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How Different Jewish Communities Date

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SUMMARY

This episode is sponsored by Anonymous who is fond of Shalom Task Force & 18Forty. 

On this episode of 18Forty, we explore the world of Jewish dating. We spoke to insiders and experts from the Chassidic community, “Yeshiva Orthodox” community, and Modern Orthodox community, looking at the commonalities and differences between each community’s approach to finding and building loving relationships. Each community emphasizes different dynamics and difficulties of the process of dating, and by considering them together and independently we can gain a greater understanding of the pressure points around love. How a community approaches dating is a test case for so many of a community’s values and vulnerabilities. In this episode, you’ll hear from representatives of each community that are intimately involved with the project of communal norms around dating, and be asked to think about your own assumptions and hopes for love. 

In this interview, we discussed: 

  • How does each Jewish community approach dating, from shadchans to dating apps and everything in between? 
  • What does a community’s approach to dating tell us about the Jewish approaches to love and commitment? 
  • What can we learn from the dating practices of communities that are different from our own? 

Interviews start at 10:31

Dr. Yosef Sokol, one of our representatives from the yeshiva world, is a psychologist and the lead researcher of the recent study on the data behind the “shidduch crisis.” We also speak with Dr. Isaac Schechter, another author of the study, Dr. Efrat Sobolofsky, director of the YUConnects matchmaking-and-education program, and Dr. Devorah Mansdorf Agami, an endodontist who met her husband on JSwipe.

References:

Rabbi Mordechai Lightstone

Examining Average Age at First Marriage within Orthodox Judaism: A Large Community-Based Study” by Yosef Sokol, Naomi Rosenbach, Chayim Rosensweig, Chynna Levin, Shifra Hubner, and Isaac Schechter

Bikur Cholim of Rockland County

ARRC Institute 

YUConnects

JSwipe

Dovid Bashevkin on YUConnects CandiDate

David Bashevkin:
Hello, and welcome to the 18Forty Podcast, where each month we explore a different topic, balancing modern sensibilities with traditional sensitivities, to give you new approaches to timeless Jewish ideas. I’m your host, David Bashevkin, and this month we’re exploring dating, relationships, commitment. This podcast is part of a larger exploration of those big, juicy Jewish ideas, so be sure to check out 18forty.org. That’s 1-8-F-O-R-T-Y.org, where you can also find videos, articles and recommended readings.

This episode was sponsored anonymously by someone who was fond of 18Forty and fond of Shalom Task Force. I so appreciate your friendship and support. I always speak to Denah, our audio engineer. She’s so much more than an audio engineer. That’s wildly unfair of me to say. I look at her as the editor-in-chief of the podcast in a lot of ways. She cuts out a whole lot, believe it or not, especially in this series, where each episode is like 11 hours. She does cut out a lot and she really makes all the major editorial decisions and I spoke to her after she edited the last episode, where I spoke about information asymmetries in different markets. And she called me on the phone and she says, “Oh, I just edited your last intro, great episode,” et cetera. She had one comment to make on the intro. She said, “I hated it.” It wasn’t a criticism on me. She said, “It felt very consumerist. It’s a reality, it’s a descriptive reality, but I hated that this exists. I hated this idea.” I wanted to take a moment and almost address it, because I thought it was fair, because there is a grossness when I teach this, that I think reflexively everybody feels.

There’s a grossness in general in the process of dating, of what qualities are prioritized and how, again, I think the term is signaling. How do we signal to others which values we have? Ultimately, what a relationship is about is getting past the information asymmetry, getting towards the ultimate knowledge, which, as I’ve mentioned is the yediah, which in Hebrew is the word for knowledge, but is also the word used for true marital intimacy and commitment, like vayeda Adam et Chava. And Adam knew his wife Chava. That ultimate knowledge is when you get past the point of signaling, you get past the point of this marketplace of information asymmetries, and you’re really in a relationship. But I think the only way to truly enter that phase is through commitment. But until you get that commitment, the reality on the ground is, as frustrating as it may sound, is that there are these information asymmetries of people trying to figure out, “Are we compatible? Do we get along? Is this the right fit?”

And the fact that descriptively we may use concepts from economics does not, God forbid … I just want this to be absolutely clear to our listeners, does not, God forbid, mean that relationships should be reduced to consumerism. I hope people remember from the opening episode that there’s nothing that could be farther from the truth. But it is understanding the basic principles that allow us to get to that final stage, and what that final stage is, I believe, that helps us foster and understand the process that we are in. And realizing that ultimately, we’re all trapped in this world where we are limited in our ability to disclose our true selves. I heard 1,001 times, and people always say this, “If you really got to know them, once you really get to know them, then you’ll appreciate them.” I think that’s true nearly of all people.

The difficulty is, when we first meet people, and this is not just in romance. As I’ve mentioned, I think this is in our professional lives. This is in our friendships. When you meet somebody and you start asking them, playing Jewish geography, “What are your interests? What are you like?” These are all forms of signaling, of figuring out like, “Are we going to be friends? Is this really going to work out?” Until there is a core friendship that you’ve committed to one another, that I wouldn’t say is unbreakable, it’s not a marriage, but you’re no longer evaluating yourselves to one another. There’s this beautiful idea that I once heard that one of the reasons why at Jewish weddings we cover the kallah, the bride, with a veil, is finally at the wedding, we look at one another and say, “We’re not looking anymore. We’re not looking for reasons, for faults, for things that could be better.” We stop looking. We stop playing that game. We’re no longer signaling. We’re no longer trying to convince the other.

This is where we finally close our eyes and make that true commitment and say, “I’m going into this and creating a third element that the relationship itself, the ultimate yediah, the ultimate knowledge, with you.” But there’s no question that the consumerist principles that trickle into dating are deeply painful and deeply frustrating. Very often, one of the great frustrations of dating is really figuring out which system works best for you. Particularly in the Jewish world, where we have multiple Jewish communities, there are many different ways to meet a spouse and by and large, they’re not mutually exclusive. You don’t have to sign an NFL lifetime contract to say, “I’m only going to play within this system.” There are people who gravitate from one system to another. There are people who are playing in multiple different systems.

