Latest update: July 9th, 2012
A new shidduch initiative has created an ear-deafening buzz in frum communities across North America and beyond. How it works and what it requires from its clients has been the hot topic of discussion at dinner tables, in shul, online chat rooms, at Simchas – just about everywhere two or more heimishe Jews have congregated.
Called the NASI Project, it has generated a storm of opinion as to its merits, its integrity and its potential in solving what has been universally viewed as a shidduch crisis. Basically, it has been presented as a possible “cure” to the growing “epidemic” of unmarried frum women who are in their mid twenties and beyond. From what I have gleaned, its success in resolving the issue of older single women (22+) is based on the premise that if shadchanim have a greater financial incentive to set up these girls; if they receive monetary compensation that takes into consideration the more “strenuous” effort they must make in getting dates for these “over the hill” women, then they will be more motivated to take on these challenging cases, instead of focusing on the younger, more in demand “just back from seminary” girls. To that end, older girls will be charged a considerably higher rate than their younger counterparts for shidduchim. Hence it would cost thousands of dollars more for example, for a 29-year-old female to be set up than for a 20-year-old – since getting a date for the former is considered much more time and labor intensive.
There has been an avalanche of opinions as to the merit, effectiveness and affordability of this project; like every idea or system, there are pros and cons to what its designers have come up with and people will perceive it either as a solution to a vexing problem or something to avoid. The purpose of this column is not to lambaste the idea or praise it – everyone needs to examine it for themselves and come to their own conclusion.
However, one fact of life that the project brings to the fore, and that no one in the yeshivish/modern Orthodox community can dispute – is that with each passing year, the number of never married girls over the age of 25 is escalating, and there is much palpable despair, hopelessness, distress, resentment and anger besetting this population and their families.
We are taught that all Jews are responsible for each other – that we have a moral obligation to help one another. If we see someone floundering, it is incumbent on all in a position to do so to extend a helping hand, be it financially, emotionally or spiritually.
To this end, I feel that every adult in the community needs to get involved to prevent what to some degree should be viewed as an existential threat to our community’s viability – the huge numbers of singles who may never build batei ne’eman b’Yisrael, nor launch future generations. We cannot afford to have a reduced birthrate due to women staying unmarried well into their child-bearing years. The Jewish people lost too many millions to a deranged but tragically efficient Nazi genocide. We must replenish what we lost to the best of our ability. Each unmarried daughter of Israel represents a lost opportunity to do so.
At the end of the day, Hashem determines every outcome. Some women and men may never marry and create families. But we must make the effort to help them do so.
And we do so by becoming, to the best of our abilities – shadchanim – (matchmakers)!
A daunting idea since there are no shadchan schools where we can get a PhS (a Doctor of Shidduchim) – so how do we go about doing so?
We can learn a lesson from the mandate of homeland security to Americans everywhere – keep your eyes and ears open, and share what you feel is noteworthy with those who can act on your information.
In terms of shidduchim, every heimishe individual should keep their eyes open, and if they become aware of someone unmarried in their shul, at college, at a shiur, etc., talk to your friends and relatives and neighbors, and see if you can find someone to set him/her up with.
In a previous column, I pointed out my strong belief that an effective way to make shidduchim was for young couples to invite their single friends to a Shabbat meal and have them start to get to know each other via casual schmoozing at the table. The husband could invite three of his friends, the wife three of hers, as well as two married couples. In this non-pressured, not in the spot light environment “Reuven, Shimon and Levy” and “Sara, Rifka and Rachel” could participate in the flow of the conversation and get to know one another, a critical first step that could lead to a date and a marriage. Even if none of the singles “clicked,” Reuven could walk away convinced that his shy cousin Yanki would really hit it off with a talkative girl like Sara. Likewise, Rifka who is looking for a long time learner, might think Shimon, the lawyer who loves hiking, is too modern for her, but would be perfect for her dentist cousin, Hila, the cross country skier.
For those who might not be comfortable with having both genders seated at the table, they could instead invite a group of the husband’s single friends, along with a married couple or two for a meal. The following week would be the girls’ turn. The hosting couple and the married couples who met both the boys and girls could compare notes and make shidduch suggestions.
But why limit these “getting to know you” events to young couples? Married people of all ages can, and should, make the effort to get to know the unmarried men and women in their communities and share their awareness of these individuals with others. In today’s world of instant communication via e-mail, text messaging and Skype, people can describe the singles they spoke to at their Shabbat table, and ask their siblings, friends and married children in other cities and communities if they have any potential matches.
A great majority of these suggestions will not pan out, and the two individuals set up will go their separate ways – but at the end of the day, it does not have to have been for naught. When a couple on a date realize they are not right for each other, they have a great opportunity, since they got to know each other a little better, to set each other up with someone else. Meeting a new person for a few hours does not have to end up being a waste of your time or money; it can be someone else’s yeshua. I have heard of many matches made that way – when someone on a date that did not work out was thoughtful enough to set the person up with a friend they felt was more their type.
Many singles complain that they get emotionally burnt out from dating over and over again with no happy outcome. Perhaps seeing the experience as a way to help someone else get married can add a positive dimension to it.
Married or single, everyone can be a shadchan. All you have to do is care.
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