A Shadchan’s Perspective on the Shidduch Crisis: Shadchan Crisis IS the Shidduch Crisis
Traditionally, before making suggestions, Shadchanim strived to get to know the person usually by a face-to-face meeting, and stayed involved until the engagement, helping the couple smooth out the bumps along the way. Many Shadchanim today, however, frustrated by an increasing sense of failure, end up shying away from wholeheartedly being involved.
The overwhelming, pervasive sense of failure and the many hours spent on unsuccessful suggestions engenders the inevitable expectation of failure. The full-time Shadchanim who are motivated exclusively by altruistic intentions, not able to make ends meet, move on to take other employment. The sad reality is that the shadchanus, shadchan fee, has remained constant since 1970s where $1000 is today worth about $5700. Paying a shadchan $1000, in today’s dollars is like paying the 1970s shadchan $175. Some shadchanim will not work on a shidduch unless offered $10,000 from each side.
The young shadchanim presume that their primary loyalty is to their husband/wife and their children and turn their backs and back burner the myriads of singles who have no other avenue to meet potential wives and husbands because of the religiously dictated separation of the sexes. The alternative then shifts from the traditional shidduch method, which are done privately with discretion minimizing the humiliation and vulnerability that those in shidduchim feel, to “singles” events so that private humiliations become devastating public humiliations. Those who the Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox rely on have become, because of circumstance, unreliable.
Meanwhile, thousands of Jewish singles are plagued with thoughts of despair and hopelessness such as: “The shadchan knows hundreds of people, and I haven’t got any suggestions in months! Is something wrong with me? “
The net result is that in reality there is no shidduch crisis, there is a shadchan crisis.
Relying on the unreliable is the pathetic reality: the shidduch crisis is a shadchan crisis.
I and a few others saw the need to use contemporary technology to help shadchanim work more expeditiously and to facilitate shidduchim. We created Yismach.com which was at first nothing more than an electronic file cabinet, where the established, recognized, professional shadchanim can draw the up to date information of those in shidduchim. We then added search filters in Yismach.com to help the shadchanim narrow the range of possibilities for each person in shidduchim. We davened for everyone who entrusted us with information and the shadchanim promised to ensure the confidentiality and respect the dignity of those in shidduchim.
We started in Israel where the rate of engagements over the two years that we are functioning, the rate of engagements is accelerating rapidly and over 300 who signed up are now engaged or married. Opening this up to America and Europe was met with another problem: American frum shadchanim more often than not do not use a computer but do use their smartphones, so that Reb Lowenstein in Lakewood, a very successful shadchan does all his work on his cell phone. We therefore had to make a mobile phone app. As our services are free relying in donations, one person pledged a donation which would have covered the cost of creating this app, but only gave 20% of what he pledged, so we started to charge a nominal $50 registration fee as donations were few and far between. To provide greater incentives for shadchanim to devote their time, we added to our system a shadchanus field where people can offer greater shadchanus than the minimum and in fact those that offered higher amounts did get many more suggestions.
Much ink has been spilled about the shidduch crisis, with much of it pointing an accusatory finger at the singles themselves for their single state. But we are all complicit, and many of us are guilty, of not doing enough. That must change. Everyone can – and should – make shidduchim. It is an act of chesed that is not limited to those professional shadchanim who are often overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of singles, and the young shadchanim who get caught up with their day-to-day lives. Rather, it is imperative that more people take on this task, set up their friends, their friends’ children, etc. without hesitation. And we should all encourage shadchanim to redouble their efforts both by social support as well as increase the financial incentives. Initiatives such as Yismach should be provided with the financial backing.
Rav Aryeh Levine always used to say “There is no such thing as a good shidduch.” – “only a fitting shidduch.” As the old-time yentas used to say, for every pot there is a cover.
Our job as shadchanim is to serve as a vessel for Hashem to make the fitting shidduch – where they find each other’s missing half.
The pragmatic standard for shadchanim is being able to stand up to the ultimate test after death when asked a series of questions including “were you busy with pru urvu?”, (Gemora Shabbos 31b) The Maharsha says that “Were you busy with pru urvu” — includes did you make shidduchim for widows and orphans. I was told that Rav Zilberstein says this now applies to everyone, since they have to rely on others to help their shidduchim.
This obligation falls on every single Jew. If you are not doing it yourself, then at the very least contribute financially to support those who are busy with this day and night.