I think that so much of the frustration of dating is finding alignment with your values and what works best for you, and the system that can best assist in helping you find somebody to make that ultimate commitment to get you out of the system where you’re really interacting in the deepest way possible with somebody. And what I wanted to do in this episode was something very simple and very basic. I want to give a tour of the basic systems of dating, beginning with the Hasidic world and then going all the way down to what’s probably used most commonly in the Modern Orthodox world, maybe not initially but eventually, and that is JSwipe, dating apps. I wanted to take from the beginning, all the way to the end, and talk about the opportunities and costs within each system. Because there’s no question, each one has opportunities and costs. I just want to make a very clear disclaimer. I am not pushing or glorifying any of these models of dating.

I will disclose the fact that I basically dated primarily in the yeshiva world, a little bit in the Modern Orthodox world, and I ultimately met my wife at work. So what worked for me at the very end was not any formal system, but meeting somebody naturally. I think there was a point where I was so fatigued in working with intermediaries, even a dating app, which wasn’t really popular. Maybe it existed. It was mostly online profiles, which didn’t really work that well for me. But I didn’t like the mediation and I ultimately met my wife at work. She no longer works with me, just for the record. That is a whole nother series of working in the same Jewish organization as your spouse. Working together and for a Jewish organization with your spouse might be a recipe for disaster. There are some people who have made it work, and my hat goes off to them. They may have the strongest marriages in the entire community. I don’t think we had quite that amount of resilience. Maybe now if we went to work together, but it’s certainly not the way that I would recommend starting a marriage.

Know what would be great for your shana rishona? Share an office together. That is terrible advice, I would not recommend that to anyone, of course, though really, godspeed to those who have made it work. But this is what I wanted to do. Without judgment, without recommending any one of these, I wanted to take you through all of the systems of dating. The first system of dating I wanted to begin with … We do have many Hasidic listeners, so many of this might be absolutely obvious. This is really to shed light, how does it work in the Hasidic world? I think very often the only window we have to dating within the Hasidic world … maybe we have relatives but if you are not yourself Hasidic, I am not, really, the only window is usually through shows that depict Hasidic dating on Netflix. They usually do it terribly where they whisper to one another, “But the rabbis forbid it.”

There’s this fantastic list that my dearest friend Rabbi Mordechai Lightstone, who runs social media for Chabad, affectionately known of course as Mottel on Twitter. He has this whole thread, which is absolutely fantastic, where he calls the genre Hasid-sploitation, which is the way that Hasidic life is depicted on Hollywood. And one of his things, he has this thing called the Baruchdel test, which is I think a take on the Bechdel test, which is talking about a feminist representation in media. But the Baruchdal test is, can two Hasidic characters have a conversation at any point in the movie that mentions rabbis in any way outside of, “The rabbis have said it’s forbidden.”

You have these ways that dating and married life in the Hasidic world is sometimes depicted as this very scary, foreboding system. And honestly, I know very little about it. I was not raised Hasidic. I’m not here to romanticize it either. I want to just describe it for what it is for our listeners so they understand it. And even for our listeners who are most obviously not going to date Hasidic, I think there are values and ideas to take out of that system where it’s on the other extreme, where there’s this absolute knowledge that the relationship is only going to begin after commitment, and all you can verify is basic knowledge beforehand, just the familial compatibility. And this is really two families coming together to form this third entity, which is the marital relationship that can only really be understood after a commitment is made. The work is almost done for you by another family, which for many people is anathema to understanding romance. And I understand why it is. There’s a reason why I am not a part of the Hasidic community.

But I also think that when you go to the other extreme and we valorize this kind of individualistic romance, that is also tricky, because you can spend your entire dating life thinking, “Am I excited enough? Am I in love enough?” I think the Hasidic world takes it to the other side, where that’s not at all what this is about. This is about creating a new family unit to preserve and to continue a Jewish legacy for generations. So without further ado, I want to introduce my conversation with an absolutely wonderful friend who I was introduced to by another friend, who takes us through the world of Hasidic dating.

I am from probably what most would call a Modern Orthodox, maybe light yeshivish. My father was a black hat. I learned in black-hat yeshivas. I know a lot about the yeshiva world. At least I think I do. I know a lot about the Modern Orthodox world and I know people who even are to the left of the Modern Orthodox world. The community that I know the least about, particularly when it comes to dating, is the Hasidic world. And in many respects, that’s fine. My concern is, and the reason why I thought it was so important to reach out from somebody within the Hasidic world, is that often, the Hasidic world, particularly as it comes to relationships and marriage, the stories that are told are in media and in movies and it sensationalizes it and makes it seem like this very foreboding, scary thing.

Instead, I actually think that there’s a lot to learn about the Hasidic approach to marriage and to dating. And that’s what I wanted to better understand. I want to be absolutely clear to our listeners, and I think you’ll appreciate this too, this is not an advertisement trying to get people to date in the Hasidic fashion who are not raised in the Hasidic community. Far from it. I’m sure you would agree with me on that, that’s probably not a good idea. Instead, I want to understand how dating and marriage works in the Hasidic community on its own terms. So maybe we could begin at the very beginning. Where does the dating process start from in the Hasidic community?

Hasidic Guest:
So first of all, thank you for that introduction, which was very, very important. And yes, I do agree that it’s not recommended to anybody coming from other circles to start dating in the Hasidic ways. They’re not used to that and that’s not their culture, obviously, it’s not going to work. The idea is, as you said, just to give a little bit of a glimpse and see that there’s merits to the Hasidic dating world. Like you said, it’s not like it’s given over in the general media. It actually is the opposite. It’s very healthy and it’s actually very practical and makes a lot of sense, even in 2022. Even though it’s traditional, it’s very important to state that it’s not traditional just for being traditional. You know, “It’s just because this is what we do and we’re not going to change it, and so on and so forth.” It makes a lot of sense and if you ask a lot of people today and you understand the model and how it works, a lot of people are very amazed that it’s really a healthy way of dating.

David Bashevkin:
Take me from the beginning.

