When the regular forces aren’t enough for special situations, special measures have to be taken. In the military, this has meant the creation of special forces units, or commandos. And special forces require special strategies and tactics.
In the new reality of society today, we need commando shadchanim who are ready and able to serve those singles who desperately need extra attention and work on their behalf to find them targeted meetings.
This is not a criticism of shadchanim or the holy work they do. But the reality is that the current shadchanus structure encourages and forces shadchanim to spend the majority — if not all — of their time on singles who are easier to set up.
Shadchanim, regardless of their dedication and motivation, are in the business of setting up meetings, hopefully quality meetings. What that means is that both the boy’s side and girl’s side say yes to a specific suggestion. The last thing a shadchan wants is to spend hours and hours trying to get a shidduch off the ground, just to get a no from one side.
After meeting a single or receiving a résumé, a shadchan makes a quick judgment about how easy it will be to get a yes for her. The easy ones they work on; the less easy … they don’t have the time to focus on.
We might prefer that shadchanim not work this way, but the reality is that if they are going to invest 10-plus hours a day, they want to set up meetings. They don’t want to spend 10 hours and have 10 refusals to show for it. The reality is that there are some girls who will get yeses from 80 percent of boys, and there are girls who will get yeses from 20 percent of boys — or fewer.
There are strategies that families can use to make it easier for the shadchan to greatly increase the likelihood that shadchanim will focus on them. At the same time, it is crucial that we come up with a new shadchanus system. This new system will require new policies, strategies and tactics. The current structure of paying only for a completed shidduch guarantees that “regular” shadchanim will spend their time on the easier singles, the ones where the return on their investment is much higher.
This system needs to be replaced — or supported by — one in which shadchanim are properly trained and compensated for the time and reconnaissance effort involved in scouting and arranging meetings. The more difficult it is to set up a particular single, the higher the agreed-upon fee should be for a second meeting and a fourth meeting.
To accomplish this, we need new ways of doing things. Our organization has given out hundreds of thousands of dollars to shadchanim through our numerous programs, and we have developed very strong relationships with dozens of shadchanim. Yet I would never take advantage of my position to reach out to a shadchan and request that he or she take on a particular girl and make her a priority just as a favor to me. What right do I have to expect them to make any particular person a priority?
And yet, every time a single meets a shadchan, isn’t that what she is really hoping for?
On the very rare occasions when I ask a shadchan to look out for a particular girl, I always make a very fair offer. It can be $1,000 for a second meeting; it can even be as high as $3,000. It all depends on the situation and the degree of time and skill that would be required to service that particular single well.
I want the shadchanim to know that I recognize the time, energy and skill involved in looking out for this particular single, and I recognize that they owe me and the single person nothing. I recognize that, come what may, there is no guarantee that they will make the shidduch. Only the Ribbono shel Olam can do that. But if a shadchan really puts his or her mind to it, she can get that particular single a quality meeting. And a “commando” shadchan who takes on that kind of operation deserves to be fairly compensated.
Whenever I have used this method, the girls have received a very significant increase in quality attention from the shadchan.
This system will level the field, since those who have an easy time getting meetings will have no need to make these offers ahead of time, nor should they.
However, both families should absolutely recognize the time and effort that is involved when a shadchan sets them up and they go out a few times but don’t get engaged. To change how shadchanus works, we have to change how we treat shadchanim. Enough with the chocolates and candy dishes, enough with the flowers, and certainly enough with parents saying, “Oh, well, this didn’t work out. Do you have any other ideas for my Yankel?” A generous check is absolutely appropriate every time a shadchan sets up your child and they go out a few times. How much? That will depend on the specific nature of that particular shidduch and the work involved. It is always better to err on the side of generosity. If you do give a bit more than you needed to and your son or daughter gets married, will it not have been worth it?
At the same time, singles who previously did not get sufficient shadchan attention will now receive it because it will be very worthwhile for the shadchanim to invest in them. Inevitably, “regular” shadchanim will continue to focus solely on the easier singles, but there will no doubt be “new generation” of special-forces shadchanim who will invest in the more complex situations because their time and energy will finally be properly rewarded.
A few more important points:
Offering large sums for shadchanus is not an effective method of generating shadchan attention for those singles who are currently underrepresented because in the shadchan’s mind it is a lottery ticket. A shadchan does not think that he or she can make a shidduch for any particular girl, and therefore is not motivated to work on more difficult cases if the compensation is only forthcoming in the event of a completed shidduch.
Offering money up front is not effective, either, because there is a limit to how many shadchanim parents can offer it to. More importantly, it guarantees ill will, since the single will expect at least one meeting every week and will not know how hard the shadchan is trying, even if nothing works out.
The concept of “meeting 2” works very well for singles who hardly go out. Once these singles get one, two, or three quality opportunities, they will most likely get engaged, so the cost is really not prohibitive.
At the same time, it is preferable that the people involved in the shidduch decision-making process not be directly involved in making the offer to the shadchan, since it is detrimental to allow a monetary consideration to affect a decision about whether or not to pursue a shidduch.
The main thing is to save lives, and that’s what a shidduch does. So we have to do whatever it takes.
If you or anyone you know would like to arrange a presentation for a bungalow colony, a community, or a group of school alumni or to discuss effective strategies that singles and families can use to make it easier for shadchanim to set them up, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rabbi Moshe Pogrow is the Director of the Nasi Project.