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February 28, 2015 / 9 Adar , 5775
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Anguish That Does Not Go Away: The Singles Problem (Part One)


Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis,

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter, one of many you surely receive each week about shidduchim. I hope to act as a representative of all the sad and lonely unmarried men and women in our society. I am hoping that if you share my message in whole or in part with our community, it will have an effect – even if it’s minute.

I am a typical 30-something female who attended typical Bais Yaakov-type schools, comes from a regular down-to-earth frum family, and has an ordinary job. I also have a master’s degree. Unfortunately, what I am missing is that I have not yet been blessed with finding my bashert.

Every day is very difficult for singles, but perhaps the most painful are the Yom Tovim – the holidays – especially Yom Kippur. We hope, we daven and we dream that Hashem will answer our prayers and bring us only good things for the coming year.

In order to make our dreams a reality, we unfortunately have to rely on those around us to make it happen – those who are close to us and those who are not. We network with anyone possible. I have e-mailed my personal information to so many people – an uncomfortable feeling in and of itself. More often than not, my calls are not returned and the e-mails are not answered. Occasionally someone will drop the name of an eligible guy, but then never do anything about it. Would it be so terrible to expect the person to take an additional step and make that call? The waiting is torture.

I feel that we, as a community, do not do nearly as much for shidduchim as we should. We all lead busy lives with many obligations, but how often do people put themselves out for others when it comes to shidduchim? And worse, how often do people commit to things and make promises and then proceed to forget about them? I have people who are close to me who’ve offered to help out with minor things like a follow up e-mail or phone call, and even with major projects like starting a shidduch group as a zechus for me, but it never happens.

We are about to celebrate Chanukah; life goes on and people are back to business as usual. I wonder how people can be so apathetic and never even give singles a thought. I often wonder why people commit to helping if they have no intention of doing so. Why do they give hope– only to dash it? We go to family simchas and are always labeled “the single relative.” We get through the Yom Tovim as “the single aunt.”

And there is an additional problem: insensitivity and hurtful remarks. This past Yom Kippur, during the rabbi’s speech right before Neilah, someone came over to me to ask that I send my shidduch information. She had thought of someone appropriate for me. Wow, I thought, G-d is acting fast.

But we are heading into winter now and I have yet to hear from that person. Couldn’t she have called or at least e-mailed me? She picked me up only to drop me like a hot potato. Additionally, she took my time away during the last moments of Yom Kippur when I could have been saying Tehillim. To what end?

Of course, you can always count on people to offer sage advice, saying things like “It’s time you got married.” And there will always be those in shul and at other events who will whisper to others, “She is such a rachmones. She must be in her thirties and still single.” Very often I stay at home on the holidays. It is just too painful to go to shul, though staying home is not a happy solution either.

On one such occasion, a neighbor’s married daughter knocked on my door to ask if I would watch her child at home while she went to shul with another of her children. I am not a teenaged babysitter. Is she that clueless? Did it ever occur to her that I would do anything to take my own child to shul? There have been many similar situations.

Are we not supposed to be rachmonim ub’nei rachmonim? Compassionate ones and the children of compassionate ones, sensitive to the suffering of others and careful of how we speak to them? Is it too much to ask for people to take a moment to make a phone call or send an e-mail?

Permit me to make some suggestions to your readers.

* It is admirable and noble to want to help with shidduchim, but be serious! Don’t drop names because you feel it shows you are doing something. Unless you have a concrete plan or serious information, don’t talk about it. If you do mention someone, follow up and get back to the single person. Don’t leave anyone hanging. Your life might not be dependent on it, but ours is!

* Don’t volunteer to do something or make calls or start a program unless you are serious and prepared to put in the work. Think through what you are offering before you actually offer it. Empty offers are painful.

* Spend time and network with everyone you know. It’s simpler than ever with e-mail and text messaging. You can’t imagine how many potential shidduchim can be made by asking people if they know someone suitable. Bring it up at a simcha or after davening in shul. Call relatives you don’t usually see, find a friend in an out of town community, etc.

