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April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
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Purim And The Tyranny Of Beauty: A Plea to Mothers of Girls in Shidduchim


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I know I’m going to be crucified, but if the appeal I make below helps even one girl in shidduchim, then it will be worth all the fury and outrage that shall inevitably descend upon my soon-to-be beleaguered head.

The other night, I was invited to a fascinating new shidduch initiative. Endorsed by leading rabbonim and spearheaded by a few righteous women valiantly trying to transcend the spiraling “shidduch crisis” in some small but meaningful way, the concept was to bring mothers of eligible young men together with young women looking for shidduchim (members of both groups were pre-screened and issued personal and discreet invitations by the organizers) in both a balabatish setting and a dignified way.

Everybody knows that the experiences of boys in shidduchim–in contradistinction to their female counterparts–is vastly different. This is the harsh truth: The mothers of “good boys” are bombarded with shidduch suggestions on a daily basis – a veritable barrage of resumes either flooding their fax machines or pouring out of their e-mail inboxes– while those with similarly “top” daughters sit with pinched faces anxiously waiting for the phone to ring. The disparity is bare, bold-faced and veritably heartbreaking: In the shidduchparsha,” boys are constantly being courted and pursued, while the best girls’ resumes barely elicit a modicum of interest.

As a friend recently told me: “When my nephew was 19 and started shidduchim, he went out with 19-year-old girls. When he turned 20, he still went out with 19-year-old girls. He kept getting older, but the shidduchim that he was “redt” continued to be 19-year-old girls. Now he is 24 and baruch Hashem just got engaged –to a 19-year old girl.” Sadly, women do not have this same recourse.

To rectify this inequity, a few concerned mothers brain stormed together and concluded that “shidduch resumes” (which never even existed as a concept when I was dating 35 years ago) fail to accurately capture the essence of the person being “summed up” and often–especially in the case of the girls– get lost in the shuffle. One organizer told me: “The boys’ mothers barely give the girls’ resumes a passing glance–they are so overwhelmed by the sheer numbers coming their way–and it becomes a daunting task to sift through them. And the resumes themselves are severely limiting. Can you really get a genuine sense of who the girl is from the resume? What does it tell you about her personality, her character, her intellect, her neshoma? It is demeaning to reduce a girl to a few sentences.”

The rationale underlying the new shidduch initiative was this: If eligible girls would be given personal and meaningful “face time” with prospective mother-in-laws, they would be able to present their qualities far more efficaciously than a cold and lifeless curriculum vitae.

Now for my full disclosure: I am the mother (baruch Hashem) of a great boy. He is continuously sought out, “in perpetual demand” (kinehora). I should be grateful that in shidduchim, he “wields the upper hand.” But as a woman who identifies with and feels great compassion for the throngs of girls in a parallel universe who are not being chased, I feel a little sad each time the fax machine cranks out yet another resume for my son. I know full well that there are fantastic girls out there who are his equals–perhaps even his superiors–who are NOT receiving comparable treatment. They are neither being hounded nor pursued half as vigorously as he, and they are denied the latitude of choices that he receives every day. I ache for their mothers who repeatedly call the shadchanim who never call back, but are visibly more responsive if you are the mother of a boy. Inwardly, I rail against the unfairness of it all (although the shadchanim are completely innocent of any wrongdoing, whatsoever; it is the system that is at fault– not they—the stark realities of supply and demand). Thinking of the mothers who do not have the privilege to wade through as many resumes as me, I try consciously not to revel in the continuous stream that cascade over my desk. I know how fortunate my son is, and I feel for those who aren’t.

So, when one of the extraordinary women who organized this event invited me to participate, I was actually reluctant to attend. Quite simply, there was no need. But because I like and respect this woman so much, and wanted to validate her efforts, I RSVP’d “Yes.”

“How are you going to work this?” I asked. “How are you going to ensure that all the girls get equal time? Are they not going to feel degraded? Is this process not going to end up even more demeaning than a resume?”

