TITLES AT A GLANCE
YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE A
SHADCHAN TO BRING PEOPLE TOGETHER
ARE WE AS A SOCIETY
OBLIGATED TO HELP SINGLES GET MARRIED?
EFFECTIVE AND TORAHDIK SHABATONE: HOW THE COMMUNITY CAN BE A SHADCHAN
OPEN HOUSE - AND HEART
A WIDER RANGE OF
MAKE A WEDDING
[Note 1: Rabbi Forsythe refers to personal
matchmaking in these writings, which were written over several years. However, for the
last few years, he has restricted matchmaking to people who he knows personally and knows
well for a considerable period of time. He no longer does matchmaking for the public
at-large. His current work with singles is primarily compatibility-profiling interviews,
private counseling, public lecturing, shabatones, workshops and the like.]
[Note 2: In halacha, there is NO kibud av
ve'aim in shidduchim. A single should marry the person who he gets along with and who is
good for him/her. There is a world of difference in halacha between a parent giving mature
advice or sharing life experience vs. making or killing a shidduch. The ultimate criteria
for suitability of a shidduch is: what is good for the couple.]
YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE A
SHADCHAN TO BRING PEOPLE TOGETHER
There are many ways, besides conventional
matchmaking, in which the concerned and active person can bring single people together.
Some of the more simple and obvious methods
include inviting single men and women as guests for shabos and holidays. Some people
invite several singles at a time to allow the men and women to see if any of the other
guests might be "of interest." You might want to think about inviting people who
may stand to have common interests or compatible personality styles. Some couples wish to
only invite men at one time and women at another separate time. They recommend set-ups if
they have the impression that a given man and woman have a chance together.
If you can do so in a sincere and natural
way, be an advertisement and a role model for the institution of marriage. For example, be
careful to be polite with your spouse, present fulfillment with marriage and married life,
talk discreetly (perhaps subtly) about the rewards of the marriage relationship and family
life, or show a happy and harmonious life. This should never be done in a way that is
artificial, excessive or obvious. You want to convey that you are happy - not a bad actor.
In any event, the main benefit comes from
the host GETTING TO KNOW EACH SINGLE as an individual human being. This includes finding
out about each one's nature, beliefs, sensitivities, values, religiosity, goals and
personality. The host gets to know singles better and better when they are invited back
another time and another time. The host accumulates a substantive "inventory" of
singles. The more singles you get to know on some meaningful level, the more likely it is
that you will think of reasonable set-ups.
It is important to emphasize that quality
is more important than quantity (although without quantity, how will you set up those few
singles who you know well?). I recommend that you proceed carefully before proclaiming
yourself to be a matchmaker. Good matchmaking requires skill, human insight, judgement,
having respect and time for each individual man and woman. Bad matchmaking can be utterly
destructive. Remember: a zero is a bigger number than a negative!
Never push a single to see, continue to see
or to marry someone that they don't want to.
When you see potential, "offer an
option (i.e. recommend your setting up a date)," encourage the person and help a
person to increase clarity (e.g. when the person isn't sure about proceeding in a case
where you see potential or a case in which the single is confused about the other person's
ARE WE AS A SOCIETY
OBLIGATED TO HELP SINGLES GET MARRIED?
On the one hand, if Jewish society does not
help its singles to find mates, this may lead to possible inappropriate discouraging of
marriages or of stigmatizing people who can't find a mate. On the other hand, if our
society helps people who are not equipped for marriage, this can harm one, if not both
spouses, their children and the generations who come from them.
A person can be single for many, many
possible reasons, some of which only G-d knows; so no one can be judgmental, especially
since this can add more pain to the already profound pain of being single.
It is futile to try to help a single with
emotional conditions in which the single sabotages him/herself or which keep that person
incapable of fulfilling the many and serious roles, duties, functions and responsibilities
of the Jewish married person. A person has to put himself into a marriage. It does not
happen if he blocks himself or if he cannot do what being or getting married requires of
him. He must be mature, healthy, functional, responsible and capable of doing many things
(such as communication, empathy, sacrifice, calm, kindness, respect, adaptability,
parnossa, housekeeping, caring for and training children, etc.) to maintain a marriage.
When someone suggests a shidduch which is
not well thought out, it can be an insult to the single. The well-meaning person can be
insulted and judgmental when the single rejects the inappropriate suggestion, even
politely. The single who must refuse a cock-eyed suggestion should have no concern over
what other people think. This is not relevant. There is no alternative to waiting for a
compatible and sensible set-up.
In the case where the single sabotages his
own getting married, or is not equipped for marriage, the issue is what the person HIMSELF
has to work on, not what others should do or think. The single has to work to repair what
is deficient, to remove the obstacles. Only a rare and very specially qualified person can
meaningfully help. For the single to worry about strangers who do not live with or truly
care about the single in his private at-home life is a waste of time and energy.
I can tell you from my practical counseling
experience, LONELINESS IS NOT SYNONYMOUS WITH READINESS. It is only a MOTIVATION FOR THE
PERSON WHO IS READY TO ACT AND MAKE HISHTADLUSS (practical effort) to get married. We are
only supposed to encourage marriage for those adequately ready and equipped to fulfill its
requirements - one's own and another person's life can be damaged or destroyed by a
dysfunctional, selfish, immature, irresponsible, disturbed, incompatible or otherwise
unsuitable person. If a person is not "marriage material," we cannot say that we
must push an ill-equipped person on a partner. If outside people wrongly misjudge the
single, they are guilty of many sins for destroying someone's marriage prospects. What
people say can have nothing to do with the reality of the person they talk about. People
assume, hear rumors and hearsay, perceive based on defective or subjective criteria, etc.
