Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Jewish Singles Event

A good friend of mine, a single man, a businessman from a neighboring state, came to Crown Heights for a visit. They were having a "Shabbaton" for American singles in this community over the weekend.

Because my little daughter had a "coloring class" in the same building as the Shabbaton, I ended up observing the comings and goings of these singles, as I waited to pick her up when she was done with her class.

While waiting I moseyed about the Shabbaton crowd that happened to share the same floor where I waited. There were 3 desks for Shadchanim, and about 30 people were waiting in 3 lines to get a turn to sit and talk to a Shadchan. Others milled about the room eating hor d'oeuvres. Mostly women spoke to women and men to men. The women outnumbered men 4 to 1 in my estimate. Very few man-to-woman conversations occurred.

Because I, personally, married quite late in life, and had attended thousands of "single events", it brought back memories, especially those that occurred in my late twenties, into my thirties and into my forties.

The one sure feeling I used to feel in this atmosphere was a profoundly sad one. I remember each such event took a painful toll on me. There I was wanting to get married, as everyone else, I supposed, and yet such occasions suppressed spontaneity and truthfulness, in the quest to meet the "right one". It was difficult navigating among the contenders and the competitors, like paddling upstream by yourself.

There was a "dressing up" issue; A "polite yet concise" issue if you were speaking to the "wrong" one; An "awkward" issue if communication required dancing or some other excuse; And a host of other issues. And even if you did find an appealing prospect, the effort to speak of personal matters, at the risk of spilling your guts "for nothing", also took an emotional toll. This is the "draining" issue.

Another issue to contend with is "sizing up" someone - in one look - which can work both ways! Like, for example, seeing a heavy-set lady in her 50's dress like an imprudent teenager. Or, a man in his eighties. Or, a lady with a ton of make-up. A black lady was present too, likely Jewish I suppose. Or, the wrong "stream of Judaism". Or, an extremely kind gesture or smile to someone else.

Sometimes the approach of someone you had already "sized-up" brings about an awkward conversation where the minds duel verbally to initiate a polite u-turn.

As I observed, I thanked God I was happily married and well beyond this "scene" already. I felt pain for each of these singles and secretly wished them all well. This crowd averaged about 50 in age!

I also thanked God my children will be looking for spouses as soon as they turn 18 or 20, or so, because of the chassidic culture we adhere to. God forbid these good kids should have to waste precious years, like I did, before the commitment to Hashem's call to marry is made. This is the "commitment" issue. This entails a degree of surrender to God's wish - in that trust in Him will make the partnership work - by committing to leave some room for compromise, as well as, to making God the 3rd partner of this marriage.

If only I could do something to help Jewish singles find each other. The internet may well have added a new vista for their search, although the "issues" I spoke of still remain no matter what the medium. Still, I believe a good shadchan program may well help this needy crowd of good people. By "well-programmed" I mean, where pictures and videos do not at first interfere with questionnaires, to settle the spiritual angle of the coupling before the physical challenge needs to be confronted, so internet-initiated matchmaking can be effective.

After all, God connects man and woman no matter if it's a shadchan, a relative, or a "program" that makes the introduction. The internet, therefore, is a bonus method of finding your "bashert".

That this medium too can present problems of its own can be eliminated, in my estimate, if the "shadchan application" ("shadchan app) is a good one, ie., well-programmed.

My friend who came for the Shabbaton actually found someone he took interest in. They were to meet after some break, but she never showed.

I encouraged him to seek her out again, by locating her phone number from organizers, because she too, he said, expressed interest, and because something else may well have taken her off course unexpectedly.

I invite your comments. If you can suggest a good "program" or "event itinerary in an application", like a storyboard of screens, please comment. Maybe with enough positive input, a new avenue for these good people can become available. It's no good to be alone!

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