Five Towns Jewish Times, July 20, 2007
Since I am a proponent of three of the four suggestions to alleviate the problems in the world of shidduchim as noted in the article by Hillel Fendel (see the July 6 issue of the Five Towns Jewish Times, page 54, or www.israelnationalnews.com/news/122896), I must take issue with reader Chana Weiss's assertion (Letters to the Editor, July 13) that “none of [these] suggestions will have much impact.”
This abrupt dismissal is irresponsible and incorrect – irresponsible, as her response raises personal concerns that are easily addressed; and incorrect, since these suggestions have already been implemented and have already made an impact. If they are more widely implemented they will have an even greater impact. If they are causally dismissed by naysayers and bitter folk, then they will not.
Ms. Weiss then attacks the idea of mixed seating at simchas as a venue for people to meet, on the grounds that it would “require that the chasan and kallah think about potential matches so they can seat these people at the same tables.” First of all, is this a bad thing? Is this too much trouble? Is this not something any kind person would be more than happy to do on behalf of his or her single friends?
Second of all, even if the chasan and kallah were to randomly seat the singles at mixed tables, or simply have open seating and allow their friends to seat themselves, this would only open up another avenue for people with common friends to meet. There is really no downside to this, and a wonderful upside. One cannot rationally argue that it is just as likely for singles to meet if they are seated separately as if they are seated in mixed company. The other reasons people give for separating singles are similarly weak and contrived, and them only from a desire to justify a position by working backwards.
Ms. Weiss then cynically remarks that mixed seating at a wedding would be tantamount to speed dating. I hardly see how. If only she knew how many of our parents and grandparents, rabbis and rebbetzins met their intended at mixed-seating simchas a generation or two ago, perhaps she would think twice before rejecting this idea as farcical.
Revisionist historians might make other claims about the effectiveness and appropriateness of mixed seating at simchas, but those who care enough to get their facts straight know that mixed seating used to be mainstream even for those who considered themselves super-frum, and it was responsible for countless good connections. It's not by coincidence that our parents and grandparents did not know of a shidduch crisis. Perhaps we should learn from them instead of rejecting their ways as not frum enough for us.
To borrow a line from a gadol of a previous generation, I am not being meikil in the halachos of modesty; I am being machmir in the mitzvah of helping singles get married. Those who are responsible for closing off avenues of meeting that are not halachically required to be closed will have to give a din v'cheshbon.
Ms. Weiss then proceeds to discard the idea of community shabbatons without any basis or reasoning whatsoever. She just supposes that it “won't do much”. Well, I'm happy to inform Ms. Weiss that EndTheMadness has run nearly two dozen shabbatons in the last three years alone, and these have led to countless dates arranged by the singles themselves and quite a few marriages as well. Just last week we received the following testimonial from a young lady who would surely take issue with Ms. Weiss's defeatist attitude:
“My husband and I met last year in March on one of your beautiful shabbatons held in Monsey and just finished celebrating our [first] anniversary. We want to thank you and your entire organization for ending our madness. I am your biggest fan and believe very much in the way you organize your events. You found the secret ingredient for allowing people to meet without the pressure of the “meat market” experience. Small meals provide a more intimate experience and allow one to learn more about the person facing you. Your events create not only [an] opportunity to meet one's bashert, but to also meet with families and learn about other Jewish communities. An equal number of men and women, affordable pricing, and beautiful “heimish” accommodations make events held by EndTheMadness a winner.”
I sincerely empathize with the frustration and disillusionment Ms. Weiss and so many others have been subjected to in their experiences with insensitive and incompetent shadchanim, poorly conceived singles events, and those in the community who simply don't get it. I hope that her future experiences do not mirror those of her past.
However, it is wrong for her to conclude her painful letter with the declaration that “we're not getting closer to finding [a solution]” after refusing to give fair consideration to solutions that are tried and true. There is no magic bullet that will perfectly solve every aspect of this multilayered problem. However, each of the suggestions that we have offered the community has proven to be a significant step in the right direction. For anyone to dismiss these suggestions without seriously weighing their advantages over the status quo is a sin against the countless people who are suffering.
Rabbi Chananya Weissman,