Shidduch Considerations – Seeing Challenges As Opportunities for Growth

My parents are divorced. No one else in my family is frum. I have a lot of non-Jewish cousins. Unfortunately, but realistically, my brothers will probably marry non-Jewish women. I live very far away from the rest of my family, seeing them about once a year.

All of these things are not normative in the frum community. Therefore, they are marks against me on the “shidduch market.” You often hear people say they want a girl from a “good” family, someone who has a great relationship with their relatives, someone not from a “broken” home. So, there are times when guys are suggested for me, and after doing a bit of research, they decide they don’t want to go out with me. Based on all these things that are not me, they are my family.

I agree that having these hurdles in life is difficult, and it certainly does make an impact. But the impact it had for me was to make me a stronger person. I learned how to work through my challenges, how to face adversity and make the best of it. How to carve my own life and my own destiny in the image that I feel is the right one.

I have grown the most through the challenges I have been handed in my life, and one of those challenges has been my family. But I have used it as a springboard to work on myself, to improve my character, and to clarify those things I want in life. My parents divorce helped me see what marriage is about, and that it takes hard work.

I learned a lot from my family, both good and bad. My parents taught me to treat others, all others, with respect, and to judge people based on their character rather than their wealth or community standing. While they are not frum, they taught me to be proud of my Jewish identity.

I understand that my background is not what many would envision for their future spouse. I know that a lot of people want in-laws whose homes they can go to for Shabbos and Yom Tov (especially Pesach, so they don’t have to clean!). But if they looked beyond the surface of my parent’s divorce and my family’s lack of halacha observance, they would see that these challenges have given me opportunities to grow, and that I wouldn’t be the same person without them. If I hadn’t gone through such experiences, I wouldn’t know who I am in the same way I do, and wouldn’t have worked on myself as much as I have.

And ultimately, because of these challenges, I think I’m going to be a better wife and mother for it.

28 comments on “Shidduch Considerations – Seeing Challenges As Opportunities for Growth

  1. Here is how it works in the FFB community: The family that hides their problems most successfully will get the “best” shidduchim.

    The irony is that people from messed up families marry others from messed up families.

    It would be better if the frum community would admit that frum Jews can do aveirahs and need to do tshuvah. That will happen sometime after they admit that David acted improperly concerning BatSheva.

    The fact is that there is bigotry in the frum community against BTs. A friend of mine is a musmach of YU. His father is a retired Conservative rabbi. The fact that he is acknowledged at a talmid chacham of the first rank and that his children have outstanding middot will not erase these two ‘flaws’ and most FFB families wouldn’t think of making a shidduch with them. The irony here is that the family has always been shomrei mitzvot, and that their yichus back in Europe was actually pretty good.

    Frankly, the way most frummies act, I’m not sure that I want my kids marrying them. I guess you can tell which FFBs take Judaism seriously by whether they’ll let their kids marry a BT.

  2. shoshana,
    just last night i had a discussion with someone about the importance of family and former societal issues in relevance to shidduchim. what u are saying is an unfortunate truth and many see it as a necessary evil to reduce risk in the marriage “investment” i personally am of the belief that what you have gone through shows your strength and resolve. however there can potentially be times where coming from such a background and having such circumstances can impact a marriage. i know i grew up with just my immediate family and very little interaction with cousins. that may not always be good. but i think that the main focus in shidduchin should be about the people getting ready to start life together and everything else is secondary. reality can sometimes be sad and cruel.

  3. is an ambitious and unique effort to combat the angst and hardships associated with dating in the religious Jewish community.

    Why Is This Project Necessary?

    All prior efforts to end the so-called “Shidduch Crisis” have failed. This fact, which is evidenced by the ever-burgeoning number of religious singles and the rising percentage of failed marriages, must be recognized.