The single has to live according to his true inner reality and work on whatever is
appropriate for that person's stage and situation, independent of what people think or
Of course, Jewish values would have all
Jews of marriageable age married and happy - in accordance with the readiness of those
singles to handle marriage maturely, responsibly and successfully. THESE ARE ALWAYS CASE
BY CASE QUESTIONS, with no room for generalization. Therefore, whether others help a
single get married should depend on whether the single is truly and objectively suitable
for marriage. Lives are at stake and a hasty, premature, desperate or incompatible
shidduch can be unfair to and can damage everyone associated with it. We never may cause
damage. To determine whether you can or should help any given single find a mate, you have
to be able to GET TO KNOW HIM/HER somewhat - enough to judge whether the person is
marriage material and who this person is and needs. If you are too busy to bother, find
yourself another "pet mitzva" that you can do competently. For example, you
don't have to know a bed-ridden neighbor's personality to pick up his prescription for
So, our view that we should help singles
get married applies to those who are ready for it and for its responsibilities and
requirements; so that the marriage will be "safe" for all concerned; peaceful,
functional, Torah-true and enduring. We should never be judgmental, critical or condemning
for such would turn our action into an avaira (sin). We should make ourselves available to
help where there is a suitable match BETWEEN WHAT A SINGLES NEEDS AND WHAT THE POTENTIAL
HELPER IS ABLE TO DO. We must act with tact, softness, adaptability, respect,
consideration and with concern for the individual. If the individual single is holding by
doing his part to be MARRIAGEABLE AS WELL AS MARRIED, THEN - AND ONLY THEN - IT IS A HUGE
MITZVA TO HELP AS MUCH AND AS ACTIVELY AS ONE CAN.
When married and single people come in for
counseling, their position often is that they are fine and the other person in their
present or past relationship is wrong or crazy, is/was the entire or primary source of all
trouble. If that is one's stance even before marriage, especially when rigid about this,
the prospects for a compatible and happy marriage are crippled.
One of the best things singles can do in
searching for their mate is to take control over their own part in it. The single person
who is seeking his/her mate is the only element which is in his/her own control. The
as-yet-unfound mate is not even there, any present relationship partner is not in the
single person's control and, for sure, Hashem, the Ultimate Matchmaker, is not in the
single person's control.
The main advice that I can give any single
seeking his or her mate is to be the best and most marriageable mate you can possibly be -
but in a very real and steady sense. The more you are ready to be the spouse G-d wants you
to be, the more likely He will let you be a spouse...and the more you deserve to be helped
by others to get married.
AN ORGANIZED, EFFECTIVE
AND TORAHDIK SHABATONE: HOW THE COMMUNITY CAN BE A SHADCHAN
When Leah got married, she appreciated
how much she had to be thankful for. Her husband was a respected and accomplished
professional. He had a personal relationship with one of the generation's best known
rabbinical figures. He was making a very
presentable living. And, he had the respect
of his community for his active leadership in numerous benevolent Jewish causes.
When looking at Leah, don't be fooled by
her sweet, goodhearted nature into thinking that she is a passive bystander who watches
life go by. She gives more than generously of almost unbounded energies to at least as
many worthy causes as her husband: a yeshiva, a coalition for Israel's protection, a
children's institution, a Jewish educational outreach project, kosher food shipments to
Russia, hospitality, matchmaking. The list goes on long enough to boggle the mind.
The best measure of how active she is, is
how long it takes for her to return your phone call. Not because she is in the least bit
rude. She's up till three in the morning on some organization's annual fund-raising dinner
or some other's holiday fund-raising mailing or some other's campaign to collect for some
urgent cause for poor Jews in Eretz Yisroel.
They were literally a marriage made in
Heaven. And they both did so much in the service of Heaven.
About eight months after Leah was married,
a "light bulb went off in her head." Here she was with so much to thank her
Creator for: a life replete with meaningful, creative and constructive activity; a
fulfilling, compatible, supportive and extraordinarily successful marriage. Yet, in the
fashion of her sensitive heart and golden neshama (soul), she felt badly for the numerous
singles who didn't have the intense happiness in marriage that she had been blessed by G-d
A burst of inspiration and creative energy
hit her. She felt good at the prospective capacity to make a meaningful difference. She
was going to make the ideal singles shabatone. She was going to get more wedding rings off
of store shelves and onto fingers, where they belong! With some work and organization, and
all the pieces in place, she was going to effectively do it!
She lives in a town that is small enough
for everyone in the Jewish community to know each other in friendly-neighbor fashion,
while big enough to have a substantial Torah observant population. The town was far enough
from Manhattan to offer a pleasant, relaxing suburban atmosphere, but close enough to be
accessible to all New York City area Jewish-population centers (within "commuting
The town was close-knit, the people are
unafraid to give of themselves for mitzvos, sympathetic to worthy causes (such as those to
which Leah and her husband constantly and tirelessly gave), cooperative, warm, friendly
and cheerful. The shul is large enough to accommodate a large influx of guests and the
activities that would be scheduled for them. It had a sizable dining room, a catering
kitchen facility, and a rabbi and board who are devoted to Torah ideals and good deeds.
And, the townspeople had homes and hearts big enough to enable them to sleep a guest or
two each, for the weekend. Leah decided that she was going to organize - and accomplish -
a successful shabatone.
She called into service several
enthusiastic housewives to help with the massive administrative and logistical
responsibilities. Leah delegated and managed as professionally as a corporate executive
would, albeit in her sweet personality's very human style.
Some women would be in charge of calling
neighbors to set up hospitality, so shabatone attendees would each have a place to sleep.
Some did paperwork necessary to arrange and track facets of the project, such as: who is
assigned to sleep where, who could be roommates with whom, keeping the intake of males and
females even, etc.
Leah made arrangements with the shul, the
rabbi and two outside rabbis who would be brought in to speak, from Torah sources, on
singles' and man-woman-relationship topics (one of whom has since moved to outside of the
Leah had heard some of my Torah tapes. I
was asked to be there with a speech or two. I was there from start to finish and spoke to
Leah in detail about the entire project.
