Finding Your Zivug (Mate)
Community Involvement in Making Shidduchim












[Note 1: Rabbi Forsythe refers to personal matchmaking in these writings, which were written over several years. However, for the last few years, he has restricted matchmaking to people who he knows personally and knows well for a considerable period of time. He no longer does matchmaking for the public at-large. His current work with singles is primarily compatibility-profiling interviews, private counseling, public lecturing, shabatones, workshops and the like.]

[Note 2: In halacha, there is NO kibud av ve'aim in shidduchim. A single should marry the person who he gets along with and who is good for him/her. There is a world of difference in halacha between a parent giving mature advice or sharing life experience vs. making or killing a shidduch. The ultimate criteria for suitability of a shidduch is: what is good for the couple.]




There are many ways, besides conventional matchmaking, in which the concerned and active person can bring single people together.

Some of the more simple and obvious methods include inviting single men and women as guests for shabos and holidays. Some people invite several singles at a time to allow the men and women to see if any of the other guests might be "of interest." You might want to think about inviting people who may stand to have common interests or compatible personality styles. Some couples wish to only invite men at one time and women at another separate time. They recommend set-ups if they have the impression that a given man and woman have a chance together.

If you can do so in a sincere and natural way, be an advertisement and a role model for the institution of marriage. For example, be careful to be polite with your spouse, present fulfillment with marriage and married life, talk discreetly (perhaps subtly) about the rewards of the marriage relationship and family life, or show a happy and harmonious life. This should never be done in a way that is artificial, excessive or obvious. You want to convey that you are happy - not a bad actor.

In any event, the main benefit comes from the host GETTING TO KNOW EACH SINGLE as an individual human being. This includes finding out about each one's nature, beliefs, sensitivities, values, religiosity, goals and personality. The host gets to know singles better and better when they are invited back another time and another time. The host accumulates a substantive "inventory" of singles. The more singles you get to know on some meaningful level, the more likely it is that you will think of reasonable set-ups.

It is important to emphasize that quality is more important than quantity (although without quantity, how will you set up those few singles who you know well?). I recommend that you proceed carefully before proclaiming yourself to be a matchmaker. Good matchmaking requires skill, human insight, judgement, having respect and time for each individual man and woman. Bad matchmaking can be utterly destructive. Remember: a zero is a bigger number than a negative!

Never push a single to see, continue to see or to marry someone that they don't want to.

When you see potential, "offer an option (i.e. recommend your setting up a date)," encourage the person and help a person to increase clarity (e.g. when the person isn't sure about proceeding in a case where you see potential or a case in which the single is confused about the other person's responses).



On the one hand, if Jewish society does not help its singles to find mates, this may lead to possible inappropriate discouraging of marriages or of stigmatizing people who can't find a mate. On the other hand, if our society helps people who are not equipped for marriage, this can harm one, if not both spouses, their children and the generations who come from them.

A person can be single for many, many possible reasons, some of which only G-d knows; so no one can be judgmental, especially since this can add more pain to the already profound pain of being single.

It is futile to try to help a single with emotional conditions in which the single sabotages him/herself or which keep that person incapable of fulfilling the many and serious roles, duties, functions and responsibilities of the Jewish married person. A person has to put himself into a marriage. It does not happen if he blocks himself or if he cannot do what being or getting married requires of him. He must be mature, healthy, functional, responsible and capable of doing many things (such as communication, empathy, sacrifice, calm, kindness, respect, adaptability, parnossa, housekeeping, caring for and training children, etc.) to maintain a marriage.

When someone suggests a shidduch which is not well thought out, it can be an insult to the single. The well-meaning person can be insulted and judgmental when the single rejects the inappropriate suggestion, even politely. The single who must refuse a cock-eyed suggestion should have no concern over what other people think. This is not relevant. There is no alternative to waiting for a compatible and sensible set-up.

In the case where the single sabotages his own getting married, or is not equipped for marriage, the issue is what the person HIMSELF has to work on, not what others should do or think. The single has to work to repair what is deficient, to remove the obstacles. Only a rare and very specially qualified person can meaningfully help. For the single to worry about strangers who do not live with or truly care about the single in his private at-home life is a waste of time and energy.

I can tell you from my practical counseling experience, LONELINESS IS NOT SYNONYMOUS WITH READINESS. It is only a MOTIVATION FOR THE PERSON WHO IS READY TO ACT AND MAKE HISHTADLUSS (practical effort) to get married. We are only supposed to encourage marriage for those adequately ready and equipped to fulfill its requirements - one's own and another person's life can be damaged or destroyed by a dysfunctional, selfish, immature, irresponsible, disturbed, incompatible or otherwise unsuitable person. If a person is not "marriage material," we cannot say that we must push an ill-equipped person on a partner. If outside people wrongly misjudge the single, they are guilty of many sins for destroying someone's marriage prospects. What people say can have nothing to do with the reality of the person they talk about. People assume, hear rumors and hearsay, perceive based on defective or subjective criteria, etc. The single has to live according to his true inner reality and work on whatever is appropriate for that person's stage and situation, independent of what people think or say.

Of course, Jewish values would have all Jews of marriageable age married and happy - in accordance with the readiness of those singles to handle marriage maturely, responsibly and successfully. THESE ARE ALWAYS CASE BY CASE QUESTIONS, with no room for generalization. Therefore, whether others help a single get married should depend on whether the single is truly and objectively suitable for marriage. Lives are at stake and a hasty, premature, desperate or incompatible shidduch can be unfair to and can damage everyone associated with it. We never may cause damage. To determine whether you can or should help any given single find a mate, you have to be able to GET TO KNOW HIM/HER somewhat - enough to judge whether the person is marriage material and who this person is and needs. If you are too busy to bother, find yourself another "pet mitzva" that you can do competently. For example, you don't have to know a bed-ridden neighbor's personality to pick up his prescription for him.

