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Interview With A Shadchan (Part II)

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Last week we became acquainted with a young wife and mom who described how she “stumbled” upon her matchmaking odyssey when she thought of a female cousin as a viable match for her neighbor’s brother whom she met in a casual setting during one summer season in the mountains. Ever since, R.B. has being going at it with verve and determination. While she admits that being a “people’s person” by nature works to her advantage, she is quick to concede that mazel plays a crucial role in the shidduch process.

Rachel: Just before we left off in last week’s column, we ascertained that you generally do not meet with boy/girl beforehand and go mainly by the information you gather, as well as family compatibility. Don’t you ever feel the need to gauge “looks” compatibility between boy/girl?

RB: Parents usually get a good idea about looks when they do their own asking around, but if a girl/boy is especially good-looking I will hear it myself when I do my preliminaries. For the most part, it’s the parents who obtain such information and they also get to see the boy/girl unofficially[i] before going into the shidduch seriously.

What have you personally found to be the most challenging aspect of the matchmaking process?

The most challenging for me so far is when a shidduch seems close to happening and I have to inform one side that the other party declined. It gets even worse when one party decides to back out after the boy and girl have already had a b’show.[ii]

I recall one incident where the girl had gotten all dressed up in anticipation of a l’chaim and the boy’s parents called me to say that they had decided not to proceed. My heart ached when I had to make that call.

How often do you find yourself frustrated … and which part of your work would you describe as most exasperating?

Frustration is part of being a shadchan and sets in for the most part when parents give you a runaround without saying yes or no or do not answer phones or return calls. Some people foolishly seem to think that it is below their dignity to call a shadchan back…

What is the average duration of time that elapses from the first call to successful conclusion? Do you recall a match concluded in record time … and how long was that?

The average length of time is two weeks. The steps taken: Initial inquiry; viewing boy/girl in a casual setting; both sets of parents individually meeting with and speaking to boy/girl; and finally boy and girl sitting down to one to three b’shows. Record time was five days, very recently. As both families knew each other well and the girl’s brothers happened to know the boy, the “inquiring” period was skipped and official steps were taken right away.

What was the longest span of time from start to finish?

The longest was nine months! I call it my pregnancy shidduch!! The girl’s parents felt she was too young but liked what they heard about the boy and his family, and the process ended up dragging on for nine long months!!!

You mentioned encountering shadchanim with “fat notebooks, computerized lists, index boxes, etc.” early on in the game. Do you have a system in place by now, with files on hand containing résumés of singles, or do you work in random fashion as they come?

I had started to use an alphabetized index card system, which I found to be a huge pain. Since I live in a 2-story house, I found myself constantly running up or down in search of that precious box. I haven’t used it in years and instead have a very messy system of writing info on large stick-on notes that are all over the place. Baruch Hashem my memory serves me very well… but I am usually focused on one shidduch at a time.

Who would you say is the more difficult side to work with (the boy’s or girl’s family)? Do you find there to be a difference in cooperation and/or compromise between the parents of males and those of females?

I find both sides to be equally challenging. But there is always one side that is more willing to move forward and another side that needs to be nudged. No difference in gender. Generally speaking, a boy’s side is more anxious to do a shidduch, while a girl’s side is much more relaxed and willing to see what else is “out there.”

In your experience so far, what has been the most outlandish criterion ever set by a party prior to agreeing to a match?

The most outlandish by far was a father of a girl who asked the boy to adhere to their family’s tradition of not eating red meat, and it was non-negotiable. This was after the boy and girl had already met twice. Needless to say, the shidduch was off. But other unrealistic expectations include relocating, wearing the same headgear as the other side, demanding support and apartments, etc.

Your work in shadchanus seems to revolve around local residents (you mentioned being familiar with most of the people you encounter). Notwithstanding that “local” can feasibly encompass residents numbering in the thousands, shidduchim with out-of-towners – sometimes from as far away as across the ocean – is not a rarity. How often have you found yourself involved in such a circumstance?

I once did a shidduch overseas, but that involved a cousin of mine who lives in Vienna. Economical calling cards for long distance communication are easy to come by, but I spent many a sleepless night juggling the time difference. I remember being exhausted to the bone when that shidduch was done. Recently, I was involved in a shidduch with a Canadian on one side. All I can say is that trying to set up a meeting place that would suitably accommodate both parties was a real challenge! But I do stick to local for the most part.

Do you mean to say that if a chassidish family from overseas desiring to do an American shidduch would contact you, you’d be reluctant to take it on?

I would definitely have to be up for the challenge.


[i] Before parents of the boy formally meet the girl and her parents, and vice-versa, an unofficial convenient-for-both-sides setup is arranged, where the parents of either side can get a bird’s eye view of girl / boy — as at a wedding or in a supermarket. This is to rule out an “it’s-not-happening.”

 

[ii] The boy and girl meeting for a formal sit-in is usually an indicator of a prospective shidduch heading in a positive direction — for at that point, compatibility in every other way has already been assessed.

 

Conclusion in next week’s column…

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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