    Here is a brief but rather complete list of current attempts to address the “Shidduch Crisis”:

    1. Matchmaking (“professional” or otherwise)
    2. Singles events and activities (Shabbatonim, NCSY, Shiurim, etc.)
    3. Wholesale introductions (mass socializing, Speed Dating, online dating)

    What do these have in common? They are all designed to help singles meet one another. Different methods cater to different personalities and religious idiosyncrasies (that’s all they generally are), but the bottom line is always the same: bring singles together in some fashion and hope for the best. There are success stories, but not nearly often enough to consider any of these attempts an actual solution.

    If helping singles meet was all that was needed, there wouldn’t be any “Shidduch Crisis”. Difficulty in meeting is not the problem, but one of the symptoms.

  4. Hope this personal anecdote is applicable.

    Grew up non-frum enough (public schools etc) to now be considered a “BT”.

    Grew up “frum” enough to know that my father’s testimony to my Cohen yichus is undoubtedly correct.

    So on the shidduch scene I was a BT who for the Cohen halachic requirements could hardly find a BT to date and felt out of step with just about all of the FFBs “redt” to me. Things appeared bleak.

    Once someone proposed a shiduch with a young lady not only FFB but who’s surname name indicated a very well known, respected and learned family. Thought it would be a waste of time going out since even if she liked me her “aristocratic” family would give a thumbs-down.

    B”H the (still) young lady, immediate and extended family gave a thumbs up.

    What’s the story here?

    With shiduchim as well, the good stuff can happen when least expected.

    Don’t go into shiduchim viewing yourself as damaged goods. Self-fulfilled prophecy.

    The “aristocratic” family as I found out from 3rd parties, didn’t accept me “despite” who I was but rather “because”. This family’s status and yichus all began with a great-grandfather who was an orphan and alone in America but also a trailblazer by building yeshivas and other institutions when it wasn’t fashionable.

    They liked the idea of someone who thought for himself, put the thoughts to work, dealt with the seemingly insurmountalbe obstacles with emunah and bitachon. It had a familiar ring to it.

    Is everyone so down to earth, honest and not resting on the laurels about their or their families accomplishments? Probably not, but it’s a grave error to say that it’s non-existent.

    One more item. When the Torah recounts the names of the 70 members of Ya’acov Avinu’s family who went down to Mitzraim, the language of the Torah is for example “B’nai Reuven…” and lists the names.

    Butfor Dan “B’nei Dan, Chushim”. In other words, there was only one son of Dan but the Torah uses the plural word “B’nai” to indicate more than the singular. This seems among other things, grammatically incorrect.

    However as the Chofetz Chaim points out, another census was conducted in Sefer Bamidbar (Book of Numbers) 200+ plus years later listing the names and numbers of each Shevet (Tribe). Guess what? Dan’s was now one of the more numerous of the all the Tribes.

    Hatzlacha Raba!

  5. BS”D
    “I think that background and past are one factor, but not the only factor. In fact, many Poskim have railed against the notion that BTs should marry BTs.”
    I agree completely with the first statement… took the words right out of my mouth.
    In terms of many Poskim railing against that notion, I’m sure it’s true, but I just wanted to state that there is a prominent Rosh Yeshiva I know of who basically feel that although FFB/BT marriages can and do work out B”H, **in general** (yes I put stars there for a reason), BTs should marry BTs and FFBs should marry FFBs. Obviously there are different opinions and a person should have teachers/Rabbonim who know their particular situation and will be able to advise them individually.

    Shoshana, you should find your zivug at the right time.

  6. Shoshana, You sound like a very fine, strong and dignified lady. Yasher Koach for the perspective on your non-frum family. I am only now, after many years of being BT, beginning to think about how to bridge the distance (I have created myself) with my non-frum relatives. They also have intermarriages and non-kosher lifestyles, but my approach was to avoid, in order to avoid the influence on my children. We did not attend their family events etc. and seldom invited, but somehow I feel like there is a higher madrega I could have reached in this regard.

    There are so many varieties of frum people today; perhaps we are not so vocal or as well organized, but there are so many without the “cookie cutter shidduch profile” that it seems like you only need to get the right connections. Do you feel like you have enough resources such as individuals who will act as shadchanim for you, or groups devoted to helping singles, or Rabbaim involved in this issue, or online resources?