Hasidic Guest:
Let’s start from the beginning. Let’s go. The Hasidic model of dating is based on a lot of facts and information and data, more than emotions, feelings, and that sort of approach. The way I see Hasidic dating and the way traditional dating, the beginning starts with information and fact, which means we try to find out the most information we can about the other side. The boy finds out about the girl, the girl finds out about the boy. And this is all done by the parents, primarily by the parents. Believing that parents know the best, know their child the best, know their family the best, know what’s going to work for their child the best. We have to preface that there’s always parents that are unfortunately not emotionally healthy and there are always parents that have … We’re talking about a general healthy, normal family setup where the children trust their parents and the parents know their children and are interested in their child’s welfare and the best possible match for their child.

Which obviously always … in every society you have parents that will try to do things and that would further their interests more than the child’s interests. But we’re not talking about those kind of families. We’re talking about a normal healthy family with normal healthy parents, with the right ideas in mind.

David Bashevkin:
What’s the information they’re looking into? One’s a generic Hasid and the other is, I don’t know, a Hasid of a specific rebbe. What are the distinctions? To an outsider … I guess this is true of nearly any community, that it all looks the same to me. You know what I’m saying? I’m saying that obviously as a caricature of, chalila, that’s not true, but I’m curious, what are the prime distinctions that they’re looking into information wise?

Hasidic Guest:
You raise a very interesting point because on the face of things, it could look like Hasidim are very stereotype. They’ll only do a shidduch with someone that’s exactly in their circle, and so on and so forth. But practically speaking, we all look for culture compatibility. We look for people that live our lifestyle and understand our lifestyle. People want to match up with like-minded people. That’s all over the world. It’s across the Hasidic or even by the goyim. It’s a very normal, understandable thing to want to have culture compatibility.

So in a Hasidic world, the culture is the first and foremost thing that people ask information about. Will this shidduch work? Will the cultures clash? Will they be able to work it out? Because this is the thing that’s going to, chas v’shalom, cause strife in a marriage. Not because of something’s wrong with the boy or something’s wrong with the girl. It’s just a different culture. We’re not ruling anyone out, but if the cultures could work and you know the guy is someone … one is Litvish and one is Hasidic and it happens to be that it could work out, by all means, but generally, it doesn’t. So that’s why generally, Hasidim first need focus on the facts.

David Bashevkin:
I’m sorry to push you on this, but could you give me a concrete example of cultural compatibility that you could look into? What’s a question you could ask that would verify whether or not there would be cultural compatibility?

Hasidic Guest:
So first of all, there are many different factions of Hasidism, obviously, and all run along different standards and all have different backgrounds. Like Hasidism is, in the media especially, they’re lumped into one big Hasidism. But obviously, I’m not even going to discuss the differences between the general mainstream Hasidism and, for example, Chabad, which is also Hasidism, which is a world away from the mainstream Hasidism, just a different lifestyle, different kind of people. You can’t even compare the lifestyles, even though they’re both considered Hasidim. But even in the mainstream Chasidus, you have for example Skver and the more … I don’t know if you would call it more frum. I don’t know if the word is frum, but I’m having a hard time finding a word. You have for example, Toldos Aharon in Eretz Yisrael. You have different-

David Bashevkin:
More “strict.” “Strict” I think is the right word.

Hasidic Guest:
“Strict” is harsh.

David Bashevkin:
“Strict” is harsh. Yeah.

Hasidic Guest:
You can call it strict. Not really strict, but they’re more … Let’s call it traditional. Let’s say they’re more-

David Bashevkin:
Sure.

Hasidic Guest:
Yeah, I guess “strict” is a word we have to use. But yes, there are differences in this Chasidus itself that a child brought up in a Hasidism like Bobov wouldn’t necessarily be comparable to someone who was brought up in Chasidus of Skver or Toldos Aharon or Satmar. Everything is different. Sometimes they are compatible, sometimes they’re not. So the differences become more or less, depending on which Hasidism you’re trying to connect. But that’s why generally, Hasidim would like to do a shidduch with someone within their Chasidus, which is just easier and just makes more sense. We’re just both Bobov, or both Vizhnitz, or both Belz, or both Satmar, and we understand each other. We have the same ideas. We’re brought up with the same shitos, with the same aspirations. So it’s something that makes sense and that’s what they’re going to look for first and foremost.

David Bashevkin:
So you get two names and there’s going to be compatibility. They feel like they want to move forward with it. What’s the next step? Generally, in the yeshiva world, the next step is either the shadchan will set up the date or the two parties will set up the date. But it sounds like the main distinction is that this is mediated through the parents. So what’s the next step right now?

Hasidic Guest:
Correct. So the next step is not even the date. The next step would be for the girl’s parents to take a look at the boy. And if they agree that this boy is compatible with their daughter, then the boy’s parents will go meet the girl. So this is a step that’s not done in … I don’t think it’s done anywhere else. Only the Hasidim, that is a traditional way. And it’s again, going back to the idea that when the parents see a girl or a boy, they know and feel if this is what’s right for their son. And it does take away and it eliminates a lot of pain and agmas nefesh from girls or boys that are lumped together before their parents had a chance to say, “This is for you,” or, “It’s not for you.” I’ll tell you, I straddle both worlds a little bit. I talk to a lot of people in my area and I guide them in shidduchim.

I talk to them about shidduchim, that daughters are dating, the sons are dating. Then I have the Hasidic world that I’m involved in. It’s very painful. It’s very painful to see the … I don’t want to be harsh, but there’s a certain callousness that setting up a date just like, “Okay, we’ll set up a date,” and the girl goes out once, twice or three times. It’s not really serious. But even if it’s accepted that three, four times is not even serious and it’s not really anything, the girl still goes away after a fourth date being somewhat connected to the boy or maybe the boy to the girl as well. I don’t know exactly who’s more emotionally connected, but it’s definitely very painful to be dropped after even four times because there is some kind of emotional connection that starts.

So it’s very painful for me to look at it when by Hasidim, this is all avoided because the approach to a date is not callous at all. By the time the boy and girl are sitting down in a room together, so much legwork has been done that it’s almost impossible. Not because we’re forcing the boy and the girl to say yes, but it just makes so much sense now and it has all the right things to make it work.