She made arrangements with a local caterer,
who is a S'fardi who was just starting out and in need of business. In procuring him for
the caterer's role, she added to the shabatone's merits the mitzva of helping a fellow Jew
and of giving parnossa (livelihood) to a struggling family man and newcomer to this
country. As a neighbor, his kosher-observance standards could be ascertained and trusted.
He had the hechsher (certification) of the town's chief rabbinical authority. She also got
a reasonable price, which helped make the non-profit endeavor affordable for the singles.
Leah worked out a complete schedule of
activities, both to keep attendees from getting bored and to keep men and women in
situations of good taste, through which they could meet each other.
She wanted control over the type of people
who would attend. There would have to be balance between openness to the public and
screening of attendees, so that the intended goals and a uniform Torah atmosphere could be
achieved. The singles would have to be sincere, marriage-minded and Torah observant. They
would all have to have behavior standards which could be verified as standards which would
allow a responsible and Heaven-fearing matchmaker to see his/her way clear to setting each
man or woman on a date. Advertising was too public. Personal interviewing was unrealistic.
Attendance would have to be by invitation only.
She made a list of rabbis and individuals
who worked with singles, each of whose reputation, judgement and experience she could
trust. She called each one and described what she was planning and asked for the names and
phone numbers of men and women who they could recommend as appropriate singles who she
could call to invite to the shabatone. When all her preliminary arrangements were done and
preliminary data was in, she, with her assistants, the shul, and the community, set a
There would be an even number of men and
women. A cut-off number was established for how many singles could attend. The number was
determined by the smallest element (the "weakest link in the chain"): the shul's
Only singles pre-screened by Leah and her
list of rabbis or colleagues would be allowed to come. A fee was established by adding up
the total amount of expenses, adding a prudent margin, in case some people canceled or
unanticipated expenses cropped up; dividing the total by the number of singles they
planned on having. The project would be protected against operating in a deficit and any
extra money would go to tzadaka (charity).
About five or six weeks before the date of
the shabatone, several women started calling the singles referred by the rabbis. Every
night, these volunteers would get together to count how many singles cumulatively said
"yes" about coming, and to determine how the number of registered men and women
compared. Each attendee was only considered tentative until the check came. When it came,
the single was verified as an attendee and the committee set the single up with a family
to sleep. The sooner the check came, the shorter the person's walk to a house. Two of the
women kept elaborate, detailed, up-to-date charts on who had registered, who had paid, and
which family each single was set up to sleep over with. Another woman hand-drew a map of
the neighborhood, making clear where the shul (the "base" of shabatone
activities) is, and highlighting streets on which baal habatim (home owners) were, making
it easy and clear for visitors to be directed and to find their way to where they need to
go. A note was made if a specific roommate was requested.
As the date grew closer, the work grew
increasingly frantic and frenetic. The ladies were all good natured and eager, even though
they grew a little nervous. Those 3:00 mornings!
By finding a way to squeeze a bit more
capacity than expected into the dining room, about 15 more singles were allowed to
register by the cut-off date than originally expected. The final total count was in the
Attendees had been directed to come to, and
register at, the shul between 2-5 hours before sunset. Although Leah expected that some
would come after 2 hours before sunset, she wanted to slant the time-consuming
registration function as far away from a last minute surge as possible. There was a formal
procedure for each person's registration, and she specifically asked attendees to arrive
2-5 hours before sundown so as to keep the lines and flow of work moving reasonably
smoothly and evenly.
Computer print-outs were made with each
attendee's name address, phone number, gender, record of payment and the home (with family
name and address) at which the single was set up to have hospitality.
Tables were set up just inside the entrance
to the shul. Leah, armed with a mile-wide smile, made sure to meet each person at the
registration tables. She welcomed each arrival personally. Four volunteers staffed the
tables. Two lines were provided for registering men, two for registering women. When each
attendee registered, each was checked off on the print-out, each was given a copy of the
hand-drawn neighborhood map and friendly directions by the volunteer to the host at whose
home each would sleep. Each single was given a copy of the schedule of events, which
started immediately upon arrival with a social mixer in the dining room at which coffee,
cake, fruit, tea, soda, juice and nosh were served. As each person registered, he or she
was given a warm invitation to refresh him or her self in the dining room and given a name
tag (pink for women, blue for men), and each was advised when mincha started, so that they
would know when to be back from depositing their luggage and meeting their hosts.
After mincha, the shul's rabbi gave a warm
speech welcoming the guests before maariv. At the meal, the tables were each large enough
to accommodate eight people. Four places had pink napkins and four had blue, assuring that
each table would have an even mix of the genders. The shul's assistant rabbi gave a drasha
(Torah exposition) on the parsha (weekly portion) between the chicken soup and the main
course. Acquaintances were being made at the tables. The room was animated with lively
The head table seated Leah and her husband,
the shul's two rabbis, the two visiting rabbis and important local personages who were key
contributors to the shabatone effort.
During the meal, there were speeches from
the head table, thanking all the volunteers, rabbis and neighbors who made this event
possible. I had the honor of leading Friday evening's bentshing (grace after meals).
After bentshing, the crowd was herded down
the hall back to the "main sanctuary" of the shul where a guest rabbi (who moved
out of the country shortly after the shabatone) spoke for an hour on the importance of
respect and working at a relationship in the Jewish marriage.
There was an oneg shabos after the drasha.
Leah circulated, making it a point to get to know individuals. The shadchan (matchmaker)
in her was on the lookout for prospective matches from the registration table to the last
"goodbye." Leah prudently balanced the distribution of her time so that she
could speak to individuals as people and optimize her coverage and really get to meet as
many singles as possible.
After the oneg, Leah assigned people to
groups, based on the locations of the host houses, so that the attendees would walk to the
homes together. This gave additional opportunity for people to get acquainted and it
assured that no one would walk home alone at night. The man walking the furthest distance
in each group was assigned to escort the woman walking the furthest to her destination.
