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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities

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Interview With A Shadchan – Part III
(See Chronicles of March 22 & 29)

The preceding two columns familiarized readers with the “mechanism” that drives the world of shidduchim in Chassidish mode. In her engagingly candid and perky style, R.B. has obliged us with articulate and to-the-point responses. This column concludes the series, which will have hopefully lent both the aspiring and seasoned shadchan some valuable insight and guidance.

Rachel: Have you ever experienced a tug-of-war situation, where the young ones are agreeable and their parents reluctant, or where the parents desire the shidduch and the young resist?

RB: It is more common for parents to want a particular shidduch and for the daughter or son to resist, since by the time the parents meet the boy/girl they have already gone through all the sifting (getting the most detailed information). Their rejection of a shidduch would occur much earlier in the process.

When I got married some 15 years ago, I knew when I went to b’show with my intended that it was more or less a done deal. My parents had done so much “digging” that I felt I almost knew him personally when we met for the first time. However, today’s generation doesn’t rely as heavily on parents and rejecting a shidduch has become more commonplace, even after a b’show. Kudos to the young of today for having a mind of their own — even if it does distress me, as a shadchan, to have to notify a party that the other side has declined the shidduch after coming so close…

We know that a shadchan must be compensated for his/her shlichos. Some shadchanim set a fee while others tactfully accept whatever their satisfied clientele will offer. Which group do you belong to?

There is no set compensation. The average standard amount I have received ranges from $1500 to $2000 per side. People of means, parents of a child who has issues, or those who yearned for a specific shidduch at any cost have paid much more generously, sometimes up to $10,000.

Is there a set dowry protocol set by Chassidic families?

No. Both sets of parents generally offer as much as they possibly can to help the young couple starting out. I have also dealt with cases where the girl’s well-to-do parents pined for a particular boy and would either offer an apartment or full support. I also had one instance where the boy was perfectly healthy but had a physical cosmetic issue and his family offered to pay the entire wedding, plus full support.

Have you ever dabbled in matchmaking outside of the Chassidic circle?

No, can’t say I have, simply because I have to know whom I’m dealing with – either personally or through mutual friends, neighbors, cousins, etc. – in order to be comfortable and confident to go to the other side.

And I suppose you’re kept busy enough in your corner of the world…

I would say so. After every shidduch I complete, I receive a barrage of calls from people (referred by the families I just worked with) who have a child/sister/cousin/friend in need of a shidduch.

What would you offer in the way of advice to a fellow shadchan?

Don’t give up! If your first try is nixed, consider revisiting the shidduch again in a few weeks. Don’t get frustrated if your first suggestion doesn’t “happen” instantly; patience pays off! And always be respectful of the parents you are dealing with. They raised their child for approximately twenty years, and you can be sure they want to see him or her under the chuppah. If one suggestion doesn’t work, try others. My most outrageous ideas are mostly the ones that end up happening (don’t ask me why).

To every woman out there: remember that you are not born a shadchan. My husband once pointed out to me where in a sefer it says that every person has a chiyuv (responsibility) to do two shidduchim in his or her lifetime. I never dreamed that I would be successful at this, but my effort paid off! The feeling of completing a shidduch is priceless (and more so when hearing of a baby born to the couple).

There is a tremendous need for shadchanim, and I do not refer to the prominently out-there ones known to charge an arm and a leg as “down payment.” I am talking about YOU; every person knows at least a few people in need of a shidduch.

What sage counsel do you have for the single entering the shidduch arena?

Be positive! Take all suggestions seriously, and never consider yourself “superior” to your peers.

Have you ever experienced the letdown of hearing of a couple you “put together” getting divorced or separated?

Although I know there are no guarantees in life, I have Baruch Hashem never experienced such disheartening news. Other of my fellow shadchanim have described their feelings in such circumstance as awful and nausea inducing — notwithstanding that the shadchan is hardly at fault. We Yiddishe mothers just love feeling guilty!

From your position and perspective, what would you say to The Jewish Press reader who cannot fathom the concept of ‘boy and girl meet two to three times before deciding to get married’?

The open-mouthed shocked reaction of non-Chassidic acquaintances and relatives is not new to me. Fact is that the effectiveness of our “dating” method has been substantiated over and over. Simply stated, it works. Two perfect strangers who meet less than a handful of times can live happily ever after.

For starters, the extensive “looking into” by both sides after a shidduch is redt will determine overall compatibility — such as the philosophies shared by the two families, both on a spiritual and cultural level. Inquiries of a more personal nature follow, revealing the individual’s general outlook in life, his/her physical attributes, personality and middos, etc.

Thereafter, the parents will personally interview the prospective shidduch (boy/girl) in a non-confrontational, casual manner.

By the time the young ones meet, it’s as if the two families already know one another. Some apprehensiveness on the part of the boy and girl about meeting for the first time is natural (much like when a boy picks up a girl for their first date); I assure them that this b’show is about “breaking the ice” and establishing that neither one is repelled by the other. The conversation is to be “easy” and the private encounter limited to a brief hour or so.

At the second b’show (provided the first goes well), the conversation gets more serious and lasts longer. At its conclusion, ninety percent of the time both parties are ready to drink a le’chaim. Chassidim are wary of shlepping a shidduch for longer than necessary, and each side is anxious to “seal the deal” if the second b’show goes well. (For the record, I have been involved in several shidduchim where the couple drank le’chaim after the FIRST b’show!)

Fact is you don’t know a person until you live with them, and statistics have shown the divorce rate among Chassidim to be lower than anywhere else. I attribute this mostly to the parents’ engaging in intense research before allowing the shidduch to get off the ground.

Just recently, after years of dating, my Modern Orthodox cousin’s lovely daughter became engaged. At the vort she confided to me how envious she is of the Chassidic shidduch system, in light of witnessing her Chassidic cousins’ happy marriages — entered into without the pain and heartbreak of endless dating and breakups.

May we all be zoche to find the life partners meant for us… Amen!

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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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