Are we doing enough to help those within the Jewish community who are looking for love find one another in today’s increasingly complex, technologically advanced world?
Rabbi N. Daniel Korobkin
Beth Avraham Yoseph Congregation, Toronto
Rabbi Lisa Grushcow
Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom, Montreal
Rabbi Korobkin: Are Jewish communities and individuals doing enough to match singles together? Our shul just hosted a Shabbaton for Jewish singles and it drew a huge crowd – that tells me that there aren’t enough venues for the single members of our
community to meet.
In very Orthodox communities, there’s a formal system called the shidduch. It involves resumes and shadchen who individually connect two singles, matching both the couple and the families together. There’s definitely wisdom in the system, but it has its faults, too. In more modern circles, even though the formal shidduch system isn’t utilized, there’s still an informal process where thoughtful and caring individuals “have a friend who has a friend,” and more casual introductions are made.
But what about all those who fall between the cracks? Part of me says we’re not doing enough to create opportunities for Jewish singles to meet each other. The other part of me says that in today’s world of social media, many singles lack the social skills or drive to get out there and meet people. Am I being unfair?
Rabbi Grushcow: I’ve read a number of articles lately that describe loneliness as a disease. There is plenty of medical evidence for the basic insight we get in Genesis: lo tov l’adam lihoyot levado – “it’s not good for humans to be alone.” At the same time, making a good match can be incredibly difficult.
So what are we to do? Provide opportunities for people to meet? Absolutely. But we need to be careful: if synagogues put too much emphasis on matchmaking, single people can end up feeling like failures if they don’t find their match. Not to mention LGBTQ Jews, who rarely find synagogue programming to help them find their basherts, or people who might not be interested in finding a significant other, but are looking to make other types of connections within the community.
Rabbi Korobkin: There are multiple internal drives that motivate people to get married. There’s the instinct that we belong with another; there’s the loneliness factor; and, for some, there’s the desire to procreate. But my point is that in today’s high-tech world, some people are choosing not to marry because they use social media, casual hookups and career pursuits as a substitute for entering into meaningful relationships. A recent U.S. study showed that barely half of the adults in the country are married, which is a dramatic drop from 1967, when it was 70 per cent.
I’m deeply empathetic to those who haven’t found love yet. But what’s so disconcerting is that many people today don’t possess the same deep yearning for marriage as those of earlier generations. I note that many young adults are very particular about what they want in a mate and are willing to sacrifice marriage if they don’t find that perfect prince or princess charming. I fear that there are many shidduchs waiting to be made under our very noses, but that some people don’t yet recognize the bashert that is right in front of them.
Rabbi Grushcow: I do think that, what the Jewish-French philosopher Emanuel Levinas called “the temptation of temptation,” is a problem. As long as we hold onto the idea of endless choice as the ultimate value, we never commit to anything enough to really know what we are choosing. This is true of religion, as much as it is of relationships.
I have the privilege of standing under the huppah with many couples, young and old, who have met online. It may have become commonplace, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Meeting online involves the same risks and vulnerabilities, if not more, that earlier generations faced when meeting people. I admire those who put themselves out there and I think one of the best things we can do as rabbis is build communities where a newly engaged couple can see another couple called to the bimah to celebrate 50 years of marriage, and see that it’s not always easy, but it’s worthwhile.
Above all, I want to build a place where people of all ages and stages of life, and with all different family configurations, can support and inspire each other in the search for a meaningful life.