So, our view that we should help singles get married applies to those who are ready for it and for its responsibilities and requirements; so that the marriage will be "safe" for all concerned; peaceful, functional, Torah-true and enduring. We should never be judgmental, critical or condemning for such would turn our action into an avaira (sin). We should make ourselves available to help where there is a suitable match BETWEEN WHAT A SINGLES NEEDS AND WHAT THE POTENTIAL HELPER IS ABLE TO DO. We must act with tact, softness, adaptability, respect, consideration and with concern for the individual. If the individual single is holding by doing his part to be MARRIAGEABLE AS WELL AS MARRIED, THEN - AND ONLY THEN - IT IS A HUGE MITZVA TO HELP AS MUCH AND AS ACTIVELY AS ONE CAN.

When married and single people come in for counseling, their position often is that they are fine and the other person in their present or past relationship is wrong or crazy, is/was the entire or primary source of all trouble. If that is one's stance even before marriage, especially when rigid about this, the prospects for a compatible and happy marriage are crippled.

One of the best things singles can do in searching for their mate is to take control over their own part in it. The single person who is seeking his/her mate is the only element which is in his/her own control. The as-yet-unfound mate is not even there, any present relationship partner is not in the single person's control and, for sure, Hashem, the Ultimate Matchmaker, is not in the single person's control.

The main advice that I can give any single seeking his or her mate is to be the best and most marriageable mate you can possibly be - but in a very real and steady sense. The more you are ready to be the spouse G-d wants you to be, the more likely He will let you be a spouse...and the more you deserve to be helped by others to get married.



When Leah got married, she appreciated how much she had to be thankful for. Her husband was a respected and accomplished professional. He had a personal relationship with one of the generation's best known rabbinical figures. He was making a very

presentable living. And, he had the respect of his community for his active leadership in numerous benevolent Jewish causes.

When looking at Leah, don't be fooled by her sweet, goodhearted nature into thinking that she is a passive bystander who watches life go by. She gives more than generously of almost unbounded energies to at least as many worthy causes as her husband: a yeshiva, a coalition for Israel's protection, a children's institution, a Jewish educational outreach project, kosher food shipments to Russia, hospitality, matchmaking. The list goes on long enough to boggle the mind.

The best measure of how active she is, is how long it takes for her to return your phone call. Not because she is in the least bit rude. She's up till three in the morning on some organization's annual fund-raising dinner or some other's holiday fund-raising mailing or some other's campaign to collect for some urgent cause for poor Jews in Eretz Yisroel.

They were literally a marriage made in Heaven. And they both did so much in the service of Heaven.

About eight months after Leah was married, a "light bulb went off in her head." Here she was with so much to thank her Creator for: a life replete with meaningful, creative and constructive activity; a fulfilling, compatible, supportive and extraordinarily successful marriage. Yet, in the fashion of her sensitive heart and golden neshama (soul), she felt badly for the numerous singles who didn't have the intense happiness in marriage that she had been blessed by G-d with.

A burst of inspiration and creative energy hit her. She felt good at the prospective capacity to make a meaningful difference. She was going to make the ideal singles shabatone. She was going to get more wedding rings off of store shelves and onto fingers, where they belong! With some work and organization, and all the pieces in place, she was going to effectively do it!

She lives in a town that is small enough for everyone in the Jewish community to know each other in friendly-neighbor fashion, while big enough to have a substantial Torah observant population. The town was far enough from Manhattan to offer a pleasant, relaxing suburban atmosphere, but close enough to be accessible to all New York City area Jewish-population centers (within "commuting distance").

The town was close-knit, the people are unafraid to give of themselves for mitzvos, sympathetic to worthy causes (such as those to which Leah and her husband constantly and tirelessly gave), cooperative, warm, friendly and cheerful. The shul is large enough to accommodate a large influx of guests and the activities that would be scheduled for them. It had a sizable dining room, a catering kitchen facility, and a rabbi and board who are devoted to Torah ideals and good deeds. And, the townspeople had homes and hearts big enough to enable them to sleep a guest or two each, for the weekend. Leah decided that she was going to organize - and accomplish - a successful shabatone.

She called into service several enthusiastic housewives to help with the massive administrative and logistical responsibilities. Leah delegated and managed as professionally as a corporate executive would, albeit in her sweet personality's very human style.

Some women would be in charge of calling neighbors to set up hospitality, so shabatone attendees would each have a place to sleep. Some did paperwork necessary to arrange and track facets of the project, such as: who is assigned to sleep where, who could be roommates with whom, keeping the intake of males and females even, etc.

Leah made arrangements with the shul, the rabbi and two outside rabbis who would be brought in to speak, from Torah sources, on singles' and man-woman-relationship topics (one of whom has since moved to outside of the United States).

Leah had heard some of my Torah tapes. I was asked to be there with a speech or two. I was there from start to finish and spoke to Leah in detail about the entire project.

She made arrangements with a local caterer, who is a S'fardi who was just starting out and in need of business. In procuring him for the caterer's role, she added to the shabatone's merits the mitzva of helping a fellow Jew and of giving parnossa (livelihood) to a struggling family man and newcomer to this country. As a neighbor, his kosher-observance standards could be ascertained and trusted. He had the hechsher (certification) of the town's chief rabbinical authority. She also got a reasonable price, which helped make the non-profit endeavor affordable for the singles.

