How Are You Preparing For The Shidduchim Search?

Helping our children find good spouses is one of the biggest issues BTs face.

The main obstacles are that we don’t have the networks that our FFB co-religionists have, and we don’t understand the system that well. Of course the problem is much more difficult for girls than for boys due to the current demographics.

Are you preparing for your upcoming shidduchim challenges?

What steps are you taking?

If you’ve already succeeded in this parsha, what advice would you give to your fellow BTs?

46 comments on “How Are You Preparing For The Shidduchim Search?

  1. Commenting on the original post:
    As an FFB child of BT parents I feel that my parents are well versed in the FFB world and continue to learn/ grow (as all Jews should). Whenever my parents lack knowledge because of their BT status (not only with shidduchim, but with any aspect of frum life), they have always consulted with their local rav or professional in that particualr area. If you, as a parent are unsure of how to handle your child’s shidduchim, there are many dating coaches, chosson or kallah teachers who can help guide you through the process. No matter if this is your first child in shidduchim or your fifth, it is important to consult professionals in this area. They are out there to help you.

    Much Hatzlacha & Chanukah Sameach!

  2. Yiddishe Momma #44:

    Why don’t you post a few more facts about your son (while still maintaining your confidentiality) and maybe somebody else who comments on this blog can suggest a wonderful young lady as a possible match for him?

    For example, while you don’t have to give us his exact birth date, and certainly you don’t have to reveal your/his name, how about letting us know your son’s age? Even with the noble efforts of the North American Shidduch Initiative to get boys to date (and marry) girls close to in age, or even older, there is usually an age range within which making shidduchim is most appropriate.

    Also, without flinging around labels and or stereotypes (“black hat” “kippa sruga” “Religious Zionist” “Young Israel” “Modern Orthodox” “frum but watches an occasional movie and owns a TV set” “works full time but is koveya ittim, has set times for learning” “wants to learn for five years but then will get a degree and go out to work to support a family” ) please describe for us again without violating your confidentiality approximately where your son is holding on the frumkeit spectrum.

    It would also help to describe in general terms the kind of young lady that your son would like to meet: what age she should be, what hashkafas, what kind of education and or work experience she should have, what kind of household he ideally wants to build with his true Zivug.

    Also please let us know if your son requires a “Kohain-eligible” match.

    Also, without violating your confidentiality, perhaps in the most general terms you could tell us whether there is “some kind of an issue” that contributed to making the “shidduch parsha” in your own words “particularly challenging for us.”

    If the only issue is the boy’s BT father and BT grandparents, that’s a “maalah” and not a “chasronah.”

  3. A thought: Why doesn’t Beyond BT start a shidduch forum? Seriously. With a BT husband and BT parents,even though I am technically FFB, I very much feel like a BT and relate to much on this blog. The shidduch parsha has been particularly challenging for us. Seriously, anyone here willing to act as shadchan between my son and Always a BT’s daughter?

  4. You’re right, Michoel. Often this is the “black sheep” of the family, or the one with “issues.” On the other hand, those “issues” could be things like “not cliquey enough” or some other quality that is might well be considered a positive outside those particular chashuveh circles. So, as you say, caution is appropriate — as it is always — but that means careful consideration, not jumping to conclusions. That’s the same consideration we want our children to get, of course.

  5. a potentially important addendum occurred to me this morning. Since “the metzius” is what it is, people need to protect themselves. I’ll try to explain more clearly…. We can argue about the validity of some families rejecting children of BTs as potential spouses for their children. But l’maaseh, that is the reality in some circles. So since that is so, BT families need to be appropriately cautious when a boy from a very chashuveh family is redt to their daughter (less so vice verse). I know of a couple of cases where baalei t’shuvah parents seemed to be blinded by the light of having a particular family express interest in them. There was a reason why. v’di l’chacima b’remiza

  6. There was a great story in the Aug 1, 2012 of Mishpacha Magazine about this subject. It is the “Lifelines by C. Saphir” story entitled “Barley Flour”. The nimshal is that if your expectations are not commensurate to your particular situation, you can potentially end up with nothing—not the fine bread made from wheat nor even the “barley flour” depicted as the last choice. I think this is a very real problem with “older” singles; they are not open minded enough to look past their daled amos.

    My husband & I are both BTs, American & Sephardic, financially struggling and have only girls. My kids were educated in charedi (Ashkenazi) schools. We have a foot in BOTH the Sephardi and Ashkenazi worlds. My girls optimally want(ed) to marry Sephardic boys. Problem is, most Sephardi boys are much more “Middle Eastern” in mentality, which is not a bad thing, but probably not the right fit for my daughters who are 3rd generation American. My girls also don’t look particularly Sephardic (neither does my fair skinned/blue eyed husband) so nobody believes they actually are. Askenazim consider us “too Sephardic” and Sephardim consider us “too Ashkenazi”. Talk about a conundrum!

