In the times of the Beis Hamikdash, finding a shidduch was simple. On Tu B’Av, young women would dance in the vineyards, wearing borrowed white garments. Young men in search of a wife would go there and choose who to marry (Gemara Taanis 31a). Since then, finding a spouse has become increasingly complicated. Today, many shadchanim work tirelessly, helping singles find their bashert. We spoke with several Los Angeles-based shadchanim to find out what matchmaking involves these days.
The work of a shadchan is not easy. “It’s a 24/7 job,” says Mrs. Yehudis Orloff. “I feel like I have a phone glued to my ear,” agrees Mrs. Tzirel Frankel. “I could be answering emails, phone calls, and texts all day.” Mrs. Orloff says that on any given day, she could get fifty phone calls and thirty emails. Whenever she attends a wedding people approach her, bombarding her with requests for shidduch suggestions. “I try to give everybody time,” says Mrs. Orloff. “Sometimes people don’t know that I’m working on something for them. I don’t want to disappoint them, so I only tell them once the other party says yes. It’s hard, because sometimes people get offended.”
The shadchanim find their work very rewarding. “I feel very grateful to be zoche to be involved with singles,” says Mrs. Rena Hirsch. “It’s beautiful to watch people find each other.” “When I finally make a shidduch it’s an amazing feeling, worth the hard work,” agrees Mrs. Tova Levine. All of them attribute their success to Hashem. “I’ve become very humbled over the past twenty five years,” says Mrs. Hirsch. “It’s all min hashamayim. I’m just a connector.” “I get to see Hashem running the show from the get go,” says Mrs. Frankel. “All my success is through siyata dishmaya,” says Mrs. Orloff.
The job of a shadchan has evolved over the years. “It used to be much easier to make a shidduch,” says Mrs. Levine “There were no profiles.” While helpful, profiles often do not provide a complete picture of the person. “There is nothing like a human connection,” agrees Mrs. Hirsch. Even with the popularity of matchmaking websites, singles still call her to inquire about somebody they saw online.
The singles themselves have changed as well. There are a lot more educated women now, explains Mrs. Hirsch, while the number of educated men did not increase as much. But educated women are not willing to date uneducated men. Mrs. Hirsch tells a story of an FFB woman from Boro Park who got a college degree. While she was in college she received a shidduch suggestion which she turned down because the boy was learning in a yeshiva and wasn’t planning on getting a secular education. Several years later, when the woman was 28, the same young man was suggested to her. By that time, she had a Master’s degree and he was a Rebbi. She turned him down again. At age 36, the same man was suggested to her, and this time she agreed to meet him. They eventually married and had two children. But she could have saved herself many years of loneliness. “Much more important [than education] is a soul connection,“ Mrs. Hirsch says. “I can’t blame women for getting an education – life has become more expensive, and they need to work. But it has changed the equation.”
Higher costs of living also affect men. Some men today are afraid of the responsibility of supporting a family. They need to earn a lot more than in their parents’ generation. But men are easier to please, says Mrs. Hirsch. “They want to feel a connection.” “Everyone has become very picky,” adds Mrs. Levine “If a girl is not a size 4 or 6 then she is too fat. Sometimes they ask ridiculous questions, such as where the girl shops.” “Many people have unrealistic expectations that lead to disappointment,” agrees Mrs. Frankel. “Some come from the exposure to the outside world. They want beauty. On the other hand, kids are seeing many divorces and unhappy marriages. They want more. They want to be in love.” Mrs. Frankel says that the most important things are middos tovos, yiras shamayim, and health, not “would she look good walking next to me in the street.” “It used to be that women didn’t care if the guy was overweight,” adds Mrs. Hirsch. “They used to date men a decade older. They just wanted to find a mentch. Now women date more like men. They want younger, attractive, fit men.” Mrs. Hirsch feels that these requirements are distracting women from what is truly important.