In the morning, the coffee urn which served
so well at the initial social mixer, was back on duty, waiting to prod worshippers into
gear. Before krias haTorah (reading of the Torah portion), the rabbi gave another drasha.
Again, at the seuda, there were pink and
blue napkins assuring an even mix at the tables. Another speaker gave a drasha over the
chulent. The chatter was upbeat enough to be encouraging, without getting excessive or
wild. This achieved the balance between liveliness and demeanor which Leah strove hard to
After the meal, the other guest rabbi spoke
about G-d as the maker of matches between men and women. After that, people made
matches...between their heads and a pillow, for the "shabos shloof (nap)."
At shalosh seudos (the third meal), a man
from the community spoke. After havdalla (the sabbath termination ceremony), and a break
which allowed everyone to catch their breath, there was a malava malka which included a
party, a talent show at the residence of a community member who had a very large home. The
caterer set up a wide variety of foods, nosh and beverages. One person played classical
piano, another man sung Jewish songs while playing an acoustic folk guitar, there was a
comedian, then a singer did songs from Vaudeville. I did a presentation.
Meanwhile, Leah, who is as practical as she
is human, and who has a keen insight into people as well as sensitivity for them, was
hopping energetically around like a mother hen making shidduchim between men and women who
seemed to indicate potential together. By the end of the party, either on their own or
with Leah's strong but loving prodding, about a dozen couples arranged to go out.
In the months that followed, Leah told me
that four marriages came out of that shabatone. She followed up personally on the
developing relationships. She stayed in telephone contact and was supportively and
caringly involved. Look at what one person can do! Look at what amazing merit she has, and
how much happiness she is responsible for!
With the Jewish singles population as large
as it is, we need more initiative, creativity and activity. We can all be inspired by Leah
- a woman with energy, drive, creativity, intelligence, and devotion to Yiddishkeit (Torah
Judaism) and chesed (active lovingkindness for fellow Jews). She embodies the Biblical
verses: "G-d has told you, mankind, what is good and what G-d requires of you...to
love to do active kindness...[Micah 6:8]" and "Her mouth opens with wisdom and
on her tongue is the teaching of lovingkindness [Proverbs 31:26]."
Leah mobilized the resources and hearts of
an entire neighborhood. If communities could follow her lead to undertake responsibilities
and projects, to organize and motivate neighbors and available institutions, to achieve
constructive and innovative objectives for Jewish singles, we can help turn the tide in
the singles epidemic, one couple at a time. Or, maybe, four couples at a time?
And Leah's dedicated and inspiring avoda
(spiritual service) did not go unrewarded. G-d's justice and kindness - in accordance with
His principle of mida kineged mida (measure for measure) - shone forth. Leah brought
couples together who could inaugurate families. About seven months after the shabatone,
G-d gave Leah and her husband their first child (a son). About a year and a half later, a
daughter was added to the cast of characters.
OPEN HOUSE - AND HEART
Mrs. Mayer is "young middle age."
Her husband makes a good living. Things are fairly smooth with their children. They have a
nice, sizable house. Since she has some time during the course of her day and she has a
salable skill, she works part-time in order to use her time purposefully. She wanted to
find another outlet for her wish to use her time purposefully.
She is acutely aware of the "singles
situation" and is motivated to do something about it. She wondered if anything was
being done in her area and she asked around. Although she is the one who exhibited the
most active interest, she found out there were others who would get involved if she would
take the lead and organize something. She got together with some of her neighbors and
members of her shul.
At a meeting, they discovered that some of
the participants were willing to put up some money or volunteer practical help. She was
willing to donate the use of her home for a Sunday afternoon. The "board"
decided on a date - far enough in the future to plan reasonably well and soon enough to
warrant getting right into action - and they went to work organizing a singles event.
Mrs. Mayer wanted to structure the event to
promote meaningful meeting of attending men and women. At singles events, a person will
talk to another while looking over the shoulder to see who else is present. Such events
are notorious for being frustrating and fruitless. There would be no purpose in
aggregating 100 or 200 singles who will do little more than go back home lonely and
aggravated. But how could she design an event that would overcome this "Superficial
Then Mrs. Mayer remembered seeing me at a
four week series I ran on having a successful marriage. She phoned me and explained the
goal. I told her I could do a program which would start with an interest-capturing
presentation. Then I could move the format into a workshop. This would bring people out,
get them involved. By participating; by what each would say; by what each would show about
their mind, character and personality; individuals would notice the "person" in
other attendees. By seeing beneath the surface into other participants, a greater degree
of reality-based interest can be aroused. At the time a popular book on gender differences
was around and selling well. It was secular and contains some contents that are deemed
objectionable and unworkable by the Torah. However, the book did generate interest even in
Jewish circles. So, I recommended my doing a program called:
"Mars, Venus And Sinai...
The Jewish Road To Success With The Other
which would contain a preliminary Torah
segment and then open up for discussion, under my facilitation. Mrs. Mayer liked the idea.
Note, there is a gemora (Shabos 62a) which
refers to men and women as separate nations. This shows the analogy of being from
different planets to be erroneous. Nations may be different but they can build
understanding of different mentalities, can have alliance, diplomacy, translation,
cultural exchange and friendship. Two nations can come together and add their strengths
and abilities together to produce things which neither alone could accomplish. Chazal knew
the nature of analogy and their analogies stand up as perfect when analyzed from any
vantage point. We therefore can say that the analogy of men and women from separate
planets is false and defective, with its implication of men and women being too alien.
With the wisdom of Torah, men and women, even with their vast and unmistakable
differences, can be guided into peaceful and lifelong cooperation.
Mrs. Mayer's board and friends were going
to phone people and recruit attendees by "word of mouth." They decided to do
some, but not much, advertising in selected Jewish media in their area. She set up her
house as for a big party. There was an admission fee established, designed to achieve
approximate break-even on the expenses.