    One other note about carving out a frum lifestyle with gratitude to OR in spite of our family background: by the time children are in the picture, our perspective seems to need to widen to include how we are regarded by the staff & students of the yeshivas we choose, and by the parents of other students, ie, our kehilla. I have always been attracted to the more built up communities, with all of the amenities of frum life readily available. But this came with a price for a family like ours, and the price was ostracism since we didn’t fit the (majority) mold. Again, it is a time of re-evaluation for me, and consideration of moving to a less built-up, but also less competitive and pressurized kehilla where inclusion is more important than exclusion.

  7. there are clearly individuals who need a different familial support system and we cannot judge these people as we wish them not to judge us
    but support system as well as specific support from the spouse in terms of any interactions with the non-frum family are relvant issues to any marriage.

    I ended a shiduch with an FFB after he & I had a long conversation about his having no clue as to how to go about dealing with issues that might crop up – cluelessness as to where my family is coming from wasn’t going to be useful. But my FFB (! with local “yichus”!) husband grew up with extended family near by who don’t hold the same standards. So the issues were familiar.

    The point being, an individual’s circumstances and experiences, BT or FFB, are much more relevant than if they grew up frum. A BT with supportive non-frum family presents very different circumstances than one with antagonistic family. Is the BT close to their family, might they come for yom tov or Shabbos ever? Or, is the FFB familiar with being the “local frummie” and good at diffusing potential incendiary situations?

    Shoshana – your original point is very well taken. Your search should be b’hatzlacha.

  8. I was jesting but I did do a double-take (double-read?)and you had me going there for a moment.

  9. “their coming from”=They’re coming from

    Heard of IMO, BT, FFB, LOL.OTOH, IMHO,WADR,IIRC but David (16) whats an FBI?

  10. Let me get this straight;

    “I don’t understand. Why would you move from a community where people taught you good values as you indicated that your parents did, to one where you are judged on circumstances that are beyond your control?” comment 5

    And then…

    “Why settle for a boring, davening by rote, judgmental ffb anyway? ” comment 6

    It’s so comforting to know that the BT community is free of the character flaws of prejudice, stereotyping and judging individuals by their group associations. Can we…

    A) Stop the nonsense about being nonjudgmental? We are, each and every one of us, judgmental. If we had not used our judgment to decide that the lifestyles we left behind (in part or completely) were, as lifestyles, inferior (forgive the non-pc word)to Torah Lifestyles would any of us be BTs today? We are not commanded not to judge others, merely not to do so before “reaching their place”-understanding where their coming from, and then to cut them slack and judge them favorably and not cynically.

    B) Could we master the art of being proud of ourselves without having to resort to bashing others? Hamiskabed B’klon chaveiro is not a pretty thing.

  11. In an ideal world, your midos would be paramount and your background would be irrelevant. While some view BTs as potential shidduch candidates for other BTs, IMO, the issue is not as simple as that. OTOH,and IMO,and WADR to those who differ, I think that background and past are one factor, but not the only factor. In fact, many Poskim have railed against the notion that BTs should marry BTs. IIRC, I surveyes that issue briefly when we were discussing truth and honesty in this context. I would aim for the best shidduch that you can get, regardless of your past. There are many special people out there who will overlook a person’s past and background if that person is growing spiritually.

  12. I think Shoshana’s point is that people should not look at the challenges or difficulties that people face or have faced. Rather, they should look at how that person handles and grows from those challenges. Great point!

    I think this is manifested by the fact that people nix a potential shidduch before they even know anything about the person, though they seem to know more about that person’s past and familial relationships than does the FBI.

    Perhaps a broader issue is that in shidduchim, as in many other areas, people tend to classify others and define them based upon things that often have little to do with the person themselves (i.e. none of us are in control of who our parents and siblings are or they way we were brought up) as opposed to what we are “in control” of (i.e. our personal decisions vis a vis growth and teshuva and the manner that we handle the hand we have been dealt).