Leah worked out a complete schedule of activities, both to keep attendees from getting bored and to keep men and women in situations of good taste, through which they could meet each other.

She wanted control over the type of people who would attend. There would have to be balance between openness to the public and screening of attendees, so that the intended goals and a uniform Torah atmosphere could be achieved. The singles would have to be sincere, marriage-minded and Torah observant. They would all have to have behavior standards which could be verified as standards which would allow a responsible and Heaven-fearing matchmaker to see his/her way clear to setting each man or woman on a date. Advertising was too public. Personal interviewing was unrealistic. Attendance would have to be by invitation only.

She made a list of rabbis and individuals who worked with singles, each of whose reputation, judgement and experience she could trust. She called each one and described what she was planning and asked for the names and phone numbers of men and women who they could recommend as appropriate singles who she could call to invite to the shabatone. When all her preliminary arrangements were done and preliminary data was in, she, with her assistants, the shul, and the community, set a date.

There would be an even number of men and women. A cut-off number was established for how many singles could attend. The number was determined by the smallest element (the "weakest link in the chain"): the shul's dining facility.

Only singles pre-screened by Leah and her list of rabbis or colleagues would be allowed to come. A fee was established by adding up the total amount of expenses, adding a prudent margin, in case some people canceled or unanticipated expenses cropped up; dividing the total by the number of singles they planned on having. The project would be protected against operating in a deficit and any extra money would go to tzadaka (charity).

About five or six weeks before the date of the shabatone, several women started calling the singles referred by the rabbis. Every night, these volunteers would get together to count how many singles cumulatively said "yes" about coming, and to determine how the number of registered men and women compared. Each attendee was only considered tentative until the check came. When it came, the single was verified as an attendee and the committee set the single up with a family to sleep. The sooner the check came, the shorter the person's walk to a house. Two of the women kept elaborate, detailed, up-to-date charts on who had registered, who had paid, and which family each single was set up to sleep over with. Another woman hand-drew a map of the neighborhood, making clear where the shul (the "base" of shabatone activities) is, and highlighting streets on which baal habatim (home owners) were, making it easy and clear for visitors to be directed and to find their way to where they need to go. A note was made if a specific roommate was requested.

As the date grew closer, the work grew increasingly frantic and frenetic. The ladies were all good natured and eager, even though they grew a little nervous. Those 3:00 mornings!

By finding a way to squeeze a bit more capacity than expected into the dining room, about 15 more singles were allowed to register by the cut-off date than originally expected. The final total count was in the mid nineties.

Attendees had been directed to come to, and register at, the shul between 2-5 hours before sunset. Although Leah expected that some would come after 2 hours before sunset, she wanted to slant the time-consuming registration function as far away from a last minute surge as possible. There was a formal procedure for each person's registration, and she specifically asked attendees to arrive 2-5 hours before sundown so as to keep the lines and flow of work moving reasonably smoothly and evenly.

Computer print-outs were made with each attendee's name address, phone number, gender, record of payment and the home (with family name and address) at which the single was set up to have hospitality.

Tables were set up just inside the entrance to the shul. Leah, armed with a mile-wide smile, made sure to meet each person at the registration tables. She welcomed each arrival personally. Four volunteers staffed the tables. Two lines were provided for registering men, two for registering women. When each attendee registered, each was checked off on the print-out, each was given a copy of the hand-drawn neighborhood map and friendly directions by the volunteer to the host at whose home each would sleep. Each single was given a copy of the schedule of events, which started immediately upon arrival with a social mixer in the dining room at which coffee, cake, fruit, tea, soda, juice and nosh were served. As each person registered, he or she was given a warm invitation to refresh him or her self in the dining room and given a name tag (pink for women, blue for men), and each was advised when mincha started, so that they would know when to be back from depositing their luggage and meeting their hosts.

After mincha, the shul's rabbi gave a warm speech welcoming the guests before maariv. At the meal, the tables were each large enough to accommodate eight people. Four places had pink napkins and four had blue, assuring that each table would have an even mix of the genders. The shul's assistant rabbi gave a drasha (Torah exposition) on the parsha (weekly portion) between the chicken soup and the main course. Acquaintances were being made at the tables. The room was animated with lively chatter.

The head table seated Leah and her husband, the shul's two rabbis, the two visiting rabbis and important local personages who were key contributors to the shabatone effort.

During the meal, there were speeches from the head table, thanking all the volunteers, rabbis and neighbors who made this event possible. I had the honor of leading Friday evening's bentshing (grace after meals).

After bentshing, the crowd was herded down the hall back to the "main sanctuary" of the shul where a guest rabbi (who moved out of the country shortly after the shabatone) spoke for an hour on the importance of respect and working at a relationship in the Jewish marriage.

There was an oneg shabos after the drasha. Leah circulated, making it a point to get to know individuals. The shadchan (matchmaker) in her was on the lookout for prospective matches from the registration table to the last "goodbye." Leah prudently balanced the distribution of her time so that she could speak to individuals as people and optimize her coverage and really get to meet as many singles as possible.

After the oneg, Leah assigned people to groups, based on the locations of the host houses, so that the attendees would walk to the homes together. This gave additional opportunity for people to get acquainted and it assured that no one would walk home alone at night. The man walking the furthest distance in each group was assigned to escort the woman walking the furthest to her destination.

In the morning, the coffee urn which served so well at the initial social mixer, was back on duty, waiting to prod worshippers into gear. Before krias haTorah (reading of the Torah portion), the rabbi gave another drasha.