    My eldest daughter married a wonderful Ashkenazi BT who is a GREAT husband & father who has grown much in the years they’ve been married. His level of Torah knowledge was not what we would have expected for her nor what she expected for herself. Her Torah knowledge will probably always be greater than his. But, she was 25 had some “challenges” herself which made her, in the eyes of many, undesirable. Her issues by no means reflect her ability to be a good wife & mother & she also works full time in her chosen profession. Her husband was suggested by someone either of them barely knew, but he was local and she felt it was her hishtadlus to meet him. We taught our kids there’s almost nobody unworthy of 2 hours of your time and the price of a cup of coffee. Although we were skeptical at first, he is unquestionably her bashert and treats her like a queen. Sure, there are issues that arise (especially because his family is completely ignorant of their own Yiddishkeit), but they have the same values, found common ground religiously and have a happy, stable marriage.

    The next daughter is already 24 and although she’s dated a fair amount, there are currently no prospects on the horizon. Her only basic requirements are yashrus & good middos. Because we live “out of town” there is sometimes travel involved which is not only expensive but impractical because she can’t take time off from work at a whim to fly accross the country. It’s frustrating and there’s not much more we can do to help her.

    The bottom line is that you have to do your hishtadlus as you see fit, daven & have bitachon that HKBH will send you the right person at the right time. It is imperative to keep an open mind because you never know from where the shidduch will come or in what “packaging”. Sometimes one has to grow in a certain way before HKBH sends their bashert. I get worried when I see kids jump into marriage after knowing each other barely a month. We are seeing so many young people divorced–it’s frightening. I think a lot of angst could be alleviated if kids (& parents) did a little more research & gave the shidduch a little more time to develop. It often takes more than one date to know if a shidduch is viable.

    As for you overwhelmed mothers of boys, just pick a name and start doing research. Make a few phone calls to references who know the girl in different ways (friends, neighbors, etc.). Ask the references for names of anyone who knows the girl. You will get an idea of what the girl is about after a few calls. Conflicting info is a red flag. Get your son involved in the research; let him talk to references himself–sometimes things get lost in translation. Since we BTs don’t have those family “connections” ask people from your shul, your kids’ friends’ parents or anyone who knows someone in that city. You can usually find some contact somewhere who can help you. It is incumbant on klal Yisrael to help each other with shidduchim.

    Hatzlacha raba

  7. Bob, I have never seen anyone mature into a “gadol”! Do I think that this conformism I have described retards maturity? I do think so, yes. For all my admiration of the frum community of which I am a part, I have, as you know, expressed my view here before about ways in which many frum people never seem to grow up.

    I have, by the way, also written more than one defense of “non-non-conformity,” however, or at least against an unjustified presumption of individuation that we too often attach to external appearances. So have others with more authority. So I am not necessarily throwing down the gauntlet on anything in particular here. I’m just making an observation.

    One thing I can say to both Bob and Belle is that by and large the FFB adults I know are not “all the same,” even if their wedding pictures look more or less the same within a given five-year period of recent history. But the complexities of personality development, and the pluses and minuses of differentiation at different stages of development as well as the effects of peer pressure before, during and after maturity are, well, obviously really complex topics that I don’t know anything more about than any other armchair psychologist.

  8. The 2012 Nobel Prize in Economics went to Professors Alvin E. Roth and Lloyd S. Shapley for their study of allocation of scarce resources in so-called “ethical” markets, where normal rules of supply and demand can’t be applied due to it being unethical to give that resource to the person paying the most money.

    Prof. Roth applied the Gale-Shapley algorithm to such unusual markets as patients awaiting organ transplants, medical school graduates being matched with hospital residencies, and students trying to gain admission into prestigious colleges.

    For example, Harvard gets 32,000 applications for 1,600 freshman slots, a ratio of 20 to 1. Harvard obviously does not sell those slots to the highest bidder: admission is determined by a complicated formula that is semisecret (merit and diversity play a big role, legacy admissions a smaller role).

    By contrast, the number of U.S. medical school graduates pretty much equals the number of open first year hospital residency slots. Every opening will eventually get a grad and every grad will eventually get an opening. The problem is to obtain the most optimal pairing of each med grad to each residency, to end up with the least disappointment and the most satisfaction overall.

    It would be interesting if we could persuade Prof. Roth to utilize the Gale-Shapley algorithm for making shidduchim. Men seeking marriage seem to constitute a scarce resource when compared to women seeking marriage. Obviously it’s not about going to the highest bidder. Probably it’s very much Lehavdil like matching medical graduates with residency openings. The ideal end result is to settle everyone into a pairing that satisfies both sides.

  9. Also, to be fair, teenagers and young adults as a group are very very peer conscious and in any society they seek to conform to whatever the normative model is. Apparant differentiation comes with maturity, self-knowledge, and self-confidence, so you see those aged 21-22 and up branching out in a public way, but less frequently before that.

  10. My “devil’s advocate” comment to Ron would be that the conformity is just external – kind of like in the yeshivish community how all men wear black and white. I am not saying these girls ARE all the same, I am saying that it is very difficult to figure out what the differences are from a resume or from a reference call.

