About a week ago, someone sent me an e-mail of a “shidduch meeting” form. For those who don’t know, a shidduch meeting is when a group of (usually) women get together and see who knows whom and if there could be any possible set ups from that group.1 Since everyone knows different people from their various circles, it’s reasonable that two compatible people would never have met nor would they even have people in common who could get them together.
The organizer wrote up a form with “basic” information. I don’t know how seriously the participants used the forms – it’s possible they just used the names had the “sponsors” describe the singles – but disliked several of the questions asked. Independently, each question provides some information about a person and perhaps indicate if X would be shayachet for Y. As a unit, many of these questions are insufficient or inappropriate to describe the entirety of a person.
For example, here are the 10 questions from the form (in addition to personal background info like occupation, school, etc) with my comments. I copied the questions as they appeared on the form and as you will see, many are horribly phrased. Also, the questions are presented in the order in which they were received, but order should not be confused with importance.
1. Do you/are you looking for someone who intends to cover her hair?
Some may consider hair covering as merely a religious barometer, like a guy wearing a black hat (see below). The major difference is that there are actual halakhot of married women covering their hair. Consequently, if a woman does not plan to cover her hair, or she plans to cover her hair not in accordance with Jewish law,2 then she would not be appropriate for a significant population of the Orthodox dating pool.
2. Do you/are you comfortable with (a girl) wearing pants?
Awkwardly phrased. The gist is if you’re a girl, do you wear pants, if you’re a guy, do you care? This infers from the culture religious issues of modesty, but the halakha is not as clear cut as the hair covering. As phrased, this promotes stereotypes of what modesty is halakhic or socially acceptable. Some context would help, as there are many times when pants would actually be more modest than a skirt. At any rate, whether or not one agrees with the implications of women wearing pants, it’s a practical question for determining if two people from the vast modern orthodox community would be appropriate.
3. Do you/are you comfortable with (a boy) wearing jeans?
I don’t understand this one at all. Maybe on some level wearing jeans has some religious implications and indicate where someone is “holding” religiously. It might be a factor for some people, but in my opinion, not enough to make a top 10.
4. Do you/are you looking for (a boy) who intends to wear a hat?
Like #3 this one is directed to the right end of modern orthodoxy. Depending on the people involved, this may or may not make a top 10.
5. Do you plan on having a television in your home?
Interesting idea, but horrible presentation. It’s a religious indicator, but I don’t think television should be reduced to a simple yes/no, good/bad dichotomy. Instead, I suggest the following scale (work in progress):
- I tape the weather channel to see what I missed.
- I talk about Rachel, Ross, and Joey like they’re real people.
- Just give me Law and Order and the Simpson’s.
- Nothing but PBS and the History Channel.
- I need it for the VCR…and the news.
- Box of Satan.
This way you find out not only religious beliefs, but some degree of personality (or lack thereof)
6. Do you plan on attending movies with your spouse?
This one is even more vague than the TV question. What type of movies are we talking about? Finding Nemo? Yentl? Sallah? School of Rock? Blazing Saddles? Lord of the Rings? The Big Lebowski? Dogma? Sound of Music? Rocky Horror Picture Show?3 Furthermore, you could plan on sneaking out to see the movies by yourself without your spouse, or even rent them.
7. Do you/are you looking for someone who will be learning or engaged in a profession?
Is this a choice? My spouse can either be learning or engaged in a profession? Do I want a stay at home wife? Kollel husband? Applicable to a small percentage of modern orthodoxy, this question might be more of a personality indicator than a religious one.
8. Do you/are you looking for someone who will learn on a regular basis?
Regularly setting aside for learning establishes Torah as an important part of Jewish life. Children who see their parents learning may come to value Torah more themselves, or minimally not get as cynical at a society which asserts the importance of Torah and then promptly neglects it.
I just wonder if this applies to women learning too.
9. Do you/are you looking for someone who will attend minyan on a daily basis?
Yet another religious indicator (noticing a pattern?), but practically useless for a marriage, especially once kids come.
10. Are you a Kohen?
According to halakha, a Kohen cannot marry a divorce or a convert and the convention is not to set up kohanim with people who have questionable Jewish lineage. Very important question.
Most of these questions attempted get a religious sense of a person. While society is obviously important in a modern orthodox society, many of the questions are irrelevant to having a successful marriage. Several questions merely reinforce harmful stereotypes of what is and what isn’t religious. On the other hand, if people think in these stereotypes then these questions may be useful. So my question is, for men and women, what are the top 10 questions you think would be most applicable to the most people in the modern orthodox community? What questions would best define you as a man or woman?
The goal here is not to tell everything about a person, but to have a sense if two people would be compatible. Also, the questions have to be phrased in such a way that they will be useful. People don’t always like thinking about themselves, or would just lose patience with a long survey. More questions would help, and so would asking how important an issue is to someone. For example, I may not want a TV, but I won’t care if my spouse does.
Grayson Levy does a great job of this with Frumster. He asks a nice mix of religious and personal questions, and he forces members to express themselves beyond simple multiple choice questions.
I also acknowledge that most of the forms tell more about the person who constructs them than it does about the singles.
Anyone else have suggestions?
1. Not to be confused with kiddush or shabbat lunch. This at least has no pretense of being anything else but a shmooze fest.
2. Or at least the “Jewish law” as understood by the guy, or more realistically the guy’s rabbi. I’m not going to discuss here the laws of hair covering and what is “real” halakha and what is custom. My point is that if a guy thinks that what a woman plans to do is forbidden, don’t set up those two people.
3. My personal opinion is that some of these movies are assur to see, others are mehuyav on everyone. No, I will not say which is which. My father likes to tell following story from R. Faur’s shiur. One day R. Faur said the only movies which are mutar are cartoons and westerns. After naively seeing Fritz the Cat (or part of it at least), he then told his shiur that cartoons are also assur.