By Moshe Pogrow, Director, NASI Project
Part 1- Introduction
It is with great hesitation and trepidation that I begin this series of articles.
Shidduchim are understandably a highly emotional and very sensitive topic; it is an arena where feelings are raw and it is easy to inadvertently offend. As such, I pray that these articles be received in the manner in which they are being written: to share what I have learned over close to a decade of speaking to tens of shadchanim, mentors, rabbanim, singles, and families. I hope these ideas will help many people generate for themselves or their children more quality shadchan attention, and hopefully be helpful in bringing them to the chuppah.
It is not my intention to pass judgment or to point out faults in the current structure or its principals, nor make suggestions for wholesale changes on the individual level. I am simply attempting to provide insight to better understand and hopefully how to more effectively navigate the current structure. In future articles there will be suggestions for minor adjustments that individuals can make within the current structure that have been shown to yield significant benefit.
It would be impossible to name all the people who have graciously shared their time, expertise, and experience to provide all of this valuable information. I am simply culling, organizing and sharing.
By way of introduction, allow me to describe the purpose of this series. Sadly, there are many singles in our communities who find themselves with few, if any, shidduch opportunities coming their way—this, despite concerted efforts to meet shadchanim in the hopes of hearing appropriate ideas. The frustration is very real. I hope in these articles to alleviate this somewhat by empowering singles and their families to have more effective interactions with very active shadchanim in a manner that will yield more quality shidduch suggestions.
Those who find themselves with plenty of shidduch opportunities, either via friends and relatives, or suggestions from active shadchanim, perhaps have little need for these tips. That said, we will touch on numerous other aspects of shidduchim and there may be information here that would suit them as well.
The first step in being able to meet productively with very active shadchanim is to step into their shoes, to understand the shidduch process from their perspective. It seems that many people are unaware what is involved in being a very active shadchan, the kind of time and emotional investment it requires, and inevitably this leads to ineffective interaction. To that end, I would like to elucidate what it really means to be a very active shadchan b’zmaneinu. A single who fully understands the process of an active shadchan will be better-equipped to make the most of their meeting, and to more effectively follow up.
Let us begin with the first and most crucial step of being a shadchan—meeting singles. This requires having singles call you or come to your home, traveling to different cities and yeshivos multiple time a year to meet with 20 or more singles in one shot, followed by returning home to organize notes, resumes and pictures so that you can actually remember the singles you met.
This alone consumes hundreds of hours, and the shadchan has not even begun to redt a single shidduch.
Shadchanim then begin to rack their brains, seeing which singles might match up well with each other. Once the ideas begin forming, there are innumerable phone calls, emails and text messages trying to elicit a yes from both sides so that the singles can actually go on a date. While any one single or parent may see a few email exchanges, it is but a small portion of the thousands of emails a shadchan sends on behalf of the myriad singles they have met.
“Getting a yes” sounds simple enough, but as we all know, “simple” is the last adjective one might use to describe it. A name is presented, and then the research begins. This is often followed by frequent and sometimes unnecessary questions to the shadchan before a yes is given, if it is given at all. The shadchan then approaches the other side and to repeat the exact same process. Should they say no, it’s back to the drawing board.
Two yesses, a few dates. Mazel tov?
If only. At this point, the shadchan becomes a life coach, helping the couple with practicalities, such as arranging schedules and suggesting places to go on a date, along with the logistics of coordinating singles who live in different locations—not to mention the hours spent coaching the couple as each tries to discern if this is the person with whom they will spend the rest of their life. Should either side decide that it is not, it’s back to the drawing board again.
And all of this work must be duplicated on behalf of all the singles the shadchan is working on.
How about a shadchan’s personal time? When attending a vort, chasunah or bris, 95% of their time is often spent talking with singles or parents, leaving them precious few minutes to enjoy the simchah. The phone calls and emails generally do not cease on Erev or Motzei Shabbos and Yom Tov, Sundays, or any other day off. Each shadchan absorbs the anxiety, and often the fear and pain, of the families that need them. By and large, this is something they do with grace and patience.
In the structure of the current American shidduch system, the role of the very active, “professional” shadchan is an absolute necessity. This is something which needs no further elaboration. We would find ourselves the worse for wear without the existence of full-time shadchanim at the helm.
While there are a few exceptions, for the vast majority, shadchanim would be considered very successful if they made one shidduch every six weeks or so, which translates to a grand total of $20,000-35,000 in shadchanus per year—all for a job which truly consumes their lives.
With greater appreciation for all that a professional shadchan must do to succeed at their craft, and recognition of the role they play in the continuity of Klal Yisrael, we can begin to examine how to interact with them in a manner that will result in the ongoing attention every single hopes for when they take the time to meet them.
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A special thank you to R’ Shlomo Goldberger from the Shidduch Center of Baltimore for his assistance in preparing this article.
I am happy to share what I have learned over the last decade from tens of shadchanim, singles, dating mentors, and trial and error. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a presentation.
The author has requested that no comments be posted to this article. To contact him, use the email address above.