    Obviously, when I look at a handful of the local girls I know, on paper they look the same, but their personalities, middos and hashkafos could be quite different. That is my dilemma – how to get to that information in an honest and forthright way when one doesn’t have 200 cousins in various frum communities across the country.

  11. Ron,
    great insights, thanks. I would add on that the phenomena described by Ron is probably intensified in population centers, given the greater numbers of girls defining the conformity and hence making it feel stronger.

  12. Ron, do you see any signs that what you called “de-selfing” inhibits bachurim from maturing into Gedolim, or even proper Jewish adults?

  13. A separate comment about this matter, raised by a couple of people, of how to talk about, ask about and understand the distinctions among essentially identical Bais Yaakov girls:

    My observation is that both boys and girls in the yeshiva world are discouraged from distinguishing themselves to an even greater extent than the (very real) degree adolescents are pressured to conform (by themselves and their environments) in the non-frum world. But with the girls it is far, far more; hence the near disappearance of color from teenage girls’ wardrobes, which of course not only eliminates color itself — both literally and figuratively — but makes the discernment of the cut, much less the fabric, fit and finish, essentially impossible as well.

    Ironically, the worse the girl – boy shidduch imbalance problem gets, the worse this problem gets; and, I would argue, the worse it makes the imbalance, because of how de-selfing reduces the shidduch process to more and more “objective” factors. It is a depressing spiral.

  14. To AT #30: My youngest daughter (who is turning 30 in January and is married and living in Israel with her husband and three kids) was going through applying to seminary about ten, eleven years ago. She brought home an application for XYZ Seminary. I took one look at the application and noticed that there was a question, “What high school did your mother attend?” I told my duaghter to forget it and threw out that seminary’s application.

    Now maybe this is unfair to XYZ Seminary. I didn’t even give them a chance. Maybe my daughter would have been accepted there despite the fact that her mother attended Midwood High School, a public school, rather than a girls’ yeshiva high school. As a BT, I’m still rather sensitive about that, although nearly forty years later it seems pretty ludicrous. I mean, who really cares at this point? What if I were a Giyores instead of a BT and my alma mater was Saint Agnes?

  15. This is a great thread but there are a lot of moving parts.

    First of all, a shoe that is too large does not fit “just as badly” as one that is too small, Judy. You can get the former on your foot. It may chafe and you could end up with back problems even, but it is a shoe on your foot. A shoe so small I can’t even get it on isn’t even a shoe.

    But the point is well taken. Some of the misunderstanding here may be because your frank, blunt and straightforward presentation, but you are saying something that can’t really be denied: No one is perfect, and when your daughters were looking at shidduchim, you had the opportunity to become more explicitly aware of the non-perfect “features” of their future husbands than people who go about making matches in other ways.

    Which makes me ask something I wondered from almost the beginning of reading this discussion: Happy, on what basis do the shidduchim closest you get made? How do boys and girls meet and get married in your family?

  16. To Belle #29:

    Bring up these concerns with your son, and ask him for his personal ideas about the shidduchim and prescreening process. After all, it is his own future that you are discussing.

    Maybe he can give you the phone numbers of one or two of his FFB married friends’ mothers (of course, find out in advance from those friends if that would be OK) so you can call them for their advice.

    Speaking to your family’s own Rav might help also. Maybe your own Rebbetzin could offer a few helpful suggestions.

    My husband and I also knew nothing about how to prescreen through all of names of equally wonderful girls who were “redd” for our two oldest sons. Somehow it worked out for our oldest boys. What happened was that they themselves pretty much took control of the entire process, from prescreening through dating through engagement and marriage. We just showed up, did what we were told, and wrote the checks.

    We are still pretty clueless and will have to go through this for the third time with our youngest son when he returns from Israel in March. So I am going to take my own advice and involve my youngest son in the process as much as possible.

    I have noticed that in the Letters and Readers Write columns in the frum newspapers Hamodia and Yatid Neeman that other mothers of boys “in the parshah” have written with similar questions about how to sort through the piles of girls’ resumes.

    My feeling is that nothing substitutes for personal knowledge. Unfortunately, it is not possible, feasible or affordable to meet with 1000 girls (you’d be 90 before you could get married!) So the next best thing might be to find someone with fewer degrees of separation (i.e. a best friend of a sister of one of your son’s very good friends rather than the passing acquaintance of a friend of a friend of a sister of one of your son’s very good friends).

    Don’t forget to daven hard for Siyata D’Shmaya – at the end of the day it’s all in the Hands of Heaven.

  17. I recently married a daughter of BT’s. Things on the ground are basically that being the child of BT (and in my case also a giyoret’s daughter) is the not an awful stigma, but it doesn’t help. It is true that men get their pick in shidduchim, and when they have a list of seemingly indistinguishable nice frum girls, they can pick based on the most trivial things, so the girl with yichus is higher on the list — EVEN IF yichus is not one of their priorities. My brother was in demand long before he was officially dating.
    Also, parents, you might want to warn your daughters that yichus may have an effect on seminary choices, since for many schools yichus is a factor and being the daughter of geir or BT or geir or BT yourself can definitely hurt you.