David Bashevkin:
They’ve already verified so much of the basic information that they’re so much far along by the time they meet.

Hasidic Guest:
Exactly.

David Bashevkin:
But the first meeting after they verify information is just the parents. Correct?

Hasidic Guest:
Right, so the first one would be the parents meeting the boy and the parents of the boy meeting the girl and again verifying that this is something for their child.

David Bashevkin:
Both parents go or just the father of the girl goes to see the guy and the mother of the boy sees the girl, or it’s both?

Hasidic Guest:
No, it’s actually both. Actually interesting, if you want to know, Akiva Eiger talks about a father being allowed to go see a girl. There’s halachos about looking at women in the Shulchan Aruch, and a father going to see a prospective bride for his son is something that’s allowed by Shulchan Aruch, for someone to see a … if you think about it, why are you looking at an unmarried girl that doesn’t belong to you? And Akiva Eiger brings that it’s yes. It’s allowed for a father to go see a prospective … but he has a certain feel, he has a certain … What’s the word?

David Bashevkin:
Intuition.

Hasidic Guest:
An intuition, exactly. He has an intuition to see if this girl is right for his son. So yes, usually both parents go.

David Bashevkin:
I want to ask you something just on this topic, and you’ll forgive me if it comes off inappropriate or immodest, but I am quite curious about it. And that is, what role does attractiveness play at this stage? Meaning, there’s no question in other dating worlds that somebody who is very attractive is going to be set up and that’s going to be a factor in the dating. Is that at all a factor in Hasidic dating? Is there a notion of, “This is a very attractive person and we should find somebody to ensure that they’re going to be attracted to,” or that’s not even a factor?

Hasidic Guest:
It’s impossible to say that it’s not a factor. It’s just that the parent knows their child. So for example, a mother that knows her son needs an attractive girl will look out for an attractive girl. A mother knows their child and if they feel that, “My son could not care less about the girl’s outward appearances,” then she’ll say, “All right, look, I think we could …” It’s definitely a factor, definitely a factor. We can’t be not honest and say, “Oh yeah, attractiveness doesn’t play a role at all.” Of course it does, but it’s not something that’s brought to the children. It’s something that the parents clarify before and make sure that they verify if that’s what they need. And a parent won’t let their child meet someone. Let’s say for example, if the girl’s not attractive and the parent thinks that his son needs a good looking girl, she won’t let the shidduch proceed.

David Bashevkin:
At this stage, when the parents are just meeting the prospective boy or girl, man or woman, how definite is it that after this stage that the boy and girl are actually going to meet one another? Meaning, are parents meeting multiple people and only saying yes to a fraction of them? Or at this stage, if we’re actually meeting the boy and girl, you could be pretty confident that they’re going to go on a date.

Hasidic Guest:
It’s hard to say numbers. I don’t know if it would be 50%, but yes, it’s definitely very far in the shidduch. If both parents met both the boy and the girl, and again, if both said yes, then obviously there’s going to be a date. But many shidduchim go off right when the parents see the boy or parents see the girl. Many shidduchim … I don’t know how many, but many shidduchim go off right there. They say, “This is not for my son,” or “This is not for my daughter.”

David Bashevkin:
And where do they meet? Where do they go to … So I hate to use “to scope out” the potential … Do they go to the person’s house and knock on the door and say, “Hi, we’re the parents of potential boy X. Can we come inside and speak with your daughter?”

Hasidic Guest:
So everything is obviously set up with the shadchan and everything is done officially. It’s an official meeting set up. Sometimes practically speaking, kein ayin hara, a lot of people have many children at home, so it just doesn’t work for a prospective … Well, interesting that in the Hasidic world, shidduchim is very much kept under wraps until it’s actually done. So everything is hush-hush. So in some families, even the children don’t know what’s going on really. Obviously, it depends on the dynamics of the family, but it’s very accepted that no one knows anything about what’s going on, who’s being read and so on and so forth. So people don’t want to have the meetings always in their house. So they might set it up in someone else’s house or there’s a hotel in Borough Park called Avenue Plaza. I know they have a few rooms that they rent out for prospective meetings.
There are places that it could be done out of the house as well. But either way, it’s done in an official, formal setting. That being said, there is a concept in the Hasidic world that a parent could go see the son. The parents of the girl could go meet the boy in yeshiva. For example, they could say, “We want to officially unofficially meet the boy.” So it’s a very interesting way. Some people will say, “No, I’m not interested in the official unofficial meeting in yeshiva. Do you want to meet my son? You’re welcome to make an official meeting and meet him, because that’s more …” I don’t know if they feel it’s more serious. And this is something that’s very important for Hasidim. It’s the respect of the boy and the girl, which is a very interesting way of looking at it, but it’s true.

We don’t want to open up our daughters or our sons to being dropped or being seen and thrown away chas v’shalom. It’s a very painful feeling. So if the person, for example, is not serious about seeing my son, so he is going to come look at him officially unofficially in yeshiva … My son knows that he’s coming to see him. And if it’s a no, that means my son got a no. That’s not emotionally healthy for him, so I’d rather not. If the person is serious about it, then let him go have an official meeting. And it’s the same with the daughters, but with the daughters even more so. With the daughters, we’re very protective over our daughters so that they don’t chas v’shalom, have a date and the date chas v’shalom then be dropped. If he’s serious about it, then meet my daughter, by all means, but if not, then I don’t want my daughter … There are concepts of going to see girls by a chassan. You could go see a girl here and there, but that’s not official. You could go see whoever you want. You could look if you want.

David Bashevkin:
So take me to the actual process of when the boy and girl actually meet. Where do they usually meet?

Hasidic Guest:
It’s almost always sit-in in a house. As I said before, sometimes it doesn’t work, logistically, it doesn’t work for it to be in the girl’s house, but usually it’s in the girl’s house. The boy always comes to the girl, which is also traditional, by the way. Like the Gemara says the man always goes to the woman, which is why the chassan is always done in the girl’s hometown. It’s because the man is supposed to seek after the woman, like the Gemara says.

