In response to recent Yated letters about out of town girls in shidduchim, I feel that there are many who agree about the maalos of out of town but are deterred from going out there due to the astronomical costs of plane tickets and out of town car rentals. Obviously, if it’s the right one, it’s worth any cost. Many times, however, if the girl comes in first for two or three dates and then both sides are still unsure and decide to continue, it’s the boys turn to travel. If in the end it doesn’t work out, you’re left with a bill of possibly $400-$900. If this happens a few of times, a boy will likely make it a rule to only date within driving distance.
If anybody wants to assist the girls of a specific out of town city, making a program that sponsors, at least partially, the cost of travel will encourage boys to date girls from that city. This, I believe, will be much more effective than offering monetary incentives for shadchanim to give precedence to girls of a specific locale.
What are the feelings of the panelists?
There are a few angles I would like to touch on in addressing your question, as it truly is a multi-faceted issue.
Firstly, I am troubled by the hanacha that it is the young woman who is traveling for the first few dates, with no concern for their side shouldering the costs if things don’t work out. The only consideration mentioned, is the difficulty for the bachur’s family with their “astronomical travel bill” for subsequent dates. If the only consideration regarding who should travel is money, there is no reason why the costs can’t be split in some manner by both sides. I am also troubled by the referencing of travel costs as a bill. The costs of dating, whatever they may be and whomever may be paying for them, are part of the hishtadlus of dating. The same way that time and energy are a portion of hishtadlus, so is the expenditure of money. Furthermore, I believe that, b’emes, the expense of travel should be shouldered by the young man’s family.
Chazal tell us that derech ha’ish leilech achar ha’isha, it is the way of the man to pursue and find a wife. It is the responsibility of the young man to seek out a wife, regarding time, energy, and also money. If the only options were; for young men to travel, for young women to travel, or for neither of them to travel and for no dates take place at all, there would be no question – the young men would be obligated to travel.
It also must be stated how difficult it can be for a young woman to travel for a date. It can take a significant toll on a young woman’s self-esteem and sense of self-worth to feel that she is not worth the trip to date her. A feeling that I do not believe, for the most part, that young men experience. There is no shame for a bachur to travel for a date, because the derech HaTorah asks him to do so.
On the other hand, in many cases, the bachur has been presented with the profiles of many young women whom he is being recommended to date, from shadchanim, friends and family alike. Given that all these young women are being redd by word of mouth, along with a sheet of paper with a small bio, it is quite impossible for any young man to know which, if any, of the young women he is being recommended to date, will, in fact, be his zivug.
In reviewing the profiles of the young women being redd to him, invariably, some will be right nearby or perhaps a drive of an hour, others will be a three to five-hour drive, and yet others will require a trip by airplane. The travel is expensive and exhausting, and it can affect his ability to get back to learning in-between dates. Not to mention, that so many of the young women in shidduchim, and their parents, clearly state that they want a bachur who is truly and wholly dedicated to his learning.
Many times, the most reasonable decision is for a bachur to start by dating the young women who are closest to him. Not out of disregard towards those living farther away, or with any intent to belittle them, simply because he has to start somewhere, and when there is nothing striking about any one idea over all of the others, sometimes it makes the most sense to start with whomever is nearest. In such a case, a bachur might request that a young woman who is from out-of-town be the one to travel if they want to date immediately. If not, he may return to this idea later on, should nothing closer work out.
This does not mean that every bachur can, or should, insist on the young woman traveling, since he has other local shidduchim being redd to him. Nor does this mean that every young woman must travel for a date, no matter what, when a bachur asks that she travel for a date. It is a very tough call, and each side presents a very fair and reasonable point of view.
Every single must decide what they are comfortable with in order to increase their opportunities in the shidduch world. Every single must also evaluate all of their opportunities, and given the “cost” of each opportunity, each single must then decide which ones sound the best and what needs to be done to take advantage of them.
Secondly, it is important to note, that there are programs in place, in many different cities, that either offer free rental cars for bachurim to travel for dates, or offer free plane tickets for the young man or woman to fly in and out for dates. Many such programs certainly exist and, b’ezras Hashem, will continue to grow and be misayeyah in being moishav yechidim biysah.
However, to say that relying solely on such programs would negate the need to support shadchanim in working for the singles of specific locales, is simply incorrect. I strongly believe, given the challenges presented by our present shidduch system, that both of these programs are crucial, and they need to continue as two different, yet very complimentary endeavors. Each program accomplishes a different goal; the shadchanim serving to get the dates off the ground, and the travel programs serving to help shadchanim increase dating opportunities and get more “yeses”.
B’ezras Hashem Yisborach, all of the endeavors of those working to increase the opportunities for the B’nos Yisroel will be met with remarkable hatzlacha.