An hour and a half was allotted after the
advertised starting time before my program was to start, to allow people to float in. Mrs.
Mayer introduced me. I started by describing how Torah sources and rabbinical authorities
discussed gender differences, each gender's responses and obligations to the opposite
gender, how the genders can add up to a whole if they treat each other as allies,
communicating, understanding how to adapt from the thinking which is in your gender-mode
to the gender-mode of a partner, and examples of the kind of work that goes into building
a secure and happy marriage.
This managed to bring the crowd out. I made
it clear that the program invited participation yet would require responsible behavior so
that things don't get wild. Only one person could speak at a time. At the beginning,
people started more with asking me questions than citing opinions. As the crowd got
progressively more comfortable and open, I started bringing more people into the
discussion, balancing the goal of bringing people out with the need to keep the crowd
orderly. For the most part things went well. My main goal was to get people interested in
other attendees. I chose material that would lend itself to opinionization, be relevant,
have universal interest and apply to practical life; to make getting involved in the
program attractive and comfortable to the largest possible number of people. I told people
that even if they do not meet a "basherte" at the event, get to know other
attendees so that they could network for each other (get acquainted so that they could set
each other up with other people who they know). If they wouldn't feel comfortable talking
to one other person, I told them to form casual groups, to take the pressure off. I gave
them some tips on networking.
When I finished, a number of people
gathered around me to ask their personal questions about their relationship problems or
patterns. Meanwhile, I was able to notice that there were several couples getting into
I noticed something else that was nice.
Many of the others did not find someone of interest to talk to through the workshop
segment. However, a good percentage broke into several groups, of eight or ten men and
women each, forming their own discussion groups and getting to know each other. The groups
seemed orderly and good-natured.
At one point, I had to excuse myself and
leave as I had a speaking engagement for that evening. But things were going strong and
nicely. Well done, Mrs. Mayer and friends!
A WIDER RANGE OF
The organizers of any shabatone or event
are not limited by any means to the methods, concepts or techniques enumerated here in the
above description of Leah's stupendous project.
I have been involved on various levels in
the fields of human relations, personality, man-woman compatibility, personal development
and helping Jewish men and women with their relating and inner difficulties. This has been
manifested in various forms, such as matchmaking, private counseling to individuals and to
dating or married couples, public speaking and teaching in related subjects, writing for
publication in Jewish media, moderating workshops in relating and in human development
subjects, and various forms of participation in seminars and social events.
In the course of my career, I have
witnessed or developed numerous seminars, workshops and events and have interviewed people
who have planned and run them, for more knowledge and insight. My experience shows that
you can open up your range of options as widely as your creativity, resources and
practical initiative can take you. I have seen singles events take numerous forms
* full-blown long weekend or Yom Tov
* parties with a devar Torah and,
sometimes, a shadchan on board,
* relationship skill workshops,
* weekly support groups for individuals
with relating fears and/or problems,
* lecture series with relationship
Any event must be:
* under Torah auspices,
* in good taste,
* in conformity with Jewish law,
* with a spiritual atmosphere,
* staffed by Torah-committed Jews who
assure throughout that Torah ideals and laws uncompromisingly govern the entire event.
Further, advance planning and event
execution must be:
* well-staffed with competent people, and
Otherwise you will do more to humiliate the
planners than to marry off the attendees. I have seen well-intended grandiose productions
rendered laughable due to disorganization, uninformed or inadequate staff, lack of
punctuality to an absurd and frustrating extent, and other controllable factors.
Also, the promotion, advertising and
publicity must be planned and executed with skill, timeliness and organization.
Events must be planned in advance. Allow
sufficient time for all staffing, training, arrangements and promotion. To be effective
and successful, my experience in devising, planning, advertising, preparing and presenting
any event, the entirety must be done, from initial idea to final clean-up, in a prudent,
organized, business-like and well-delegated fashion. This applies no matter what form it
takes: e.g. dinner at a restaurant or shul, motsai shabos [Saturday night] or holiday
party, lectures, workshops, shabatone, weekend - anything.
The event can and should be modified to
factor in the audience (religiosity, location from which the population comes,
sophistication, age, etc.), goals (making introductions, widening of networks,
relationship skill development or obstacle reduction, etc.), nature and size of the
facilities (shul, social hall, private home, restaurant, hotel hall, business owner's
board room, etc.), desired atmosphere (provided by the physical facilities and to be
created by the organizers), expense, time, staff and all other germane characteristics and
resources. All such considerations MUST fit into your final operational plans. Often, the
means by which you can advertise and publicize play an important role in determining how
and when to set-up and schedule event, as well as in determining who (and how many people)
show up. Also: what else may be going on at the same time - will you have competition,
will every one be away that weekend? To the extent possible, generate favorable and
widespread "word of mouth."
One strategy that I have often and
effectively used is to choose subjects - when I speak to single or married audiences -
right on relationship or related topics...talking right to the point (although, it's not
for every audience). Not only do these subjects meaningfully and impactfully "hit
home," I often am asked practical questions from listeners' personal lives right
after the presentation. I can receive phone calls with practical life-questions for up to
months after. People may come to me for counseling or matchmaking as a consequence of
having heard me. Such developments often help people to find, choose, develop, improve or
retain a relationship; or to get rid of an unhealthy or dead-ended relationship and,
thereby, move on.
I've been developing my
"inventory" of relationship, personality and human growth subjects since '77 and
examples of well-received, practical topics include: love, respect, happiness, commitment,
what goes into compatibility, what is readiness for marriage, communication, the
relationship between self-image and how one chooses and conducts relationship, resolving
differences and impasses, working on a relationship constructively, addressing fears and
pains, practical steps to seeking a mate, attitudes which effect one's ability to relate,
letting go of patterns which don't work, what is "basherte," personal
characteristics (midos) which make or break relationships, male and female in G-d's plan
for Creation, relationship sabotage, inaugurating a new relationship, getting over an
ended relationship, self-confidence, etc. This approach can be adapted to and integrated
into any scenario, event, location, audience or format.
