Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Shidduchim VIII - A Shadchan’s Customer’s Wish List - Part 1: The Skype is the Limit

The title of this post is a parody of the title of an article that appeared in last week’s Mishpacha magazine. The article – Your Shadchan’s Wish List - was about a shadchan’s perspective of what would help people get married. As the father of a boy (or two) currently in the Parsha, and with the knowledge that it is a “buyer's market” from the boys’ side (כי יקח איש אשה), I think it may be helpful to add to it the perspectives of a “buyer”. It will require more than one post so here is Part 1.

The Shidduch Crisis languishes on. And why should it not? For one thing, one of the primary causes - the fact that more girls than boys enter the shidduch market on a yearly basis – has not changed and won’t change anytime soon. (See this clip from Yisroel “Freddy” Friedman. I agree with all he says except where he says there is no such crisis here in E”Y. It exists here as well but is not as severe.) In this respect, I have reached the conclusion that this crisis is at least partially Heavenly ordained and beyond our capabilities to eradicate.

But, beyond this, it seems clear to me that certain steps that can be taken to alleviate this crisis have not been taken.

The most obvious one and the one that I have been preaching about for years is that modern web cam technology (e.g. Skype) should be integrated into the shidduch process (see the links at the end of this post). When I discuss this with people one-on-one, all I get are “Yes, but…”s. I have emailed both to Freddy Friedman (to pass on to S. Y. Rechnitz) and to R. Shlomo Lewenstein about this and have received no responses. Not a single man of action has contacted me.

To rephrase a very popular quote: Irrationality is to keep doing things the same way and to complain about not getting better results (and that there is a crisis going on).

But HKBH says: מה תצעק אלי? דבר אל בני ישראל ויסעו!

Why are you screaming to Me? Speak to the Children of Israel to move on…”

Even when HKBH Himself puts us in a tight spot, we cannot just stand there. It is our duty to move on. Yet, the Children of Israel are frozen in their tracks. They are afraid to move on. Where is Nachshon?

Before I say more, I want to present a progress report. My prodigy “Yossi” who starred in some previous posts is still out there. He was in the US from last July until Pesach when he came home for Bein Hazmanim. He recently returned to the US and is back in the hunt.

The hit-or-miss adventures of those nine months (chavlei leida) could fill a book, or at least a few blog posts. Though he made a hit with his Rosh Yeshiva, chavrusas and many friends and relatives, when it comes to shidduchim, all he had were misses – Miss Klein and Miss Schwartz and Miss Rechnitz (I can fantasize, can’t I?). Hence, I have learned quite a bit about the American Yeshivish dating scene. It ain’t what it used to be!

Now, I am writing from my lofty perch here in Yerushalyim, Ir HaKodesh (second only to Lakewood, NJ, Ir Kodesh Hakedashim). Thus, the distance gives me some advantages and disadvantages. The prime disadvantage is that I am too far away to get a close-up view and to manage the situation directly. But the advantage of distance is that one can have a bird’s eye view of the larger picture. From here, Los Angeles and Denver and St. Louis and Chicago and Baltimore and NY/NJ are all the same.

I am an American oleh, somewhat tech savvy (though not fully up-to-date), who still has parents and in-laws and siblings and, now, two unattached sons in the US. I still have a bank account in the US and I do buy things on Ebay, Amazon, Target, Old Navy (all in dollars) sent to American addresses and transported by relatives. And I buy airplane tickets, too. Until recently, I worked at a high-tech company servicing US customers. (I am now “between jobs”.) All my writing is targeted to Anglo-Jewish audiences. Thus, from my holy abode here in Eretz HaKodesh אכתי עבדא דאובאמה אנא. I still have a “virtual” life in the US. As such, the Internet, for better or for worse (what I call the Parah Adumah) is an intrinsic part of my life.