David Bashevkin:
Oh. Beautiful.

Hasidic Guest:
That’s also traditional. But the meetings all take place in the girl’s home or set up by the girl in a different location. And they’re all sit-in meetings. The parents come along. Both parents are in a different room and the boy and the girl will go into a dining room and the parents will be in the kitchen. And if it’s a good date, then it will continue for an hour, maybe an hour and a half and the boy and the girl are getting to know each other a bit. And the parents schmooze in the kitchen. And after a while, the parents will say, “All right, I think it’s enough,” and they’ll come into the boy and girl and say, “Okay, I think we can go home to discuss. Let’s continue this maybe tomorrow,” or whatever. Then they’ll go home and discuss it.

David Bashevkin:
Before you head home, I got another question. This is an important one.

Hasidic Guest:
Sure.

David Bashevkin:
What’s the story with food? They’re not meeting in a restaurant. I don’t know how hungry they are. Do they set out food? Do they get out a Diet Coke, water? I assume that they’re not drinking l’chaims just yet, but what is the protocol when it comes to laying out food?

Hasidic Guest:
It’s a very good point. It’s very interesting, actually, because the minhag by Hasidim is not to eat anything until the shidduch is actually done, which means there is no eating through any of these meetings, which happens to be called a bashow. If you want to know, it’s called a bashow.

David Bashevkin:
Bashow. It’s a Yiddish word. And that describes the actual date between the boy and the girl.

Hasidic Guest:
Exactly. The word is bashow. I’m not sure where it comes from, but I think in German, bashow means to look at, to show off, I think.

David Bashevkin:
Gotcha.

Hasidic Guest:
I’m not exactly sure where it comes from, but that’s the accepted word, that the date is referred to as a “bashow.” So when this bashow is going on, there’s absolutely no eating, which is really … also, you see, it’s traditional, but it makes a lot of sense. And here we go back to my original point about this whole model of dating, the Hasidic model of dating. The reason we don’t eat anything is based on what the the Torah says says. Eliezer, when he went to find the kallah, he didn’t want to eat, partake in whatever Laban and Bethuel put on the table until he finished speaking and until they actually finalized the shidduch. But there’s another reason that we don’t eat. And that is because we know that Ḥazal said we shouldn’t eat pas akum, we shouldn’t break bread with goyim, and the reason being because, when a person eats with someone else, there’s a certain camaraderie that happens. And chas v’shalom, Ḥazal didn’t want Jews to marry non-Jews. So they said, “If we’re going to eat with non-Jews, then we might, chas v’shalom, become very close.”

David Bashevkin:
There’s a closeness, a camaraderie. Exactly.

Hasidic Guest:
Exactly. So therefore, you see the Hasidic model of shidduchim is the opposite of emotional decisions. We don’t want the decision to be based on any camaraderie. We want it to be based on logic and on compatibility. We want it to be based on facts and data and information. And it could be that’s where this minhag comes from not to eat because the second you start eating, you become close and it starts becoming emotional. You don’t want to involve that emotional factor in your decision process.

David Bashevkin:
Do they put food out on the table anyways or it’s just a bare table?

Hasidic Guest:
They do put food out. It’s actually interesting. There’s a joke that they say there was one boy that he couldn’t resist. He just had to eat everything he came to. He used to make a mezonos and start eating some of the food. So the shadchan told him, “The girls are getting turned off. You know it’s not accepted to eat. Why are you eating every time?” He said, “Okay, okay, okay.” And then again, he couldn’t resist. He couldn’t resist. The shadchan said, look, “I’m running you one more shidduch. If you blow this one, then I’m not redting you any shidduchim.” He says, “All right, all right.” He comes in and he sits down with the table. After five minutes he takes a piece of cake and he starts wolfing it down and he comes out and the girl said no. And the shadchan calls him up-

Starts wolfing it down. And he comes out, and the girl said, “No.” And the shadchan calls him up and he says, “What’d you do? You blew it again. Sister shadchan, listen, you got to understand. I walked into his date after five minutes, I saw this is enough for me anyway. I figured, you know what? That’s a waste of cake. It’s such a good cake, you know, why not?” But yes, it is very unacceptable to eat by a shidduch, even though there probably will be cake and drink on the table just because you got to be menschlich, but everyone knows that it’s not partaking.

David Bashevkin:
And how many bashows will they have in the Hasidic community? How many dates, so to speak. How many meetings between the actual boy and girl? Is it only one, or sometimes they’ll have multiple?

Hasidic Guest:
So it really depends on how much the children trust their parents because that’s what it’s really built on. The whole system is built on trusting your parents that they did a good job and information. And after one and it goes well, it’s probably a given that there’s going to be another one, and then it’s going to be a done deal. Sometimes it could be three, and sometimes it could even be four, but that’s the max. Any standard Hasidic shidduch won’t progress more than four. It’s either three. And if it’s not by four, then it’s not going to happen. There’s no point in just prolonging and meeting again and meeting again because again, like I said, everything is basically taken care of before.

So by very trusting children, they’ll come into the room and they’ll meet this girl. And you see, this is something that I tell chassanim all the time. Bochurim that are going on dates, and they’re trying to understand what exactly they want to find when they go to this date. Because they obviously realize that “We’re not dating 15 times, and we’re not going to find out who she is.” Or “How am I going to know with one date who she is?” And this is a question that’s always asked by bochurim.

If I have one thing to tell bochurim that are going a Hasidic date, it’s that you are not going into that room to find out any heavy stuff about this girl. All the heavy stuff, her personality, her middos, her qualities, everything was found out and everything is known by your parents and probably shared with him as well. The reason for the date is just to see if, like you said before, attractiveness is an important factor. A person is… even Hasidim, it says in the Torah, it says in the Gemara. You have to see your wife, you have to know that this is attractive to you. You’re going to like it, and you have to know if the girl’s mannerisms are cute.