Again, at the seuda, there were pink and blue napkins assuring an even mix at the tables. Another speaker gave a drasha over the chulent. The chatter was upbeat enough to be encouraging, without getting excessive or wild. This achieved the balance between liveliness and demeanor which Leah strove hard to create.

After the meal, the other guest rabbi spoke about G-d as the maker of matches between men and women. After that, people made matches...between their heads and a pillow, for the "shabos shloof (nap)."

At shalosh seudos (the third meal), a man from the community spoke. After havdalla (the sabbath termination ceremony), and a break which allowed everyone to catch their breath, there was a malava malka which included a party, a talent show at the residence of a community member who had a very large home. The caterer set up a wide variety of foods, nosh and beverages. One person played classical piano, another man sung Jewish songs while playing an acoustic folk guitar, there was a comedian, then a singer did songs from Vaudeville. I did a presentation.

Meanwhile, Leah, who is as practical as she is human, and who has a keen insight into people as well as sensitivity for them, was hopping energetically around like a mother hen making shidduchim between men and women who seemed to indicate potential together. By the end of the party, either on their own or with Leah's strong but loving prodding, about a dozen couples arranged to go out.

In the months that followed, Leah told me that four marriages came out of that shabatone. She followed up personally on the developing relationships. She stayed in telephone contact and was supportively and caringly involved. Look at what one person can do! Look at what amazing merit she has, and how much happiness she is responsible for!

With the Jewish singles population as large as it is, we need more initiative, creativity and activity. We can all be inspired by Leah - a woman with energy, drive, creativity, intelligence, and devotion to Yiddishkeit (Torah Judaism) and chesed (active lovingkindness for fellow Jews). She embodies the Biblical verses: "G-d has told you, mankind, what is good and what G-d requires of love to do active kindness...[Micah 6:8]" and "Her mouth opens with wisdom and on her tongue is the teaching of lovingkindness [Proverbs 31:26]."

Leah mobilized the resources and hearts of an entire neighborhood. If communities could follow her lead to undertake responsibilities and projects, to organize and motivate neighbors and available institutions, to achieve constructive and innovative objectives for Jewish singles, we can help turn the tide in the singles epidemic, one couple at a time. Or, maybe, four couples at a time?

And Leah's dedicated and inspiring avoda (spiritual service) did not go unrewarded. G-d's justice and kindness - in accordance with His principle of mida kineged mida (measure for measure) - shone forth. Leah brought couples together who could inaugurate families. About seven months after the shabatone, G-d gave Leah and her husband their first child (a son). About a year and a half later, a daughter was added to the cast of characters.



Mrs. Mayer is "young middle age." Her husband makes a good living. Things are fairly smooth with their children. They have a nice, sizable house. Since she has some time during the course of her day and she has a salable skill, she works part-time in order to use her time purposefully. She wanted to find another outlet for her wish to use her time purposefully.

She is acutely aware of the "singles situation" and is motivated to do something about it. She wondered if anything was being done in her area and she asked around. Although she is the one who exhibited the most active interest, she found out there were others who would get involved if she would take the lead and organize something. She got together with some of her neighbors and members of her shul.

At a meeting, they discovered that some of the participants were willing to put up some money or volunteer practical help. She was willing to donate the use of her home for a Sunday afternoon. The "board" decided on a date - far enough in the future to plan reasonably well and soon enough to warrant getting right into action - and they went to work organizing a singles event.

Mrs. Mayer wanted to structure the event to promote meaningful meeting of attending men and women. At singles events, a person will talk to another while looking over the shoulder to see who else is present. Such events are notorious for being frustrating and fruitless. There would be no purpose in aggregating 100 or 200 singles who will do little more than go back home lonely and aggravated. But how could she design an event that would overcome this "Superficial Syndrome?"

Then Mrs. Mayer remembered seeing me at a four week series I ran on having a successful marriage. She phoned me and explained the goal. I told her I could do a program which would start with an interest-capturing presentation. Then I could move the format into a workshop. This would bring people out, get them involved. By participating; by what each would say; by what each would show about their mind, character and personality; individuals would notice the "person" in other attendees. By seeing beneath the surface into other participants, a greater degree of reality-based interest can be aroused. At the time a popular book on gender differences was around and selling well. It was secular and contains some contents that are deemed objectionable and unworkable by the Torah. However, the book did generate interest even in Jewish circles. So, I recommended my doing a program called:

"Mars, Venus And Sinai...

The Jewish Road To Success With The Other Gender"

which would contain a preliminary Torah segment and then open up for discussion, under my facilitation. Mrs. Mayer liked the idea.

Note, there is a gemora (Shabos 62a) which refers to men and women as separate nations. This shows the analogy of being from different planets to be erroneous. Nations may be different but they can build understanding of different mentalities, can have alliance, diplomacy, translation, cultural exchange and friendship. Two nations can come together and add their strengths and abilities together to produce things which neither alone could accomplish. Chazal knew the nature of analogy and their analogies stand up as perfect when analyzed from any vantage point. We therefore can say that the analogy of men and women from separate planets is false and defective, with its implication of men and women being too alien. With the wisdom of Torah, men and women, even with their vast and unmistakable differences, can be guided into peaceful and lifelong cooperation.

Mrs. Mayer's board and friends were going to phone people and recruit attendees by "word of mouth." They decided to do some, but not much, advertising in selected Jewish media in their area. She set up her house as for a big party. There was an admission fee established, designed to achieve approximate break-even on the expenses.

An hour and a half was allotted after the advertised starting time before my program was to start, to allow people to float in. Mrs. Mayer introduced me. I started by describing how Torah sources and rabbinical authorities discussed gender differences, each gender's responses and obligations to the opposite gender, how the genders can add up to a whole if they treat each other as allies, communicating, understanding how to adapt from the thinking which is in your gender-mode to the gender-mode of a partner, and examples of the kind of work that goes into building a secure and happy marriage.

