In my view: Fighting a lonely battle


By Lauren Lillien

Issue of Dec. 12, 2008 / 15 Kislev 5769

A few months ago I wrote an article in The Jewish Star discussing the state of shidduchim from my perspective. As a single woman, I related the painful process dating has become, and the desperation many singles are feeling.

Dating, which should be exciting, has become nothing more than a source of heartache, frustration and struggle. I addressed the leaders of our community and explained that the process of shidduchim –– one that is clearly not working for many singles –– is continuing as is because of their guidance. I suggested that perhaps they could advise singles that marriage is more important than protocol, and dating in a more natural manner would help relieve this “crisis.”

In my naivete, I actually believed that someone would respond. I thought

some leader would take a stand and fight for singles, fight for their

children and neighbors, fight for me. Unfortunately, while individuals

(many of whom I don’t know) contacted me regarding my article, not one

community rabbi, rebbetzin or leader chose to respond to my words.

As I have stated previously, I am more than willing to fight for myself,

but my actions are useless without the support of our community leaders.

This was proven to me once again when a local organization I belong to

asked for ideas to create some kind of night program for the community.

I suggested that this organization, that is known and respected, should

consider creating a singles night. I explained that it would not have to

be fancy or costly. Rather, they could prepare a shiur and simply invite

both single men and women to attend.

The response I was given was that while my idea was a nice suggestion,

singles events require extensive advice and guidance from rebbeim. I am

not sure why a shiur and a simple set up of chairs require a

consultation with a Rabbi, or “extensive guidance.” Needless to say, the

singles night was never created and never mentioned again.

Over the past few months I have immersed myself more deeply in the

shidduch world. My growing awakening to this “system” is what prompted

this essay. My feelings of pain and despair unfortunately have

transformed into anger and resentment. I feel anger toward the

community, toward our leaders and toward myself for aiding the

perpetuation of this process.

What many people don’t realize is that once dating becomes a system,

everything about it becomes technical and unemotional. Rather than

attempting to impress a date and create a relationship, many people are

trying their best to play the game right. Many men I have dated follow

the shidduch protocol flawlessly. Yet, they speak to me inappropriately,

pick me up for a first date looking disheveled, and don’t have the

decency to walk me to my door at the end of the date or at least wait

until I get inside my house before speeding away.

Chivalry is not dead; I see it at home and I see it with most of the

people I know. I usually fail to see it in my dating life because few

people in the shidduch world are concentrating on what is important.

Instead they are trying to figure out the rules for the particular

number date they are on, and how to stick to them.

Sadly, these rules are not reserved for the dating scene. To the

contrary, these conventions permeate a single’s life. Rather than

allowing singles the chance to acquire a genuine identity, many singles

feel forced to conform to certain roles. Regardless of whether or not

one fits those roles is irrelevant, since asserting one’s individuality

may hinder their chances of getting married.

The rigidness created by shidduchim is not only causing people to fool

each other, but to fool themselves. Never have I seen so many people

walking through life as confused, misguided and distraught as the

singles of today. The frustration among us is building, and the

dissatisfaction with the way things are working can only be tolerated

for so much longer.

It’s time to stop looking outside of the community for reasons to

explain our troubles, and instead look inward. Yes, banning billboards

(or what I would call a hidden poster) does help protect the innocence

of our children and shields our spirituality. However, that cannot

protect us from the hypocrisy and issues that stem from within our own

community. I don’t want sympathy and I don’t want a friendly ear to

listen to my problems; I want change.

Lauren Lillien teachers English at HAFTR High School. She lives in Woodmere.