All told, there are several formats and
approaches, some being suitable for certain situations or populations, while others are
suitable for others. Let's take a closer look at some of the various options.
One workshop approach - which can only work
well if it is excellently organized - is to break up a large audience into demographically
sensible and compatible groups (e.g. by such criteria as age, religiosity, life goals,
etc.) of marriage-minded men and women, with equal numbers of men and women in each group.
A moderator makes a presentation on the aspects of relationship (or difficulty) to be
addressed. He explains that the issue plays an important part in getting along, selecting
a mate, not being stopped by inadequate self-image, breaking the ice, or whatever. He then
goes on to explain how the first exercise plays a role in achieving the intended goal
(giving background and a sense of context and purpose).
In each group, men and women form couples
and are given relating assignments in which skills and sensitivities are developed for
getting to know a member of the opposite gender. Unproductive fears, behaviors and
shortcomings can be worked on. "Role-plays" can sometimes be used e.g. to
address excessive shyness or hesitation, to understand the thinking or behavior of the
opposite gender, to learn how to start a new relationship. After each assigned exercise,
men can rotate to the next woman in the same group, so that there is no sense of pressure
or discomfort, as typically can develop when one man stays with one woman for this entire
workshop. The moderator makes a presentation that sets up for each subsequent exercise.
Staff members must be carefully selected,
well-trained, managed and coordinated. They must supervise each group to keep the program
running smoothly, tastefully, effectively and productively. There are questions and
complications which require a well trained and organized response. This kind of program,
depending on how well it is organized and managed, can be a frustrating, disastrous and
disappointing flop; or a seriously productive, significant and meaningful success.
Another approach is to have a round-robin
event in which each of many tables in a large (e.g. dining hall) room is divided, so that
an equal number of males is facing an equal number of females (at each table). If, for
example, each table seats eight, four males on one side face four females on the opposite
side. Too large a group at each table is disruptive and the proceedings get bogged down.
Again, the event must be well-planned, organized and executed.
Each of the women, and then the men,
briefly introduces and describes him or her self, and describes what he or she is looking
for in a mate. There is a trained staff member at each table to manage the proceedings. A
leader keeps time and, every few minutes, announces when each mini-session is over, at
which time the men pick up and move on to the next table. Women stay at their table
The activity is repeated. All attendees
speak briefly about themselves and what they are looking for with each other group in
attendance at the event. The men keep moving on to the next table until they have rotated
through all the tables (at which the women stay put). Since each group of men rotates, in
order, around through the entire cluster of tables, everyone of one gender meets everyone
of the other gender. In this way, every man and every woman has had an introduction to one
The goal of the exercise is NOT to have
each man meet each woman as a dating prospect. This would cause that ugly feeling of
discomfort and pressure. To take away shyness, inhibition, self-consciousness, pressure
and discomfort, the goal is stated as being: acquaintance with one another so as to expand
each other's network.
This means that each attendee is
introducing and describing him or her self so that everyone else can learn about each
person, and be on the lookout for appropriate matches between individuals met at these
tables, and other people who each attendee knows (or comes to meet) back in everyday life.
If man A hears woman B describe herself (or
if her personality makes a certain impression), man A can suggest a set-up for a date for
woman B from man C who man A knows presently or man D who man A will meet in a week or a
month into the future. Man A may have a friend, business associate or neighbor who may be
ideal for woman B. Woman B may have a cousin, co-worker or high-school comrade who would
suit another man at one of the tables. Man A may notice that someone a half dozen tables
away would suit woman B.
Meanwhile, there would be at least one
skilled, tactful and diligent matchmaker - who understands people and who has trustworthy,
mature judgement - who is on hand to promote matches if any of the women or men happen to
have interest in one another. While the stated goal is networking, of course interest in
attendees by attendees is really ideal.
Forms may be devised, printed and given out
to attendees, which allow them to discretely provide the names of individuals who 1.(s)he
is interested in or 2. would be a "candidate" for the attendee's friend or
relative. Forms would not be an option for events which take place on shabos or major
holidays, when Jewish law prohibits writing (unless their use is saved for the night
after, when writing becomes permitted again).
The larger the crowd, the larger the staff
has to be, to manage the event with commensurate efficiency.
If you really want to get sophisticated (in
light of the fact that each man or woman is in a group of not more than about four and,
therefore, only meets about three more members of the same gender), you can add a
variation to the program which enables each person to network about twice as much as the
"basic approach" (in which each group of men rotates from table to table).
After all the men have met all the women at
the tables, break the crowd into four groups: divide the groups of men in half and the
groups of women in half. The two resultant groups of men go to one half of the dining
hall, the two groups of women go to the opposite side. By dividing the men into two groups
and the women into two groups, you can have all the men meet all the other men, you can
have all the women meet all the other women, so that literally every attendee can network
with literally every other attendee.
You use then same basic technique. The men
describe themselves so that the other men can "go on the lookout" for each
other, and the women describe themselves so that the other women can "go on the
lookout" for each other. One half of the men and one half of the women are assigned
to stationary positions at a given table, the other half of each gender is assigned to
rotate. This way, literally everybody gets an opportunity to meet everybody else.
Data about who is interesting for
1. any attendee or
2. any friend or relative of any attendee
is fed to the on-hand shadchan(s). You may
hear things like, "I got a cousin/neighbor/co-worker who is perfect for...!" One
time when I was a leader of such a workshop, I made a match for one of the men in
attendance with someone I knew from my neighborhood. One time, when I did a networking
program at a singles shabatone, I (in the role of event leader) thought of a set-up for
one of the women with one of my former students. At that same event, two of the women
became good friends. It is not unusual for a well-executed and well-attended event to
produce a shidduch and new friendships.
