2005 Response to Mixed Seating Revisited
Chananya Weissman
2005, Five Towns Jewish Times

I thank Plonis for managing to disagree with my recent article, "Mixed Seating Revisited", in a cordial and dignified way, without resorting to the wild insults and attempts at delegitimization that I have become used to seeing from those who disagree with me.  If more Jews presented themselves as Mrs. Plonis does, perhaps we would have a Bais Hamikdash.
I must, however, express my own disagreement with the reasons she provides against mixed seating for singles at wedding meals, and will do so in point-by-point fashion.
1) Mrs. Plonis writes that Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, zt"l, was a staunch opponent of mixed seating at wedding meals.  I never merited to meet Rabbi Feinstein, but I have enjoyed the great merit to learn from his son-in-law, Rabbi Moshe D. Tendler, who is not embarrassed by the fact that he married Rabbi Feinstein's daughter at a wedding that had mixed seating.  Perhaps Rabbi Feinstein's personal opinion was not in favor of mixed seating (that may be the subject of debate now that he is no longer with us), but he was evidently not as violently opposed to the idea as Mrs. Plonis's comments would have us believe. 
In addition, my own father received semicha from Rabbi Feinstein, and tells me that he never heard Rabbi Feinstein express an opinion on the matter.  This doesn't necessarily prove anything, but if Rabbi Feinstein was as strongly opposed to the idea as Mrs. Plonis claims -- supposedly working diligently to abolish mixed seating -- I would have expected him to make his opinion known more widely and conclusively.
It should also be noted that more than a few noted Rabbonim were and are in favor of mixed seating, and in fact people might be surprised to learn that many of today's and yesteryear's Rabbonim (including Rabbi Aharon Soloveichik, zt"l) met their own wives at mixed wedding meals.  Whether or not they readily tell people, considering how popular opinion on the matter has swung in recent times, is another issue...
2) Mrs. Plonis argues that having shidduchim occur at a wedding would "detract" from our ability to bring joy to the chosson and kallah.  What a severe accusation that should shock and offend all newlyweds!  Unless we ascribe the severest cruelty, coldness, and self-absorption to our newlyweds, I simply cannot believe that they would object to the idea of shidduchim being facilitated at their own simcha.  On the contrary, rather than detract from their own simcha, such a thing would only multiply it.  Indeed, many chossons and kallahs go out of their way to daven for singles at their own wedding.
Furthermore, if Mrs. Plonis believes that conversation which may lead to another shidduch may detract from one's focus to bring joy to the newlyweds, why not abolish even same-gender conversation?  Doesn't that, too, detract from one's focus, if even to a slightly lesser extent?
3) Mrs. Plonis is afraid that the music would be too loud for people to carry on a conversation, which would lead them to go outside, which would lead them to miss the dancing.  Rather than sabotage the potential for shidduchim, I would suggest simply asking the band to turn it down a little.  (This should be done in any case.  Band members typically wear ear plugs due to the deafening noise that poses as music at most weddings.)
4) Mrs. Plonis argues that mixed seating might lead one to dress inappropriately at weddings.  First of all, if we are afraid of observant Jews dressing inappropriately to please the opposite gender, then we should abolish dating as well.  Secondly, I know of no evidence that the mere presence of the opposite gender leads to a greater occurrence of inappropriate dress.  People have been known to dress inappropriately at separate-seating weddings and even in shul.  This is a separate problem that is not enhanced by mixed seating at a wedding meal, and therefore is no reason to abolish the latter.
5) Mrs. Plonis claims that the availability of alcohol at weddings may give the wrong impression of marriageable young adults.  First of all, this again is a separate problem that is unrelated to mixed seating at weddings.  Second of all, if a young adult behaves irresponsibly around alcohol, this is not something that should be hidden from a potential match.  It is not a "wrong impression" but an honest impression.
In addition, the vast majority of our singles behave in a perfectly dignified fashion at weddings, and portray their many fine spiritual qualities.  They also look their best, have mutual friends as company, and there is marriage in the air.  What better place to meet?
6) Mrs. Plonis argues that "you really have no control over" where people sit at weddings, and therefore a mixed seating arrangement may lead to inappropriate shidduchim.  First of all, I don't believe adults who are supposedly ready to get married should be "controlled" in this fashion.  Secondly, I am aware of countless examples of inappropriate shidduchim that were orchestrated by shadchanim and other supposedly more "kosher" ways of meeting.  I am not aware of even a tiny fraction of inappropriate matches that occurred because friends of the chosson and kallah at the wedding turned out to be monsters.  If the methods of meeting that are currently taken for granted as being "more acceptable" had such a stellar track record, we wouldn't even be talking about this, would we?
Besides, it is not the place of a believing Jew to attempt to control who people meet and how they meet them.  We must take proper precautions against clear and present dangers, but it is not our place to micromanage God's world and people's lives -- nor does it work.  Indeed, in an age when the grip of the community on its citizens could hardly be much stronger, we are faced with more dropouts and at-risk youths than perhaps ever before.  Coincidence?  I think it is much more than that.
Finally, most of Mrs. Plonis's concerns about mixed seating are far-fetched and relatively benign in the gamut of real, pressing, and literally catastrophic problems that face our community.  If I have to choose between being machmir lest a few bad apples dress inappropriately at a wedding and between being machmir so that the exponentially growing thousands of singles in our community will have the best possible chance of meeting someone appropriate, I will conclusively and without the slightest pang of guilt opt for the latter.  We need to get our priorities straight and put out the forest fire that is burning our community down -- not be brought essentially to inertia over fear of lighting a few twigs in the process.