By Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum
A most wonderful shidduch event took place on Sunday, May 9, 2010. A “Shidduchim Fair” was held at B’nai Israel of Linden Heights, where Mr. Abraham Yakob serves as its president and this writer serves as rav. The leadership of the shul felt that it could thus make a major contribution towards shidduchim efforts, nobly addressing an important community need. The shul’s social halls were made available. The date and time were set and announcements were made. Several respected kehillah rabbonim, roshei yeshiva, and chassidishe rebbeim were asked for their guidance and endorsement. A display ad appeared on page nine of the May 7, 2010 edition of The Jewish Press, as well as in some other community publications. In addition, the announcement was carried on a number of shidduchim and community websites throughout the greater New York City Metropolitan Area and flyers were distributed at appropriate locations throughout Boro Park and Flatbush.
Calls were made to area shadchanim inviting and encouraging them to participate. The response was warm, enthusiastic, and overwhelming. The display ad indicated that 4:30 to 8:00 p.m. was set aside to receive ladies and girls and that 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. was for men and boys, and that these times would be strictly enforced. The ad asked that profiles and pictures be brought to facilitate processing of participant information. A nominal charge was set as an entrance fee to help defray expenses.
The Huge Response
Almost immediately, a deluge of phone calls began streaming in. Calls came from New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and from as far away as Montreal, Canada. Literally, the phones did not stop ringing from Wednesday, May 5, the day of The Jewish Press distribution, and continues as these words are being written. Callers wanted to know more details of the event, what type of shadchanim would be there, what type of religious categories would be served, etc. Many callers disappointedly said that they would not be able to attend the event but asked if additional events would be planned and if they could be kept informed. Callers also asked if they would be able to mail, fax, or email information to be included in the event’s shidduch process.
Hundreds Attend the Event
Early Sunday morning, the day of the event, organizers set the stage for the expected crowds. Areas in the social halls were designated as reception areas, waiting areas, and for interviews. A management system was set up so that as many attendees as possible would meet with different shadchanim and be interviewed. Colored oak tag posters were posted with the names and telephone numbers of participating shadchanim and their locations in the social halls were strategically positioned for all to see.
Many shadchanim arrived early and proceeded to their assigned stations. Luckily, the weather was beautiful. Doors were opened wide before the 4:30 p.m. starting time for ladies and girls. Lines formed almost immediately. As participants entered and reached the reception area, they were given cards with the names of the next shadchan available. Mothers came for their sons and daughters, as well as for themselves, if they were single. Girls came with friends. Some came as groups.
As hundreds of participants came, waiting times increased. A system of directing ladies and girls to the next available shadchan was employed. Many of the shul’s members pitched in and helped decrease the waiting time as much as possible. Though not everyone was able to meet as many shadchanim as they wanted, nevertheless the mood was enthusiastic and appreciative. Much information was conveyed and the shadchanim were given the necessary ammunition they need to, B’Ezras Hashem, bring about many shidduchim.
At 8:00 p.m., the end of time set for ladies and girls, a large number of participants were still waiting to meet shadchanim. Imbued with a feeling of trust and responsibility, the organizers of the event had no choice other than to continue processing the ladies and girls still waiting. The men and boys that began to assemble well before their 8:30 p.m. starting time also had to wait outside the social halls for the shadchanim to become free and for the waiting areas to empty. When that finally happened, men and boys were ushered in and they began to meet with individual shadchanim. Again, feelings of enthusiasm and appreciation permeated.
The interviews continued to almost midnight, as the shadchanim worked diligently. Early in the evening, one of the organizers ordered pizza for all of the shadchanim, who were giving their time and efforts for the important event and purpose. As refreshing and welcome as those slices of pizza were, they could not compare to warm home-cooked leisurely meals. The shadchanim, nevertheless, did not express any regrets but, on the contrary, were upbeat and supportive.
As the event was closing, all the shadchanim reiterated their feelings of having taken part in an exceptionally important and productive event. Many repeated words of praise and gratitude that were showered on them by one participant after another. A suggestion box had been placed in the waiting area so that participants could share their thoughts, ideas, and suggestions. Most blessed the organizers and indicated their interest in such future events. Some complained that they were not able to see as many shadchanim as they had hoped. Such complaints were, in effect, welcome compliments.
The Gracious Shadchanim Who Participated
The event was a colossal and productive success. All words of thanks and appreciation must be directed to the participating shadchanim: Devorah Abraham 718-436-8382; Pauline Beilus, Faigy Brecher 718-576-1094 X113 at Kesher; Lisa Elefant, Baila Feig, Meyer Friedman 347-645-4700; Reb Gartenhouse, Tzirel Gombo 718-782-8003; Shirly Heller 718-646-0281, Chana Rivka Jacobs; Pearl Klepfish 718-338-8106; Loretta Koslowsky 718-891-8235; Chani Landau, Debbie Liebowitz 718-854-9223; Sara Liebowitz, Chaim Naiman 718-338-1664; Pessie Reichberg 347-683-4476; Chana Sandler, Reb. Shifra Stone, Abe Schonfeld, Tova Schonfeld, Mrs. Schweitzman 718-435-0297; Avi Stern, and Aaron Yosef Ungar 718-853-7687. Debbie Liebowitz and Meyer Friedman helped organize the event.
You Can Reenact the Shadchanim Fair
The event can, and should, be replicated and reenacted in as many shuls as possible, as often as possible. First, a comfortable space must be chosen. Generally, shuls and/or their social activity centers are ideal. Next, shadchanim, both men and women, are invited to participate, to meet with parents of and/or eligible singles. Female shadchanim are set up in one room to conduct individual interviews and male shadchanim are set up in another room to conduct individual interviews. Adequate time is set for women and girls to come and meet with the shadchanim, followed by another segment of time for men and boys to meet with the shadchanim.
The separation of men and women is an important ingredient and creates a setting in which both shadchanim and participants can work in comfort. Targeted events, such as, only younger singles; older singles; divorced or widowed; Chassidish, Yeshivish, Modern Orthodox, etc., or mixed events can be held. Adequate refreshments should be prepared for both shadchanim and participants.
Preferably, a uniform information questionnaire should be made available for all singles so that their profiles are easily composed should they not have prepared profiles to give to the shadchanim. As the participants enter, a simple program should be used to have each individual directed to a shadchan. As the number of people entering increases, ample space must be reserved for participants who must wait for the next available shadchan. Having a suggestion box placed in an easily accessible place facilitates participants sharing their thoughts, ideas, and giving suggestions. Anyone making a suggestion is invited to write it down and deposit it into the suggestion box.
Oak tag posters should have the names and phone numbers of all participating shadchanim. Preferably, a blurb should be next to each shadchan listed, highlighting his or her specialties. Throughout the event, shadchanim should be formally introduced to each other so that easy communication is established and facilitated.
Such events will contribute greatly towards the shidduchim efforts that our communities greatly need.