Summer may be wedding season, but the number of Jewish singles looking for their basherts seems to have reached an all-time high. Simcha Link, Chicago Chesed Fund’s matchmaking service, is dedicated to helping singles from across the Orthodox spectrum, mainly in Chicago and its suburbs, find their mates. Two of its in-house shadchanim, matchmakers, Mrs. Shelly Adler and Mrs. Debbie Fox – who have a combined 30 years of matchmaking experience – share their insights on why the search has become so challenging, and how singles can put their best foot forward.
Lifelines: Numerous articles have been written on the so-called “Shidduch Crisis.” You’ve met and worked with hundreds of Jewish singles. Can you pinpoint a cause?
Mrs. Debbie Fox: You can put it down to one word – lack of flexibility. People have something in their mind and they aren’t willing to consider something else. They are looking at their peers, as opposed to thinking [what’s best for themselves.] So they don’t find what they are looking for.
Mrs. Shelly Adler: Most shadchanim realize that women, in general, are feeling the challenges more intensely than men. I want to encourage women not to ignore the unfortunate fact that the mores of our superficial society have crept into the religious world as well, and that’s just the reality.
L: So how should women relate to this reality?
SA: Men are more visually oriented and looks are important. Women can’t think, ‘Take me as I am.’ But both men and women need to realize that when you say, ‘I know exactly the look I want,’ you might have one picture in your mind, but Hashem might have another. So be open-minded, especially about externals, but never about middos, good character traits.
DF: Someone needs to talk to singles regarding their expectations. There is too much emphasis on appearance. Young men and women need mentors to help them figure out what’s most important, and to help them prioritize.
L: Many women say their biggest challenge is finding dates, especially if they don’t live in large Jewish communities. How can they help themselves?
SA: Tell everyone you know that you are looking. Tell your mother to call all her aunts and cousins and friends. Also, people should not be afraid to call shadchanim repeatedly. If you’ve already contacted Simcha Link, you can call us to remind us and ask, ‘Did anything come up for me?’ When I get a call like that, it helps me remember to keep that person in mind.
DF: Don’t put yourself in a box. Be open to other kinds of people. You’ll have a bigger pool that way. Again, I want to emphasize flexibility. There aren’t that many superheroes to date out there, so be realistic.
L: There are many different schools of thought on how much advance checking you should do before meeting someone. What’s your take?
DF: If the shadchan has previously worked with the suggested person, or has heard good things about him or her, and you are both in the same city, a short date is worth [a lot more than] weeks of checking. If there is an initial attraction, then one should check carefully at that point.
SA: People who go out with everyone can get burned – and burned out. Use the middle road. Check moderately, and make sure it is in the ballpark. Make sure they have fine middos, character traits, and then give it a shot.
L: What about those who do date but can’t seem to get anywhere?
DF: Ask the shadchan for feedback. Maybe you were too quiet and need to talk more. It might just be something small that you can fix the next time.
SA: If you have a really good friend or a mentor, get input from them. Don’t be defensive, listen to constructive criticism and act upon it. In general, it’s important for anyone dating to have a positive attitude. Each date is an opportunity to learn a lot about another person and yourself. And a good attitude will help you smile and bring out the best in yourself and in the person you’re meeting.
L: Some people contend that older singles have a hard time getting married because they are “too picky.” Is there any truth to that?
DF: Yes, one-hundred percent. We have very few older singles who will go out with someone based on our say-so that, ‘He (or she) is a nice guy, give it a try.’ Recently, I had several women reject a nice guy because he’s a social worker, because they felt they needed a doctor or a lawyer. That is being too picky!
SA: I don’t think you can make generalizations. Some singles are too picky and some aren’t. People are always looking for reasons. But sometimes, it’s that there’s not so much out there to choose from!
L: What advice would you give to women just beginning to date?
SA: Look for the little things. I can tell a lot about a person even when I’m just contacting him about a prospective date. If he calls me right back, thanks me, and shows gratitude, I can tell he is a mentsch.
DF: Look for middos, good character traits. Everyone can put on an act. Watch how your date deals with others. He might be nice to you, but was he nasty to the waiter?
L: What advice would you give to men just starting out?
SA: Look for someone who will give you a happy home. Don’t look for a prima donna. If a woman is self-centered, she won’t be an ezer kenegdo, a true helpmate. The makeup won’t be there all the time.
DF: I agree. Don’t be blinded by externals. Also, don’t listen to friends who say, 'She is not for you.' Evaluate the person yourself to see if she is for you by going out and giving it a try. And one date is not enough to make this evaluation.
L: What chizuk, words of encouragement, would you give to those who are having difficulty finding their basherts?
SA: There is one thing that supercedes all the points we’ve made. Hashem is the one who makes shidduchim. We are only His messengers. So turn to Him and daven, pray.
DF: I remember the first shidduch I ever made. The woman was not attracted to the man, but his middos, character traits, were so unbelievable, she kept going out with him. All along, she was saying things like, “But he doesn’t dress well.” And then they ended up getting engaged. It’s not about what’s on paper, it’s about the person. And there’s one other thing: Hashem makes beautiful shidduchim every day. So many times, we, as shadchanim, have been surprised and delighted by shidduchim that came about that we never thought of, or even dreamed could come about.
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