Dear Rabbi and Susan,
Thank you so much for your words of wisdom.
Very dear friends of mine have a daughter in her mid 30’s. She is a modern orthodox Jew or at least Lubavitcher. She lives in the Houston area, which doesn’t have a huge Orthodox population so there aren’t that many opportunities for her to meet suitable men.
How can I help her? She’s a beautiful gal with charm and wit. While she works, she doesn’t think of herself as a career gal. She still lives with her parents whom she helps to support.
What would you recommend?
Blessings and thank you for all you do.
You are a very kind person and we think it is lovely that you are concerned about this young woman and want to help her. While it can be mocked through the use of stereotypes as in the plays Hello Dolly! or Fiddler on the Roof, matchmaking at its best is a lovely sign of caring. It is simply wanting to assist others to find a life partner and establish a home and it is a time-treasured pastime among religious Jews. In matchmaking, we are emulating the Almighty who Himself introduced the first couple to one another.
Like many other religious groups, many young Jews spurn the dating system for meeting a potential life partner. They seek not only shared interests but especially shared values. That is often facilitated best by a wise third party who knows both the man and the woman. Considering the emotional roller-coaster ride that dating often inflicts, on women particularly, many couples feel profound gratitude to their matchmakers. Matchmakers can be informal friends or relatives but often they are trained men and women who take their profession very seriously. (We know of what we speak because as leaders of the synagogue we planted in Southern California a few years ago, we were privileged to serve as matchmakers for more than a hundred couples.)The task doesn’t end with the introduction—it has then just begun. The fledgling relationship needs to be nurtured and during those fifteen years of our lives, we were accustomed to many late-night after-date phone calls from excited or sometimes distraught men and women.
Within the religious Jewish community, in addition to formal matchmakers, friends, and family, there are many online and offline resources that help in this search. Couples frequently meet each other using these paths. Before COVID, it was not at all unusual for a man or woman who lives in a smaller community to fly a few times a year into a larger one for a few days specifically to meet and date someone they either met online or whom a matchmaker suggested. If this woman is over 30, affiliated with the community and looking to marry, you can be quite sure that she is very familiar with most of these resources.
Honestly, Sammy, you are so well-intentioned, but since you are not involved in that religious community yourself, the chances are high that you would be lost in a maze trying to actively help her unless God puts someone right in your path who seems appropriate. (It has been known to happen.) Why do we say you are not involved in that community? Because you wrote that she is “modern Orthodox or Lubavitcher”. You see, that is somewhat akin to saying that she is looking to live only in Miami or only in Montreal. Men and women who fit into one of those categories do not easily fit in the other one. In fact, they are even more distinct than Miami is from Montreal.
What can you do? Foremost, you can pray. Whether you can do more than that is really a question of how close is your friendship with her parents. Doing more might be perceived as prying and poking your nose where it doesn’t belong and could be an awful idea. There certainly could be reasons she is still living at home and other family dynamics of which you are unaware. A very narrow line separates concern from intrusiveness.
If you are convinced that involving yourself would be welcome, you might tentatively see if your friends could encourage their daughter to spend time in a larger Jewish community on a regular basis. If you knew a warm family in Miami, Montreal, Baltimore, Los Angeles or New York who would be happy to host her and introduce her around, that might well be your most valuable contribution. This may very well mean her spending Shabbat and holidays away from her parents. The more friendships she cultivates, the more people will be looking out for a good man for her.
You sound like many a frustrated parent who watches a child not move forward in his or her personal or career life. The reality is that by the time someone is in her mid-30s, she is the main actor in her destiny and the biggest steps need to come from her.
Keep her in your prayers, and know that dancing at the wedding of a couple you introduced is a special joy.
Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin
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