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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities

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Dear Rachel,

As a longtime reader of your column, I don’t recall you ever addressing the problem of a single with my perspective. I am nearly thirty and fear that I’ve missed my zivug. I ask those who would be quick to accuse me of being picky, choosy and too fussy to first listen to what I have to say and then to carefully consider what they’d have done in my shoes.

Ten to twelve years ago I was a desirable shidduch prospect but was forced to put my aspirations and shadchanim on hold at the insistence of my parents who were most adamant about not letting me marry before my older sibling. She was two and a half years my senior and hadn’t yet found her bashert.

One year led to another, and I watched helplessly as my friends got engaged and my dreams flitted away.

A bit of background: My family is chassidish where the commonly held belief is that skipping over a child would leave him or her stigmatized and the impression of being “damaged goods” would then hinder the future chance (of the one skipped over) to land a shidduch. I must add that not all families where I’m from are equally prudish and stuck in their ways; there are instances where younger has gotten married before older, but they are far and few between. For the most part, much importance is placed on marrying off children according to chronological age.

A couple of years ago, tired of being viewed as a pity case and finding myself isolated as my friends had long since married and were raising families of their own, I decided to leave home. Since I had a decent paying job I was capable of supporting myself. I moved to another borough, expanded my horizons and my education, made new friends and began to lean somewhat towards modern orthodoxy.

At the same time I kept up with my family and to this day visit frequently, many times for Shabbosim. I must admit I often find myself wishing things had worked out differently. Had my parents not intervened in the way things were progressing for me way back, I know that today I’d be playing the role of a contented house frau busying myself with raising my children and living a typical chassidish lifestyle.

Don’t get me wrong — it’s not like I don’t go out or that people don’t fix me up, although with each passing year the pool of singles for my age bracket shrinks substantially. The mix of my background and current persona also complicates finding that someone I would feel comfortable with, or for that matter would be comfortable with me. And of course the older I get the harder it becomes to get a decent date.

With all of the changes I’ve made in my life, at the core of my being I am very lonely. That inner sense of belonging eludes me; I miss the chassidish environment and so far find that nothing for me matches the warmth that permeates the chassidish home.

I am not asking for advice, nor do I expect you to have any for me. I know full well that it is up to me to choose my direction and the kind of life I want to lead. The reason I am writing to you is because I know that The Jewish Press has many readers in the chassidish community and I am hoping my letter will talk to their hearts. While I am the type who appreciates old-time values, I strongly feel that some of that old shtetl mentality desperately needs to be rethought.

To parents who face the dilemma of listening to shidduchim for a younger child who has an older sibling still waiting in the wings: Please consider the ramifications of your stubborn refusal to be open-minded. If something comes along that sounds too good to pass up, think twice before you do for you may be pushing away the younger’s rightful zivug and may end up with more than one unmarried child to contend with in your golden years.

Thank you, Rachel, for letting me get this off my chest.

Missed the boat

Dear Missed,

First things first: since you’ve stepped out of your chassidish environment, you ought to be aware that reaching the age of thirty is hardly the end of the world. In fact, many young ladies today settle down right around that age and go on to raise beautiful families. To boot, their maturity plays to their advantage in that they can better manage the day-to-day stresses and responsibilities of married life than their younger counterparts.

That said, you would do wise to settle on the path you want to take in life. Your frequent visits home and your partiality for chassidism speak volumes, but you seem a bit confused and may want to consult a therapist to help you organize your mind and sort things out.

As for the pool of available shidduchim, rest assured that there are other singles of your background out there who have circumvented their community’s established protocol of marrying at an early age. Everybody knows somebody… by letting some of your old friends and family members in on your preference, you can enlist their assistance in helping you meet your intended.

Though you make a point of saying you are not asking for advice, I take the liberty of throwing out another suggestion (which may be of benefit to other readers as well): Try to keep an open mind where “once married” men are concerned. Some wonderful currently singles who erred in their choice (or more likely their parents’ choice, if Chassidic) the first time around would make great mates given a second chance to prove themselves.

Thanks for conveying a potent message in a powerful way. Perhaps we can hear from parents who experienced marrying off children out of age sequence.

About the Author: We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.


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