    At the same time, there are clearly individuals who need a different familial support system and we cannot judge these people as we wish them not to judge us. I also think that the way each of us were brought up (for good and bad) defines what we conceive of as family or how we would like our family to be. So, just because someone (a BT or an FFB)feels that it is important for them to have in-laws that they could spend Yom Tovim with, etc. doesn’t necessarily mean that they are judging those of us who do not have parents that fit that bill.

  13. It is much more commom by the frume. Also, “Why did you go to your inlaws for Succos? You went to them for Pesach!” & “You became so frum that you have to bentch licht with one Ner for each child?! I always bentched two Neros, and that was good enough for your zeide who was a great Rosh Yeshiva!” etc. etc. Of course many would prefer such difficulties to the difficulties we have, but there is clearly a maalah in not having to deal with some things.

  14. Rishona

    I hear what you saying. Neeither Rabbi Haber or Rebbetzin Heller said that your “current/future life should be dictated by your past”, but it does play a role.

    In this context, I think you could say that BTs come from the same culture and there is probably a segment of FFBs who are also culturally compatible.

    Again, its not the only determinant, but it does play a role.

  15. Many FFBs have to deal with a major machlokes every time the name a child after the father’s zeide instead of the mother’s, etc.

    If only this were true. I occassionally pick up the community Jewish paper and inevitably there is a letter to so-and-so from a non-frum person who is dealing with this issue.

  16. Mark-

    I guess I will disagree with the ‘similar background’ notion simply because my particular background isn’t really one that I can share with others. I guess I am biased. I am not looking at all for those with a similar background; because I will be looking for a long, long time.

    I totally understand the wisdom told by Rebbetzin Heller (who is just simply an amazing symbol of chessed if there ever was one) and Rabbi Haber. But ‘culture’ is a very fickle, intangible feature that someone has. I mean what is it exactly? I really fight to stifle laughter or prevent my mouth from falling agape when someone suggests that I should one day go to Israel to marry an Ethiopian Jewish man. I may have brown skin, but I was born and bred in the hilly Appalachians of Southwestern Pennsylvania hearing Lynard Skynard and Bruce Springsteen being played in my neighbors yards. But that is not my culture either.

    For those of us who came to Torah observant living as adults; the Torah world is our culture. Perhaps even more so than our FFB peers who have observant family and a sense of legacy. We ‘dropped’ our past lives and grafted on a new one filled with kedusha and purpose. To suggest that our current/future life be dictated by a past that we opted to part from – well, it just seems like the wrong thing to do…

  17. Although exceptions exist, it probably makes sense to marry someone with a similiar background. It has nothing to do with lack of humanity, but rather with common sense.

    Both Rebbetzin Heller and Rabbi Yaacov Haber make this point. Rabbi Haber says it has more to do with culture than with religiousity. Rebbetzin Heller says she has seen people from widely different cultures marry and make it work, but she is a big fan of not making things more difficult.

    I’ll try to post Rabbi Haber’s mp3 (bli neder) from the Life After Teshiva conference in the coming week.

  18. You could always try Jdate…
    I would be careful looking for a shidduch. Most BTs have the tools needed to find a match without paying for help (that really does not help). Ask around at your Shul. Get to know the over 60 crowd and see if they know someone.


  19. Rishona –
    I was writing my comment as you were, so I missed it, but I just want to say that I completely agree with you. Each person is an individual and should be look at for his or her unique qualities.

  20. To all –
    The purpose of my post was not to complain about not having found my bashert. I completely agree that it will come with the right person, in the right time. And when the right person does come along, obviously he will accept me for who I am, even with all the “black marks” against me. I just think that more people should look at the fact that I have taken these challenges and used them to improve myself, rather than judging me by things that I have no control over.

    Martin –
    Thanks for the suggestion, I will try to check Hashevaynu out.