These are all things that you just have to see. You can see them in 15, 20 minutes. You can see does girl make you nervous? Does she talk sensible? Is the way she acts acceptable to you and vice versa? You like this boy? This is not something that they’re coming to find or find out “Is this guy going to be a good husband to me? Is this guy going to be a serious learner?” This is all done before, and the objective of the meeting is just to see if there’s anything obviously wrong.

Knowing this when you go into a room takes a big load off the bochur or the girl’s shoulders because they don’t need to go figure anything out. They can just let loose and just be relaxed.

Actually, this is a very important point that the Hasidim… They say a Hasidic boy is told for 18 years. He said, “Don’t look at girls, don’t talk to girls, don’t think about girls.” And then you sit him into a room and you want it to be completely natural and talk to the girl. It’s very difficult. It is very difficult.

David Bashevkin:
Yeah.

Hasidic Guest:
It is very difficult, and they do sometimes need coaching, mostly done by the parents. There’s a famous story they say that Hasidim that the boy tells his father “Tatti, how am I going to meet with this, how am I going to marry this girl? I don’t know who she is.” The father says, “Listen, you don’t have to worry. I got married, Zadi got married, Elta Zadi got married. You don’t have to worry, you’ll get married too.” He says, “Tatti, very funny. You got married to mommy and Zadi got married to Bubbe. And you’re pulling me together with this friend, the girl, some random girl. How can you compare?” But it is so people…

David Bashevkin:
But that’s a profound story. There’s a profundity there, where the relationship is only created after the commitment in the Hasidic world.

Hasidic Guest:
Definitely.

David Bashevkin:
The commitment is the beginning, not the end of the story.

Hasidic Guest:
Definitely. I mean, I think everyone agrees that the whole concept of love at first sight is really a myth. No, I think this is across the board. I think even the goyim, I think, agree that there is no real concept of love at first sight, because love is something that’s built up only after the commitment and we see it in our lives all the time. The word “ahava” comes from the word, hav, the root is hav.

David Bashevkin:
Give.

Hasidic Guest:
Which means giving, giving is what builds love. So, before you are vested in your spouse or your child, it’s very hard to say that you love them. I mean, you could be attracted to them. But yes, like you said, the commitment is… The building comes much later.

David Bashevkin:
So just take me to the final stage. They had the bashow. They both said yes. I assume, do they get down on one knee and give a ring? How is the engagement done in the Hasidic world? Is everybody together? Or they get to meet again by themselves? How does the final commitment to then get married done?

Hasidic Guest:
So, the way the commitment goes is not by proposing. It’s very unaccepted by general Hasidic population. This something we drink l’chaim. Drink l’chaim, this is the way it was done for hundreds years, maybe thousands. The parents come together into the room with the boy and the girl and they all sit down around the table, take out six shot glasses, and everyone drinks l’chaim.

Actually, it’s interesting, because sometimes they agree to finish the shidduch. Let’s say, for example, in the morning, they could say, “Okay, everything worked out last night with the date, and in the morning the shadchan will call and say “Okay, everyone’s good to go.” And they agreed to finish the shidduch, and they could finish the shidduch for example at a grandfather’s house, at the rabbi’s house, or so on and so forth. Finishing the shidduch has been drinking l’chaim. They take out the l’chaim, and they all wish each other l’chaim, and have a little shmooze and sing a song or two, and that’s how they shidduch ends, or begins.

David Bashevkin:
Begins, exactly. It’s interesting. Finishing the shidduch is really beginning the relationship. During the engagement period, do the chassan and kallah, the boy and girl, do they get to interact in an unmediated way? Or they really don’t see each other ’till the wedding?

Hasidic Guest:
You see this is something that did change a drop, not that it’s condoned. But traditionally, there was no interaction between the boy and the girl. Nothing at all. Which many believe is healthier, And I think a lot of therapists believe so, too, if they would be able to change the world. But many a thing has been said. Many a word has caused a lot of strife during an engagement by the chassan and kallah.
But today, it is becoming a little more common. Not by the traditional Hasidim, not by the very strict Hasidim, like you said. But there is a concept of talking on the phone. There’s a concept of going to get a marriage license, or they might meet. Everything is like a little stolen conversation here.

David Bashevkin:
Forbidden fruit, yeah.

Hasidic Guest:
Yeah, but it’s not generally accepted, no.

David Bashevkin:
Sometimes it’s done. Okay.

Hasidic Guest:
Sometimes it is done.

David Bashevkin:
There’s this notion that’s spoken about a lot of the yeshiva world and the Modern Orthodox world called a shidduch crisis.

Hasidic Guest:
Right.

David Bashevkin:
Primarily focused a lot of time on women who cannot find a match. People talk about maybe it’s because of different ages, et cetera, et cetera. There are other theories. I’m curious if people discuss a shidduch crisis in the Hasidic world, and if so, what are they doing to address it?

Hasidic Guest:
Shidduch crisis that’s talked about in the world is the fact that there are more girls than boys. Am I correct?

David Bashevkin:
Yeah, I mean that’s one of the theories of why there’s a crisis.

Hasidic Guest:
In the world, there are definitely a lot of shidduchim that need to be done. There are older singles, definitely. I don’t know if there is a shidduch crisis, girls and boys. I’ll tell you the truth, I don’t have the numbers or the data about that. But, the initiatives that we do, there’s nothing really more than trying to get people involved in redting shidduchim, suggesting matches.

For example, there’s a big organization that was opened up a few years ago just to get the info on boys and girls. And yeah, I think this organization has a whole office of shadchanim sitting and trying to match boys to girls. And if you drive down by Borough Park, you’ll see on a few of the crossroads on 14th Avenue, big signs that says stop and says redt a shidduch in Yiddish. If you could see it, it’s very interesting. But the initiative is, if we get people to redt shidduchim, and we get people involved, and aware that people need shidduchim and need to redt, it’s going to help the shidduch crisis. It’s going to help boys and girls get engaged.
I don’t think anything beyond that is being done, simply because there’s no room for any other way. We’re not having Shabbatons and that whole approach is not accepted. So the only way to make any progress in shidduch is to have people redt shidduchim and keep their eyes open and try to do something.

