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Purim And The Tyranny Of Beauty: A Plea to Mothers of Girls in Shidduchim


Mandlebaum-031612

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. Dan Freundel says:

    Not just the article, but the organization that published it.

  2. H Rosen says:

    Yonatan, this story is a complete fabrication. The Satmar Rav ate only potatoes that he acquired himself from the kitchen. There was no danger. Someone above commented on this as well.

  3. Dan, very well said! If you are R’ Barry Freundel’s son, my how you’ve grown. It’s been years since I’ve lived in DC!

  4. Jere Finer says:

    I've heard of 2 questions among boys (yes, "learners") looking for shidduchim. A) is she a size "2" and B) what is her cup size. Yup, their depth is astounding. So forget resumes and just trot out the well endowed skinny girls. With exception made, of course, for the rich girls. With the way the shidduch types tend to separate themselves from the rest of the Jewish people, it seems as if in this area they are no different than guys who look to hook up in bars.

  5. Azi Graber says:

    This is repulsive and hopefully when the drugs leave your system you will be severally embarrassed about what you've written here.

    Additionally, the low life women who arranged that deranged event should be ashamed of themselves for reducing young women to have to submit themselves to be treated in this manner.

    I'd prefer my daughter hang out in bars and have loads of premarital sex than have to be a part of this perverse system.

  6. Lynn says:

    To Leah,
    All plastic surgery carries a risk of unsatisfactory results, on top of the risk of illness or death. Plastic surgery usually does not have a high mortality rate but anything can happen. No one should even contemplate plastic surgery to please others if they themselves are happy with the way that Hashem created them. If, however, a person does feel very self-conscious or depressed about the shape of their nose to the point where their quality of life is reduced, they should see a plastic surgeon, get the facts, and then present them to their rav. A person should not take unnecessary risks to their health without asking a rav.

  7. Suzanne Somosi says:

    I remember reading a story by Thomas Hardy the 19th Century British writer, about a naive young man who fell in love with and married a beautiful young woman. When they got home she removed her hair extensions and the different paddings she used to enhance her appearance and he was so horrified that he ran for the hills. This kind of reminds me of the 40 year old in your story who snagged a husband because she had an edge over other women even though “nothing about her was real”. Does this mean that she can never remove her lenses will need further botox injections etc.

    Also I am under the impression that Halacha requires either partner to disclose any physical defects they might have. Now this doesn’t mean that wearing a little make up if you are so inclined is wrong. And of course there is no excuse for either men or women not be nat and well groomed.

  8. where are the comments.

  9. Chayim Goldberg says:

    This article is horrible. As a 27 year old member of what you seem to describe as the privileged gender, male, I can tell you that most guys don't appreciate the efforts put into make up, nose jobs, etc. Quite honestly, most single men I know, myself included, couldn't care less about whether a girl put make up on, the size of her nose, or any of these other meaningless things. While anyone going on a date, man or woman, should make an effort to look presentable, this author typifies the type the attitude that perpetuates the shidduch crisis: "Only a supermodel is worthy of my amazing son." In quoting the story of Megillat Esther, the author seems to forget the most important part: Achashveirosh chose Esther, not the other girls, despite all their efforts. The author would probably have said that Esther was unworthy of her son because she didn't put in all that effort to beautify herself. Shame on the author and best of luck to all the women out there who understand that dating someone who will only be interested in you if you put on make up isn't worth your time. "Sheker hachein v'hevel hayofi. Isha yirat Hashem he tithalal."

  10. Stefanie Strauss Small says:

    I gotta tell you – as a matchmaker on SYAS, I want to shake some of the members. They KNOW they are being judged (rightly or wrongly) on the photos they put up there and so many of them are really HORRIBLE. And I yell at the computer WHY WOULD YOU PUT THAT ONE THERE? I have been blunt with my members and told some of them to change their pictures. But other matchmakers don't. And the people who don't put up pics? Don't get as many dates, that's for sure. So while the article is to a severe extreme, no one should kid themselves that yes, put on some damn lipstick and comb your frickin' hair. Your profile means nothing if you don't at least try. /end rant.

  11. Esther Elle says:

    So apparently the paper is deleting people's comments, like my own and this one will most likely be deleted as well. Way to go Jewish Press! Stomp on freedom of expression because you disagree with someone else's outlook! That's real journalism!