    David –
    I don’t discriminate against FFB’s – it’s a mindset more than a background that I am looking for. And believe me, there are BTs who judge based on these kind of things along with FFBs, it just may tend to be more prevalent amongst FFbs because, in general, they have not had to deal with as many of these issues as a lot of FFBs have. Though unfortunately, today there are almost as many FFBs who are dealing with such issues as divorce and off-the-derech siblings as BTs.

    Ilanit –
    Thank you. Your name is beautiful as well.

    Michoel –
    You are right, I definitely do have freedom and lack of pressure from my parents that many FFBs can’t enjoy.

    ImJewish –
    There is much judging going on in non-Orthodox communities as well as Orthodox communities, just for slightly different reasons. There is also wonderful values upheld in the Orthodox communities, just like the ones that my parents taught me. In each community, there are pluses and minuses, and there are people who judge and people who don’t. People are people, and it’s very difficult to generalize values based on the religious practice of the invidiuals. Even with the judgement, there are wonderful things that come from living in an Orthodox community – takig care of the sick, hospitality, and many people who do treat others as they would like to be treated. I haven’t left behind the values I learned from my parents, I have embraced them within a different framework of religious practice.

    Jeff –
    I won’t settle for a boring, davening by rote, judgmental FFB or BT ;)

  21. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but I get a bit uncomfortable when people say that if you are a BT/ger your bershert is another BT/ger and/or will only set you up with other BTs. It’s true that the probability is higher that you’ll have more in common with each other; that doesn’t necessarily mean the chemistry will be right. I know of several BTs and gerim who married FFB. We should be looked at as individuals apart from a label. The frum community is small enough as it is. Why do we need to further divide among ourselves the pool of ‘acceptable’ marriage partners?

  22. I agree with David above.

    There are tons of awesome bt guys out there, waiting for a girl like you.

    I suggest to start socializing more with bt & kiruv groups, so you can start meeting men who are just as on fire for Hashem, Torah & Mitzvot as you are.

    Why settle for a boring, davening by rote, judgmental ffb anyway? :-)

  23. I don’t understand. Why would you move from a community where people taught you good values as you indicated that your parents did, to one where you are judged on circumstances that are beyond your control, such as your relatives who are non-frum (which certainly isn’t your fault)? All that frumness, and yet a lack of humanity? What’s the point?

  24. Shoshana,
    Like it or not, you are going to marry your besheret just like everyone else. Furthermore, of course, everyone would prefer wonderful, supportive frum family. But, if viewed the right way, a lack of frum or even Jewish family can actually be an asset. It can give you a certain freedom in your Yiddishkeit that can be very healthful. Many FFBs have to deal with a major machlokes every time the name a child after the father’s zeide instead of the mother’s, etc.

    Baalei tshuvah are recreating the world from nothing! And, if you do it b’simcha, your children will greatly respect and admire it.

  25. Shoshana (what a beautiful name!) – my husband’s family is also not “ideal” in the frum world: two adopted and biracial gay brothers, a sister who is dating a non-Jewish man, divorced parents, and a father who is a convert. And that is just his immediate family. Needless to say, my parents weren’t exactly thrilled with my choice. But what I fell in love with is the person who, despite many challenges, made choices that made him a strong person dedicated to living a Jewish life. And similar to your family, his family also taught him to respect others and to judge people based on their character. I strongly believe that everything is for a reason and that Hashem makes no mistakes, so you can take advantage of your family situation in a way that benefits you.

    Good luck to you and never give up – your bashert is out there and when the time is right you will find him.

  26. I think your best bet is for a spouse who is also a BT. The issues you mentioned would not be considered “marks against you” but something he might have himself, or at least something he is prepared for.

  27. Shoshana,

    If you are making yourself more Frum every day, and are committed to it, you deserve to be looked at for what is in your heart, and the true person you are, not on what background you are from. Hashem gives all many chances in life, so I think it’s not right that you are pre-judged. Why don’t you try a Kiruv organization such as Hashevayne? I think it would work for you, definitely.

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