2011 The Futility of Matchmaking
Chananya Weissman

I've always respected Rabbi Josh Yuter as a clear, sharp thinker who expresses himself articulately. He recently posted about his frustrating years as a member of Saw You At Sinai:

Of course, Yuter's post is only one man's experience, and there are countless possible explanations for why any one person's experience isn't representative of the general reality. Naysayers can posit that his experience of futility is entirely of his own doing for one reason or another, and there's no way we can disprove that any more than the naysayers can prove their cynical claims. So we'll just have to side with whoever makes the most sense. I'm comfortable with that.

It would be terrific if thousands more people like Yuter would share similar information. But considering how few among us can even post an opinion under their real name, since having an opinion and a real identity is apparently bad for shidduch purposes, we shouldn't expect more samples of data anytime soon.

Besides, I have yet to see an analysis of the shidduch world that doesn't depend almost entirely on anecdotal evidence, speculation, and extrapolation of large theories from relatively small and unscientific samples of data. Consider the following dubious opinions we often hear stated as indisputable facts:

"There is no real crisis. People are getting married all the time."

"There is no crisis in the charedi/yeshivish/chassidish/other community. It's only in the ____ community that there is a problem, and it's because [insert reason why we look down on them]."

"The problem is that singles are too picky."

"We just need everyone to think of everyone they know and try to set them up."

"There are far more single women than men."

"The single women are fantastic, but it's hard to find even a passable guy."

Here are some observations and comments based on Yuter's post:

  1. I have often written that the numbers promoted by the dating sites themselves provide strong evidence of their futility. As I write this, SYAS boasts 597 matches. They concurrently boast an "extensive database" of 30,000 singles. The site has been running since 2003. So, in 8 years, the site has been successful for 1194 members. That is less than 4% of the CURRENT membership. We can only speculate how many people in all have tried the site and left over the years -- probably the current membership many times over. Based on this information alone, which is provided by the site itself in the form of marketing, the site is spectacularly unsuccessful, and the average member would have to use the site for several lifetimes to have a reasonable chance of success. The numbers from other Jewish dating sites are no more impressive.

  2. Yuter received 711 suggestions in 4.5 years as an active member. That's 158 a year, more than 10 a month, and only 28 actual first dates and nothing of consequence to show for it. We don't know how much of this was his own "fault" (I doubt any more than that of the average member). But if these numbers are at all representative, and we combine them with the site's "success" numbers, the average suggestion has such a small chance of succeeding that you'd be better off just making cold calls from a Jewish telephone directory or asking out random people on the street.

    Let's take it one step further. Let's assume the average member received 150 suggestions a year. 30,000 members would then receive 4.5 million suggestions a year. Multiply that by 8 years and there would be 36 million suggestions. 1194 members were matched in that time. Each individual suggested match by a shadchan has such a low percentage of leading to a marriage that my calculator got an error trying to figure it out.

    I love to posit that a monkey could do just as well as the average shadchan, and based on these highly plausible numbers, would you really bet on the average shadchan in a head-to-head competition?

  3. I have long gone against the propaganda that there are significantly more single women than men and that we just need to manipulate men to marry women the same age or older (the proponents of which have been silent for a couple of years now, fading into the oblivion I predicted for them when they were at their apex, surely to emerge at some point with another dopey idea). I have also challenged those who claim that "there are so many great girls out there and not enough decent guys".

    I have claimed that women are far quicker to reject a man, and will do so for a long list of trivial reasons that fly in the face of the presumed desperate state of women. My critics have countered that women are quick to reject men because most men are revolting and pathetic. Such a response only supports my assertion that the single women in our community deserve far less sympathy and far more of the responsibility for the situation than the single men. I would say more than 50% of it.

  4. (My interest here is not in playing a blame game, but in shedding light on some of the faulty beliefs that have become accepted as indisputable facts in our community, and which lead to misguided actions to solve problems that don't even exist.)

    Yuter reports that nearly 4 out 5 women that he agreed to be connected with on SYAS rejected him, and there is no way to know how many rejected him before he was even approached. The naysayers can claim that there is something so horrible about him (after all, he's a single Jewish male) that no self-respecting woman would consider him, but the naysayers donít want to see the truth. If 4 out of 5 women are turning down a perfectly good guy that has already agreed to correspond with them, then I don't think we can entertain the possibility that single Jewish women are desperate to get married and can't find a decent guy. For all the talk we hear about the mythical lists of women single guys have just desperate to meet them, the women are doing the vast majority of the rejecting, and not for respectable reasons.

    The community instead needs to start exploring if feminism and other foreign values have infiltrated the community to such an extent that Jewish women look down on men, feel they no longer need men, and are so comfortable in their single lives that they view men as more of a threat to their cozy existence than a potential partner in life that transcends all mundane considerations. Sure, women will join SYAS and go out on dates, if only to prove to themselves and others that they really do want to get married, but they will often then sabotage any possibility of it happening.

    Are you telling me the age-gap theory makes more sense?

  5. Finally, I continue to be amazed that so much futility can be promoted as so much success, that so many singles continue to cling to what offers them nothing in return (besides a monthly bill), and that the community still believes that random blind dates set up by matchmakers who get it right virtually never is the way to go. Maybe all this demonstrates that one more belief the community holds as an indisputable fact is questionable after all.

    That Jews are especially smart.

Rabbi Chananya Weissman is the founder of EndTheMadness (www.endthemadness.org), a volunteer effort to rehabilitate the culture of the shidduch world and HotKiddush (www.hotkiddush.com) a revolutionary networking site for the Orthodox Jewish population. He can be contacted at admin@endthemadness.org.