In this week’s Torah portion — Chaye Sarah (The Life of Sarah), we meet the first matchmaker. Avram requests from Eliezer, his manservant, to seek out a suitable wife for his son Yitzchak. Eliezer is at first daunted by this, as he expresses his doubts about his ability to deliver. Avram does his best to assuage Eliezer’s concerns by giving him a shortlist of the key things to search for.
It’s here that we are introduced to the idea of meeting a life partner through the assistance of someone else — a matchmaker. For centuries, our people have utilized the services of matchmakers. In more recent years, the matchmaker’s role has been sidestepped as singles meet through synagogue, camps, school, youth movement activities, weddings, friends, kiddushim, parties and other social opportunities. However, considering the single statistics in our communities, the need for help in meeting one’s spouse has become more urgent.
With the rise of technology, we are ironically more time-poor than ever. As work becomes more efficient, we find ourselves doing more. The more work we do, the less time we have for fun and this includes finding and creating space for LOVE.
Online dating sites aren’t helping. They came onto the scene 15 years ago, starting with J-Date. Now hundreds of dating sites exist. With the rise in these sites there continues to be a rise in the number of Jewish singles of marriageable age around the world.
The Pew report cites the decline in marriage statistics yearly. People whose children are happily married, heave a sigh of relief and think to themselves “Thank G-d that’s not my problem” whilst parents with single children of marriageable age are suffering. One such parent told me she feels her daughter’s pain and agonizes at her powerlessness to help. Any suggestions she offers is met with “mind your own business,” or “let me live my own life.” It’s not that her daughter doesn’t want to get married. She admits that guilty feelings plague her more than her own desire to get married. She’s ashamed at being single and wishes she could just get married if not for herself than at least to please her parents, as she feels she’s letting her parents down.
People aren’t aware of the severity of the single situation in our communities. Several years ago, I had a conversation with a potential donor about the chessed they would be doing by donating to Beineinu (a division of the International Young Israel Movement), an organization I created with the purpose of offering three key services to helping singles marry: mingling events, matchmaking and relationship coaching/therapy.
The donor (that wasn’t) said to me that he doesn’t understand why he should give to an organization that is full of very capable individuals. He continued to ask, “Why can’t they simply afford to pay their own way to get married?” To this I responded that it isn’t that single people can’t afford to pay for these services, but they feel they shouldn’t need them.
There’s a belief system that people should just be able to meet and marry. It should be as natural as a walk in the park, sipping a cappuccino or a boat ride on a lake. The sad truth for many, as the growing statistics show, is that meeting a life partner isn’t simple or easy for everyone. Many people need help when it comes to finding a life partner. For some, it’s just a matter of meeting the right one, for others it’s a matter of overcoming psychological or emotional barriers that prevent them from allowing love in. Either way, it’s essential that support is given to enable more people to get married.
The good news is that as a community we can help make a positive change. We don’t need to stand idle, alongside the many singles that are in pain wanting to meet the One. Holding our breath and hoping that their agony doesn’t directly affect us. We can take away the shameful stigma being ‘single’ has in our community, invite them away from the ‘sad singles’ table. We can back the few charitable causes that effectively work towards helping singles meet their match. If we all work together there’ll be no reason for singles to feel hopeless and alone because the Jewish community has their back.
To learn more about how IYIM supports singles and helps them meet to marry, check out their website: www.iyim.org.il/singles. Also check out Beineinu (division of IYIM) http://www.beconnections.org.