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December 20, 2014 / 28 Kislev, 5775
 
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The Ongoing Denigration Of Singles


A great human tragedy is taking place before our eyes, yet few can see it.

A singles event in Jerusalem, co-sponsored by no fewer than five groups or organizations, advertised the following:

“Ask yourself this question: Do you really want to get married? If the answer is NO, then carry on having a good time going to all those parties, Shabbat meals, lectures, supermarket aisles . If the answer is YES, then we’ll see you at the MEGA EVENT.”

A series of singles events in Jerusalem co-sponsored by three organizations advertised the following “description” of the program: “Mifgash BaMerkaz aims to bring singles together for activities that will enhance social interaction in a relaxed atmosphere.”

A singles event organized by the Young Israel of Teaneck and Yeshiva University advertised the following: “Find-Your-Bashert Extravaganza! Meet your bashert while dining on a great meal, being enlightened by an inspirational speaker, and enjoying an innovative speed dating session. Additionally, meet amazing and very dedicated matchmakers. You never know what might happen, so come and join us!”

These advertisements are highly representative of the norm for singles events, not carefully selected exceptions. What they have in common is they degrade the singles they are ostensibly trying to help, in ways both overt and subtle.

The first advertisement hardly requires a probing analysis to uncover an astonishingly condescending attitude toward singles. I will therefore spend no more time on it, other than to wonder how those who harbor such an attitude toward a group of people can possibly be of service to them, and to wonder how it can be that all the combined brainpower and resources in these organizations could come up with nothing better than an insult to singles.

The second advertisement offers absolutely no information as to what the actual program will be. In so doing it essentially says the following to singles: “We know you are desperate, and it really makes no difference what the program will be so long as there are live bodies in the room. You don’t care about anything else, so we don’t have to bother dignifying you with even minimal information. Besides, we know what’s best for you, anyway.”

The third advertisement commits this same offense by failing to even identify the speaker or the topic of the speech. Has a shul or university ever advertised a non-singles event without identifying the speaker or the nature of the talk? Would they expect people to sign up and pay money for such a program, or to take it seriously enough to even inquire for more information? Would someone promote a concert without identifying who would be playing or even the type of music that would be played? Of course not!

Yet singles are held in such disregard that this sort of thing is actually quite common when it comes to singles events. “We’ll have some speaker, and he’ll be terrific. Come and you’ll have a great time.”

This advertisement commits another grave offense that is quite common in the world of singles events: “Meet your bashert.” This doesn’t come with a money-back guarantee, nor do they justify their expectation that many or all of those who come will be so fortunate to find a soulmate in the same room. It is simply a form of advertising that needlessly preys on the hopes and fears of singles, driving a knife through the scar tissue of years of unfulfilled hopes and wounded self-esteem.

There is an implicit message here as well: “We have organized a great program where all the successful people will meet their bashert. If you come and aren’t so fortunate, the problem must be with you. You must be a loser.”

Singles have been so degraded that the opportunity to meet matchmakers is presented as something to be excited about. How low we have sunk as a society, how powerless and feeble singles have become, when many singles are more excited to meet matchmakers than to meet one another.

This advertisement further promises “innovative and enjoyable speed dating.” Once again, we are not informed as to what will be innovative or enjoyable about forced small talk with random strangers in a tightly controlled setting – we must go and suffer the very real possibility of creative advertising to find out.

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A great human tragedy is taking place before our eyes, yet few can see it.

A singles event in Jerusalem, co-sponsored by no fewer than five groups or organizations, advertised the following:

“Ask yourself this question: Do you really want to get married? If the answer is NO, then carry on having a good time going to all those parties, Shabbat meals, lectures, supermarket aisles . If the answer is YES, then we’ll see you at the MEGA EVENT.”

Since creating EndTheMadness seven years ago I have received all manner of correspondence, and it should come as no surprise that for every gratifying e-mail I receive there are plenty more that are disturbing in one way or another. But what if I asked you to guess which e-mails disturb me the most, even momentarily shaking my optimism that there really is hope for our society?

I’ve long maintained that the large number of people having a difficult time getting and staying happily married is only a symptom of deeper problems in the community. Consequently, efforts to get more singles to go out on more dates will be largely unsuccessful unless the deeper problems are addressed. This thesis has been validated in recent years, as more attention to the “crisis” and various schemes to create shidduchim have yet to result in meaningful change or much cause for optimism.

Moshe was looking for employment (he wasn’t cut out to learn full-time), and was having a difficult time finding the right fit. Sometimes he went weeks without even landing an interview, and he rarely made it past the first round. People began to speculate that there was something wrong with Moshe, and his self-esteem took a blow every time he heard of someone else who found a job.

It’s all too common nowadays for people to defend the widespread method of shidduchim by pointing to the biblical story of Eliezer finding a wife for Yitzchak. Apparently the Torah mandates this method as proper, and therefore there is little else to discuss beyond perhaps fine-tuning the way singles are set up by shadchanim and further shielding them from outside influences and one another.

I find the Orthodox Jewish approach to problem-solving fascinating, in a dark sort of way. It consists of a series of steps that looks something like this:

“And you shall rejoice in your festival” says the pasuk at the end of Parshas Re’ei (16:14), and this is actually a mitzvah. I suspect this is not intended to be one of the more difficult mitzvot for us to fulfill, yet for many hard-working Jews the Yomim Tovim are far greater sources of stress than joy.

Nothing is more elusive than perfection, yet perfection is a notion that frequently surfaces in the realm of shidduchim. For example, singles are often told by people on the outermost fringes of their lives, “I know someone perfect for you.” How preposterous, how presumptuous! Yet singles permit themselves to be excited by this declaration so that they may be further disillusioned when the shidduch invariably turns out to be anything but perfect.

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