  18. Judy,

    Well we do get the girls’ resumes. That’s where the problems begin. It only gives so much information. The fact is that the Bais Yaakovs are graduating 100s, if not 1000s, of “great girls.” However my son can only marry one of them, and certainly does not wish to date more than one or two. Most of his friends’ parents sifted through the process for them, they did not handle it themselves, and most of his friends are children of FFBs. So I am back to my original question: how to distinguish the girls? And how to find out for REAL if the family is honest, kind, generous, and loving?

  19. To Shmuel #26: With all due respect, I am not reconsidering Comment #1.

    Are my sons-in-law a blessing? Yes. Would I prefer them without their respective issues? Yes. Do I accept them for what they are? Yes.

    It is what it is.

    I would like to be on the level where I can view an issue as a blessing, but frankly I’m not. Should I be working on that? Probably.

  20. One wise rav said, “A shoe that is too big fits just as badly as a shoe that is too small.” The children of the Altaheimowitzer Rebbe, lacking any kind of job skills or secular education, might be just as “undesirable” to you as your children with a college degree are to him. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Maybe the rich man’s daughter is a spoiled princess who expects her every whim to be catered to.

    I agree with Belle #19 that it is very difficult for mothers of boys to sort through all of the suggested wonderful girls. Then when we moms try to help out our sons, attempting to pick out the most compatible possible matches, we’re accused of being too selective and too interfering. So we can’t win. (As future mothers-in-law, we can’t win anyway). But I would suggest that you ask your family Rav and/or your son’s Rosh Yeshiva for some guidance here. Your son may also find it helpful to ask a contemporary (slightly older friend or fellow Yeshiva bochur who is already married) how he navigated his way through the sea of eligible young ladies to find his basherte.

    Although some people really hate the idea, I have found that getting “shidduch resumes” can help the process, as each girl is literally putting herself down on paper, so it becomes easier to review and consider each girl’s school, employment and family background.

    Everybody laugh now: I still have my youngest daughter-in-law’s shidduch resume, and refer to it quite frequently, although they’ve been married nearly five years now. I can never remember the names of her eight siblings, so it’s a tremendous help! (“Oh yes, your oldest brother, hmmm, and then your twin sister, that’s Rivka, right?”)

  21. Judy Resnick:

    I was delighted to see that you wrote:

    “So no, I don’t think having a zillion dollars (although it would be nice not to be broke) would have helped us find better marriage partners for our kids; it probably would have led to more tzurris down the road.”

    Perhaps then you will reconsider your statement that “we had to accept that each [husband of each of your daughters] has some kind of tiny “p’gam” or “blemish” not significant but still an issue. Not as minor as using a non-white tablecloth on Shabbos either.”

    Combining what you’ve said about your sons-in-law with your later statement in response to my inheritance question, it sounds as though you didn’t “have to accept” these men as sons in law. Rather, it sounds as though you and (primarily) your daughters were blessed with them. I certainly don’t know any of the individuals involved and if I did I certainly wouldn’t tell them how to view these personal matters. But in the abstract this seems to me to be the way to view these things.

  22. There are certainly “Yeshivish” families who would not consider someone who is “Modern” and there are “Modern” families who would not consider someone “Yeshivish”. And I agree that the usage of the term “untouchable” was a provocative rhetorical flourish, but I didn’t take it in a conversation stopping manner.

    I think one of the first rules of Shidduchim is to know where the potential spouse will probably come from. That involves accepting the obvious fact that not ever community is compatible with every other community. There might be exceptions, but it’s more fruitful to deal with the norms. Once you get beyond the pain of someone rejecting your child sight unseen, you can see that there are many reasons that people look for cultural and religious compatibilities.

  23. I’d like to throw out another two ideas (since there are still people on this blog who aren’t yet furious with me).

    One: While family #1 might consider the “best catch” for their daughter to be a tall handsome doctor, family #2 might be looking for a young man who sits and learns all day while family #3 insists on the great-grandson of the Sometowner Rebbe. People can and do have different ideas about whom the frum world’s most eligible bachelor is. Diff’rent strokes for diff’rent folks.

    Two: The superficial trivialities given as reasons why shidduchim break up may actually be based on Hilchos Shmiras Haloshon. There may be a serious, important reason why the shidduch broke up. However, the other party has been told by their rav not to reveal the real reason. So they give some trivial reason like the family uses a pink tablecloth on Shabbos. This is when there is no issue of “putting a stumbling block before the blind,” that is, other parties who should be told about the real issue are not going to be misled or deceived.

  24. Bob,
    It is the illness that needs to be treated, not the symptom. I believe very strongly in spouses being basheret. If a person insists on things that are really shtuyot, then they will find their basheret that way, and Hashem should bentch them with a happy life togehter. And your kids should jump for joy that they are not married to them. that being said, reasonable people can disagree on what constitutes “shtuyot”.

