About 10 years ago, I went to Israel for a brief visit and met up with the Kuper family, old friends I hadn’t seen for many years.
As soon as they saw me, they pounced, as if I was an angel who had come to redeem them. “You’re a matchmaker! You know a lot of people! We hear that you’re good at it! Everyone is talking about you! We have a daughter who is 28. She goes out on dates, but hasn’t found the right one yet! It’s crazy out there!”
I had no choice – I had to help them; they were depending on me. There was only one problem: I didn’t know any eligible bachelors in Israel and I had only two days before my return flight to New York.
The grandparents charged into the living room while we were chatting. The grandmother was a jolly, but forceful sort of woman, she turned to me with a serious look on her face and gravely said, “You better find Rebecca a husband.” She grabbed my arm with her long, thin fingers – her grip was strong,” You’re going to find her a man, right?” The stare that she gave me was intimidating. I was too scared to say no. I couldn’t let the Kupers down.
She left with a look of relief, believing that she’d just shed a huge burden by passing it to me. She had patted me on my back and told me to enjoy myself; but I didn’t have time to enjoy myself. Two days to get the job done, or I would lose the respect of close friends. No pressure, right?
I had a 30-year-old second cousin, Daniel, who was still single. I was confident that Rebecca would be interested in him because he was a kind, smart, tall, Orthodox and handsome guy. I didn’t know if he’d feel the same way about Rebecca’s background, but I knew that I had to give the family something so that they wouldn’t kill me.
I asked Josh, a relative of mine – who never gets involved with these kinds of things – what he thought. “Tell me, should I set up Daniel and Rebecca?”
“Are you nuts?!” he bellowed. “That’s like setting up the land and the sky. She went into the army. He’s too conservative to go out with a woman who went to the army. He won’t agree.” (Almost all Israeli citizens are drafted into the military – men join for three years, women for two – but many Orthodox Jews are not required to serve, and it’s especially rare for Orthodox women to join.)
But what did Josh know? All of a sudden he was an expert on matchmaking? I started getting upset. “Men don’t understand how matchmaking works!” I told him, “Have you ever seen a successful male matchmaker?!”
But now he was teasing me, saying, “So you know everything?!” But his teasing made me even more determined. I remembered what it felt like when Rebecca’s grandmother seized my arm, and I decided that I was going to show them all how it’s done. Not long after, I picked up the phone and placed a very important call
“Hey Daniel, it’s Ziva Kramer. How’s it going?”
There was a long silence before he finally responded. “Ziva? Back from the dead? Where are you calling from?”
“I’m here in Israel for a short visit.”
“How long are you staying?”
“You call me two days before you’re flying out?!”
I decided to be straight with him. I didn’t have any more patience for polite chitchat. I took a deep breath and got down to business, “The truth is that I’m calling to ask you if you’re available for a date with a girl.”
For several long seconds, he didn’t say a word. The silence was finally broken by the sound of Daniel laughing uncontrollably. I’d made a fool out of myself, it seemed.
“Hello?!” I said interrupting his laughter, “What do you say?”
He didn’t answer my question. “So that’s why you called, eh?”
But I didn’t have time to play – I was on a mission, and I was going to accomplish it. “Yes!” I said, “That’s why I called! Are you free?”
“Yes,” he finally said.
“Great!” I said, “I have a great girl for you!” I started to pitch the girl, and when I was finished he said, “Listen, she sounds great, but I don’t think she’s for me.”
“But why?” I asked, unwilling to give up.
“She’s not for me. I won’t go out with a girl who went to the army.”
Josh was right. How did he know? But Daniel’s response meant that I couldn’t just give up, and give Josh the satisfaction of knowing that he was right and I was wrong.
“So what!” I told Daniel, “So did you!”
He explained himself further, but I stopped listening, because as he was speaking, I suddenly had a stroke of genius.
“Okay,” I said simply, “then find someone who will go out with her. You have friends ”
“What? I’ve never matched anyone up ”
“There’s a first time for everything.”
“But I don’t even know her!” he said, struggling like a fish caught on a hook – he just didn’t know that I already had him, that I had no intention of letting him go, or even giving him time to think. I kept hammering away at him.
“All right, all right,” he finally said. “I’ll try to find someone for her.”
I felt really good with this turn of events, because inside I had a sense that he wasn’t the right match for Rebecca.
“Sounds good, Daniel,” I said, before adding, “By the way, you have two hours to get back to me.” By now he was so tired from arguing with me that if I had told him he had two hours to bring me $1 million he would have agreed.
It took Daniel only an hour and half to call me back and say three magical words: “I found someone.”
I didn’t know Daniel’s guy, and Daniel didn’t know Rebecca, but I felt good that we had done as much as we could have under the circumstances.
When Daniel’s friend David went to pick Rebecca up for their date, I was settled into my airplane seat, heading back to the United States. I prayed to G-d, “I’ve done my part; now please do Yours.”
Four months later they got engaged, and three months after that, they got married. Today they have three adorable kids.
People always come to me and ask me, “How do you make all these matches? Do you have special powers? Strong intuition? How do you do it?”
I just tell them this story to show them that there is no formula for matchmaking because there is a Divine force at work. Then I just smile to them and say, “We can only try our best.”
Ziva Kramer is a dating coach and matchmaker living in New York City.