July 23, The Jewish Press
This week the Jewish Press published an anonymous article under the title "Do Shadchanim Even Care?" by a single woman in her mid 20's. She recounted her experiences with two "prominent shadchanim" who went weeks at a time without returning her calls and messages, never fixed her up on a date, and even said cruel things to her. This went on with one of these shadchanim – on whose advice she uprooted herself and moved to New York – for over a year.
I assume most readers of this piece will react with horror at how poorly the shadchanim treated her and lament the unfortunate situation for single women. While there is no disagreement that the shadchanim treated her poorly and the situation for singles is difficult (men don't have it easy, despite the relentless propaganda to the contrary), this should not be the main takeaway from the article. It is no chiddush that shadchanim in general are colossal failures and treat singles poorly, and we should be well past that realization.
The real takeaway is that this articulate single woman, and many singles like her, completely surrendered her self-determination in this way.
Imagine that she was looking for a job and enlisted a headhunter to search for her. Would she hinge her entire future on this headhunter's efforts? If the headhunter ignored her messages and failed to produce any leads, would she stick with him indefinitely? If one or two headhunters failed her, would she resign herself to remaining unemployed and complain to a newspaper about her unfortunate fate? If she did, would anyone take her seriously?
What if she were searching for an apartment and enlisted a real estate agent? The real estate agent didn't get back to her. Would she go homeless?
Yet when it comes to the shidduch world, it is considered normal – even "The Torah Way" – for singles to put their fate and fortune entirely in the hands of strangers. These strangers must be treated with enormous respect, their bad behavior must be rationalized and quietly tolerated, and they must even be paid without producing any results or any guarantee of future performance.
We are constantly told that single women are so bright, talented, educated, and accomplished. If this is true – and I am not casting aspersions on that – why have they allowed themselves to be reduced to pathetic complainers that shadchanim are not returning their messages? Is this the next generation of Jewish parents, helpless victims with no self-determination, beaten and defeated, anonymously pleading for someone to do something?
I can already hear them responding with indignance that this is the way things are done in the frum world, you can't change it, you just have to play along with the system, no one has a choice. If only they could display some of that indignance toward those who mistreated them, and actually stand up for themselves like real adults.
If you hire someone to do a job and you are not satisfied with the work they do, you have the right to let them know, fire them if necessary, and do what you need to do. Shadchanim are not gods, and the only power they have is the power you choose to give them. If you are not satisfied with the job they are doing, it's time to take back some of that power. Ultimately, it's your life, and you can't rely on other people to give you what you want.
Contrary to what you have allowed yourselves to believe, the shidduch world was not always this way, and it doesn't need to continue to be this way. Very few of those so-called "professional" shadchanim met their own spouse through a shadchan. Very few of the rabbis lecturing about the Torah way went to a shadchan with a profile and waited for the phone to ring. Many of them even met their wives in a natural way, before deciding you aren't allowed to do the same.
Almost none of our grandparents went to a shadchan, and unless they lived in a remote village, they would probably have laughed at the idea. If you want real dating advice, instead of paying a coach who can't even get her own life in order to run yours, visit a nursing home and speak to an old timer. They will be delighted to talk to you, listen to you, and give you real advice, without watching the clock.
They will also tell you how courtship used to work, when it actually worked. Singles went out together in groups, double dated, met one person for lunch and another for dinner, introduced their friends, made get-togethers, and did what they needed to do. No one had a shidduch profile; they hadn't been invented by shadchanim. Back then almost everyone got married, and dating didn't suck the life out of people. It wasn't perfect – nothing is – but it worked. They certainly didn't need to write anonymous letters complaining that the shadchan didn't find them a date in over a year.
The author asked if shadchanim even care. No, they don't. They want your money, a free ride to Gan Eden, and a feeling of control over other people. Even if a few of them do care, you can't count on them. Instead of asking other people who don't care about you to do something about the shadchanim who don't care about you, get together with some like-minded singles and take charge of the situation.
Then, with God's help, you'll be ready and able to teach your own children to do the same.