As a girl in shidduchim, I’m constantly asked for my picture. Shadchanim often ask for a picture before setting me up, I am not an unattractive girl, I just never felt it was a necessary thing to do. I don’t have social media, and I don’t usually send pictures of myself around town. However, if I don’t, I fear they will suspect something nonexistent or find a different picture themselves which may be more unflattering. My question is, should I send my own picture to prevent people from holding back suggestions or dates? Do I need to conform to society as part of proper hishtadlus in shidduchim? What should our hishtadlus be and why did things become so complicated?
Shadchan Michelle Mond Responds:
I admire you for your stance on the topic, and your obvious sensitivity for modesty.
Unfortunately, shidduchim is not as easy as it once was. It used to be, someone would give a suggestion and the couple would go out. A shadchan was merely responsible for setting up two like-minded people; no FBI investigations, long meetings, or damage control needed. Oh, have things evolved since that time!
We are a generation not so far off from the post-WWII era. The generation of hard-working, G-d fearing, humble Jews who fought so hard for our mere survival. The generation after the liberation was full of hurt, trauma, tears, and pain. Scars mentally and physically were still raw from the atrocities that were committed against our people just by virtue of the fact that they were Jews. However, it is mind-blowing to realize that in regards to picking up and moving forward, continuing on our legacy; settling down and choosing a life partner was so much simpler then than now.
How could this be?
It was a no-brainer for the post-holocaust generation and the survivors’ children. The Butcher had an idea for the Baker’s daughter? No FBI investigation needed; the two went on a date and saw if they liked each other. People had found compatible partners to spend the rest of their lives with and continue the Jewish legacy. Many of these couples have built beautiful generations. The two never got a resume describing the other nor had pictures exchanged.
The pictures that are flaunted; however, are these beautiful couples of which I speak sitting on black and white canvas, smiling in portraits on top of our parents’ fireplaces. They are our great grandparents whom we tell stories about at our Shabbos tables. We read stories about them in books and articles worldwide.
They were happy.
Things were simple.
They were so fortunate, they were humans so alive and bursting with Jewish pride ready to embark on building a new, free generation. Uncomplicated.
Fast forward just a few decades later, and here we are.
Here we are in a generation not so far off from that time. We are the grand and great-grandchildren of that generation, living in a time in which our ancestors could only dream about. Our lives are so rich in opportunity and technology. One would think that this generation would have things so much easier. However, it seems that all of the technology and ability to contact anyone around the globe at any time has managed to screech one very important component of frum society to a halt, and that is the topic of shidduchim.
One of my Rabeim in seminary once told the story of how he and his wife met in the library at Queens College. Years later when I asked if I could use his story as a platform to encourage events where singles could, in a kosher way meet on their own, he wouldn’t grant permission. Why you may ask? Because to quote him anonymously, “Times have changed, I can not be quoted saying that”.
Nowadays, such a thing would be deemed inappropriate, according to standards. Consequently, shadchanim are responsible for keeping endless information on hand about every man and woman he/she meets. Note that back then there was no analyzation like there is today. Discussion about the color of the man’s shirt simply did not exist. Asking whether parents and grandparents were “exactly how yeshivish?” would be deemed completely inappropriate in a post-holocaust era. Whether the boy was planning on learning for 2-3 years or 5-7 years or long term and how the girl plans on supporting him until he goes into business was not a discussion on the table.
The only thing on the table was the grapes and cookies to greet the young man when he came to court the woman at her parent’s home the first time. (Back then, when the men still traveled.)
Nowadays, when looking into a shidduch, the criteria one looks out for is endless, because with modern technology the opportunities are endless. He must have this type of yeshiva background, for this many years, and wear this type of clothing, with the hat brim this way and not that way. Sound complicated? It sure is. The path to redting a shidduch is no longer the following simple procedure.
Person: Has an idea and brings it to the parents.
Parents: Nice, boy/girl, nice family, let’s have them go out Sunday night and see if they like each other.
It is now a system comprised of research into both singles’ backgrounds, their pasts, their present, their futures, their social media presence, their future plans mapped out, and how it fits perfectly into the other person’s vision of the future. People these days also go “Flag-Fishing” – which is a term I have coined to describe the common habit of chain calling everyone who might possibly know, or might have met this person to hear the person’s “dirty laundry”. Note that this is not demanded by any third party to do, but it is what parents and singles worldwide have accepted upon themselves as standard protocol. It is almost a thrill to find out from a third party all the skeletons in the closet from the single’s high-school days.