This managed to bring the crowd out. I made it clear that the program invited participation yet would require responsible behavior so that things don't get wild. Only one person could speak at a time. At the beginning, people started more with asking me questions than citing opinions. As the crowd got progressively more comfortable and open, I started bringing more people into the discussion, balancing the goal of bringing people out with the need to keep the crowd orderly. For the most part things went well. My main goal was to get people interested in other attendees. I chose material that would lend itself to opinionization, be relevant, have universal interest and apply to practical life; to make getting involved in the program attractive and comfortable to the largest possible number of people. I told people that even if they do not meet a "basherte" at the event, get to know other attendees so that they could network for each other (get acquainted so that they could set each other up with other people who they know). If they wouldn't feel comfortable talking to one other person, I told them to form casual groups, to take the pressure off. I gave them some tips on networking.

When I finished, a number of people gathered around me to ask their personal questions about their relationship problems or patterns. Meanwhile, I was able to notice that there were several couples getting into conversations.

I noticed something else that was nice. Many of the others did not find someone of interest to talk to through the workshop segment. However, a good percentage broke into several groups, of eight or ten men and women each, forming their own discussion groups and getting to know each other. The groups seemed orderly and good-natured.

At one point, I had to excuse myself and leave as I had a speaking engagement for that evening. But things were going strong and nicely. Well done, Mrs. Mayer and friends!



The organizers of any shabatone or event are not limited by any means to the methods, concepts or techniques enumerated here in the above description of Leah's stupendous project.

I have been involved on various levels in the fields of human relations, personality, man-woman compatibility, personal development and helping Jewish men and women with their relating and inner difficulties. This has been manifested in various forms, such as matchmaking, private counseling to individuals and to dating or married couples, public speaking and teaching in related subjects, writing for publication in Jewish media, moderating workshops in relating and in human development subjects, and various forms of participation in seminars and social events.

In the course of my career, I have witnessed or developed numerous seminars, workshops and events and have interviewed people who have planned and run them, for more knowledge and insight. My experience shows that you can open up your range of options as widely as your creativity, resources and practical initiative can take you. I have seen singles events take numerous forms including:

* full-blown long weekend or Yom Tov vacation events,

* parties with a devar Torah and, sometimes, a shadchan on board,

* relationship skill workshops,

* weekly support groups for individuals with relating fears and/or problems,

* lecture series with relationship themes/topics.

Any event must be:

* under Torah auspices,

* in good taste,

* in conformity with Jewish law,

* with a spiritual atmosphere,

* staffed by Torah-committed Jews who assure throughout that Torah ideals and laws uncompromisingly govern the entire event.

Further, advance planning and event execution must be:

* thorough,

* practical,

* well-staffed with competent people, and

* well-organized.

Otherwise you will do more to humiliate the planners than to marry off the attendees. I have seen well-intended grandiose productions rendered laughable due to disorganization, uninformed or inadequate staff, lack of punctuality to an absurd and frustrating extent, and other controllable factors.

Also, the promotion, advertising and publicity must be planned and executed with skill, timeliness and organization.

Events must be planned in advance. Allow sufficient time for all staffing, training, arrangements and promotion. To be effective and successful, my experience in devising, planning, advertising, preparing and presenting any event, the entirety must be done, from initial idea to final clean-up, in a prudent, organized, business-like and well-delegated fashion. This applies no matter what form it takes: e.g. dinner at a restaurant or shul, motsai shabos [Saturday night] or holiday party, lectures, workshops, shabatone, weekend - anything.

The event can and should be modified to factor in the audience (religiosity, location from which the population comes, sophistication, age, etc.), goals (making introductions, widening of networks, relationship skill development or obstacle reduction, etc.), nature and size of the facilities (shul, social hall, private home, restaurant, hotel hall, business owner's board room, etc.), desired atmosphere (provided by the physical facilities and to be created by the organizers), expense, time, staff and all other germane characteristics and resources. All such considerations MUST fit into your final operational plans. Often, the means by which you can advertise and publicize play an important role in determining how and when to set-up and schedule event, as well as in determining who (and how many people) show up. Also: what else may be going on at the same time - will you have competition, will every one be away that weekend? To the extent possible, generate favorable and widespread "word of mouth."

One strategy that I have often and effectively used is to choose subjects - when I speak to single or married audiences - right on relationship or related topics...talking right to the point (although, it's not for every audience). Not only do these subjects meaningfully and impactfully "hit home," I often am asked practical questions from listeners' personal lives right after the presentation. I can receive phone calls with practical life-questions for up to months after. People may come to me for counseling or matchmaking as a consequence of having heard me. Such developments often help people to find, choose, develop, improve or retain a relationship; or to get rid of an unhealthy or dead-ended relationship and, thereby, move on.

I've been developing my "inventory" of relationship, personality and human growth subjects since '77 and examples of well-received, practical topics include: love, respect, happiness, commitment, what goes into compatibility, what is readiness for marriage, communication, the relationship between self-image and how one chooses and conducts relationship, resolving differences and impasses, working on a relationship constructively, addressing fears and pains, practical steps to seeking a mate, attitudes which effect one's ability to relate, letting go of patterns which don't work, what is "basherte," personal characteristics (midos) which make or break relationships, male and female in G-d's plan for Creation, relationship sabotage, inaugurating a new relationship, getting over an ended relationship, self-confidence, etc. This approach can be adapted to and integrated into any scenario, event, location, audience or format.