Often, the most convenient times to speak to people one does not see is on Erev Shabbos or Motzaei Shabbos when people are home. But we here in Eretz Yisrael cannot speak to Americans on Erev Shabbos because here Shabbos begins when Americans wake up. Likewise we cannot speak to Americans on Motzaei Shabbos because we are in bed when Shabbos ends. (Thank G-d for Sundays!) Thus we must rely more on email to communicate overseas.

Israelis who do not interact with the US as much as I do have no such need for the Internet and Americans who live near their families and can just go shopping at Target and Walmart and go personally to their banks and don’t fly around likewise do not need it as much as I do.

It is with all this background that I can appreciate more than others what the Internet has enabled us to do and how it can help communication – and dating – even at close range.

The Americans are too close to the forest to see the trees.

What were my arguments in favor of web cam dating? They were the following (not the full list):

·         It negates distance

·         It saves time

·         It saves money

·         It saves lives

And now, to illustrate, back to my Yossi.

The truth is that over his nine months in the US, Yossi only met up with about six Misses. He began his trip with a summer camp job and then a new Yeshiva in Ellul plus just getting to know folks, so we didn’t really expect him to see much action before Cheshvan. On top of that, he hadn’t succeeded in getting a driver’s license in Eretz Yisroel (don’t ask – it’s a post in itself) but he managed to get one in his birth state over Sukkos.

His first encounter was after Sukkos which he was spending in an out of town community by his grandparents. Some baalhabayis spotted him and thought he would shtim with his gorgeous tuchter. He was still working at his license at the time so the maidel provided the transportation. After two very low cost dates with no fireworks (but still ok) he left town and reported to Yeshiva in NJ. This might have been a good scenario for some Skyping, but instead, the girl’s side put in a few bucks and shipped her east (supposedly she had a wedding to attend anyhow). He needed to date her and this time she did not bring a car. He had to rent one. $90!

Welcome to dating in America!

Before he left the Holy Land, I told him that although I give my blessing for his ventures, I cannot back him financially too far. If he needs $100+ dates, he will need to come up with the gelt himself. So, after three dates and still feeling parve, the girl was released. Was it a pre-mature decision? We’ll never know, will we?

Moral: Web cam dating can save money and prevent quick decision making.

Not only did this date cost Yossi over $100 but it cost the girl about another $300. Perhaps, in a case like this where the parties are seeing each other it doesn’t make sense to revert to Skype, but it’s nevertheless a sad situation where the girl needs to shell out to chase the boy to the coast. This did not occur in my days.

A bit later, while in Yeshiva in NJ, we got a nice sounding suggestion from another mid-western town. Yossi was in no position to fly out there but, as seems to be the trend, the girl was willing to fly in. If there was a textbook call for Skype, this was it.  

In this case, I explicitly told Yossi to tell the Shadchan that he wants to Skype her first before she drops a few hundred to fly out on a blind date. The response, in line with what skeptics have been telling me all this time, was that she is quite willing to spend the money (her father is a Rebbe – who’s money?) and quite unwilling to Skype. So she spent and she flew.

Yossi learned how to economize a bit on the dates (she was stationed in Lakewood) so they went out three times and then she said no. As far as I am concerned she could have said no over the web cam from the comfort of her own home for a lot less money and without missing work.

Moral: Web cam dating can negate distance and save time and lots of money.

By now I was resigned to the new American system. Girl travels, no Skype. Have it your way. When in Rome, do like a Roman. In any case, the next girl was a hit and a miss. Actually a hit-and-run and a miss. And the most expensive date of all!

This prospect was from Monsey. Monsey is a bit ironic because it can easily fall through the cracks. Too close to Lakewood to require a girl to relocate but too far as to be a cheap and simple date. Yossi who has to count his pennies was waffling on this one.

In order to lighten the expense, the shadchan offered to Yossi the use of her brother-in-law’s car, a battered cheap AMC Saturn, if he could get to Passaic. Luckily, we have relatives in Passaic so, for the first date, Yossi spent Shabbos in Passaic and, after Havdalah, he took hold of the car. He GPS'ed his way to Monsey and went out on a proper date. When it was over, past midnight, he took the girl back home to Monsey and headed off to Passaic. He almost made it.

