Sunday, June 19, 2005

On “shidduch” dating: Whatever happened to “getting to know you?”

Since we celebrated our 28th wedding anniversary only a week ago (see my June 12 post, "Anniversary Waltz," at http://onthefringe_jewishblog.blogspot.com/2005/06/anniversary-waltz.html#comments), I thought I'd share some thoughts on the subject of dating and marriage in the Jewish community.

I find the trend toward “matchmaking” in the right-wing Orthodox community, as opposed to meeting in less formal and pressured circumstances, downright distressing. As I mentioned in my anniversary post, my husband and I met in synagogue. I’ve always joked that we married each other because we got tired of commuting to each other’s apartments to stuff envelopes for synagogue mailings. J The Punster and I actually knew each other for about a year and a half before we started dating. We helped organize and attended Shabbat (Sabbath) dinners in the synagogue, and served on half a dozen committees together, helping to organize Chanukah parties, Purim schpiels, Tikkunei Lel Shavuot, Tisha B’Av services, and congregant-run services during the rabbi’s and cantor’s summer vacations. We went folk dancing together, and I can’t, for the life of me, tell you when our dance sessions turned into dates. We knew each other as human beings long before we started considering each other as possible future marriage partners.

In a “shidduch” (matchmaking) approach, the prospective bride and groom may not meet each other on more than six occasions before becoming engaged. They may date for only two or three months. I’ve read tales of “shidduch dates” in which each party runs down a long “laundry list” of qualifications for marriage, as if the date were a job interview. How much of her hair will she cover after we’re married? Does he wear a hat or a kippah (yarmulkeh, skullcap)?

It’s true that, when it comes to marriage, all bets are off. Some couples end up divorcing even after a “trial marriage” of living together before the wedding. Others fall in love at first sight and stay that way—one former fellow congregant fell in love with his wife on their first day, another couple fell in love the day they met, and yet a third got engaged so quickly after meeting that her father quipped that he knew they weren’t getting married because she was pregnant because they hadn’t even been dating long enough to know that! Still, the thought of “marriage by the numbers,” of dating with a checklist, disturbs me.

Where are the opportunities, in the right-wing Orthodox community, for people to get to know one another as people before they have to decide to get to “know” one another in the Biblical sense? What's wrong with innocent get-togethers? Whatever happened to shidduchim made at another couple’s wedding—what’s the point of separate seating at a wedding, of all occasions? Is there separate seating in the sukkah, too? Do co-ed Chanukah parties and/or Purim parties take place at all among the yeshivish, chareidi, and/or chassidisheh communities? Is there no way to meet that doesn’t involve a shadchan (matchmaker)? Why is everyone so surprised that there’s a crisis in the right-wing Orthodox community concerning the relatively large number of people who are still single at ages at which most Orthodox Jews are expected to be married, hopefully with children? How are people supposed to get married when there are so few opportunities for them to meet?

14 Comments:

Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

I'm pretty sure they don't have any male-female socializing whatsoever. And any that does go on is frowned upon.

Mon Jun 20, 11:53:00 AM 2005  
Blogger tuesdaywishes said...

You are right that the shidduch crisis has occurred at the same time as a decrease in co-ed socializing in the Yeshiva world. I met my husband on a shidduch date, and there are some advantages to the system. You already know that the guy/girl facing you is availiable and looking for marriage. You can get out of it after one or two dates with no hard feelings or residual relationship. You can ask almost anything about family, religious background, previous relationships, even fairly personal stuff.

At its best, the shidduch system add clearer eyes and heads than most young people have, and takes away some of the randomness of the search for a mate. At its worst... I don't even want to think about it.

Mon Jun 20, 10:03:00 PM 2005  
Blogger BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

Mazel Tov on your wedding anniversary!

We just celebrated 25 on Wednesday.

My husband and I have been talking about arranged marriages lately, and whether they are within the best interests of our children. We are both Jews, but neither of us attend shul regularly. We keep Shabbath, and follow most of the major holidays. The issue of arranged marraiges came up when we were thinking about the plight of our children, and who they would marry. Marriage is a relationship between a couple as well as families, and who knows a child better than his/her parents. When I say arranged, I do not mean meet and marry because the parents say so, but maybe create introductions and choices for our children.

Mon Jun 20, 10:12:00 PM 2005  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

steg, it's a pity that even the most innocent co-ed activities are viewed in such a negative light.

