(October 3, 2011 / JNS) Matches make sparks, but who strikes the match?Aside from biblical references, Jews (particularly of the Orthodox persuasion) since the Middle Ages have relied on ashadchan, or matchmaker, to form unions. Tools to measure their success rates are conveniently unavailable, but even as the world changes, the role of a matchmaker persists. Think of it this way, today you can hire a therapist to analyze how people screwed up your life, or you can hire a matchmaker to select a person who might screw up your life. It’s a viable option for anyone who is busy, tired and reluctant to date the prerequisite slew of dolts before finding the right person.
Just as machines replaced people during industrialization, modern-day matchmakers needn’t be human. The Internet has given rise to terms like “Googling,” which sounds like staring more than searching, and a plethora of Jewish dating sites. JDate.com claims to be “the number one place for Jewish romance in the world!” and on JewishMingle.com and JewishFriendFinder.com, you’ll mingle with more than just friends. Your soul mate might await you on a number of these websites, provided your criteria include literacy and computer access. In fact, in 2009, nearly one in five married couples met online.
Unfortunately, dating sites can create a shopping mentality in which users swiftly flip through member profiles. Perhaps as a result, the occasional person will alter his or her age, salary, romantic intentions, and photo just to increase the chances of being contacted. If you don’t trust a machine with your destiny, human equivalents are available for a small to large fee. I have never met an actual matchmaker, but Bravo’s Millionaire Matchmaker leads me to believe that they do exist and can give millionaires a much-needed advantage in dating. Use referrals, check references, and make sure the matchmaker takes the time to know you as more than a customer.
I have the most faith in the “happenstance” matchmaker. Friends and family members come without the fees and forms, but want the best for you. They may recognize whom you would be compatible with, and because they understand the complexities of your personality, they might have valuable insight into the sort of person who would make you happy. If a friend or family member offers to introduce you to someone, consider how well this person knows you and if you respect his or her judgment. Avoid dates orchestrated by your alcoholic friend or black sheep uncle.
Matchmaking is alluring because someone else searches for you, lessening your workload and removing your accountability. Why blame one person for a lousy date when you can blame two? Remember, there isn’t one way to find the right person,so be open to all the possibilities. Be aware ofthequalities you’re looking for so that you recognize them when you see them. Maybe A. Shulmanhad a pointin an 1894 Jewish periodicalwhen he wrote, “To love humanity is an easy thing, what is difficult is to love human beings.”
Sasha Ingber is a freelance writer whose work focuses on relationships, travel and dance. She is currently a graduate student in Johns Hopkins University’s writing program.