

    As a personal fitness trainer and growing up in the Chicago Jewish community it is a sad truth but also a primal truth that men senses are raised by visual pathways. Why did Hashem create men in this manner? Are they supposed to use it or fight it? How is it that you are in want of your husband to tell you that you are beautiful but when he meets you he should not notice your looks? The females cannot have it both ways. I have seen young ladies without a stitch of make up who are beautiful. Their youthful, clean skin glows, their smiles are bright and the eyes show life. Now, perhaps you wish to tell your daughters to make sure their teeth are brushed and they smile often. Explaining in honest terms to your daughters that men are drawn to women through their eyes should not be insulting. After all, these same girls will pay $3000 for a sheitl once they are married.

  73. Chaim Saperstein Those parents are CRAZY! Theres just no other appropriate word. I only repeat stories I know are true- we know a mother who didn't consider a suggestion for her son because the girl was a size 6/8 and not 4, and was blond and blue eyed instead of brown, or vica versa.

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