  25. I’d also like to throw out a comment that ties into the Parshah of the Chumash as well as the Parshah of shidduchim.

    We learn about how Shechem assaulted Dina, the daughter of Yaakov Avinu. What made the attack even more odious was that the motivation was not just sheer lust, but a calculated ploy to somehow get part of Yaakov’s wealth.

    I think that rich families have to deal with this fear when their children get involved in shidduchim. Potential marriage partners circling around the family could have malicious intentions that have nothing to do with “happily ever after.”

    Look at the Agunah crisis. There are abusive sons-in-law who are demanding hundreds of thousands of dollars to give a Get because they know that “Poppa has dough.” The family can afford to “pay them off” to get rid of them and that is why they demand the money. Sickening and disgusting behavior, to be sure.

    So no, I don’t think having a zillion dollars (although it would be nice not to be broke) would have helped us find better marriage partners for our kids; it probably would have led to more tzurris down the road.

  26. You’re right. I had a bit of pain since erev shabbos since leaving my previous comment. The reality on the ground, at least in Baltimore, seems to be that a large percentage of children of Baalei T’shuvah marry into “regular” ffb families, and do not need to endure any “blemish” in their spouse. And there are certainly circles where this is less the case.

    I am hurt that there is an observant Jew who feels that the norm in Yeshivish families would be to view her children as “untouchable”. It is simply not like that. Amongst FFB families, there are those that are super makpid on yichus such that they would not make a shidduch with a family of average yichus that has also been ffb l’doros. And that is their perogitive. And I am also aware of baalei t’shuvah marrying into the creme de la creme, so to speak.

  27. I would agree that it’s a very fruitful discussion, and I’m looking forward to more comments from Mark Frankel about his own family’s experiences in the shidduchim world.

    Happy, I’m not happy with a world where future marriage partners are assigned a value, but let’s face it, that’s the reality we have. What we can work on is reassigning and realigning those values so that our children’s wonderful traits are not overlooked by people mistakenly giving too much weight to trivialities.

    Speaking of weight, it is an issue in the shidduchim world that girls who are shall we say a little more zaftig are at a disadvantage when compared to girls who are size six and below. This has actually led to eating disorders among our girls, putting some actually at risk of death from anorexia (or binging and purging behaviors).

    There also is a question about when and how do we deal with what might be truly important issues. For instance, someone who was previously married and later divorced. Do we accept assurances that it was “the other person’s fault”? Do we allow the divorced person to explain that yes, he or she has now moved past the bad character traits that caused the first marriage to break up, and that he/she is a totally different person now? Bearing in mind the statement by Chazal that it’s easier to learn all of Shas than to break one bad character trait. Of course, people can and do change (and Baalei Teshuvah like us are the biggest proof of that!) but how do we advise our children concerning a possible marriage to someone who has already been through, and ended, a first marriage? Or even a second marriage?

    I don’t consider myself “the expert” on these topics, but I think the discussion is important for those of us Baalei Teshuvah and Gairim whose children are growing older and facing the world of what Rabbi Pinchas Stolper called “responsible Jewish adulthood”: dating, engagement and marriage.

  28. Bob,

    What makes you think our rabbis have any influence over individual decisions regarding their shidduch suggestions? If a family is close to a rav, they would be asking his opinion; if not, why would they listen to him anyway?

    People are entitled to make this most personal of decisions based on whatever factors are important to them. No one can force another person to decide based on your own values. If a family thinks it is ghastly manners to clear the plates from the shabbos table with “scraping” at the table, and they for sure don’t want to marry into a family like that, aren’t they entitled? And if I don’t hold those values I probably wouldn’t want my son or daughter to have them as in-laws anyway.

    Anyway, in answer to the thread’s questions, the challenge I am facing in the “parsha” for my son is being able to check out families. We don’t have so many connections, certainly not in neighborhoods like Brooklyn, and every girl is described as being “from the most wonderful family,” with middos like the future Batsheva Kanievsky. Of course the references all rave, and the girls all start to sound the same. I could use some guidance in “reading between the lines” of all this praise.

  29. Michoel, actually I thought this turned into a fruitful discussion and I’m a big fan of discussion as are the Rebbeim who advise us to keep Beyond BT going to enable such discussion.

  30. What are our rabbis doing in general to prevent rejections for trivial or even wrong “cultural” reasons? I can’t imagine how communities will abandon bad habits in this regard without some education or prodding from their leaders.

  31. Shmuel wrote above: “But I reaffirm that each person is a whole person, with strengths and weaknesses, and each person should be seen as such.”

