To the Editor,

In recent months, I have read several articles and letters in the Where What When addressing the tremendous challenge faced by our friends in the community – both those seeking their bashert and those helping others to find theirs.

While many have been written by shadchanim, I’d like to explore the topic from a singleton’s perspective and perhaps suggest some new approaches that may prove to enhance our chances for success in facing this modern trial.

In a general sense, I would like to suggest that a key to success in this endeavor is to approach this challenge both holistically in nature and collectively as a community. We’re all one in this matter, and everyone is within six degrees of separation.

Firstly, I would encourage the Baltimore community to come together as cohesive whole in helping singles to find and be prepared to marry their spouses. This means, in practical terms, that the entire community itself must dedicate itself to this goal, rather than rely solely on scattered groups of shadchan volunteers or upon the vagaries of personal networks of contacts. Some practical recommends include the following:

Secondly, our community needs to remember to think in ways to which they may not be accustomed. For example, although it is often the women of the community who are most active in shidduchim, it is equally critical that men take an active part in supporting the process. Between chavrusah’s, colleagues at local minyanim, or simply people one meets in the workplace or while going about daily chores – many men come across good, wonderful single men every day. While it is very common for women to encounter other single women during their day, and perhaps invite them for a Shabbos meal, such contacts are less likely to occur with single men. As a result, husbands should take an active role. Wives need to support their husbands and encourage them to make contact with single men they meet, keep in contact with them, and perhaps invite them for a Shabbos meal. This can make a big difference. Your wife most often knows primarily single women – a husband has a remarkable opportunity to assist my filling in the gaps! (Besides, getting to know a single friend over time will definitely help you have a better idea of the sort of person who might be great for them!)

Thirdly, I would suggest that out community partner with frum communities in the region, to encourage more local shidduchim, to reduce to the need for exhausting travels up the eastern seaboard on a regular basis. For example, closer contacts should be fostered between the Baltimore and Silver Spring communities, and efforts should be make to communicate and coordinate. Who says one must travel to New York to meet a spouse? Who says that all singles events and shidduch support resources can only exist in New York or Yerushalayim? Let’s see how we can foster our “local talent” first!

Fourthly, community resources related to singles should be compiled and made readily available, perhaps made a part of the Eruv List or accessible via our many phone squads and recorded information lines. One prime example could be providing a list of local shadchanim and their contact information, much as we provide lists of information about shuls and their rabbis. This list should also reflect resources in the region, such as shadchanim or organizations in Silver Spring and the like.

Fifthly, concerted efforts should be make to bring the best of New York single events, seminars, speakers and resources to the local community. Although the local community currently lacks the resources, experience and expertise to provide the polished single support structure of larger Jewish cities, bringing such elements to visit the local community can go a long way to helping the singles in our community. If you can help sponsor a visiting event, speaker or seminar, by all means do so!

Sixthly, it must be recognized that the challenge of shidduchim lies not merely in the issue of introductions, but far more often in the matter of ensuring that singles are prepared and ready to make it beneath the chuppah, when the time comes. Many singles are so scarred from negative dating experiences and the like, that advice and counseling can be critical to help transform the potential of shidduch into a reality. In addition, providing guidance, eitzah and moral support can make all the difference. And – you don’t need to be a shadchan for this! If you can provide positive guidance, making yourself available for a single, as they struggle to navigate confusing emotional waters alone – you can make a difference! Simply providing a readily available, supportive voice and a sounding board for a single as they sort out the confusion of a dating experience or being there when they need discuss their feelings about a recent date can change the course of lives!

If you have counseling skills, volunteer some counseling time for helping local singles work out the personal issues keeping them single! Even if you don’t, take advantage of training to become mentor or dating coach! One organization based in New York called Sasson v’Simcha (http://www.jewishdatingandmarriage.com) sponsors wonderful seminars on how everyone, shadchan or otherwise, can help. They’ll teach you how to be dating mentor to dating coach!

I cannot emphasize enough how critical this last point is – very few broken engagements or long spans of unsuccessful shidduch dating are a result of simply not meeting enough potential spouses or the “right ones.” Without a community support network for singles, to help guide them trough every step of the process and provide guidance and help throughout, many shidduchim will never take place. This can make all the difference!

Lastly, as a final thought – I would encourage married members of the community to extend an extra effort to help singles feel they are welcome and needed part of the community. Sometimes, surrounded by culture of marriage and children, and the life events they entail, it can be hard for a single to feel as if he or she has a place, rather than being a square peg in community of married circles. Sometimes, a single may feel especially alone, depressed or forgotten. If you can, even though the children might be fussing, and the day was hard, a ma’ariv is in only a half hour – nonetheless, make a point every now and again at least, to call up a single you know, say “hello”, and chat for a few minutes. It can make all the difference in helping a single going through a rough shidduch parsha find their way to saychazak chazak v’nischazek!”

Eliezer Gamerman