The organizer assured me that there would be facilitators on site who would introduce each girl to every mother. The facilitator would escort the mother to the tables where the girls sat, and be hyper-vigilant that no girl gets bypassed. I wondered how many girls would feel comfortable with this arrangement and actually show up, but as I said before, I wanted to support my acquaintance’s endeavor with my physical presence, so I went.

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851 Responses to “Purim And The Tyranny Of Beauty: A Plea to Mothers of Girls in Shidduchim”

  1. Rosey Yachnes Jacob says:

    I just read this in the JP….I agree with u 100 percent, why is it the girls have to change everything and the boys get what ever pick they want. I understand wear makeup on a date and all put please get bypass, get a mole removed plz we are just spoiling our men even more then ever, can't they learn to accept the girls flaws and the girls must learn to accept the men's flaws.

  2. Rachel Schreiber Levitan says:

    Why are you even reading this stuff?

  3. Esther Elle says:

    WOW. I stopped right here: Mothers this is my plea to you: There is no reason in today’s day and age with the panoply of cosmetic and surgical procedures available, why any girl can’t be transformed into a swan. Borrow the money if you have to; it’s an investment in your daughter’s future, her life." Really? Plastic surgery? It was going badly enough until this point but wow. I am so, so happy that this is the message this author chose to send and I hope and pray no daughter of mine will ever have a woman like this as a mother in law! I know the author has no respect for herself but just try for your sex and your people- a nose job, really? Also way to miss the message of Purim – I'm pretty sure one big beauty pageant wasn't supposed to inspire you but show you how shallow and degrading to women Achashverosh was.It is people like this author that continue to sexualize girls from the youngest of ages – how is this any different from the "immodesty" of the west the community is constantly condemning? And the author's obsession with looks is no different from White Supremacist viewpoint that has made blacks chemically straighten their hair and bleaching their skin in the '50s. Maybe we should teach our daughters that there is more to life than this twisted sexism of the Orthodox community, i.e. marrying by 19, have a kid a year, support your husband so he can 'learn' (AKA talk abt. bra sizes and smoke) but while you're raising kids and managing a house singlehandedly you also have to work to support the family but you can't go to college b/c then you may think for yourself so you have to support a large family on a low paying job that you'll probably enjoy anyway b/c by this time you're too exhausted or brainwashed to care. Wow. SHALL WE INSTEAD BEGIN TO SHOW OUR DAUGHTERS THAT THEIR WORTH IS NOT DEPENDENT ON THIER LOOKS – which by the by- is according to a white and western world standard so good job there with your "purism". Dear author, The damage you've inflicted on your son is bad enough, I pray you don't have daughters to damage. So author, this is my plea to you- stop sexualizing and harming young women, have a little self esteem that is not dependent on beauty b/c Gd knows your outward beauty is all you've got and that is all due to your plastic surgeon. Maybe exercise your mind and enter the 21st century, it's great! Women can vote now and everything! Or is this particular American value is beneath you?

  4. Nora Rachlin Viskin says:

    Better question Rachel, why did I also feel the need to read it??? If it made Becca angry..it certainly wasn't going to go well for me…

  5. Sidra Shapiro Boshes says:

    Oy vey! There wouldn't be a "shidduch crisis" without the mentality of the author. Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  6. Jada Brown says:

    Clearly I'm not Jewish but Rebecca after reading the article , I have to agree with you whole heartedly

  7. Aliza Novogroder Fischman says:

    I also think part of the problem is that resumes are part of this at all. These women aren't applying for jobs, they are looking for life partners, husbands, fathers of their future children. Do you think you can see a person's middot, sense of humor, or deepest thoughts on a resume? On the flip side, do you think if the guy is chas v'shalom, inclined to be abusive that such a thing could be figured out by reading a resume?

  8. Firstly, I would like to know how the Author gleans this lesson from the story of Purim. Since I was a child I learned that Esther became the salvation of the Jewish without wearing an iota of makeup or getting dressed up. So, I am just wondering how she twisted the beautiful miracle to fit her twisted agenda. Secondly, I find it absolutely demeaning the way she objectifies woman. Is a woman only a nose, a set of teeth a smaller waist size to you? I hope this is not the lessons she is passing along to her "most eligible" son before marriage. What's more shocking, she is a woman! Yes, there is something called attraction but more often than not it is something that can't be explained, something beyond physical looks. Lastly, while she thinks she is reforming the system, she is in fact perpetuating it on a whole new level (suggesting surgery… really?) I hope that she and her son find what they are looking for.

