A shidduch database isn’t a new idea, nor are shadchan meets and weekend retreats for singles. What sets the “Rebbetzins” shidduch program apart is its pinpointed clientele and mentoring program.
The Rebbetzins, a project of Oorah (a kiruv organization), was initiated seven years ago when Oorah’s graduates reached the age of shidduchim. “We have a camp and other programs focused on children,” says Rabbi Yehuda Beyda, Director of the Rebbetzins, “and a lot of our children were growing up. We felt responsible to help them at this stage in their life. “Kiruv isn’t about distributing inspiring tapes and then leaving. We always take a whole person approach, giving our people assistance with whatever they need. At first, we focused on ‘redting’ shidduchim, but soon realized it wasn’t enough.
“Many people, especially ba‘alei teshuva, don’t have someone to guide them through the process; to research a proposed shidduch or talk over a date. So we made mentoring one of our primary goals. A person can get hundreds of names of prospective shidduchim, but without the proper guidance he’s liable to make mistakes.”
The directors of the Rebbetzins soon realized that their program was vital to a population outside of Oorah graduates as well. So, they opened it to all ba‘alei teshuva and to children of ba‘alei teshuva whose parents hadn’t necessarily navigated the shidduch system when they dated.
How It Works
“Let’s say a girl has questions about a shidduch; should she continue?” says Mrs. Raizelle Serebrowski, Assistant Director of the Rebbetzins. “She can talk it over with her mentor. The mentor listens and tries to help the girl reach a decision.”
“A girl recently signed up to our program. She went on a shidduch date and saw something in the boy that bothered her. She called her mentor and told her that she had some questions about the boy’s character. Together, they analyzed the problem, and then the mentor called the boy’s rav to ask specific questions.
“The mentor treated this girl like a daughter. She helped her as much as she could, but she didn’t make the decision. She presented the answers she got to the girl. She told me that she was so nervous she was chewing her nails, hoping that the girl would see the light. Thankfully, the girl decided that this boy wasn’t for her.”
The mentors are called “Rebbetzins,” though they’re not necessarily married to rabbis. Rebbetzin mentors are warm, outgoing, non-judgmental women with years of life experience. They represent the broad spectrum of the Orthodox world, from chassidish to modern-Orthodox, matching the range of affiliations of the singles in the program.
Though mentoring is a crucial goal of the Rebbetzins, the organization also focuses on shidduch suggestions. It’s database is the primary tool. Every boy and girl fills out basic information, like date of birth, parents’ names and height. They also provide three references. Then they write a self-description which serves as an accurate nutshell portrayal of the single’s interior world.
Sometimes shidduchim come about straightforwardly through the database. “Just yesterday,” says Mrs. Serebrowski, “two people applied to our program, a girl and a boy. I got the girl’s information first, and started to import it into the program. Then I started with the boy’s. ‘Oh my gosh,’ I said, ‘this boy and this girl are perfect for each other.’
“I had spoken to the girl’s rebbetzin a few minutes earlier, and she had praised the girl up and down. So, I called the rabbi the boy had listed as a reference, and he told me fabulous things about him. I called back the girl’s rebbetzin and told her I found a shidduch for the girl. I’m waiting to hear back about what happened.”