  12. Stefanie Strauss Small says:

    (Accidentally deleted the post when I wanted to add – will attempt to write it again). As a SYAS matchmaker, I wonder what goes through people's minds when they post their pictures. Like it or not, people are judging you on how you look. And people will decide based on your picture whether they even want to see the rest of your profile. There are HORRIBLE pictures posted – truly horrendous. And while I am very blunt with my members about their pics and whether they should change them (and anyone who knows me is not surprised to hear that), most matchmakers don't and they do their members a disservice by not telling them that. And people who don't post pictures get fewer matches than those members who do. So yes, guys and gals, comb your hair, put on some lipstick, glam yourself up, and post a picture if you're serious about it all. And for the record, while many of the guys on the site decline matches due to "not my physical look" and are super picky, many of the women on the site are just as guilty. The article takes it to a sickening extreme by recommending surgery. But overall, the idea is right. We're all judge books by their covers. So make your cover nicer to stand out.

  13. Yosef Scott says:

    btw Esther but only the basics that we're forced upon her.

  14. Michal Schick says:

    If the frequent expunging of comments is intentional on the part of the Jewish Press, may I respectfully suggest that they desist; it is an insult to your readers. If this paper stands by this article and its author, let them defend it; if not, apologize to those of us who have been hurt by these words, but act like a grown-up newspaper and let the readers have our say.

  15. Yosef Scott says:

    Wow did this article make me cringe.

  16. Yosef Scott says:

    Los many comments not enough room but here goes

  17. Sara Adina Baker says:

    Amen!

  18. What a repulsive article, at least the author was embarrassed enough to be defensive. I ask her, what if the girls is pretty and still…oh, I can't be bothered.

  19. Yosef Scott says:

    First impressions are important ppl. But you will have to wake up every morning and see that woman sleeping in the bed with all her disheveled hair an no makeup. Will she still be buetiful then? Beauty and attraction come from true love, which is a product of devotion, self-sacrifice, and constantly giving. Make is a wonderful thing but it hides the true person. How about after she is pregnant and is not the same body as before. Or if she suffers some type of cosmetic injury ? Does the love built up go away. This article is ridiculous in its very premise.

  20. I think speed-dating is ridiculous, but if there must be speed-dating, why on earth are the mothers speed-dating these girls and not the young men themselves? You are perpetuating a system of superficiality which requires girls to market themselves as products. You are not representing the interests of the girls; you are representing the interests of the young men which you admit are shallow at best and asking the girls to meet them on their level. You are also doing men a disservice by insisting that all they care about is manicures and makeup. I do not know any men who rejected a girl for not wearing lipstick. However, if you insist that you are helping create marriages by asking these girls to improve their appearance by going as far as plastic surgery, don't you think the girls are entitled to the same consideration from the men? Have you also told the young men in question to hit the gym, get a new suit, see a dermatologist, and get that unibrow waxed? If not, why? Shouldn't young men make as much effort as you expect from the women? I forgot; women are either so desperate or so spiritual that they do not concern themselves with such things.

  21. Shoshanna Sanders says:

    Dear Ms. Halberstam,
    You claim that you “truly want to help”, but your actions suggest anything but being helpful. If you are so concerned about the stress for the girls who go through this process, WHY DID YOU AGREE TO GO TO THIS EVENT and needlessly subject them to this demeaning and judgemental interview? You knew going into it that your son had more shidduchim being offered him then he could handle and that his interests made him inappropriate for these girls. Yet you put them under the microscope, cross-examined them, and then ridiculed them in this article, when your presence offered them no possibility of helping them find a shidduch. As you state, you did it only to show your your loyalty to your friend. Do you really have these young women’s best interests at heart? Couldn’t you have just told her, “I think that’s a fine idea, but no thanks, I don’t need it?” Furthermore, you “helpfully” recommend surgical procedures that carry a risk of medical complications including death. How many healthy young women have to die on the operating table before you are finished being “helpful”? Finally, as a mother of boys, I ask you to please speak only for yourself when you claim that we won’t hesitate to ask, “Is she pretty”? Some of us are encouraging our sons to look at women as people, not Barbie dolls.

  22. Yosef Scott says:

    I am pissed so I am going to go on. I was mentored in a great way of find my soul mate. It actually was list of things that I was looking for on my dates. 1. Do I enjoy spending time with her?/do I feel comfortable around her and secure? 2. Are you on the page hashkafickly.

  23. Mitch Hoberman says:

    So worried about girls because their resumes reduce them to a few sentences that don't portray whole picture…yet so quick to shift the blame to them based on quick judgements based on appearance? This article is an embarrassment.

