You know the song, "Matchmaker, Matchmaker" from the musical, Fiddler on the Roof. Three sisters sing of their hopes that "Yente the Matchmaker" in their small Russian town will find them the right man to marry. Yente probably seems as far removed from our lives as the fictional 19th-century village of Anatevka. In 2012, how many people can imagine themselves using a matchmaker to find a life partner?
Here’s a secret: Matchmaking is as much a part of our contemporary world as cell phones and the Internet. Don’t we regularly use real estate agents, mortgage brokers and executive headhunters – all of whom are making matches of one sort or another?
We also use matchmakers for dating, although we don't identify them that way. Websites like Saw You At Sinai and eHarmony are matchmakers. So are the friends, co-workers, neighbors and cousins who set us up on blind dates, introduce us to someone they'd like us to meet, or strategically arrange for us to sit next to someone at a Shabbat meal or dinner party.
In fact, by our calculations, the majority of married couples met through a blind date or introduction.
Great suggestions arise from the most ordinary of circumstances, and come from people like you and me. Some true stories:
- Sara and Ginny started chatting about their families while waiting on line at the supermarket. By the time they got to the cashier, they decided that Sara's niece was precisely the type of young woman Ginny's nephew was looking for.
- Esther and David were set up by Esther's 72-year-old next-door neighbor. The neighbor met David when her great-nephew brought two of his friends for Shabbat, and decided that David's personality seemed just right for the sweet young woman she had watched grow up.
- When Miriam chaired the annual dinner at her synagogue, she got to know Barbara, the graphic artist working on the invitations and journal. Barbara's 29-year-old son had recently recovered from a break-up and was looking to meet someone new. Even though Miriam had never met Barbara's son, she suggested a friend.
Each of the couples who came together through these suggestions has been married for many years.
There are so many unattached men and women who might be able to meet the Right One – if only someone they knew would try to set them up on a date. Jewish tradition tells us that God is the ultimate matchmaker, and that He uses emissaries to help two people meet. It doesn't matter if you are married or single – you can be that emissary. Don't think you have to be a proven matchmaker in order to set people up. Anyone can set up a match, as long as you persevere, and use common sense and compassion.
Six Practical Ideas
Here are some ideas for becoming a successful “matchmaker.” Find one or two that work for you.
(1) Be on the lookout. Every time you meet someone single who impresses you, write down their name, contact info, and what you like about them. Keep the info handy and periodically think of who you could set them up with.
(2) Network. Let your friends, co-workers, relatives, and neighbors know that you're trying to help a wonderful person find his or her future spouse. Ask if they might know someone who could be a good match. See here for info on how to network, and other suggestions for how to help daters.
(3) Recycle. If you’re single and have a date with a quality person who just isn’t right for you, think of which of your friends might be a better match. Tell your friend: "I went out with a very nice person who was not right for me, but seems to be great for you. Can I set you two up?" If you feel uncomfortable making the suggestion directly, find someone else who will.
(4) Brainstorm. One Saturday night, two brothers and their wives brainstormed about who they could match up. One of the brothers had an old friend who recently moved to town, and recalled that he'd always been fascinated by mathematics games. They matched him up with the wives’ friend who is a high school math teacher. Of course, before suggesting any match, find out enough information – compatible values, life goals, character – to know that it's in the ballpark.
(5) Be a reference. Many people like to learn more details before agreeing to accept a blind date. You can help a dater you like and respect by agreeing to be a reference. Talk about the questions a prospective dating partner might ask, so that if you're called you can be knowledgeable, honest and sincere. This can play a vital role in helping a match come together.
Ask open-ended questions, that don't have a "yes" or "no" answer.
If you are asked to help check a reference, ask open-ended questions, that don't have a "yes" or "no" answer. For example, "How do you know Mark and how long have you known him?" "What are his best traits?" It's important to ask how the person gets along with other people – friends, family, acquaintances. Also ask, "Is there anything important I need to be aware of?"
(6) Be a dating mentor. If you're happy in your marriage and open to the idea of being a sounding board and "coach," you may be able to mentor someone through a courtship. Can you also withhold judgment, really listen, show empathy, and see other's situations with clarity? See here for info on becoming a dating mentor.
Once you are in the groove of networking, you’ll need to get organized to keep track of all those men and women! Keep a list of all the singles you know, and review the lists regularly to see if a new idea comes to you.
In order to do a proper job, get a pack of index cards (or a database, if that works better for you). For each single person you know, make a separate card or file with this information:
- Age (include year of birth to prevent confusion)
- Cellphone number and email
- Current location
- What the person is doing now
- Where the person is from originally and if applicable, where s/he went to school
- Character description – include traits like funny, outgoing, quiet, down-to-earth, artsy. Also include level of religious observance and general life outlook.
- Appearance – include general comments about height, hair color, stylish dresser, etc. (This will be important to some people who are very particular about these things.)
- What this person is looking for in a spouse. Try to include detailed information.
- Future plans – i.e., career, education, preferred location, other major life goals
- References – people who know the person well (other than family members)
- Names of potential singles that you are thinking about for this person
- When you have an idea of a couple you'd like to set up, first ask the man if he'd be interested in going out with the woman. If he agrees, then ask the woman.
- Do not push anyone into dating someone they do not want to go out with.
- Let the daters know this is their responsibility, not yours, to check out the other person’s references. And it's important that they do it!
- When both people have agreed to the match, give the woman's phone number to the man, and be sure to tell her to expect a call from him.
- Check in with both people after the first date to see how it went. If it was neutral or better, encourage them to go out on a second date.
- If the couple ends things after the second date (or after any date), find out why. This can help you set them up with a more appropriate person in the future.
- Be respectful of the decisions that singles make, and do not second guess them or give unsolicited advice.
- Be discrete. Guard the privacy of those you are helping and do not repeat details of their dates to others.
- Discourage daters from going out with more than one person at a time. Doing this can be overwhelming and doesn't allow the dater to focus well on developing a connection with the person they're with.
- Get your spouse involved if s/he knows both parties. Often, spouses can provide a fresh perspective or other ideas, as they may know singles you don't know. You may also find it easier to set up a couple when both of you think it's a good idea – you can tell this to the daters.
- Be persistent. Follow through with an idea. Many great ideas fall by the wayside because no one follows through.
- Pray for the success of the match. Ask God to bless the man and woman with clarity to know as early as possible if it's worth continuing the relationship.
The world is filled with wonderful men and women who hope to meet the right person to spend their lives with. Imagine playing a role in helping that meeting come about for someone you know. Your efforts could bring this about. Good luck!
Thanks to Saw You at Sinai matchmaker Dr. Tova Weinberg for contributing to this article.