February 23, 2015
Dear ETM Supporter,
Since making aliya 6 years ago, I have tried to bring ETM to Israel. There have been sporadic events, but unfortunately my efforts thus far have been largely unsuccessful. There are some people who dislike what ETM stands for and will take a perverse satisfaction in this, perhaps even claiming that this is evidence that Torah-true Jews reject ETM and prefer the shidduch world the way it is. While there can be no doubt that many in the larger Orthodox community do reject what ETM stands for (largely for reasons of brainwashing or politics), the real challenge is not and has never been changing the minds of those who disagree with ETM. From day one the goal has explicitly been NOT to worry about changing the minds of those who disagree with us. Rather, we aim to give strength and support to those who already agree with us and educate those who are undecided.
To illustrate this point, several weeks ago I was a guest speaker for a group of women, most of whom were grandmothers and could personally testify that the way things are done today is not a "tradition" from Har Sinai – let alone a tradition from two generations ago. After my presentation, one of the women challenged my credibility to write a book about the shidduch world, without referencing anything I had actually said. I invited her to listen to what all the other pundits have to say as well, read their books too, put everything on the table, and then decide for herself who makes the most sense. I don't need to engage in censorship or pretend other voices don't exist to advance my own. Those who make the most sense never do.
The real problem is that even those who would like to see ETM revolutionize the shidduch world are, with few exceptions, unwilling to do anything whatsoever to help make that happen. There is a great spirit of volunteerism in the community for all manner of things. This is in fact one of the hallmarks of our people. We all identify with different causes, and support those causes with our time and resources. When it comes to the shidduch world, there is tremendous volunteerism as well. Countless people try to match singles at no cost or volunteer to help organize events. (I am certainly critical of the manner in which they try to match singles or organize these events, but I respect their altruism.) People even volunteer to help profit-making ventures. Yet, when it comes to ETM, which is entirely altruistic, unparalleled in its sensitivity for singles, and proven to be successful, even those who have personally benefited from ETM rarely do anything to help the cause.
I have my theories, and you can come up with your own, but the question is better than any of the answers. Perhaps there is a stronger yetzer hara that impedes people from doing more to support ETM precisely because it is right and true. How else can you explain that Jews are more likely to volunteer for ISIS than ETM?
A few weeks ago someone emailed me about a "meet the shadchanim" event in Jerusalem that she was organizing. "Meet many shaddchanim and shadchaniot and get into their database." I emailed her back and suggested that it would make far more sense for the singles in attendance to be meeting each other, being that they were all in the same place and looking for the same thing. She replied as follows:
"that doesnt go in line with my hashkafah. if women are approached by men who do not share the hashkafah, or are much older than him, there is a breech (sic) on tznius, therefore it is the shadchans job to match people where it fits the criteria they set out"
I then asked to sign up as a "shadchan" to make my resources available to singles and shadchanim who would find them helpful. She asked me to call them, and turned the phone over to her husband, who informed me that this was "a charedi event" (which wasn't mentioned anywhere in their advertising), and that based on what I wrote about singles meeting each other directly he was concerned that my resources would be inappropriate for the singles at their event. I told him I'm not a charedi, I'm not not a charedi, and I don't believe in these categorizations. I am a regular person who is trying to make things better for singles, and would like the opportunity to share my information with those who might benefit from it.
Instead of welcoming an altruist with something to offer, he built a protective cage around his singles and threw away the key. He proceeded to lecture me that the Shulchan Aruch states that it is only permissible for singles to meet through a shadchan. I asked him where that was written and he couldn't tell me. (He promised to email me the citation later, but never did.) I asked him if all the many people in Tanach who met their spouse without a shadchan were in violation of the law. He did not answer the question, but told me he is "terminating the conversation" and hung up.
This is what we are up against, people.
What bothers me is not that I encountered an ignorant jerk. I deal with ignorant jerks every day of my life, so one more won't tip any scales. What bothers me is that these people, who are clearly so misguided and who should not be directing the fortunes of singles, found a shul to host their event, supporters to help organize it, a speaker, a long list of shadchanim, and surely many singles, uniform shidduch resumes in hand, lining up to pay money with desperate hopes of impressing new shadchanim instead of meeting one another. Meanwhile, a proven better way is available right now, no strings attached, yet virtually no one is ready to support it in the smallest way.
Singles are too afraid, recently married people develop amnesia, parents of unmarried children are too afraid, parents of married children are unconcerned, and those who have time to complain about everything are too busy to help change anything.
As much as I truly appreciate your reading this, chances are you fall into one of the above categories, and this just isn't going to work. I am one person. I have put my heart and soul into offering the community a better way, seeking nothing in return, and ETM has helped numerous people over the years. I'm confident that the percentage of people who attended ETM events in the past and met their intended compares favorably to any singles event, dating web site, or "professional" shadchan – without the collateral damage associated with the latter. If there is such a great spirit of volunteerism for initiatives that are well-intended but misguided, that impede singles more than help them, there should be a deluge of volunteerism for ETM – yet there is hardly even a trickle.
I'm not going to tell anyone what they can or should do to help ETM. That is for you to decide.
But for God's sake, do something.