All told, there are several formats and approaches, some being suitable for certain situations or populations, while others are suitable for others. Let's take a closer look at some of the various options.



One workshop approach - which can only work well if it is excellently organized - is to break up a large audience into demographically sensible and compatible groups (e.g. by such criteria as age, religiosity, life goals, etc.) of marriage-minded men and women, with equal numbers of men and women in each group. A moderator makes a presentation on the aspects of relationship (or difficulty) to be addressed. He explains that the issue plays an important part in getting along, selecting a mate, not being stopped by inadequate self-image, breaking the ice, or whatever. He then goes on to explain how the first exercise plays a role in achieving the intended goal (giving background and a sense of context and purpose).

In each group, men and women form couples and are given relating assignments in which skills and sensitivities are developed for getting to know a member of the opposite gender. Unproductive fears, behaviors and shortcomings can be worked on. "Role-plays" can sometimes be used e.g. to address excessive shyness or hesitation, to understand the thinking or behavior of the opposite gender, to learn how to start a new relationship. After each assigned exercise, men can rotate to the next woman in the same group, so that there is no sense of pressure or discomfort, as typically can develop when one man stays with one woman for this entire workshop. The moderator makes a presentation that sets up for each subsequent exercise.

Staff members must be carefully selected, well-trained, managed and coordinated. They must supervise each group to keep the program running smoothly, tastefully, effectively and productively. There are questions and complications which require a well trained and organized response. This kind of program, depending on how well it is organized and managed, can be a frustrating, disastrous and disappointing flop; or a seriously productive, significant and meaningful success.

Another approach is to have a round-robin event in which each of many tables in a large (e.g. dining hall) room is divided, so that an equal number of males is facing an equal number of females (at each table). If, for example, each table seats eight, four males on one side face four females on the opposite side. Too large a group at each table is disruptive and the proceedings get bogged down. Again, the event must be well-planned, organized and executed.

Each of the women, and then the men, briefly introduces and describes him or her self, and describes what he or she is looking for in a mate. There is a trained staff member at each table to manage the proceedings. A leader keeps time and, every few minutes, announces when each mini-session is over, at which time the men pick up and move on to the next table. Women stay at their table throughout.

The activity is repeated. All attendees speak briefly about themselves and what they are looking for with each other group in attendance at the event. The men keep moving on to the next table until they have rotated through all the tables (at which the women stay put). Since each group of men rotates, in order, around through the entire cluster of tables, everyone of one gender meets everyone of the other gender. In this way, every man and every woman has had an introduction to one another.

The goal of the exercise is NOT to have each man meet each woman as a dating prospect. This would cause that ugly feeling of discomfort and pressure. To take away shyness, inhibition, self-consciousness, pressure and discomfort, the goal is stated as being: acquaintance with one another so as to expand each other's network.

This means that each attendee is introducing and describing him or her self so that everyone else can learn about each person, and be on the lookout for appropriate matches between individuals met at these tables, and other people who each attendee knows (or comes to meet) back in everyday life.

If man A hears woman B describe herself (or if her personality makes a certain impression), man A can suggest a set-up for a date for woman B from man C who man A knows presently or man D who man A will meet in a week or a month into the future. Man A may have a friend, business associate or neighbor who may be ideal for woman B. Woman B may have a cousin, co-worker or high-school comrade who would suit another man at one of the tables. Man A may notice that someone a half dozen tables away would suit woman B.

Meanwhile, there would be at least one skilled, tactful and diligent matchmaker - who understands people and who has trustworthy, mature judgement - who is on hand to promote matches if any of the women or men happen to have interest in one another. While the stated goal is networking, of course interest in attendees by attendees is really ideal.

Forms may be devised, printed and given out to attendees, which allow them to discretely provide the names of individuals who 1.(s)he is interested in or 2. would be a "candidate" for the attendee's friend or relative. Forms would not be an option for events which take place on shabos or major holidays, when Jewish law prohibits writing (unless their use is saved for the night after, when writing becomes permitted again).

The larger the crowd, the larger the staff has to be, to manage the event with commensurate efficiency.

If you really want to get sophisticated (in light of the fact that each man or woman is in a group of not more than about four and, therefore, only meets about three more members of the same gender), you can add a variation to the program which enables each person to network about twice as much as the "basic approach" (in which each group of men rotates from table to table).

After all the men have met all the women at the tables, break the crowd into four groups: divide the groups of men in half and the groups of women in half. The two resultant groups of men go to one half of the dining hall, the two groups of women go to the opposite side. By dividing the men into two groups and the women into two groups, you can have all the men meet all the other men, you can have all the women meet all the other women, so that literally every attendee can network with literally every other attendee.

You use then same basic technique. The men describe themselves so that the other men can "go on the lookout" for each other, and the women describe themselves so that the other women can "go on the lookout" for each other. One half of the men and one half of the women are assigned to stationary positions at a given table, the other half of each gender is assigned to rotate. This way, literally everybody gets an opportunity to meet everybody else.

Data about who is interesting for

1. any attendee or

2. any friend or relative of any attendee

is fed to the on-hand shadchan(s). You may hear things like, "I got a cousin/neighbor/co-worker who is perfect for...!" One time when I was a leader of such a workshop, I made a match for one of the men in attendance with someone I knew from my neighborhood. One time, when I did a networking program at a singles shabatone, I (in the role of event leader) thought of a set-up for one of the women with one of my former students. At that same event, two of the women became good friends. It is not unusual for a well-executed and well-attended event to produce a shidduch and new friendships.