    Amen v’Amen! But l’maaseh, you still need to tell the shadchan what you are looking for. Is it inappropriate for a young woman’s mother to tell her friends that here Saraleh wants a tall boy? I don’t think it is. Even though when she eventually may date a short boy she should certainly look at his true inner qualities and the “whole person” as Shmuel says. Perhaps you disagree with me. But if so, I think you are fairly you unique and elevated in your perspective. I would say that every community has some more superficial traits that people state up front that they want in a mate. Whether it be yichus, a college degree, blond hair, etc etc. I think they are all valid sentiments to express. I happen to think that yichus is more valid than some other things that I’ve heard, being that is specifically mentioned in Chazal, but that is just my own perspective.

  32. Shmuel srote: “I would make a similar comment…that a person might have “every maaleh” (which I’ll translate as every good quality) without being a dedicated father! …was talking about convincing a young girl not to be taken with the handsome smooth talker because those qualities won’t be the ones (if any) that make him a good spouse in the long term, then i understand and I retract my criticism. But this isn’t what it sounded like.”

    Reb Shmuel, I am not a peirush Rashi on Chumash over here that I should warrant such deep diyukim! I merely meant that some attributes are more important than others. There are things that I think are “objectively positive” but far from critical. Like having a husband with 6 helpful younger sisters, or having a husband with great clarity in halacha l’maaseh, or wealth or any number of other things a young woman might value that are not nonsense but still less important than a being a great father and husband. It could well be that the children of baalei t’shuvah should be prepared to be m’vater on some or most of those sort of items, that their FFB-parented friends don’t need to be m’vater on.

    to be continued bli neder

  33. thanks to Shmuel and Happy for their excellent and more explicit posts. I would like to address some of the points that were sent my way. I’ll try to get to them over the course of the day, time allowing.

  34. Okay, first off, let me apologize. I do NOT think Ms. Resnick’s sons-in-law are defective or rejects. I took some liberty in paraphrasing her terms (“they have p’gams, blemishes” “they have issues”) and used harsher words to draw attention to a system that stigmatizes and labels young people in a way which I believe is damaging and unfair. I was intending to be critical of the shidduch system, and for that I am unapologetic, but I am sorry for offending this family. In your world, my own kids are not only undesirable but practically untouchable, and I’m well aware of that. Please believe me that I am sure your sons-in-law are wonderful husbands and fathers, but I question why you seem so comfortable with a value system that wants to denigrate them for these imperfections, or consign your daughters to dating only “flawed” men because of their lineage. You describe a rigid, hierarchical, caste-like system in which young people have no control over their own futures and in which older people assign a “market value” to them which will determine whom they will meet as marriage partners. I’m glad it worked out okay for you, and everyone in your family seems to be happy. I couldn’t live with it.

    As a mother, knowing that my own kids are considered “undesirable”, I would want to do everything in my power to shield my kids from such a world. For my own family, I took these factors into consideration in choosing a community and schools. Is it wrong to suggest here that young families making these choices think about the future ramifications of trying to live in a society that will treat you as second-class citizens?

    I realize that not everyone can or wants to pick up and move to another community. If I found I have no choice but to live with the harsh realities of a prejudiced and discriminatory shidduch system, I would probably not be honest with my kids about it. I don’t care how you sugarcoat it and how many euphemisms you use; trying to tell your kids that because they come from a BT family they will have to limit themselves to “flawed” and “imperfect” partners cannot be good for them. It can lead to low self-esteem and feelings of helplessness and depression. This would appear to be especially true for the girls, who have less opportunity to work their way up in the hierarchy through their own merit.

    I agree with Michoel Kelmar’s post that parents should start instilling their kids with proper values from a young age. Not because they are BT’s kids and have to learn it the hard way; because that’s what chinuch and instilling good middos in our kids is all about, right? Shouldn’t everyone be teaching their kids about what really makes a person good marriage material and not to judge by externalities? (By the way, if you are concerned about using inoffensive terminology, the correct phrase is “a child with Down Syndrome” not “a Down’s child”)

    I’m reminded of a story that about a rav from the community where I grew up, a genuine chassidisher rov of some yichus and also a survivor. When asked what kind of shidduch he wants for his daughter, he replied, “A ba’al midos and a ba’al sechel”. That’s all. Unfortunately, he is gone, and perhaps the values of his generation are gone too.

  35. I think that Judy Resnick’s and Michoel Kelmar’s statements deserve attention. And I believe this is directly on topic.

    Judy Resnick wrote in part:

    “My four sons-in-law are wonderful young men, good husbands and fathers. However, we had to accept that each one has some kind of tiny “p’gam” or “blemish” not significant but still an issue. Not as minor as using a non-white tablecloth on Shabbos either.”

    Judy appears to have a great attitude, she recognizes that her sons in law are wonderful people despite their “pgam” or “blemish.” But the whole idea of having to “accept” someone who has a “pgam” or “blemish” comes from a flawed place. It implies (1) that if you were in a different station in life you wouldn’t have to “accept” such a thing and (2) that there are people out there who are free of any “pgam” or blemish. What kind of attitude is this? Judy, if you had inherited a zillion dollars when your children were still single, would that have made your children compatible with different people than those they apparently are now happily married to?