It is very taxing. It’s very challenging to be a shadchan in the Hasidic world, for sure. I mean I’m sure all of ’cause it’s not like they’re paid by the hour, they’re not lawyers. And you know, you could redt a shidduch and try to redt shidduchim, and after five years you still haven’t made a dollar. It’s very hard. So you have to be in it for l’shem shamayim, you have to be in it for the right reasons. So that’s why you have to really push people to get involved.

David Bashevkin:
My final question is really related to that, which is how shidduchim in general have changed, if at all, in the Hasidic community? It is a very traditional process and I imagine sometimes you’ll see more modern people from Hasidic communities. And I’m curious if there are concessions or maybe changes that are being done. Just because the world is moving so fast now, I’m curious if you’ve seen any trends of development or changes within the Hasidic community over the past decade or so?

Hasidic Guest:
By and large, I would say thankfully, no. Because we do not have dating websites. The internet did not change the shidduch market at all. The only thing that may be started being a little different in the last few years is the résumés that were never, never accepted. The whole résumé idea, to write a résumé, and write who you are, what you’re looking for. “I’m bubbly and I’m outgoing and I’m looking for x, y, Z.” The whole résumé idea was a no-no. But now, in the last few years, simply because of practicality, it’s very hard to find information when two people, you redt a shidduch to someone, and it’s like, “Who is he?”

So, what became very accepted is every person writes up who he is and who his children are, and where the child went to yeshiva. Basic facts, nothing more than facts. From the boy, maybe a picture. From the girl, not necessarily. So again, because we like to protect the tznius of the children, they won’t put a picture on the résumé. But that did get into the Hasidic community, more in the last two years, the résumé idea. It’s just a practical way of making the process more efficient.

David Bashevkin:
Is there a piece of advice that you give to people who are just starting dating that might be relevant to all of our listeners? We have some Hasidic listeners. Most are not within the Hasidic community. We certainly have some. I’m curious if there’s a general piece of advice that you give to people who are beginning dating that we could conclude this with?

Hasidic Guest:
General piece of advice. I mean, if you trust your parents and you believe your parents are looking out for your benefit, then trust your parents. Unfortunately, sometimes children do feel that the parents are not thinking of their best interest, obviously. So then, obviously, they should seek advice from a mentor or a rabbi or someone how to go about the information process of their shidduchim. But generally, in a normal healthy family, children should trust that their parents are doing a great amount of information in an unbelievable way, which is traditional and makes sense. Therefore, they should be very calm when they shidduch actually, the date, the bashow actually takes place. It’s something that’s very important for a bochur to know that there has to be trust.

If he feels that maybe his parents are not savvy enough, and there are these things. There are people that are not savvy, that maybe he could ask someone else, “Could you find out about this girl that my parents are looking into?” There’s always ways, but obviously that has to be discussed with a rabbi, a parent, or a mentor.

But in general, the parents are very trustworthy and baruch Hasem, it’s a model that’s been working for many, many years, and it makes a lot of sense. And therefore, they should be comfortable, and relaxed, and happy that then baruch Hashem. Unfortunately, there are many downsides to other ways of dating. So, the grass is always greener on the other side. So for Hasidim that are looking up and saying “I wish I could find my own wife, and I could find my own thing, and I would be able to meet for 15, 20 times and make my own decisions.” It’s not always necessarily so. It looks very rosy, but as you know, and everyone else that’s in that, there are downsides. To each his own.

David Bashevkin:
I cannot thank you enough for your time today. Thank you so much for speaking with me.

Hasidic Guest:
Thank you so much.

David Bashevkin:
There’s so much to learn, I think, from the Hasidic model of dating, even if you don’t have anything involved in it. I think my number one takeaway is the word bashow, which is the Yiddish term that is used in the Hasidic world for dating. I absolutely love it. But I really do believe the notion of entering a relationship and realizing that there still exists a great deal of mystery of what we’ll never be able to verify until we make that commitment together, is obviously heightened in the Hasidic world, but something that exists, and we should keep in mind in every world, regardless of where you date.

But each system, of course, has its own strengths and its own difficulties. And I think as we shift to the next universe that we discuss is the world of yeshiva dating or Yeshivish, or right wing, Modern Orthodox. Not right wing, Modern Orthodox, we’ll get to that on its own. But the world of the yeshiva world and how they date.

Now, one of the big difficulties is really figuring out what the distinction between the way the yeshiva world dates and the way the right wing, Modern Orthodox dates. They’re very similar in a lot of ways. They both have shadchanim. They’re both mediated usually through more through family and friends. The yeshiva world more through professional shadchanim, but the system is more or less the same. They might go out for a little bit later.

And what I wanted to begin with is a term that colors so much of the yeshiva dating world and that is the notion of a shidduch crisis. This is definitely something that I remember hearing when I was studying in Yeshivas Ner Yisroel. The question of are there enough men and women in this community to even get married to one another? And there is a study that just dropped by researchers, who I happen to have a wonderful relationship with. The study which was published in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion and is entitled Examining Average Age at First Marriage within Orthodox Judaism. A large community-based study, really tried to explore is there a shidduch crisis, and what exactly is it? And in order to understand, I spoke with the lead researcher from that study, Dr. Yosef Sokol.

Yosef Sokol:
Name is Yosef Sokol. I am a research scientist in the Veteran Affairs, professor at Touro University. I was raised in the Yeshiva Orthodox community and currently am Yeshiva Orthodox. So, my dating is of that nature. Obviously, I know many people in different communities, but that is my personal experience.

David Bashevkin:
I noticed you call it Yeshiva Orthodox, why don’t you call it Yeshivish, as it’s often referred to?

Yosef Sokol:
This has been a long journey, figuring out the right term to use. And part of this is personal. That when I was in yeshiva, there were Yeshivish people, but they were the people that were… Let’s call it more to the right than even in my right-wing yeshiva. I went to Torah Temimah. And even in her Torah Temimah, they were like the Yeshivish guy.

David Bashevkin:
Yeah.