Another method is the "relationship workshop." This can be structured in different ways. One example is taking a meaningful topic that has some bearing on the singles situation (e.g. dealing with anger or rejection, family values, bad dating or shadchan experiences, relationship conduct or sabotage, how to "break the ice" or overcoming shyness when meeting someone new, or any topic that can evoke interest and enthusiastic debate and discussion).

A trained and informed moderator can "bring people out," evoke interest, and direct discussion and the event so that people open up and lunge into a lively session. Attendees get insights into the personalities, values, attitudes, qualities and relating styles of the other people. Men and women who may not have given a member of the opposite gender a second look can be impressed by or attracted to a person when that other displays views or personality strengths brought out by the discussion. In addition to finding "candidates" of the opposite gender when people open up to each other, some become friendly with other participants of the same gender.

One format that I use is called "Simcha Singles." It has a combination lecture/workshop format. The goal is bringing the "day of simcha [i.e. wedding]" sooner! It consists of a weekly series of presentations on a relationship subject, followed by a discussion or workshop that allows the attendees to bring the material into their lives and situations, to make the material practical. Another thing that I use this interactive segment for is to bring out the attendees so that other people take a second look at people who speak out. At singles events, people often look superficially at other attendees. When they speak out, however, during managed, dynamic sessions, people get deeper insight into the character, minds and personalities of opposite-gender attendees. This can lead to interest and to "developments." I also can "instigate" matchmaking and networking, as appropriate.

As an example, I have done a three-month long once-a-week "Simcha Singles" lecture series on topics of interest to singles such as finding a mate, communication, understanding gender differences, what constitutes readiness, handling anger and differences, getting along, what true love is, cultivating relationship potential, how to stay together, etc.

Another "relationship workshop" format has more of a "support group" than "relationship topic" mode of operation. This approach tends to work better with attendees from demographically similar groups, so that common concerns can be stressed and addressed, for example: divorced, widowed, never-been-married, separated (exploring reconciliation vs. divorce), baal tshuvos, single parents, etc. - any factor or combination that serves your population effectively and meaningfully.

The session opens up with a trained moderator getting people to speak about what they came to the support group for, or to speak about things that get in the way of finding, selecting, developing or maintaining a relationship. The group can speak about things that promote or help a relationship, experiences, frustrations, recurrent problems on the dating scene, the way men and women do (or should) treat each other, things that cause pain or mistrust in a relationship, insecurities, shyness, men and women better understanding the other gender, letting go of past relationships, what really is important vs. unimportant in a serious relationship, etc.

The moderator must know how to choose and present topics, to open people up, to create rapport and trust, and to provide a supportive and constructive environment. He must also have experience and skill in dealing with and understanding people, especially in emotional contexts.

People obtain feedback and input on how they come across to the opposite gender, how they express themselves (or fail to), how they sabotage or block themselves, and how they can help each other from their experiences. This approach, if handled and managed skillfully and competently, can provide considerable practical benefit to the participants. They can become more self aware, confident, sensitized and effective. And sometimes a shidduch or warm friendship comes out of such sessions.

Common criteria for these workshop approaches are: creative; interest-capturing for the attending population, participative; professionally moderated; the participation designed specifically so as to bring people out in such ways that attendees get a "beneath the surface" impression of who other group members are, by virtue of how each responds and what each says; control over group size (so individuality is not lost in the crowd - the moderator may have to "float" from sub-group to sub-group, if group size requires breaking into smaller sub-groups, or there may have to be supervisors for each sub-group); and enjoyable for attendees.

The moderator would announce to the entire group, at the beginning, the basic nature and goals of the activity, and give instructions on how to properly do the activity, before breaking the overall larger group into the smaller activity groups. If a group is too large for one group but too small for two groups, switch the chairs around into the shape of a circle or semi-circle. A form should be devised to obtain meaningful information about each attendee, completely filled out by each attendee upon arrival before the activity starts, and be used afterwards by the supervisors to assist in practical matchmaking follow-up.

Another variation is to choose topics which do not pertain to relating, as may be suitable for certain kinds of singles events. Not all groups want to discuss relating. You can choose topics of ethics, religion, politics or moral principles, about which people will have differing ideas. The group can either be given discussion topics or can formulate scenarios and debate what is right or wrong, pro or con, is likely to cause good or bad consequences - a "hot topic" that will have participants "verbally slug it out." Such a topic allows one to disclose values, worldviews, attitudes, ethics, personality and relating style, which helps members of the opposite gender decide who is or is not an applicable "candidate" from among the opposite-gender-attendees.

This format does not have the psychological aspects that occur in the above formats and may be suitable for situations in which the psychological flavor may be deemed inappropriate. In some situations, the psychological mode may cause stigma, hesitation or discomfort, or may be incompatible with another aspect of an event. You always must know what your audience wants and needs, and provide them with what will work for them. There are a wide variety of format and content options because there are a wide variety of needs, situations, populations and facilities.

When you choose topics, you do not do so for the purpose of "saving the world" or discovering "what is right." You choose topics:

* to bring people out,

* that apply to and interest your audience,

* that demonstrate something significant about each speaker who expresses something on the topic, and

* which will develop in accordance with who the participating personalities are.