    All people (I tried to emphasize in my prior comment that this is even true of Moshe Rabeinu, and it is a fact –it is the way God created human beings) have strengths and weaknesses. I think it’s important to view each person as an individual, realize that no one is perfect, and try to relate to each person as a whole person.

    Michoel Kelmar wrote in part:

    “Perhpas a parent can ask his 15 year old daughter, “do you think it is more important to marry a man who will be a dedicated father even though he might have some blemish, or a man who has every maaleh but is not as dedicated”.”

    I would make a similar comment about the above. It assumes, incredibly, that a person might have “every maaleh” (which I’ll translate as every good quality) without being a dedicated father! Remember, we are talking about a young lady who is looking for a husband and hopes to be blessed with a family! What other “ma’alos” are you talking about that someone needs to be convinced they can live without them if he is a good father. If Michoel was talking about convincing a young girl not to be taken with the handsome smooth talker because those qualities won’t be the ones (if any) that make him a good spouse in the long term, then i understand and I retract my criticism. But this isn’t what it sounded like.

    It’s no secret that a fair number of Torah leaders are concerned about and warn people about the influence of the surrounding secular society. A layman such as myself can also see the problem on his own level. I would suggest that these attitudes (which when examined are scarcely believable) are a result of just such an insidious influence. That is, the influence of what might be called the consumer culture we live in. We can get anything we want, and if we can’t get it now we can save up and get it later. We have a choice of 25 types of bedspreads, 30 types of cars, 40 types of sweaters and 50 types of cell phones. Naturally everyone wants exactly what they want. Why should they settle for the sony when they prefer the samsung with its additional features?

    I fear that this attitude has so strongly taken hold of people subconsciously that they apply the same thing –without realizing it– when looking for a mate. They have a list of features they are looking for, and they hope to get as many as they can. They may have to settle for what is not as good if they can’t “afford” it (with the currencies Judy and Michoel take for granted), just as a person may have to settle for a toyota rather than a mercedes benz if he doesn’t have enough money to pay for it.

    But I reaffirm that each person is a whole person, with strengths and weaknesses, and each person should be seen as such.

    Sorry for the long comment but I feel strongly about this. And I want to state explicitly that I didn’t take part in the previous squabble about this or that community and its perceived strengths or weaknesses, and my comments have nothing to do with either side of that.

  36. My sons-in-law are not “defective,” nor are they “other people’s rejects.” As I said straight out in Comment #1, they are “wonderful young men, good husbands and fathers.”

    However, each one has “some kind of issue.” Nobody is a perfect person, and taking someone with an “issue” does not necessarily mean “settling” or “compromising.”

    Many individuals will unfortunately see the smart, accomplished, attractive BT or Gair as “having an issue,” likewise for the smart, accomplished, attractive child of a BT or a Gair. Of course, someone who thinks that way is missing out on a fantastic person.

    Jewelers will tell you that every genuine diamond has a flaw. Only a cubic zirconia (which is completely fake) has no flaws.

  37. Um, I reread her comment three times and she does not describe her sons-in-law as “defective”. She mentions a “birth defect”. If I wrote about a down’s child and referred to a birth defect, would you call him “defective”? I’m sure you would not.

    In any case, why do you need to post about how wonderful it is that your life decisions were affirmed “thanking” her for it? Obviously the point of her comment was not to do chesed for you. It was to discuss her experience with shidduchim. So post a positive comment about how these issues are largely not a factor in MO communities and leave it at that.

    OK, Hashem should bentch you with great nachas (or even nachat) from all your children. Your comment rubbed the wrong way but probably you didn’t mean it that way.

  38. It was Ms. Resnick who described her sons-in-law as defective. If they weren’t cool with that description, I’m sure she wouldn’t have written it.

    I don’t think I would be happy in her position but to each his own.

  39. Happy,
    If you can write like that when you’re happy, I’d hate to see you unhappy. That’s someone’s children in law you are talking about.

  40. I don’t think Mrs Resnick’s experience is standard for BTs. A lot depends on where you live, how your children were raised and schooled, and where the potential spouse was brought up.

    If I get clearance from the rest of my family, I hope to write up our experiences.

  41. I am an FFB from a Modern Othordox background, married to a BT who went to a moderate Charedi yeshiva.

    When we were newlywed, we gave some thought to settling down in a Charedi community where many families from my husband’s yeshiva had established their homes. Instead, we chose to live in a series of mixed communities, sent our kids to MO or moderate Charedi schools, and they now identify mostly as MO.

    Ms. Resnick’s letter gives me a glimpse of the road not taken. Had we gone the other route, I would now be in the position of explaining to my young adult kids that no matter how smart, charming, good-looking, idealistic or hard-working they are, they will always be considered undesirable in the marriage market because they are from our family. I would have to prepare them to accept “defective” marriage partners, other people’s rejects.

    Thank you for helping me feel I’ve made the right choices.

