by Michael Salamon
Urim Publications, 2008
Review by Sandra Levy Ceren, Ph.D. on May 20th 2008
Dr. Salamon's important, pragmatic book should be of special interest to the orthodox Jewish community--a community he knows intimately, and one in which he practices. This is highly recommended reading for parents and their adult children before they set out for a shidduch (an arranged date) and that they will heed his professional suggestions culled from his research and practice and thorough understanding of the matchmaking process.
Salamon provides the reader with a rich tapestry of anecdotal material revealing the many emotionally unhealthy ways with which young single and sometimes older adults must cope in the quest of a mate. He questions the superficial criterion used by shadchanim (matchmakers) in the matchmaking process and the cover-up of certain problems such as gambling, or an inability to handle money, or the leading cause of divorce in this group--a propensity for violence. Some of the questions have comedic overtones, but are real. For example, "Does her skirts have slits?"
This question is designed to select women with very rigid standards of dress. Is this really important in mate selection? While long skirts are required attire, without slits, walking is difficult.
This is a highly insulated group who tends on the one hand to infantilize their grown children, and on the other hand, to send them out to marry a near stranger at a time when they may be woefully unprepared to deal with adult responsibility. It reminds this reviewer of two youngsters playing house--their financial needs provided for by their parents. Many of the young orthodox are thrust out into the dating world without a clue about what it takes to have a good relationship. They learn a bit about superficial etiquette between the sexes, but little else.
With more women than men available in the dating scene, competition is high and this causes problems. Young women may develop an eating disorder to become thin in order to attract a man. Many young women become anxious and depressed in their quest. Some mothers may consult doctors and pretend to be depressed in order to obtain medication to give to their daughters. Such pretense is patently dishonest and would seem to be a violation of the ethics of any religious group.
The shadchan's questions are not designed to find out what really matters in a relationship, i.e., whether the marital seeker is emotionally ready for adulthood and whether the couple is compatible in terms of their individual personality, their personal interests and their values. Some questions are pertinent, others ridiculous.
Saloman offers excellent suggestions to combat the shidduch crisis and to take the pressure off seeking a mate. He suggests using the Internet to find appropriate discussion sites, and web forums, which for the uninitiated becomes an information clearinghouse. There are trusted matchmaking sites that utilize personality tests based on research. One of Salamon's suggestions is to meet people at group functions. Events for singles could be scheduled at a shul.
It is recommended that every orthodox family read this critical book. For others, it is informative, opens up a crack to view the lifestyle of the orthodox. For the non-Hebrew reader, a glossary of Hebrew terms is provided.
© 2008 Sandra Levy Ceren
Sandra Levy Ceren, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist, Diplomate, Marital and Sex Therapy, American Board of Family Psychology, Fellow, Academy of Family Psychology