Topics that work with a given audience or under given conditions may not work with others. Use your judgement with your particular population and situation. As time goes on, events may suggest new topics. At a recent singles shabatone, a "hot topic" involved the discussion about the shooting by Baruch Goldstein of Arabs in the Ma'aras HaMachpela. Another winner discussion group at that same shabatone was the role of humor in life. To get your ideas flowing, let me give you some topic examples:

* traditional roles and today's marriage - are things changing and how are we better off,

* living with the hardships of being single in Jewry's marriage oriented society,

* men and women getting along better and understanding gender differences better - how do gender-based differences and misunderstanding disturb or harm shiduchim,

* pursuing personal goals and developing as a person while single,

* is there self-expression in halacha and, if so, how does one know what's "kosher,"

* events in Israel (e.g. 1. what should we think about the "peace process" or 2. what should non-Israeli Jews do? or 3. who in the Israeli government is right),

* what values are important when dating and in the family and in child-raising,

* what is important to accomplish in life or to be remembered for,

* how do you improve or harm quality of life,

* what quality(ies) in a person are admirable,

* what are ways to show honor, respect and thoughtfulness in a relationship that can build or help the relationship,

* should you place meaning in what people say about you, a partner and two people as a couple - when do you listen and when not,

* how should a couple deal with anger and resolving of differences,

* what are indications of compatibility or "the real thing,"

* how do you establish priorities in choosing a mate, what are pros and cons, what is weighty and what is insignificant,

* in what ways should partners be the same, in what ways should they be different

* how does one face - and deal with - relationship patterns which repeatedly don't work,

* can pursuing personal goals make one less able to pay proper attention to marriageability, a marriage or a marriage partner,

* any moral or ethical dilemma, etc.

Again, the goal is not to establish what the "truth" is. The goal is to establish if you've got a potential couple in the room. By the way, some of these points are excellent in a matchmaking interview because they disclose a lot about who the person is and how he or she thinks about life issues. This can help you know what is a suitable or unsuitable match for the single.



In the early eighties, I was still learning in Yerushalayim. While there, the following happened.

A young man who was touring Europe and Israel was "snatched at the kosel" and brought to one of the Baal Tshuva Yeshivos in Yerushalayim. He developed in learning and observance. A young woman was, in "classic" fashion, also snapped up and brought to one of the women's institutions. She also became frum. Let's call them Shmuel and Elisheva.

The two met at the shabos table of one of the friendly Yerushalyim families who are supportive of the baal tshuva movement and hospitable to its members. After a while, the two got engaged.

Both came from wealthy American families. Both families basically disowned their newly frum children, so both of them were financially broke. There was no way that they were in a position to pay for a wedding themselves.

Shmuel planned to learn in kollel to get more solidly onto his feet in Torah. Elisheva was planning to work. They would be able to scrape by for a while, but there was no way that they could pay for a wedding on their own. Since they were alienated from their families and had both accumulated a warm cluster of friends, and they had both developed close relationships with their rabbis and a large number of area families, both agreed on marrying in Yerushalayim. Any of their family members who would want to come would be welcome. But, for the meanwhile at least, their life was in Yerushalayim.

But still, they had no practical plan or wherewithal for making a wedding. They mentioned this to some of the people they were close to. One of Elisheva's newly-married girlfriends told the kallah that there were some women who had gotten together to make a wedding for another couple who also were broke. The friend gave Elisheva the organizer's phone number. Her name was Mrs. Grossman.

Elisheva phoned the woman, who turned out to be a sweet, enthusiastic and spiritual woman who loved to do mitzvos. Before Elisheva finished explaining the situation, Mrs. Grossman cheerfully offered to try to recruit her "team" of volunteers. They made budget weddings for impoverished olim (immigrants to Israel) and Baalay Tshuva a few times already. Although they didn't quite have it down to a science, they had somewhat of a model to work from. All of the women would volunteer time and work, chip in or fund-raise for the expenses and all be thrilled at the opportunity to fulfill such a huge mitzva. If anything was striking, it was the positive, lovely and enthusiastic attitude. One time they used a shul, another time a homeowners backyard. Mrs. Grossman was even kind enough to assure Elisheva that she would lack nothing - it would be a complete and dignified chasuna!

A band of women was recruited and each was assigned a division of the work. One arranged for the location, photographer and musician. Some were assigned to baking and cooking. Other were delegated fund-raising for inescapable expenses. One was in charge of borrowing tables and silverware. One was in charge of flowers. I forget whether the flowers were paper mache or artificial-type. One sewed or rented tablecloths. These dedicated women, these beautiful neshamos didn't leave a stone unturned - and they all were pleasant and cheerful all the way through.

I saw from this that when any Jewish need presents itself how the community should jump to seize the opportunity. As the Vilna Gaon wrote, based on an Aramaic phrase in the Zohar, "Ain Licha dovor ha'omaid lifnay haratzon (nothing stands in the way of sincere will)."

In the context of the singles situation, and in light of the financial difficulties of recent times, perhaps there are occasions when it may be that financial obstacles stand in the way of Jews marrying. If so, can dedicated groups of individual band together to make full and dignified "budget chasunas" and/or raise money to help get couples started out. Do you know people with organizational, cooking or other skills who would be willing to participate in such mitzvos? Can you create a "gemach" that collects and lends wedding materials (tables, silverware, artificial flowers, gown [to be laundered by each kallah before returning], camera and/or video, etc.)? Can you raise funds for inescapable expenses that you don't have volunteers to do (e.g. printing invitations - assuming you can't recruit a frum printer to help), a musician - assuming you can't get your neighbor's cousin who plays to volunteer, flying in immediate relatives or the choson's rav from out of town, etc.)?

When you put this book down, think into how you can bring singles together and get appropriate couples married. What can you do? What can people you know do? What could you rustle together if you gave it the time and effort? How could you make a practical meaningful contributing difference? As Hillel said (Pirkei Avos chapter one), "If not now, when?"

One of my expressions is, "Don't be stifled, be creative." Nowhere would this apply more than in mammoth mitzvos that build, save and create Jewish lives.