  42. As for the actual topic: We are not yet holding by shidduchim. However, my wife and I have had a hand in trying to make a bunch of shidduchim with some success, mostly involving BTs. So I’d like share some insights that I’ve gleaned.

    I like Judy Resnick’s post very much. I would add on that parents who realized that they need to be willing to compromise, should begin acclimating their kids (particularly their daughters) to the idea from early on, way before shidduchim. Obviously, one does not convey this as “compromise”. Perhpas a parent can ask his 15 year old daughter, “do you think it is more important to marry a man who will be a dedicated father even though he might have some blemish, or a man who has every maaleh but is not as dedicated”. Or similar questions to get the child to affirm her already held correct values, and make herself stronger in them. It can be very bad for a marriage if one side feels that they compromised on things that were important to them. They should be traind to feel that they got the really important things in a spouse.

    2. When we talk a shidduch, we always insist before hand that both sides agree to a minimum of two dates. There are a lot of good reasons for this, and they are even more true for children of baalei tshuvah.

    3. If your child is honestly not the strongest person, do not look for shidduch that will cause them to misrepresent themselves.

    4. Once a shidduch goes through, resolve to m’vater on all kibbudim. Some FFB families have a lot of problems from their parents, hocking them a chinek about who’s zeide a new baby will be named for, and what chasan and kallah gifts will be given. This is shtus that BTS are generally spared so they should keep it that way.

  43. I don’t want to run the string off topic so very briefly… Choosing a marriage partner based on Yichus is very much a valid Torah value. There are other Torah values and each person needs to find his path. Baalei Tshuvah sometimes do themselves a disservice and waste a lot of energy by sort of denying the rights of FFBs to be FFBs.

  44. After reading Judy Resnick’s comment, all I can say is I am glad that I chose my wife (and she me) based on mutual compatibility rather than on “yichus” or “gelt.” Baruch hashem, my wife is a wonderful person and I cannot claim to deserve her. I hate to imagine what might have happened to me had I been interested in yichus or gelt –I might have ended up with someone with yichus or gelt instead of my wife! I have trouble reconciling the attitudes described by Judy (and to be fair to her, I think she was just describing and not advocating) with Torah values. It’s true that Lavan (who was keenly interested in the wealth of his sister’s potential mate) was a character in the Torah, but he’s not the kind of character we want to emulate.

    I do know of one man who had a bunch of ‘issues’ such as having spent a lot of his early life in non-Jewish settings and he kind of talked funny. He ended up marrying someone without what Judy was referring to as “yichus” (he actually married a woman from a non-Jewish family) and without a lot of money. Perhaps some would say that he had no choice given his “status.” But nevertheless, I would much rather live in a world where we try to emulate this man –known as Moshe Rabeinu– than in one where we try to emulate Lavan.

  45. Out of my seven adult children, six are married and the youngest will hopefully be “in the parsha” once he returns from Israel in March 2013, bs”d.

    I agree that due to the reality of frum demographics (i.e., the imbalance between the number of available men and the number of available women) it’s much, much tougher for females to find their “zivug.”

    All four of my daughters are married. We knew we were starting off with a disadvantage, with their mother (me) being a BT, and their father also not having yichus. Also we do not have the kind of Gelt with a capital G that tends to overcome most shidduch problems.

    My four sons-in-law are wonderful young men, good husbands and fathers. However, we had to accept that each one has some kind of tiny “p’gam” or “blemish” not significant but still an issue. Not as minor as using a non-white tablecloth on Shabbos either.

    Please don’t get offended anyone when I say in my own humble opinion that the daughters of BT’s and Gairim may have to accept marrying a young man with some kind of issue. That’s only one humble person’s humble unscientific opinion.

    It should be something really minor, something that does not affect whether the young man will in the future be a good husband and father. Even maybe a missing little toe (not a birth defect that could be passed onto future generations but some condition that occurred later in life).

    This is just my opinion. Also please note that what many people consider a “chasarah” others might deem a “maalah.” For example, a handsome Gair with an M.D. might be rejected by some young ladies but considered to be a real “catch” by others. Not every perceived defect makes a man into a bad husband.

    As for my two oldest sons, they were on the other side of the gender gap. Somebody once said that girls need a press agent to get their names out, while boys need a press secretary to handle all of the names coming in.

    Because both of my boys are serious and good learners, that did seem to partly overcome any “kids of a BT” stigma. Many FFB girls from seminary are looking to marry learning boys. Ironically a boy who works and earns a living is, for some girls at least, deemed to be less desirable than a boy who learns full-time.

    What is interesting is that both of my FFB daughters-in-law are last children in birth order. My oldest son married a girl who is the eighth in a family of eight children, and my middle son married a girl who with her twin sister is eight and nine in a family of nine children. Possibly the families of my machetanim were most concerned about yichus for the first few shidduchim, but when the last child was getting married it was no longer an issue (because there were no more kids to marry off).

    Anyway, this is just one family’s experience in the world of getting shidduchim for one’s children. It need not be anything more than an entertaining read for anyone else.

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