By Lauren Lillien
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.