I used to be a frequent reader of this column, but I rarely read it anymore. I am not a big fan of it. I am surprised by the absurdity of many questions and I don’t appreciate many of the responses.
Be that as it may, I wish to propose an idea: The bottom line is that there is a shidduch crisis out there. The situation is out of control. I wish to suggest putting this Shidduch Forum to good use by profiling, say, five girls and five boys from a variety of ages and backgrounds in the paper each week. The Yated can then be used as a useful and informative means of matching people up. Pictures of the singles are obviously not a good idea, and it also will probably make sense to keep the profiles somewhat anonymous, but perhaps highlighting certain singles each week would help give them the exposure they need.
This is just a suggestion. And of course, proper guidelines would have to be set.
What do you think of this idea?
Though I can readily acknowledge what was quite imaginably a feeling of catharsis achieved via the opener to this question, it is also only fair to make note of the rich irony and tincture of superciliousness in requesting advice and validation from a given medium immediately after one has been so transparently dismissive of the entire enterprise.
Presentation notwithstanding, any attempt at a creative solution to the challenges presented by our current shidduch system should be applauded, and as such, after ruminating on the topic and giving it careful consideration, I would like to offer what I believe are three primary hurdles to the recommended repurposing of this space.
1. Whenever a suggestion is being made on someone else’s behalf, the first matter that must be explored is: Would that collective buy into the suggested proposition? Consequently, the foremost question becomes: Is this something that single men or women would want, and will they be comfortable being so prominently featured in a major newspaper?
Given my experiences, my hunch is no. To date, there have been a number of attempts at establishing more “right-wing” private databases for daters to semi-publicly share their profiles – some of which can be accessed only and exclusively by shadchanim who have been vetted by the site administrators – and still, despite the great value these databases provide, many singles remain reluctant to join.
Although the fact that a young man or woman is now dating is generally not kept a secret – after all, how would anyone expect to be set up if no one else knew they were dating? – and though there is certainly no shame in dating, there exists a degree of sensitivity surrounding that reality on a personal level, and I would be highly skeptical of the likelihood that any great population of yeshivishe daters would enjoy the datum that they are single and searching to be highlighted in a national publication, regardless of the exposure and opportunity it may grant them. Ultimately, if those targeted by the initiative are disinterested in it, there stands little chance of its success or permanence.
2. If there is any possibility of generating such a format that daters would be comfortable with, solely relying on a modicum of anonymity would be insufficient. Rather, the profiles would need to be completely de-identified: no name, probably no height or age, no locale, no contact information, and no family or school information. I don’t believe there is even one person in shidduchim right now who would not be horrified to get a call from a friend saying, “Hey, is that you being featured as the dater of the week? That is so cute! I hope it works out for you.”
Accordingly, all we are left with, then, is a personal statement, and even the greatest of personal statements rarely come close to capturing the intangibles that encapsulate the gestalt of the full human being.
Furthermore, such personal statements are often treacle and boilerplate. I can’t conceive of anyone sharing their penchant for knitting or long walks on the beach, and is there really anything to be gained by reading weekly profiles of young men stating that they are looking for someone who is kind, tzniusdig, and can make a living for a few years while they learn in kollel, along with profiles of young women stating that they are looking for someone with good middos, who desires to grow in Yiddishkeit, and would like to start off learning for X number of years but also has a plan for parnassah in the future?
If I had to make a prediction as to the outcome of such a venture, my guess is that we would be left with a milieu of voyeurism, with readers left either trying to guess who the single is, or commenting to one another with their personal opinion of how sensible each highlighted dater came off in the feature. Exciting and entertaining, maybe, but not particularly constructive.
3. Even if there were a way to tastefully and productively feature ten daters a week, what exactly would be the mechanism for subsequently redding a shidduch? Much like the de-identification of the dater, I don’t imagine many people acting as references would like their names and personal contact information printed for all to see, nor are they likely interested in receiving calls or emails from those who are merely attempting to ascertain whether or not they correctly surmised the identity of the featured dater as their chavrusah or neighbor.
So, we would need a gatekeeper, someone who could serve as an overseer, screening all responses to separate the chaff from the grain, and connecting all viable responders with the references of the featured daters to begin work on redding a shidduch. Such a task could quite plausibly become a full-time job, and we must then ask: Who is going to do this, and who is qualified to do it?
Will it be volunteers? If yes, what is the probability that such a model could survive, long-term, on volunteers alone? If no, who is going to pay for that person’s time? Does it become the responsibility of the Yated? Is there a funder? I don’t know what the answer is, but without a clear plan, once again, chances of continued success are minimal.
All things considered, by my estimation, the totality of this theorized innovation does not really amount to very much more than a palliative remedy, essentially hoping to turn the forum into a universal shadchan of sorts, and I am struggling to envision how that could be effectively accomplished or what it really adds to the overall equation.
While it is clear that this column has not garnered universal appeal, a triumph that I doubt any column has attained, I feel that we must not negate the value of feedback provided by a broad group of panelists on all manner of shidduch-related themes, not only for the person who submits their inquiry, but for any reader who is, or will be, in shidduchim. The many vantage points offer interested parties expanded understandings of topics they may have been previously unsure about or unaware of, and leaves them with direction and food for thought as they decide what road is best suited for their travels.
Just as there is great value in creating the opportunity for more shidduchim to be redd, there is perhaps equal value in equipping people to make the most out of the shidduchim they have been redd. Indeed, even more importantly, I think that is actually something this column can accomplish, both in a noteworthy fashion and for a sustained duration of time.
May the Peulaso Emes ensure that the endeavors of this forum are consonant with the needs of its readership, and that it produces hadracha imbued with the capacity to meaningfully aid those in shidduchim.