Mrs. Orloff says the biggest change is fear of the shidduch crisis. Mothers panic if they’re not getting any shidduch suggestions the moment a girl comes home from seminary. While there is some truth to the notion that there are more girls than boys, this hysteria is not justified, says Mrs. Orloff. “Most kids do eventually get married,” says Mrs. Frankel. She does encounter more girls than boys, but she says that in some communities, there is a shortage of girls. In chassidish communities, where boys marry girls the same age, the shidduch crisis is non-existent. “If we would adapt that [and encourage boys to] marry girls same age or older, we’d go a long way to even the field,” she says. Mrs. Levine agrees. In one of her shidduchim, a boy married a girl who was four years older than him – he was 23 and she was 27. “She looked young,” Mrs. Levine says. “They have a wonderful family and are very happy.” She says that while four years’ difference is unusual, two years is becoming much more common.
When asked about the biggest challenge they face, the shadchanim concur that often, people are too quick to say no. “It’s hard to convince both sides to give it a chance,” says Mrs. Levine Mrs. Orloff tells a story of a shidduch she worked on where the girl’s family was told by another shadchan that the boy was not for her. It took a year and a half to convince the girl’s family to consider this boy. But now they are married and have three children. “Don’t passul things too quickly,” says Mrs. Orloff.
Both Mrs. Orloff and Mrs. Levine emphasize that it’s important to give the boy or girl a fair chance. Both encourage young people to go out at least twice, and sometimes more. “Sometimes on a second date you see the person in a different light,” says Mrs. Levine She tells of a shidduch where after several dates the boy said no because he thought the girl was too quiet. After a couple of years, Mrs. Levine suggested the same girl. She convinced the boy to meet her again, telling him that she knew the girl very well and that she was not quiet. Eventually, they got married. In another shidduch, the girl said no after the first date. Mrs. Levine convinced her to go out again, and this time the boy became more confident and opened up. They ended up marrying.
Another advantage of additional dates, says Mrs. Orloff, is being able to say no with absolute certainty. She tells a story of an LA girl who went out with a boy from Chicago who was in LA for a wedding. After four dates, the girl was pretty sure it wasn’t for her, but she wasn’t 100% sure. During her vacation she made a special trip to Chicago to go out one more time. She called Mrs. Orloff very excited – this time she knew for sure it wasn’t going to work.
Mrs. Orloff tells another story where a girl went on many dates with a boy. She wasn’t ready to say yes, but she didn’t have a good reason to say no. Then they had a disagreement, and she felt misunderstood. She was ready to never see him again. But an older friend advised her, “You want to go to sleep at night knowing you didn’t pass up your bashert.” The girl reconsidered, went out with the boy again, and eventually they got married.
When asked about the LA shidduch scene, the shadchanim say that most young people marry outside of LA, while older singles tend to marry local. Mrs. Frankel tells the families to consider the local suggestions first. But, says Mrs. Orloff, many people are reluctant to consider local shidduchim because it would be too uncomfortable if it didn’t work out. “Girls from LA need to be ready to travel,” adds Mrs. Orloff.
The shadchanim offer encouragement to singles. “Never give up hope!” says Mrs. Hirsch. “Hashem has a plan. While single, work on yourself to become the best person you can be.” “Know your self-worth,” adds Mrs. Orloff. “Know you have a lot to offer. And always put your best foot forward on dates. First impressions last forever.”
Mrs. Frankel adds another component to successful matchmaking – tefillah. She tells about the shidduchim Tehillim in her shul, Congregation Levi Yitzchok. Last year, there were no engagements in the shul, and the women decided to say Tehillim together at every Shabbos Kiddush. They say Tehillim 32, 38, 70, 71, 121, and 124, and they mention names of those in need of a shidduch. The week after they began, a girl got engaged, then another two girls, and on another week they had four engagements. Last week, the women also got together on Thursday night, to do hafrashas challah together and daven for singles. “Everybody is welcome to join us,” says Mrs. Frankel.