  24. Yosef Scott says:

    /can you communicate feelings, ideas, and concerns like adults. 3. Is she attractive? This list is in a specific order. Stop me now or I can go on forever

  25. Yosef Scott says:

    This article riles me up.

  26. Chayim Goldberg says:

    Yosef Scott Great points. Lets hope our vision of real beauty spreads throughout the Jewish community and puts a stop to this nonsense. RTF!

  27. Aqibha Y. Weisinger Etc says:

    "I mulled, one way of looking at the story of Purim (and there are so many different prisms through which it can be viewed) is to see it as the narrative of the tyranny of beauty ruling every society in which Man (and woman) has ever lived. Vashti incurred Ahachshverosh’s wrath because he wished to parade her beauty and she refused (bad skin day). The women of the kingdom who vied for the Queen’s throne were given twelve months to prepare for the beauty pageant – why hadn’t some of the girls at the shidduch event taken a mere half hour?"….Yes, there are so many different prisms, and sh'ivah panim l'torah, but that is #71.

    Esther, 2:12-15 יב וּבְהַגִּיעַ תֹּר נַעֲרָה וְנַעֲרָה לָבוֹא אֶל-הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ, מִקֵּץ הֱיוֹת לָהּ כְּדָת הַנָּשִׁים שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר חֹדֶשׁ–כִּי כֵּן יִמְלְאוּ, יְמֵי מְרוּקֵיהֶן: שִׁשָּׁה חֳדָשִׁים, בְּשֶׁמֶן הַמֹּר, וְשִׁשָּׁה חֳדָשִׁים בַּבְּשָׂמִים, וּבְתַמְרוּקֵי הַנָּשִׁים. יג וּבָזֶה, הַנַּעֲרָה בָּאָה אֶל-הַמֶּלֶךְ–אֵת כָּל-אֲשֶׁר תֹּאמַר יִנָּתֵן לָהּ, לָבוֹא עִמָּהּ, מִבֵּית הַנָּשִׁים, עַד-בֵּית הַמֶּלֶךְ. יד בָּעֶרֶב הִיא בָאָה, וּבַבֹּקֶר הִיא שָׁבָה אֶל-בֵּית הַנָּשִׁים שֵׁנִי, אֶל-יַד שַׁעַשְׁגַז סְרִיס הַמֶּלֶךְ, שֹׁמֵר הַפִּילַגְשִׁים: לֹא-תָבוֹא עוֹד אֶל-הַמֶּלֶךְ, כִּי אִם-חָפֵץ בָּהּ הַמֶּלֶךְ וְנִקְרְאָה בְשֵׁם. טו וּבְהַגִּיעַ תֹּר-אֶסְתֵּר בַּת-אֲבִיחַיִל דֹּד מָרְדֳּכַי אֲשֶׁר לָקַח-לוֹ לְבַת לָבוֹא אֶל-הַמֶּלֶךְ, לֹא בִקְשָׁה דָּבָר–כִּי אִם אֶת-אֲשֶׁר יֹאמַר הֵגַי סְרִיס-הַמֶּלֶךְ, שֹׁמֵר הַנָּשִׁים; וַתְּהִי אֶסְתֵּר נֹשֵׂאת חֵן, בְּעֵינֵי כָּל-רֹאֶיהָ.

    P'shat is, as opposed to the other girls who required (probably comically) long periods of beautification before going to the king, Esther did not require anything except that which was mandated by Hagai, yet found favor in the eyes of all who saw her. The message is exactly the opposite of her article. Esther is one of those girls who didn't even take a mere half hour. As for your assertion that Vashti didn't want to come out because of a "bad hair day", I see it nowhere in the text. Saying that there are many ways to approach a text does not validate a reading which perverts its plain meaning.

    Furthermore, elective surgery is actually a big halachic question, and is not clear cut whether it is permissible. See this link: http://www.koltorah.org/ravj/14-18%20Cosmetic%20Surgery%20-%20A%20Review%20of%20Four%20Classic%20Teshuvot%202.htm.

