Editor’s Note: Rebbetzin Jungreis, a”h, is no longer with us in a physical sense, but her message is eternal and The Jewish Press continues to present the columns that for more than half a century have inspired countless readers around the world.
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Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis,
I know this may be a tired subject as there have been countless discussions and articles about it, but still there is no clarification. My daughter is studying in a seminary in Yerushalayim. She’ll be coming home in a few months and then of course we’ll be involved with shidduchim. She is my first child to reach this stage and, frankly, I’m worried.
Baruch Hashem, we have six children and this daughter is first in line. My second one is only two years younger and I do not want to see them dating at the same time. Nor do I wish to hold back the younger one if my older one is still single.
There are other concerns. Both my husband and I were raised in secular homes. We found Torah in our college years and embraced it. Our children were all born when we were already committed to Torah. We sent them to the finest yeshivas, and while they knew their grandparents were not observant, they never associated that with their own lives.
But suddenly their grandparents’ lack of observance has become an issue. I’ve discovered that in the shidduchim world it’s not just parents who are researched but the entire family – grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, etc.
My daughter is a lovely girl. She’s always smiling. She’s always helpful and considerate. In high school she volunteered for bikur cholim, visiting the sick in hospitals and homes, and she helped out mothers of children with special needs. While in Israel she has continued to do chesed projects, helping needy families and mothers overwhelmed with the challenge of managing everyday chores.
So who would not want to marry such a girl? Well, when I spoke with shadchanim I had a rude awakening. I was told that because of her parents’ secular background, many families would dismiss my daughter as a serious shidduch candidate. How do I overcome this? How do my husband and I convince people that despite our secular upbringing our daughter is meticulous in her observance of Torah?
I have other fears. Many of my friends who married off their children are living with terrible pain. Those children are now divorced despite all the pre-marriage research. My friends are hurting, not only for their children but also for their grandchildren.
I know that nowadays people tend to be blasé about divorce. They shrug their shoulders and say, “No big deal; many people get divorced.” But to me it’s a very big deal. Children need one home, not two. Children need one mother and one father. Nor should children be exposed to the resentment that divorced parents may feel for one another. Children need to feel loved and to see their parents bond. No amount of rationalization can convince me otherwise.
Please do not think I am condemning those who are divorced or are considering divorce. I understand their suffering and empathize with them. But these are my fears and if, G-d forbid, this would happen to my daughter or grandchildren I don’t know how I’d bear it.
And there is another problem. We are not people of means. To be sure, we are not poor; thank G-d we can meet our debts and other obligations. But our daughter has told us her priority is marrying a ben Torah who will learn for several years before concentrating on supporting his family.
We told her that as idealistic as that may sound, she’s choosing a very difficult path. Unfortunately, we simply we don’t have the money to help. She choked up and said she’s not expecting anything from us. She will go to work and it will all be OK.
She was unequivocal about this and when I questioned her further she just said, “Hashem will help.” While we are proud of her determination and willingness to sacrifice, we have seen too many starry-eyed girls take the same route only to realize just how hard it is to manage on a daily basis. As they struggle with their household bills their shalom bayis is jeopardized.
I need your guidance, Rebbetzin. Tell me how to avoid the pitfalls. Tell me how to do my research and find the very best young man. What exactly should I ask when I do my inquiries? What is it that I want to know that will give me a greater insight into his character?
I am in a real quandary and my husband is equally lost. Any guidance you can offer us would be truly appreciated.
(To be continued)