(Updated from a previous article at JDaters Anonymous)

For the benefit of any non-Hebraically inclined readers, a shadchan is a matchmaker. The matchmaker’s job is, of course, to match an eligible, perhaps compatible man with an eligible, perhaps compatible woman. Depending on the matchmaking organization, eligibility may be determined by middos (ethical values), net worth, geographical location, religious hashkafah (point of view), or middos (physical measurements). Without arguing the relative merits or meanings of these criteria for matches, let’s just move on to the subject at hand.

Sweet Rose, a longtime JDaters Anonymous reader and bloggerette herself, recently wrote about why she’s not rejoining Saw You At Sinai, an online matchmaking service–she’s had bad experiences with the site, having not matched with a single person during her membership (I feel ya, sister–that’s my story too). But beyond that disappointment were her friends’ experiences:

A friend was telling me about a friend of hers (who I have met several times) who recently got dressed up, put on make-up, did her hair, and had someone take a very nice picture of her. She posted this photo on SYAS and received an incredibly rude e-mail, completely unsolicited, from a shadchan on the site. This e-mails subject line itself was “EW.” The e-mail consisted of berating and ridiculing remarks regarding this woman’s picture. Name-calling was even resorted to. The woman who received this e-mail was in tears after reading it.

This is the worst e-mail I have heard of, but not the only one. Who on earth gave the shadchanim the idea that it is okay to treat anyone in such a manner? Who taught these supposedly frum individuals that it is under the guise of Torah to give unsolicited criticism in a mean and cruel manner? What on earth was this woman thinking in writing such an e-mail?

Just because a person is single entitles no one, not even a shadchan who is “helping” that single, to be rude and cruel. I know many shadchanim received less than grateful responses from singles, and that is absolutely not justifiable either. But calling names and breaking down the self-esteem of women, for no reason that I can fathom, is ridiculously disgusting.

She’s right, no question. I’ve heard decent things about SYAS and about its leadership, so I’m going to assume that this one person is an aberration. An unforgivable aberration, but still not the norm. The worst thing I can say about my experience with SYAS is that for me it has been thus far rather ineffective, not further damaging to my self-esteem. (Chayyei Sarah recently reported having been to a decent event organized by SYAS, so I’m willing to bet this was more the exception than the rule.)

She continues:

What worries me the most is that this is not an isolated incident…One of my friends questioned whether men on SYAS get the same treatment, considering the fact that I have heard there are many more women on the site than men. I honestly don’t personally know any men who are on SYAS, but I would be interested to know whether any of them have received such e-mails.

I haven’t done the research and therefore may be speaking out of turn (or out of my, well, you know), but even without proof on my side, I feel comfortable saying that men don’t get these sorts of emails. Like it or not, there’s a huge imbalance in the way women and men are treated by traditional Judaism (and the world at large), and the imbalance is also clear when it comes to the value of a single Jewish man as opposed to the value of a single Jewish woman.

It’s no secret from anyone who reads pretty much everything I’ve written that one of my central issues with the Orthodox movement is the way it treats singles, especially single women in their thirties and “Godforbidforties”: as “a crisis,” thinking that if the community puts enough pressure on singles, they’ll marry and do their duty to the Jewish people by procreating. Never mind that some people, for whatever reason, may not WANT children at all or right now, or whatever (fricken babies, anyone?)…Or that most singles aren’t just sitting around twiddling their thumbs, waiting for Mr. Godot or Ms. Right to knock at their doors.

Maureen Dowd, commenting in her now famous/infamous NY Times Magazine article/book excerpt “What’s a Modern Girl to Do?”, says that on a society-wide level, men would rather marry their secretaries than their bosses, so as soon as a woman attains a measure of corporate accomplishment, she ceases to be attractive to him as a mate.

Women moving up still strive to marry up. Men moving up still tend to marry down. The two sexes’ going in opposite directions has led to an epidemic of professional women missing out on husbands and kids.

Sylvia Ann Hewlett, an economist and the author of “Creating a Life: Professional Women and the Quest for Children,” a book published in 2002, conducted a survey and found that 55 percent of 35-year-old career women were childless. And among corporate executives who earn $100,000 or more, she said, 49 percent of the women did not have children, compared with only 19 percent of the men. Hewlett quantified, yet again, that men have an unfair advantage. “Nowadays,” she said, “the rule of thumb seems to be that the more successful the woman, the less likely it is she will find a husband or bear a child. For men, the reverse is true.”

A 2005 report by researchers at four British universities indicated that a high I.Q. hampers a woman’s chance to marry, while it is a plus for men. The prospect for marriage increased by 35 percent for guys for each 16-point increase in I.Q.; for women, there is a 40 percent drop for each 16-point rise.

There are those who say we, the women, are the ones being too picky. Shulamit Reinharz, a sociology professor who is founder of Brandeis University’s Women’s Studies Research Center and the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute, noted the absurdity of this assumption in a recent opinion piece in the Forward:

Apparently we Jewish women are causing the problem by either refusing to marry because we like our careers too much, by marrying but refusing to have children because we like our careers too much, or by marrying but having only one child because we like our careers too much. The implicit assumption in this argument is that Jewish men are begging to marry us and we are saying no. And when they do marry us, they want to have children and again we say no.

Now, think about it. Does anyone actually know any people like this? Are Jewish men asking us to stay home and are we, in turn, refusing? Are we turning down all these marriage and motherhood proposals? Are we keeping our wombs to ourselves despite all the Jewish guys who want to beget with us?

And then there are others who say that dealing with the nightmare of dating in the (let’s just call it the) traditional Jewish world — as evidenced by creepy guys at kiddush, nightmare singles shabbatonim and horrific shadchan encounters — are enough to turn anyone off, not just to the process of looking for a soulmate, but to the traditional Jewish community in general.

And that is–or soon will be–the true crisis.

About the author

Esther Kustanowitz

For more posts by Esther, see EstherK.com, MyUrbanKvetch.com and JDatersAnonymous.com.

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