Opinion: Not Just Pieces of Paper l Avi Gutfreund

The world of shidduchim was recently rocked after a popular forum for receiving and sharing resumes posted the personal information of many singles without their consent. Amid an outcry from those that were affected, the group behind the forum released a statement saying the information was made public by unscrupulous shadchanim who made public information that should have been kept in private folders. According to at least one source, enraged singles have been in contact with Beis Din of America and the IRS regarding the matter.

While I don’t know the inner workings of the forum, I have no reason to suspect foul play on the part of those that run it. From what I have heard, their forum was taken advantage of by people who were doing what they were not allowed to, and for that reason I must judge them favorably, at least until further information comes out.

However, I do feel that this situation underscores how our shidduch system, as it is currently constructed, is broken. We have thousands of singles yearning to find their soulmate who turn to shadchanim, professional and amateur, to assist them in their search. Unfortunately, many people, instead of seeing shadchanus as an opportunity to be a part of a beautiful union, view it as a moneymaking proposition, and a way to earn respect and prestige as a matchmaker – who in today’s shidduch crisis climate are some of the most sought-after people in society. There is a reason why shadchanim have a bad reputation, and it is these self-serving individuals who have caused it.

To be clear, the vast majority of people who try to make shidduchim are upstanding individuals, truly out to be of assistance to others. There is no shortage of incredible shadchanim who work day and night to assist singles in navigating the tumultuous world of shidduchim. Lakewood itself has numerous matchmakers who go above and beyond to help singles, even when there is very little or no money to be made from shadchanus.

My concern is with the commercialization of the shidduch world. Already when I was “on the market” there were people (I often refer to them as hucksters), who were obviously out to make a name for themselves, or just make some money, rather than make a shidduch. One well-known shadchan I met asked me what my parents do for a living. When I told them what it is they do (neither are in high-paying fields) he thanked me and led me out of his house. I never heard from him again. From speaking to people, it’s obvious to me that nothing has changed, and has actually gotten far worse. Singles these days are treated as commodities – nothing more than pieces of paper to be shared and used for the gain of self-described shadchanim who are no more than nosy yentas. Again, I want to reiterate that this does not concern the vast majority of shadchanim. It’s the few bad apples that ruin it for everyone.

The more I hear about the shidduch scene, the more convinced I become that it requires serious changes. We need to simplify it and take away the stigmas and stereotypes that come with it. How do we do that? Some changes are simple and just need some new protocols to follow. Others are more complex as they confront issues that have sadly become deeply ingrained in our society. I hope to address these issues in a future article. But at the top of the list is the need for those involved in matchmaking to be caring and sensitive to the singles who are entrusting them with their information.

For now, it’s crucial that we understand this: our sons and daughters are individuals – unique and wonderful – not just some ink on a piece of paper. It’s time to start treating them as such.

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  1. Couldn’t have said it better! Time for Shidduch reforms before the next generation starts the whole process… it only gets worse before it gets better because then people wake up and realize it’s time for a change in the system. I’ve met Shadchanim who asked me what I do and when I told them I work with children they clicked their tongues and asked for the next girl to please step in. And who takes care of their children I ask? Speech therapists, OT’s, Nurses, Psychologists? Point understood.

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