Five Steps To The Seven Circles
Esther D. Kustanowitz | 11/12/2004
Sometimes business and romance should mix — at least when it comes to finding your bashert.
At a sold-out “shidduch conference” last week sponsored by National Council of Young Israel, husband-and-wife duo David and Luba Teten made the case that although jobs are almost expected to be temporary, people invest a lot more time and money looking for employment than they would in the search for a permanent partner in life. The preparation, investment and dedicated approach, they maintained, should be even greater when it comes to dating.
In a panel entitled “Headhunting in the Marriage Market: A systematic and efficient method to package yourself, find and evaluate a potential spouse, the Tetens shared their business-oriented five-step method (prepare yourself, gather leads, weigh options, build closeness and seal the deal) with hundreds of singles and shadchanim (matchmakers) eager for advice.
“Prepare yourself to be a star candidate,” said David, himself the CEO of Nitron Advisors and chairman of Teten Recruiting. “Once you think you’re a desirable candidate, decide to look for a spouse and devote 100 percent of your effort. Visualize who you want your spouse to be; know the realities of the competitive market, but establish clear lines beyond which you will not compromise,” he advised. David recommended the steps he took when he was single: he met with over 60 matchmakers (after speaking with over 100 of them), tried multiple online dating sites, told everyone he knew that he was looking, and created a “dating resume.” Both Tetens suggested that singles draw up personal life mission statements, to clearly define their future goals. “You need to find someone whose goals align with yours.”
After you’ve found someone, the Tetens note, even when it’s time to “seal the deal,” there may still be some lingering doubt about whether the person is right for you. “You can’t always be wondering, ‘does she have a flaw,’ or ‘is there someone better,’” David said. Using that logic, “you’ll never get married. You have to be mature enough to acknowledge that there is no certainty [in courtship]. If you decide that the person is your bashert, you can make that person your bashert.” (David Teten’s informal collection of resources for finding a spouse is available at www.tetencreations.com/marriage.)
The panel was part of the Fourth Annual Shidduch Conference, “Tackling the Challenges,” cosponsored by the Upper East Side’s Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun (KJ) and SawYouAtSinai, an Internet matchmaking service.
Over 300 singles, marrieds and matchmakers of various ages attended the daylong event, which also featured sessions and workshops with shadchanim and other relationship professionals.
Rosie Einhorn and Sherry Zimmerman, who head Sasson V’Simcha — The Center for Jewish Marriage (www.jewishdatingandmarriage.com) and pen dating advice columns for The Jewish Press, flew in from Israel to lead seven workshops between them. Sessions with titles like “Able, Capable, Yet Disabled,” “Moving Past the First Impression,” and “The Baal Teshuva and the Bashert,” ran concurrently with training workshops for current and aspiring matchmakers.
The last two-and-a-half hours of the program was reserved for networking with the shadchanim, and each participant left with a hefty packet of resources including a Shidduch Resource Directory (an index of matchmakers) and articles with headings like “Im Yirtzeh Hashem By You” and “Conversations to Explore When You’re Dating.”
The conference, said its organizer, was a call to action. “We suggest that everyone in Klal Yisrael should be a matchmaker,” said Rebbetzin Judi Steinig, director of NCYI’s department of shidduch programming. “Part of this is an awareness program — it is more difficult now for young people to get married. This means that everyone has to get involved to facilitate appropriate introductions.” The message of the conference, she said, was that “everyone should understand what their role is in order to perform it successfully.”
In his words of welcome, KJ’s assistant rabbi Elie Weinstock noted the appropriateness of the week’s Torah portion, Chayyei Sarah; in chronicling Eliezer’s search for a wife for his master Isaac, the parashah shows how much effort goes into making a shidduch. Then, keynote speaker Rabbi Allen Schwartz, from Ohab Zedek on the Upper West Side, charged synagogues to reach out to singles, while urging singles to reinvest themselves in their community.
“Don’t just daven where you need,” he said. “Daven where you’re needed.” He also warned parents not to overwhelm children with dating-related interrogations, but also suggested to singles that they share their thoughts about shidduchim with their parents, who can provide unconditional love, support and the benefit of experience, instead of seeking a more commiserative peer environment.
“Let us reevaluate the concept of bashert,” Rabbi Schwartz challenged, noting that while Eliezer is sent to find Isaac a wife, Jacob’s shidduch with Rachel was a love match. That the Bible itself portrays different shidduchim models sends a message that not everyone’s experience is cookie-cutter identical. “Follow the Torah,” he advised. “It knows what it’s talking about.”
In another session, “Recognizing the Red Flags,” Rabbi Yaakov Adler, a psychotherapist with over 20 years of experience treating the broad spectrum of the Orthodox Jewish community, observed that what transpires in a person — both physiologically and emotionally — when there’s conflict can reveal how a person might interact in a marriage. “During the dating process you need to be sensitized to areas where you don’t agree,” he said, urging couples not to shy away from difficult discussions. “Open up the can of worms now. Talk about your differences, explore them.”
Rabbi Adler further urged daters to beware of partners with enmeshed family relationships (where individuals do not have their own identities), or those who are overly independent and can be threatened by the intimacy of a growing relationship. “Ask yourself: Can I really trust this person? If you can’t accept him the way he is, don’t walk down to the chupah,” he warned.
Several presenters stressed the importance of prayer; singles were told to pray that their other single friends find their matches, on the premise that divine help is more readily granted to those who pray on behalf of others, and each information kit also included a special prayer for singles: for men to find a “suitable marriage partner” and for women “for finding a husband.”
From the sea of matchmakers, well-intentioned marrieds and shidduch-seekers, emerged a conference-wide acknowledgment that the community can definitely help, but ultimately, finding a soul mate is in the hands of a Higher Authority.