* Think twice and three times before asking a single person to baby-sit. Your request is that much more painful precisely because that single person doesn’t have children. Also – and this is important – don’t imagine that because someone is not married, he or she has no life with nothing to do.

I am not naive enough to think the tide will turn thanks to this letter, but perhaps some people will take my words to heart. And if just one single is spared further pain, and just one reader makes a call for a shidduch connection, my taking the time to write will have been worthwhile.

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5 Responses to “Anguish That Does Not Go Away: The Singles Problem (Part One)”

  1. N. Wittlin says:

    Well said. This is true for the non-Orthodox and physically disabled as well.

  2. N. Wittlin says:

    Well said! It’s true for non-Orthodox and physically disabled as well.

  3. Ramona says:

    It’s downright offensive the way everyone assumes all singles are lonely and suffering. Some of us are not; in fact, we love being aunts and uncles and live very fulfilling lives. How do you think it feels to have people automatically assume we’re “unfortunate” or a “pity case” when that is so far from reality. My friends and I are in our 40s, and most of us don’t want to get married. We’re very happy and fulfilled with the lives we have. We celebrate holidays together. Our families don’t ask about marriage at every get together because they know our lives don’t revolve around being with another person. Many of us do community service, volunteering in hospitals, soup kitchens, food pantries, homeless shelters, etc. Marriage is not the be all and end all in life. Maybe if Jewish communities started being more accepting of lifestyle diversity, single people would feel more comfortable attending holiday services and talking about all the wonderful things we do have in our lives. As for babysitting, in this economy, many people are unemployed or underemployed and would be happy to look after someone else’s kids as a one-time job without ever feeling deprived because we’re not parents ourselves. Please, get with the 21st century.

  4. Eileen Pollock says:

    I am a single older woman, a maiden aunt with a multitude of darling grandnieces and nephews. I have a job in a stimulating environment that provides me with a lovely apartment, I am involved in numerous interests, lifelong learning projects, physical activities, and have recently lost 40 pounds through discipline and an exercise program. I think I’m lucky and am not in the slightest self pitying or expecting anyone to “help” me. In fact, I try to add joy to the children in my family’s lives, by visits, showing an interest, enjoying their fascinating little comments. I do not seek or evoke rachmanus. The views of the writer are foreign to me, because I enjoy every moment and look forward to the future. No one is obligated to me, I go to shul and listen carefully to the rav’s drasha, I attend interesting lectures. Why should I be a subject of an indifferent community? Why should people involve themselves in my life other than my closest family, and then at a comfortable distance. I’m not a loner, I enjoy intellectual stimulation from intelligent company. But that’s hard to find as most women are not intellectually stimulating company. Thus my lifelong learning program. I have a wonderful life, and I am grateful I did not choose the uninteresting young men who (seldom) were ret to me as shidduchim in my 20′s and 30′s. I am so glad that stage of life is over and my life is happy.

  5. Eileen Pollock says:

    I am a single older woman, a maiden aunt with a multitude of darling grandnieces and nephews. I have a job in a stimulating city that provides me with a lovely apartment, I am involved in numerous interests, lifelong learning projects, physical activities, and have recently lost 40 pounds through discipline and an exercise program. I think I’m lucky and am not in the slightest self pitying or expecting anyone to “help” me. In fact, I try to add joy to the children in my family’s lives, by visits, showing an interest, enjoying their fascinating little comments. I do not seek or evoke rachmanus. The views of the writer are foreign to me, because I enjoy every moment and look forward to the future. No one is obligated to me, I go to shul and listen carefully to the rav’s drasha, I attend interesting lectures. Why should I be a subject of an indifferent community? Why should people involve themselves in my life other than my closest family, and then at a comfortable distance. I’m not a loner, I enjoy intellectual stimulation from intelligent company. But that’s hard to find as most women are not intellectually stimulating company. Thus my lifelong learning program. I have a wonderful life, and I am grateful I did not choose the uninteresting young men who (seldom) were ret to me as shidduchim in my 20′s and 30′s. I am so glad that stage of life is over and my life is happy.

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