  9. Andrew Lillien says:

    Aliza Novogroder Fischman Of course not. But a resume is helpful when you have a minimal criteria that needs to be met. Frankly, some people do not want to "go out and socialize". So they have to rely on shadchanim. Do you trust a shadchan to know a person well enough? Of course not, so you put yourself into a resume. That resume is great for talking about minimal criteria such as hashkafa and life goals. I agree the system flawed, but nothing is going to be perfect.

  10. Aviva Klein Rosenberg says:

    When you write a sequel to this article, begging boys to exercise, get some sun, visit a hair salon (not a barber!), buy properly-fitting clothes, and get nose jobs or hair plugs as needed, I might consider encouraging girls to dress up more.

  11. Aliza Novogroder Fischman says:

    This article made me sick.

  12. Aliza Novogroder Fischman says:

    This article made me sick. Your reply, however, was great.

  13. Laura Lee says:

    I've noticed the push for extreme modesty for little girls, to such excess that the girls are punished with violence for not meeting the requirements, which appear to be just short of putting the little ones in a burka. All this under the guise of making sure the little girls don't tempt the boys, right? Does this mean that little boys are no longer responsible for their own temptations?

  14. Blima Weill says:

    no words

  15. Yael Barzideh Braid says:

    Dear Author,

    When you set out to write this article, you knew you'd be steamrolled by your readers — and that is exactly what you've earned. It's unfortunately, because there are kernels of truth embedded in some of your sentences, but sadly, your exaggeratory and alarmist approach, along with the extremes that you are proposing women take to improve their appearances, will breed anger and not agreement. You've written an article that will NOT accomplish what you set out to accomplish.

    The kernels you should have focused on?
    It's important to feel good about oneself — REGARDLESS OF YOUR GENDER.
    It's important to look after your health, eat well, and be active for fitness-sake — REGARDLESS OF GENDER.
    It's important to have a healthy self-image, carry yourself with confidence, because even if you're faltering at some point, carrying yourself with the belief that you are good and can achieve great things is important — REGARDLESS OF GENDER.

    What you don't focus on is that looks is NOT everything and that obsession with the external can set up both our SONS and DAUGHTERS for failure. After all, you wouldn't want your daughter (if you have one) to be so obsessive with her looks that she became anorexic, shallow, spent too much time preening and not enough time developing herself as a human being. Same goes for your precious son who is , as you say, so sought after. Do you really want him to be focusing on his dates' and future wife's looks THAT much? Looks are fading and external my dear — think TWICE ABOUT THE MESSAGE YOU ARE SENDING TO YOUR SON.

    Lastly, as others have pointed out, your call for surgery is mind-boggling and appalling. A perfectly healthy 17-year old girl in my husband's community died this past year because of anesthesia complications during her nose-job surgery. Are you aware of the dangers?

    I wish you'd de-post this article and put in its place an intelligent piece about the role of self-confidence in dating. I wish that you would focus on more than the external, and that your suggestions were practical and moderate. I wish that article were not targetted at any one gender, and most definitely not at the mothers of that gender. People "in shidduchim" are young adults with minds of their own. Please recognize that, respect that, and encourage that in your own community.

    Thank you.

  16. Leah G. Goodman If I can "like" your post 1000x I would. Perfect!

  17. Lynn – I agree if the woman has a cleft palate or a mole or a birthmark. If she just has a wide or long nose… sorry. I don't think we should encourage everyone to get the miami nose.

