Matchmaker, Matchmaker - From Me to We | A Guide to the First


Matchmaker, Matchmaker - From Me to We | A Guide to the First
Tales from
the Shadchan
By Sara Miriam Gross
etting a wedding
invitation in the
mail is exciting and
thrilling – especially
if the bride/groom is someone
we care about. But the wedding
invitation is also one-dimensional;
it is brimming with joy yet
provides us with just the barest
of facts, without any of the
dynamic backstory behind the
“Everything boils down to
having to the right idea –
but how do matchmakers
come up with their ideas?"
No one knows these stories
better than the matchmakers,
those dedicated souls who went
back and forth for days, weeks
or months on end, working
tirelessly to help each and
every individual find his or her
bashert. Sometimes they are
successful and other times they
aren’t, but at some point in their
matchmaking career, seasoned
shadchanim always seems to have
stories to tell.
The Right Age
Veteran shadchan Becky Myers* of New
York has made countless shidduchim over
the past 30 years – countless, because she
decided to never keep track. “When I lived
in Eretz Yisrael I was told that it lessens
the brachah if you count,” she explains.
Age can also be just a number for some
daters, yet a very important factor for others. “One shidduch I made was for a girl
in her 30’s,” Becky relates. “She wasn’t
getting anywhere and she was told that,
for shidduchim purposes, she could knock
a few years off her age. I set her up with
someone and they went out, but he was really curious about her age and decided to
look into it. When he found out she was
two years older than him, he dropped the
shidduch. Shortly thereafter, I set her up
with a nice guy who was also younger
than her and when he found out he didn’t
care. They’re married and have even married off children already. The first fellow
wasn’t bashert – he couldn’t appreciate
her qualities and was only looking at her
age. The second one was fine with it and
now they have a beautiful marriage and
five beautiful children.
Shifrah Devorah Witt, author of the
soon-to-be-released From Me to We – A
Guide to Shanah Rishonah and Beyond,
also has an age-related shidduch story to
share – her own. Shifrah Devorah didn’t
have a formal shadchan but she did have
an unintentional one – who was all of 11
years old at the time! She explains: “The
day I met my husband for the first time I
had gone to Amuka – a special kever in the
north of Eretz Yisrael where people specifically go to daven for a shidduch. I very
much wanted to get married and while I
was davening there I accepted upon myself, as a merit to get married, that I was
not going to speak with men unless it was
for the purpose of shidduchim. The same
day, I was walking in Tsfat and I heard a
voice call out: ‘Do I know you from somewhere?’ I turned around and saw an unfamiliar man sitting on a bench next to a
little boy. After giving it a bit of thought
I realized that I recognized that little boy;
I had once babysat for him when I was a
guest at his parents’ house. The man sitting there was the older brother of the boy
I had babysat. Despite my new resolution, I decided that it was okay to speak
with them because they were family
friends. They needed directions and since
I did things
based on just
trying my
luck, & people
got married."
I couldn’t explain the way, I walked
them there. When he wanted to meet me
again, we turned it into a formal shidduch,
and when we became engaged we gave
my little brother-in-law shadchanus gelt –
a CD that he really wanted. When I first
met my husband, I thought he was older
than he was and he thought I was younger
than I was. The truth is that that is just how
it had to be, because if any formal shadchan would have called me and suggested
a shidduch with a man younger than me, I
would have hung up.”
The Right Place
Having lived in both Israel and the United
States., Becky has seen that every shidduch has its destined location. “There was
a single guy I had tried to help when I was
in Eretz Yisrael, but it didn’t work,” she
relates. “Then he moved back to the States
and I moved back not long after him. Once
I was back here, I found him his wife.”
The cousin of Yiddish- and Hebrewspeaking Yerushalmi matchmaker Shaindel Rabinovitch* also had to board a plane
to find his bride – but his shidduch was
suggested during the flight. The 28-yearold had given up on finding a shidduch
in his own community, and decided to go
to the United States. During the flight, an
American bubby sitting next to him caught
wind of the purpose of his trip. After hearing what he was looking for, the woman
had an idea – and it worked out! Now
Shaindel’s cousin is happily married and
living in the U.S. with his American wife.
