A Shadchan’s Perspective on the Shidduch Crisis
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. Paradoxically, many 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? “
From a shadchan’s perspective, it is neither a fault in the singles nor the paucity of possibilities, but rather both the shadchanim and the singles are victims of circumstance. Let me explain.
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 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.
Overworked, overwhelmed, unappreciated, with most suggestions not getting to a first date, shadchanim are also sorely underpaid. 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.
To help shadchanim work more expeditiously and to facilitate shidduchim, we saw the need to use contemporary technology. Yismach was made as an electronic file cabinet, where the established, recognized, professional shadchanim can draw the up-to-date information of those in shidduchim. Not just making it easier for shadchanim to work, we also made it potentially more lucrative. 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.
So why not just send a stream of suggestions?
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 shidduch crisis is real. But we are all complicit, and many of us are guilty, of not doing enough.
Standing in judgement after death, a series of questions are asked 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.
Everyone can – and should – make shidduchim. It is an act of chesed that is not limited to those professional shadchanim who are overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of singles. It is imperative that more people take on this task, set up their friends, their friends’ children, etc. without hesitation. 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. 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. At first our services were free, but to cover our operating costs, we started to charge a nominal $54 registration fee as donations were few and far between, but if the basic operating costs were covered by donations, it can again be free and we could then expand our services.