  18. Batya White-Novogroder says:

    I felt the same way as you regarding the purim lesson. I've always learned about how natural Esther was when approaching Achashveirosh & how she did as LITTLE as possible to attract the king's attention but nonetheless she, modest Esther was chosen out of all the other girls in the harem who were busy beautifying themselves for the king!
    I also feel that this whole article is SO detrimental for the shidduch crisis & will in NO WAY serve to ameliorate the situation, if anything, her suggestions will ONLY exacerbate it!!
    & I for one, would stay far away from the author & her 'very eligible' son b/c I would not want my eligible daughter to be a part of a family with such a superficial MIL who is mostly concerned with my daughter's physical appearance!! What a RIDICULOUS & detrimental article this was. All it will do will be to help encourage more eating disorders in the frum community as though we don't have enough!!!!

  19. Raquel Amram says:

    Wow. I'm in shock. I totally agree, as my mother often says, that every woman is beautiful, she just doesn't know how to use what she has. But to make the objective for a girl to get married, is so sad. I have often remarked how girls think that the goal is marriage and they forget everything else that comes after that. I have heard mothers say, "Don't say anything till after you are married." Really? Let's trick your future husband? The objective is to find your best friend, the person that you are going to share olam haze and olam haba with. I am, for a lack of better word, appalled that you are encouraging plastic surgery because at least, she will be married. We live in a society and world where the outside, unfortunately, has become more important than the inside. Outside beauty is ephemeral. Though there are health reasons to get plastic surgery, I believe that getting plastic surgery is like telling Hashem that He made a mistake. He did not make you as pretty as He SHOULD have made you. Again, I agree that girls/women should look their best, lose weight, put make up and carry themselves like the princesses that they are. But to say that the "crisis" (I'm uncomfortable with that word) would be solved if all the girls subjected themselves to plastic surgery and the unfortunate pressure from the outside world to look a certain way…it saddens me. I'm sorry. Purim does not, at all, encourage this. On the contrary, Purim is about showing your inner self and not hiding behind the materialistic world that we have sadly accepted as real/emes…

  20. Bravo, Yael. Perfectly put.

  21. Batya White-Novogroder Eating disorders and suggesting unnecessary surgeries. Lap band, rhinoplasty, dental implants aside from the exorbitant amount of money, these procedures come with real risks! I can't begin to fathom what she was thinking, if at all, as she was writing this article.

  22. Batya White-Novogroder says:


  23. Rivkah T. Nemoy Miller says:

    Wow, just lost so much respect for the author as a person. on my first date with Yehuda I had hair that needed washed, and wore a frayed sweatshirt. He was wearing a grungy t-shirt. I think we ended up ok- married about 4 months later.

  24. S Sima Horowitz says:

    great comment. that article was appalling.

  25. L'via Weisinger says:

    I just spoke to my Babi, emosh, and told her about this article. My Babi, now 91 knayna hara, was at the Satmar rebbetzins' side in the camps, on the Kastner transport and in Switzerland. She was extremely close to them and was with them all the time during those horrific years and stayed close with them till their deaths in america. She never heard of a toothless woman. She and the rebbetzin went to the kitchen themselves and got their own potatoes. Whoever was there working in the kitchen at the time gave them their stuff. She finds it extremely hard to believe this "well-known" story, having been at their sides like white on rice all those years. Either way, even if it happened, to use it to make this horrific point that imperfect girls should get nose-jobs is outrageous. I just raised my Babi's fragile blood pressure and I feel terrible!

  26. Sarah Bronson says:

    Ladies and gentleman, the slippery slope is over: It is not enough to come from a good family, use white tablecloths on Shabbat, and have a perfect history of grades starting in kindergarten. It is not even enough to be thin, and wear makeup, and have your hair straightened professionally. My friends, we have reached the point that an essay in a major Jewish newspaper is encouraging elective cosmetic surgery, including both nose jobs and gastric bypass (the latter of which is EXTREMELY dangerous AND has a low success rate) in order to get married. Yes, my friends, it is better to CUT OUT PARTS OF YOUR BODY than to be single, and if you don't elect surgery, you can't blame boys (or more accurately their mothers) for bypassing you (pun intended).

  27. Malka Hizkiya says:

    Apalling and ridiculous

  28. Purim torah? Or just my wishful thinking…

  29. Tom Dratler says:

    “…would kollel guys want a wife who is a plastic barbie?”

    Apparently, quite a few. :(

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