    As for the idea as a whole, yes there is a value in trying to look good as a practical issue, similar to someone wearing a suit to an interview. However, the way it came out was, to put it bluntly, absurd. Take this paragraph: "Recently, an acquaintance of mine reported the happy news that her first cousin had become a kallah for the first time at the tender age of forty. “She wowed her chasan with her beauty,” she said. “That’s what gave her an edge over the other women her age.” Then she paused. “Let’s see…she had a nose job….gastric bypass …botox injections….her teeth were capped…..and she wears violet-blue contact lenses…There’s practically nothing about her that’s real!” she laughed. “But…guess what? She’s getting married next month!”".
    That paragraph is horrifying. Simply horrifying. That someone has to go through that many medical procedures simply to get married is an indictment of our community. Beauty is not nothing. There is no imperative for someone to marry someone they aren't attracted to. But to transform it into the be-all and end-all is actually dangerous. Is it going to take a girl literally starving herself to death in an attempt to lose enough weight to be acceptable to wake people up to the dangers of this? This article is dangerous, simply put. Someone can die because of this article, from starvation, from surgery complications…..how would you feel if you caused that? When we put beauty on a higher pedestal than being a real person….its a dangerous place to go. So, I'm not against people trying to look good. But this goes way, way, way too far.
    And one more thing, if your expectation of males is that they will be shallow and pigheaded, then yes, they will act that way. But why don't we train men to think a little deeper, be finer individuals. You say you have a son of marriageable age. Have you brought him up to have the assumption that beauty is but skin deep? From your story, it seems not. Perhaps instead of blaming girls for not beautifying themselves to please your son, you should look in the mirror, past your own skin, and think about what's inside.

  28. Can someone please confirm that this article is Purim shtick?

  29. Maybe this article is actually a cleverly written satire, meant to help the shallow men in our community see their ridiculousness in wanting nothing less than a super model.

  30. Dena Krinsky says:

    on the one hand, a person should look presentable on a date. However, this is taking it to the extreme- just a tad! WoW!

  31. I can only hope that this was intended as Purim Torah. I agree that a modicum of attention to makeup and looking nice is important, but that's not why me nor any of my friends had trouble finding the right girl. As I've said 100 times, the fact that there are more men than women isn't something that is fixable by talking about the "Crisis."

  32. Esther Elle says:

    Dena Krinsky – check out my comment below this one- that was the one i wrote that they deleted. classy guys

  33. Eli Friedman says:

    Lol, and now I'm reading the comments and dying of laughter, It would seem no one else shares my positive view on the article. Yes, it's not the nicest thought, but people want to date attractive people. If I go out with people, (I mean anyone, Friends, family, whenever I go out.) I make sure I'm shaved and showered and looking presentable. If the ladies feel like it's superficial to do the same, they can continue to complain all by themeselves.

  34. Goldie Cohen says:

    I got to the second page and couldn't continue. Just went from bad to worse to wtf is wrong with ppl?!?! Bothered me so much that ill just have to stick with no comment

  35. Dena Krinsky says:

    Esther Elle where is it? can't find it :( Also, please find me one Rav that would approve of elective cosmetic surgery to find a husband? There will always be a RISK with surgery!

  36. Eli Friedman says:

    Lol, it seemed like you could be bothered enough to post a stupid passive aggressive comment.

  37. Tzivia Berow says:

    Why title this article "The Tyranny of Beauty" and then go on to advocate to mothers to work to perpetuate it? As a young woman seeking my bashert who does NOT fit the "ideal" shidduch mold, I naturally take steps to put my best face (and body, and mind) forward when going out on dates. But anyone who knows me well will tell you that I am quite cynical about the amount of artifice that has to go into preparing for dates. First impressions are important, and by all means make efforts to improve them, but nose jobs, Botox and weight-loss surgery? How have we gotten to the point that people think these are reasonable steps and justifiable expenses in pursuit of a husband? Too many lines have been crossed. Everyone talks the talk that truly happy marriages are not based on looks, but the frum community as a whole needs to start walking the walk as well.

  38. As I read this, this is exactly what I thought.

  39. You are 100% right!!!! The boys never get a choice about half the girls that are suggested because the MOTHER didnt think she was pretty enough, thin enough..smart enough…mothers need to remember that what THEY think is pretty may not be what their son thinks is pretty. I was a size 14-16 when I went out with my now husband. I had been told my shadchonim that I shouldnt expect many dates because lets face it, I am not a skinny min. But 5 weeks after meeting my husband we were engaged, and today, 9 years and 3 babies later I am unfortunately a bit larger, at a size 16-18 and my husband thinks Im prettier than the day he met me, and loves my curves!!!! His mother couldnt care less, whatever he liked was fine. They didnt ask what size I was or what color tablecloth we used. Mothers need to lower their standards and give some "imperfect" girls a chance, not suggest to their mothers that they get gastric bypass and nose jobs.

  40. Esther Elle says:

    Dena Krinsky – they deleted it on here but it is on my fb wall

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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.

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