Well, tuesdaywishes, to be honest, I hadn't considered the possibility that the shidduch system might have its advantages. Thanks for pointing them out. It certainly is handy to know, up front, that the person you're dating is interested in marriage. Still, I think the disadvantages are that it puts a lot more pressure on people to make decisions, preferably quickly, and leaves less time for people to get to know one another as human beings. If you never *do* anything together *other* than date, you know one another only as woman and man. I think that I had a much better sense of the Punster's character because I had seen him so often in other contexts.

barbara, welcome to my blog! I'm under the impression that shidduch (arranged) marriages are largely a phenomenon of the right-wing Orthodox community, so I'm not quite sure whether that would be an option for you. My personal advice is to encourage your children to pursue their own interests. That's how I met my own husband--we were both big synagogue-goers, and it was in synagogue that we met. We participated in shul activities *not* because we were looking for marriage partners but because we were interested in the activities. And it was precisely *because* we turned out to be interested in many of the same activities that we ended up married.

Tue Jun 21, 10:10:00 PM 2005  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Yikes! How could I forget? Barbara, thanks for your good wishes, and congratulations to you and your husband, on your 25th anniversary. May you celebrate many more.

Tue Jun 21, 10:25:00 PM 2005  
Blogger BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

Shira,

Thank you for your kind words, and the great information you posted on my blog about good Jewish websites. It is as if a whole new world has opened up for me, and I thank you for extending your hand with the welcome invitation.

I'll be back.
All best,
bfc

Wed Jun 22, 01:52:00 PM 2005  
Blogger Soferet said...

BS"D
Mazal tov on your 28th, Shira & your 25th, Barbara!

When I was in a Charedi yeshivah, the Powers That Be there kept pushing me to go on shidduchim. Their given reason was, "You're not getting any younger, you know", but the actual reason was they hoped a sensible boy in a black hat could discourage me from learning sofrut.
Well, I learned it, met my wonderful husband, got engaged 3 weeks later & now we're looking forward to our first anniversary, im yirtzeh HaShem, kena hora & all that :)

I think if people would just let G@d make the matches, things would work out just perfectly...

Wed Jun 22, 06:33:00 PM 2005  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Barbara, I'm happy that I was able to provide some semblance of a "road map." :) Enjoy!

Soferet, glad you joined the conversation. I agree that pressuring someone to get married doesn't help. With or without help (or nagging), either it will happen or it won't.

Thu Jun 23, 01:16:00 AM 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Fri Feb 09, 06:33:00 AM 2007  
Blogger marcel said...

hello
write to great personnalities!
i post your letter on jewisheritage.fr
shalom
marcel

Sun Oct 07, 11:53:00 AM 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I dont know if anyone is reading this anymore but I haev this to say... Before a person is ready for marriage, any relationship is likely to be a purely physical one. The reason is simple; neither party is prepared for a commitment. So what if a person is prepared to be married, what is the best way to find ones spouse?

You meet a guy/girl in a bar:
Why did the two of you connect?
Because you were attracted to each other.
Do you have anything in common?
Yes, we like the same TV shows, we listen to the same music, etc. (we identify with the same projected images).

Here we have a prime candidate for divorce. They could get lucky and form a serious relationship, but the chances are slim. What we have here is a "relationship" forming between two projected images that may not have anything real in common (they may not even be of the same religion), other then sharing the same forms of self gratification. I like to feel good, you like to feel good, let's feel good together.

The way that shidduch dating works, is that you decide what type of person you are looking for. You tell a matchmaker what type of philosophy you have on life, what type of lifestyle you wish to lead, what your primary values are in life, and the like. Then you are matched with someone who meets as many of those categories as possible. The two people already have their life goals in common, their whole outlook on life and lifestyle are identical. All that is left to determine is chemistry. On the date, they are forced to talk, since no physical contact is permitted. They will try to get to know each other in a relationship that is not focused on self-gratification and projected images. Is it guaranteed? Of course not. But, compare the chances of this couple, whom already have everything going for them, to the two lovebirds in the pub. Who has a better chance at a serious relationship?

Mon Oct 15, 01:56:00 PM 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just to add... Its true that it is possible to meet in a shul and its your "bashert", but this way is even more guaranteed that you wont be falling for someone emotionally before it makes sense intellectually (Marriage is after all as much practical as it is emotional, love wears off)

Mon Oct 15, 01:58:00 PM 2007  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Anon., shidduch dating works for some people, but not for others. True, one knows that the other person is serious about marriage. Still, for me, personally, shidduch dating is like reading a person's resume rather than actually working with them on a job. It seems to me that there's a limit to how well one can get to know a person just through talking. As the old cliche goes, actions speak louder than words. You think helping the synagogue is important? Good. Let 's work together on a committee and I'll find out just how committed to helping the synagogue you really are.

Mon Oct 15, 10:53:00 PM 2007  
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Tue Mar 10, 06:30:00 PM 2009  

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