This is standard procedure before it can lead to a first date. Adding singles’ outspoken discussions with each other about their opinions on the guys and girls they have dated to the mix and you get an even more complex situation. This is what I call the SDE (Shidduch Domino Effect). When one guy goes out with one girl from the same “circle of friends” and it does not work out – this guy is automatically nixed by that entire group of friends, based on the false premise that “If it didn’t work for Shprintzy, it won’t work for me.”
People consider this normal, and yet when a shadchan asks for a picture to keep in their file to remember the thousands of singles they meet so they are able to put a face to a name, it is considered abnormal.
I ask you, what exactly IS normal?
If society deems the only culturally appropriate way to find a bashert to be through a middle man (AKA any matchmaker, friend, or shadchan) then we must do what we can to simplify the process for our volunteers taking on the already taxing and time-consuming challenge. In this day in age with all the slew of information that needs to be passed along, the solution seems to be having on hand a basic profile – this is where the resume idea came from. Proposing we should go back to the old ways while adapting to today’s society is akin to attempting to put WIFI on a corded rotary phone. As long as people are living in today’s society, dating under these standards, we must come to terms with the consequences of this reality.
If we want to change things, we must go to the root and work on shifting completely back to the more simple way things used to be (which, I think, would be an excellent idea!).
This background information is crucial to answering your very apropos question about pictures. In my opinion, in this day and age, sending a nice bekovodik picture to a shadchan with your information has nothing to do with judgments, looks, or beauty. Since there are so many people sending out basic information to matchmakers around the country on a daily basis it has become the norm to send a professional-looking picture with it to put a face to the name. There is an intuitive feeling when seeing a person that depicts more than what the person physically looks like. There have been many times I personally have gotten an intuition about a shidduch of someone I never would have physically met due to geographic limitations (being the out-of-towner that I am). By merely seeing someone’s information and pictures, a shidduch idea struck right away. Obviously I then follow up with correspondence and conversations, which then led to the dating process, and then B’H engagements and marriages followed. Perhaps this is Hashem’s way of working with our current ‘’system’’ to make things possible within the laws of tevah (nature). It is for this reason that I believe it is important to do what has become the norm, and send a nice professional picture to the shadchan who meets hundreds of singles monthly, voluntarily.
Do not mistake this with an endorsement for guys or their parents to collect women’s resumes and pictures like they keep recipes in a cookbook. For parents of potential prospects who will be traveling far distances to meet you, and for the people setting you up, it is your hishtadlus to do what is commonly done and send a picture, just as it is the boys hishtadlus to send one as well.
Lastly, please don’t make the mistake of sending a picture in your Purim costume (but hey, it helped Waldo get dates!), facing sideways looking away, a mirror selfie, a super close up shot facing the inside of the nose, or your most recent mugshot (kidding).
I would like to end with this because it is something too many people lose sight of these days. Hashem is the ultimate shadchan. Everyone else are merely messengers. If you do your hishtadlus of what is deemed appropriate for today’s times; if you daven, are open-minded, and open your heart. If you allow yourself to let your guard down even though it’s hard. If you do all of this even though we live in such a vulnerable and challenging time, Hashem is sure to shower you with brachos and your true Bashert iy’H, bikarov.
All my best,
Shadchanit Michelle Mond is an experienced matchmaker who caters to the Orthodox Yeshiva/Modern Machmir community. Raised in Baltimore, she is a devoted Shadchan for singles all over the world and has matched up couples as far as from Australia, to Israel, and all over North America from coast to coast. She works for the Shidduch Center of Baltimore (www.shidduchcenter.org), Saw You at Sinai, and is a part of the new Adopt-A-Shadchan network. Michelle is also a writer and regular contributor to multiple Jewish magazines including Ami, the Jewish Press, and is a weekly panelist on the syndicated weekly “Navidaters” column in The Jewish Home Magazine which grapples with difficult shidduch-related conundrums. Michelle Mond can be reached at MichelleMondShadchan@gmail.com