Another method is the "relationship
workshop." This can be structured in different ways. One example is taking a
meaningful topic that has some bearing on the singles situation (e.g. dealing with anger
or rejection, family values, bad dating or shadchan experiences, relationship conduct or
sabotage, how to "break the ice" or overcoming shyness when meeting someone new,
or any topic that can evoke interest and enthusiastic debate and discussion).
A trained and informed moderator can
"bring people out," evoke interest, and direct discussion and the event so that
people open up and lunge into a lively session. Attendees get insights into the
personalities, values, attitudes, qualities and relating styles of the other people. Men
and women who may not have given a member of the opposite gender a second look can be
impressed by or attracted to a person when that other displays views or personality
strengths brought out by the discussion. In addition to finding "candidates" of
the opposite gender when people open up to each other, some become friendly with other
participants of the same gender.
One format that I use is called
"Simcha Singles." It has a combination lecture/workshop format. The goal is
bringing the "day of simcha [i.e. wedding]" sooner! It consists of a weekly
series of presentations on a relationship subject, followed by a discussion or workshop
that allows the attendees to bring the material into their lives and situations, to make
the material practical. Another thing that I use this interactive segment for is to bring
out the attendees so that other people take a second look at people who speak out. At
singles events, people often look superficially at other attendees. When they speak out,
however, during managed, dynamic sessions, people get deeper insight into the character,
minds and personalities of opposite-gender attendees. This can lead to interest and to
"developments." I also can "instigate" matchmaking and networking, as
As an example, I have done a three-month
long once-a-week "Simcha Singles" lecture series on topics of interest to
singles such as finding a mate, communication, understanding gender differences, what
constitutes readiness, handling anger and differences, getting along, what true love is,
cultivating relationship potential, how to stay together, etc.
Another "relationship workshop"
format has more of a "support group" than "relationship topic" mode of
operation. This approach tends to work better with attendees from demographically similar
groups, so that common concerns can be stressed and addressed, for example: divorced,
widowed, never-been-married, separated (exploring reconciliation vs. divorce), baal
tshuvos, single parents, etc. - any factor or combination that serves your population
effectively and meaningfully.
The session opens up with a trained
moderator getting people to speak about what they came to the support group for, or to
speak about things that get in the way of finding, selecting, developing or maintaining a
relationship. The group can speak about things that promote or help a relationship,
experiences, frustrations, recurrent problems on the dating scene, the way men and women
do (or should) treat each other, things that cause pain or mistrust in a relationship,
insecurities, shyness, men and women better understanding the other gender, letting go of
past relationships, what really is important vs. unimportant in a serious relationship,
The moderator must know how to choose and
present topics, to open people up, to create rapport and trust, and to provide a
supportive and constructive environment. He must also have experience and skill in dealing
with and understanding people, especially in emotional contexts.
People obtain feedback and input on how
they come across to the opposite gender, how they express themselves (or fail to), how
they sabotage or block themselves, and how they can help each other from their
experiences. This approach, if handled and managed skillfully and competently, can provide
considerable practical benefit to the participants. They can become more self aware,
confident, sensitized and effective. And sometimes a shidduch or warm friendship comes out
of such sessions.
Common criteria for these workshop
approaches are: creative; interest-capturing for the attending population, participative;
professionally moderated; the participation designed specifically so as to bring people
out in such ways that attendees get a "beneath the surface" impression of who
other group members are, by virtue of how each responds and what each says; control over
group size (so individuality is not lost in the crowd - the moderator may have to
"float" from sub-group to sub-group, if group size requires breaking into
smaller sub-groups, or there may have to be supervisors for each sub-group); and enjoyable
The moderator would announce to the entire
group, at the beginning, the basic nature and goals of the activity, and give instructions
on how to properly do the activity, before breaking the overall larger group into the
smaller activity groups. If a group is too large for one group but too small for two
groups, switch the chairs around into the shape of a circle or semi-circle. A form should
be devised to obtain meaningful information about each attendee, completely filled out by
each attendee upon arrival before the activity starts, and be used afterwards by the
supervisors to assist in practical matchmaking follow-up.
Another variation is to choose topics which
do not pertain to relating, as may be suitable for certain kinds of singles events. Not
all groups want to discuss relating. You can choose topics of ethics, religion, politics
or moral principles, about which people will have differing ideas. The group can either be
given discussion topics or can formulate scenarios and debate what is right or wrong, pro
or con, is likely to cause good or bad consequences - a "hot topic" that will
have participants "verbally slug it out." Such a topic allows one to disclose
values, worldviews, attitudes, ethics, personality and relating style, which helps members
of the opposite gender decide who is or is not an applicable "candidate" from
among the opposite-gender-attendees.
This format does not have the psychological
aspects that occur in the above formats and may be suitable for situations in which the
psychological flavor may be deemed inappropriate. In some situations, the psychological
mode may cause stigma, hesitation or discomfort, or may be incompatible with another
aspect of an event. You always must know what your audience wants and needs, and provide
them with what will work for them. There are a wide variety of format and content options
because there are a wide variety of needs, situations, populations and facilities.
When you choose topics, you do not do so
for the purpose of "saving the world" or discovering "what is right."
You choose topics:
* to bring people out,
* that apply to and interest your audience,
* that demonstrate something significant
about each speaker who expresses something on the topic, and
* which will develop in accordance with who
the participating personalities are.
