My oldest daughter recently celebrated her nineteenth birthday, and I’m just now getting used to the idea that my husband and I are heading into a new parsha in our lives: Getting ready to find a shidduch for our daughter. So it wasn’t any wonder that the topic came up when I ran into an old friend at shul the other day.
I hadn’t seen this woman or her family since our children were very young. Over thirteen years ago, we had lived in the same apartment building and had been very close friends. However, once we each moved, we slowly drifted apart, partly because we had each moved to different cities. This past Shabbos, she had come to my city to visit with family, and as we hugged and reminisced, the topic wove its way towards our children. She recently married off one of her sons and mentioned she has another son who was twenty-four and looking to get married. I took her hint beautifully as I laughed and brought up my daughter. From the curious glint in her eye I could tell she was interested.
The first thing she eagerly asked was if my daughter had attended seminary in Israel after high school. I replied innocently and honestly that no, in fact she had not—and before I could clarify anything after that as far as reasons etc. I was quickly, and rudely interrupted.
“Oy, never mind!” said my disappointed friend as she waved off the idea of my daughter as if shooing away an annoying fly. “We aren’t looking at any girls unless she’s had the Israel experience.”
With a frozen smile plastered on my face, I remained quiet while half listening to her go on about her wonderful son. Inside my mind swirled with an avalanche of thoughts. I’d heard about stories like this from my friends who have married off children, or were trying to. Some of the questions asked by shaddchanim could be quite mind blowing. Just a week before I’d heard a story of a girl who lost a shidduch because it was found out that the family had occasionally used paper plates on Shabbos. Perhaps I live in some dream world, but what I had hoped this friend would have asked first was, “What is your daughter like?” Perhaps followed up by questions about her middos, her yiddishkeit, what sort of chesed she does, and her thoughts on how she feels about raising a Jewish Torah family! If she cooks? Cleans? Anything substantial besides just one question on an Israel Seminary, or lack thereof. And if that is so very important, why not offer me the chance to explain why my daughter didn’t attend?
Later as I walked home quietly contemplating my experience, I surmised that I wasn’t so much upset about this particular woman refusing to even consider my daughter for a potential match for her son. It went deeper than that. This woman represented the very real obstacle our Torah-observant society faces right now in regard to shidduchim. No matter how many times the rabbonim come out and warn against snap judgments and lofty ideals that focus on the insubstantial superficial issues, verses the down to earth realistic characteristics that make meaningful matches, I’m afraid this won’t be the first time I, or my children, will be faced with these opinions. I know I am not alone in my thinking, that there are others that are just as frustrated with this state of affairs going on with shidduchim. However, unfortunately, it will take a lot more like-minded people to start standing up to this narrow-minded way of thinking before any change starts to trickle down and take effect.
In the mean time, I plan to support my children in remaining hopeful that we will IY”H successfully find them all their bashert. It’s sad that this woman I spoke with will most likely never know what a lovely girl my daughter truly is. She will never know the depth of my daughters compassion, her generous loving heart, her endless love for doing chesed or a million other things that make her a true Bas Yisroel worthy of being any woman’s daughter in-law and mother to grandchildren!