The Right Time
“When a person’s time comes,” Shaindel shares, “it’s like you’re waiting at a bus
stop and the bus pulls up.” Although some
of her singles wait months or years for the
“right bus” to arrive, Shaindel’s fastest
shidduch ever only took three days from
start to finish. “It was erev Pesach,” Shaindel relates. “The girl had just returned on
an erev Shabbos, after davening for a shidduch at the kever of Rebbe Elimelech of
Lizhensk. I called the girl’s mother with
a suggestion that motzei Shabbos and she
said: ‘It’s almost Pesach – I should make
a shidduch now?’” Shaindel explained to
her that the boy was from a good family with yichus and soon persuaded her
to look into it. The girl’s family did their
homework on Sunday, the couple met on
Monday, Tuesday they met again and by
that night it was final!
Part-time shadchan and novelist Peri
Berger’s fastest shidduch took months of
waiting, but only one week of dating. As
Peri explains: “The girl’s family was waiting for a specific boy. I called the mother
of the boy because I was friends with her
and said: ‘Could you let me know when
he begins shidduchim?’ By then there was
a line of girls waiting, so I asked her to
please put my idea at the front of the line,
and she agreed. Then when the boy was
ready, his mother called me and the shidduch went right away.”
On the other end of the spectrum,
Becky once had a couple who went out for
a while and broke it off. A few years later,
they met again and got engaged.
their backgrounds and the fact that I didn’t
think things over at all, they got married
and they are very happy.”
Of course, Peri and other shadchanim
do usually give ideas a lot of thought
first.”I try to do a logical shidduch but I
never really know,” says shadchan, author
and real estate agent Shoshana Lepon of
Ramat Bet Shemesh. “Sometimes people
ask me, why did you match me up with
so-and-so? I don’t need to have a hunch.
Sometimes I did things based on just trying my luck and people got married, and
other times I had a strong hunch – and
nothing. If an idea is reasonable, let them
Ironically, Shoshana often finds it easier to come up with the right idea when
there are fewer suggestions to begin with.
“A difficult case can make it easier to find
choices because it narrows it down. Once
I was approached by a man in his 40’s. He
was a ger tzedek from a foreign country. I
set him up with one woman and it didn’t
work out. I was thinking about who I can
set him up with, and sent out an email to
all the different community lists in Jeru-
JP AD: 100
salem, Bet Shemesh, Beitar and Tsfat, all
the Yahoo groups. One woman wrote back
saying: ‘He would be good for my sister.’
The sister was divorced with a large family and the woman was right; the two were
good for each other and they got married."
Another right idea came about through
Shoshana’s work as the manager of a large
clothing gemach. “One day a single father
who had custody of the kids called me to
give away clothing, He said all the neighbors kept giving him their second-hand
clothing and now he had too much. I said,
‘Forget the clothes. You’re single? You’re
a father?’ and we talked for a long time. A
few months later, he was already married.
Not only did he find a place for the clothing, but more importantly, he found a wife.
The Right Message
Matchmakers are quick to dodge both
credit and blame – and rightfully so. As
Shaindel puts it: “All suggestions are from
Above. We are only the messengers. Every suggestion brings the right one closer.
We don’t know why but it has to happen.
So even if a shidduch doesn’t work out, I
have to find satisfaction in knowing that I
brought them a step forward towards their
intended one.”
To smooth the path towards the chuppah, Shifrah Devorah suggests that singles
write an expectations checklist of what
they are looking for before they even
speak with a shadchan. This idea is borrowed from her book, where she suggests
that newlyweds write expectation checklists for their newly-launched marriage.
“Be honest about what you want,” she
advises. “You will make the shadchan’s
work easier and more effective. Don’t
leave your shadchan shooting in the dark.”
Finally, when people call you asking
for information, Shoshana requests that
you give the information you have, but
stop before you give your opinion about
whether or not you can see the two people
as a couple. “How many surprising matches have you seen go on to be happily married?” she asks. “So what do we know?”
*Names changed at the interviewees’ request.
Meir Pliskin
The Right Idea
Everything boils down to having to the
right idea – but how do matchmakers
come up with their ideas?
“One day I got a phone call from a
friend who said: ‘We need a shidduch for
Avi Rhein,*’” shares Peri. “Without any
thought I said, ‘Leah*.’” The boy was
descended from generations of scholars
from the top yeshivahs and the girl was a
convert, but despite the vast differences in
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