Topics that work with a given audience or
under given conditions may not work with others. Use your judgement with your particular
population and situation. As time goes on, events may suggest new topics. At a recent
singles shabatone, a "hot topic" involved the discussion about the shooting by
Baruch Goldstein of Arabs in the Ma'aras HaMachpela. Another winner discussion group at
that same shabatone was the role of humor in life. To get your ideas flowing, let me give
you some topic examples:
* traditional roles and today's marriage -
are things changing and how are we better off,
* living with the hardships of being single
in Jewry's marriage oriented society,
* men and women getting along better and
understanding gender differences better - how do gender-based differences and
misunderstanding disturb or harm shiduchim,
* pursuing personal goals and developing as
a person while single,
* is there self-expression in halacha and,
if so, how does one know what's "kosher,"
* events in Israel (e.g. 1. what should we
think about the "peace process" or 2. what should non-Israeli Jews do? or 3. who
in the Israeli government is right),
* what values are important when dating and
in the family and in child-raising,
* what is important to accomplish in life
or to be remembered for,
* how do you improve or harm quality of
* what quality(ies) in a person are
* what are ways to show honor, respect and
thoughtfulness in a relationship that can build or help the relationship,
* should you place meaning in what people
say about you, a partner and two people as a couple - when do you listen and when not,
* how should a couple deal with anger and
resolving of differences,
* what are indications of compatibility or
"the real thing,"
* how do you establish priorities in
choosing a mate, what are pros and cons, what is weighty and what is insignificant,
* in what ways should partners be the same,
in what ways should they be different
* how does one face - and deal with -
relationship patterns which repeatedly don't work,
* can pursuing personal goals make one less
able to pay proper attention to marriageability, a marriage or a marriage partner,
* any moral or ethical dilemma, etc.
Again, the goal is not to establish what
the "truth" is. The goal is to establish if you've got a potential couple in the
room. By the way, some of these points are excellent in a matchmaking interview because
they disclose a lot about who the person is and how he or she thinks about life issues.
This can help you know what is a suitable or unsuitable match for the single.
MAKE A WEDDING
In the early eighties, I was still learning
in Yerushalayim. While there, the following happened.
A young man who was touring Europe and
Israel was "snatched at the kosel" and brought to one of the Baal Tshuva
Yeshivos in Yerushalayim. He developed in learning and observance. A young woman was, in
"classic" fashion, also snapped up and brought to one of the women's
institutions. She also became frum. Let's call them Shmuel and Elisheva.
The two met at the shabos table of one of
the friendly Yerushalyim families who are supportive of the baal tshuva movement and
hospitable to its members. After a while, the two got engaged.
Both came from wealthy American families.
Both families basically disowned their newly frum children, so both of them were
financially broke. There was no way that they were in a position to pay for a wedding
Shmuel planned to learn in kollel to get
more solidly onto his feet in Torah. Elisheva was planning to work. They would be able to
scrape by for a while, but there was no way that they could pay for a wedding on their
own. Since they were alienated from their families and had both accumulated a warm cluster
of friends, and they had both developed close relationships with their rabbis and a large
number of area families, both agreed on marrying in Yerushalayim. Any of their family
members who would want to come would be welcome. But, for the meanwhile at least, their
life was in Yerushalayim.
But still, they had no practical plan or
wherewithal for making a wedding. They mentioned this to some of the people they were
close to. One of Elisheva's newly-married girlfriends told the kallah that there were some
women who had gotten together to make a wedding for another couple who also were broke.
The friend gave Elisheva the organizer's phone number. Her name was Mrs. Grossman.
Elisheva phoned the woman, who turned out
to be a sweet, enthusiastic and spiritual woman who loved to do mitzvos. Before Elisheva
finished explaining the situation, Mrs. Grossman cheerfully offered to try to recruit her
"team" of volunteers. They made budget weddings for impoverished olim
(immigrants to Israel) and Baalay Tshuva a few times already. Although they didn't quite
have it down to a science, they had somewhat of a model to work from. All of the women
would volunteer time and work, chip in or fund-raise for the expenses and all be thrilled
at the opportunity to fulfill such a huge mitzva. If anything was striking, it was the
positive, lovely and enthusiastic attitude. One time they used a shul, another time a
homeowners backyard. Mrs. Grossman was even kind enough to assure Elisheva that she would
lack nothing - it would be a complete and dignified chasuna!
A band of women was recruited and each was
assigned a division of the work. One arranged for the location, photographer and musician.
Some were assigned to baking and cooking. Other were delegated fund-raising for
inescapable expenses. One was in charge of borrowing tables and silverware. One was in
charge of flowers. I forget whether the flowers were paper mache or artificial-type. One
sewed or rented tablecloths. These dedicated women, these beautiful neshamos didn't leave
a stone unturned - and they all were pleasant and cheerful all the way through.
I saw from this that when any Jewish need
presents itself how the community should jump to seize the opportunity. As the Vilna Gaon
wrote, based on an Aramaic phrase in the Zohar, "Ain Licha dovor ha'omaid lifnay
haratzon (nothing stands in the way of sincere will)."
In the context of the singles situation,
and in light of the financial difficulties of recent times, perhaps there are occasions
when it may be that financial obstacles stand in the way of Jews marrying. If so, can
dedicated groups of individual band together to make full and dignified "budget
chasunas" and/or raise money to help get couples started out. Do you know people with
organizational, cooking or other skills who would be willing to participate in such
mitzvos? Can you create a "gemach" that collects and lends wedding materials
(tables, silverware, artificial flowers, gown [to be laundered by each kallah before
returning], camera and/or video, etc.)? Can you raise funds for inescapable expenses that
you don't have volunteers to do (e.g. printing invitations - assuming you can't recruit a
frum printer to help), a musician - assuming you can't get your neighbor's cousin who
plays to volunteer, flying in immediate relatives or the choson's rav from out of town,
When you put this book down, think into how
you can bring singles together and get appropriate couples married. What can you do? What
can people you know do? What could you rustle together if you gave it the time and effort?
How could you make a practical meaningful contributing difference? As Hillel said (Pirkei
Avos chapter one), "If not now, when?"
One of my expressions is, "Don't be
stifled, be creative." Nowhere would this apply more than in mammoth mitzvos that
build, save and create Jewish lives.