We all know that after midnight on a Saturday night in non-Jewish America is witching hour. Watch out! Approximately 1:15 am on Passaic Ave. a guy named Jose driving a big black Ford pickup (or SUV) DUI'ed through a stop sign and got Yossi front-side. Demolished the front end. Totaled. Hit and run.

Chasdei Hashem ki lo tamnu! If, R”L, his car would have been positioned two feet forward…who knows? (Though if he was ten feet forward, nothing would have happened.) Yossi walked away with merely a slight bruise on his leg but without a car. A borrowed car. An uninsured-for-collision borrowed car.

Although the owner, a Passaic yungermahn, did not have comprehensive insurance, he did have AAA which automatically provides collision insurance, with one catch. The offending car must be identified. They do not cover hit-and-run. It just so happened that Jose, who was stoned, didn’t get too far and the cops followed a trail of fluids and debris and picked him up but they never informed the owner. To them it was just another Saturday night DUI smash-up. Happens every week.

A few weeks later, however, the owner did pick up a police copy of the accident report and sure enough all of the perp’s details were right there. At the end, AAA did cover the loss but with a $500 deductible. Plus there was a $200 towing charge courtesy of the Passaic Police Department. A posek said that a shoel is only responsible for the car but not the towing charge so the date cost us $500 plus another $50 for the GPS device (aside from the price of the date) and the generous yungermahn was out $200 (but we think he scored big on the value of the car). Yossi had to take up a collection to cover the loss (thank G-d for grandparents).

$550 (dammim merubim) for a date which ch”v could have cost everything (sh'fichas dammim). Only a first date! Incidentally, after one more date (the girl came to Lakewood), she said no (no kesher to the smash-up).

Saturday night after chatzos is not the time to be out on the streets – or roads – if you don’t have to. I am advocating web cam dating so that, at least some times, you won’t have to. Incidentally, in my original post about Skype dating, I related a very similar story about my brother-in-law. Both events could have ended a lot differently. Like I wrote then, we can laugh at it now, but it’s no laughing matter.

Moral: Web cam dating can negate distance and save lots of time and lots and lots of money – and lives.

So this part of my perspective is drawing to a close but I am getting more than a bit peturbed at the laxity of the “system”. This is a serious matter.

·         There is money at stake (הוצאת דמים)

·         There is time at stake (איבוד ימים)

·         There are lives at stake (שפיכת דמים)

·         There is kedusha at stake (תהיו תמים)

The Americans may be too close to ground zero to see it but I am not. And I formally challenge all of the prominent shadchanim – including R. Shlomo Lewenstein, R. Yisroel Friedman, and the rest – plus all of the Roshei Yeshivos, Mashgichim and Rabbanim of all of the mosdos in New Jersey  to reevaluate the situation and step up to the plate.

In my post from 2009 I quoted the following from Jonathan Rosenblum:

A few weeks ago, the Novominsker Rebbe told me that he views the so-called Shidduch Crisis, as the most devastating problem facing the Orthodox community – a matter of “dinei nefashos.”

I commented:

If it is truly a dinei nefashos, then we are facing a situation of לא תעמד על דם רעך and we must save neshamos with any practical means at our disposal.

That was more than seven years ago. Before I had to deal with it myself. But I will now state in no uncertain terms that it’s not just לא תעמד על דם רעך. All the korbanos of the last seven years, financially, physically, and spiritually, are שפיכת דמים plain and simple. And it is the powers that be that have not heeded the clarion call that have all that שפיכת דמים on their hands.

It is high time to put our money where our mouse is.

Previous posts about Web Cam dating:

Original post - November 26, 2008       >                   HERE

Second post (Shidduch Vision) - January 28, 2009  >  HERE

Third post - August 10, 2014               >                    HERE

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