Yosef Sokol:
My chevra weren’t the Yeshiva guy. So, I never really was comfortable saying I’m Yeshivish or part of the Yeshivish community. I know a lot of other people, it wasn’t just me. I actually did some tests, kind of like sampling, to go and try to get a sense of what people weren’t comfortable with, and you’d be surprised. It’s really hard to find a word that most people are even vaguely comfortable with in the Yeshiva world. So I went with Yeshiva Orthodox.

David Bashevkin:
Yeshiva Orthodox sounds very clinical and very not offensive.

Yosef Sokol:
Yeah, no, it ended up being, it was like the most neutral term that we could use, and I ended up really just started thinking of… Now I just think of it now.

David Bashevkin:
Yeah. And that’s the dating world that you’re familiar with personally?

Yosef Sokol:
Yes.

David Bashevkin:
Let’s begin by, what exactly did this study cover and what did it find? Give me a brief rundown again, not to get into all the methodological details, but give me in broad strokes what did the study cover, and what did it find?

Yosef Sokol:
Sure, brief version. It tried to determine when people are getting married, based on community, including whether or not they ever got. So, the net result that we found that in the Yeshiva Orthodox community, it kind of starts a little earlier than the Modern Orthodox, and it goes up a little faster, and also ends up a little bit higher percent of people eventually are married by 40, which is kind of when our data… We got under 600 people. After that, I didn’t trust the data after 40, so that’s kind of where I put my cut-off.

In the Yeshiva Orthodox and the Modern Orthodox, both people are taking longer to get married than they’d like. I mean, at least based on when they start dating. Although many of them seem to end up getting married down the line, that does seem to be a problem in the sense that it’s taking a lot of people longer. Also noteworthy that it takes men and women both approximately the same amount of time. In the beginning in Yeshiva Orthodox, the women start faster. And for a while, there’s much more women married than men. But men catch up late twenties, and after that it’s about the same. Except a little bit more men, eventually, are married. Small, very small percentage.

David Bashevkin:
Can you give me some numbers? When do people begin getting married? What percent are married by the age of 40? And then maybe you could tell me, did your research shed any light on how many dates does it take the average person to find their spouse? Do you have any idea what that is?

Yosef Sokol:
I’ll answer your first question first, but the answer to your second one’s actually really fast. I’ll just do it. No. And I wish I did.

David Bashevkin:
It’s funny. I’ll just say now before we get to the other one. I had a friend. I’ll call his name out, Benji Samuels. He’s very good at math. He was famous, somewhat famous, among us friends. He had a spreadsheet, Excel, of every girl that he dated. And he did rough anecdotal data of figuring out, like plotting out on a chart of if you don’t marry within the first eight girls or something, then it’s usually going to spread out much, much longer, and it gets much more diffuse. That was not a peer-reviewed study. That was a bunch of young 20-year-olds with too much time on their hands speculating. But tell me about the starting time of people. What age are people beginning to date?

Yosef Sokol:
My main data covered people’s marriage.

David Bashevkin:
Okay.

Yosef Sokol:
And I don’t know if you know what the method, but we have two different things going on. We have people answering questions about themselves, and then I did ask them when they started dating. But the main data source that I used for this publication is when I asked people about their siblings and children. Because I was concerned about a response bias where people are for whatever reason, if they’re answering it, maybe they’re unusual. So I ended up removing all of their own information, and just focusing on siblings and children, which is how I ended up with the numbers that I do have.

But I do have information about dating from people themselves, and found about average between 18 and 19 for girls, around 22 to 23 for boys. I can dig up those numbers if you’re specifically interested. But overall what we found is that people start getting married… At 18, basically nobody’s married. 19, some girls are beginning to get married, maybe a few percent, only Yeshiva Orthodox. Modern Orthodox still basically nothing. The numbers really start going up between around 20 in the Yeshiva Orthodox world, where it suddenly zooms up to… By the time they’re 24, almost over 70% at our marriage, 75%.

David Bashevkin:
And in the Modern Orthodox world?

Yosef Sokol:
The Modern Orthodox world, it starts going up at 21. And by 27, you’re hitting about 70%. Takes longer, which is not as we know, I mean, that’s not surprising. That’s kind of what you would expect. And overall, the numbers for Modern Orthodox men and women largely match. There’s only usually like a 5% to 10% difference at each age point, until you’re hitting around 29. 30, and then they’re pretty much identical after. Modern Orthodox men and women percent married at each year.

David Bashevkin:
The thing that I’m trying to figure out the most is, what should we be doing with this data? This data to me, if I understand this correctly, doesn’t really tell us if one process is better than the other, or what’s the most suitable process. It doesn’t make a value judgment on Yeshiva dating or Modern Orthodox dating. Is that correct?

Yosef Sokol:
A hundred percent. The science tells what is, not what to be. And most I can say what is going on, not what should be going on. I have no information.

David Bashevkin:
Can you give me, and this is an opinion, this is not your official research, but I’m curious in the course of this study, do you have a good way of explaining the difference between dating in the yeshiva world versus the Modern Orthodox world? I struggle at understanding the real differences between the two. They’re very subtle to me. I’m curious if you have any way of really concretizing the distinctions between those two communities.

Yosef Sokol:
Sure. As you said, this is not me… I don’t have specific data on this, but I do have about a thousand people vote in their thoughts about the dating system in my study. I read through that many times, just because it was interesting. So I do have a little bit more information than perhaps some people do, although shadchan may know more than I do.

Basically, what I’ve noticed is that in the Yeshiva Orthodox world, people will talk a lot about that they… Many people critique the Yeshiva Orthodox system and said it should be more like the modern. What they were saying is that it should be more natural, people just meeting each other more. Less use of shadchanim, maybe more use of friends. And in the Modern Orthodox world, people actually said they often critique and said it should be more like the Yeshiva Orthodox world. There are more assumptions about where things are holding and when. That there’s an expectation that if you date 15 times, you should be at least seriously thinking about getting married, which is in the Yeshiva Orthodox the case, but not in the modern.

So overall, if I had to describe the difference, it sounds like the Yeshiva Orthodox world, which is where I was, it’s a little bit more rigid, more formal, with kind of built-in expectations at each step, which some people like, others dislike. It has pros and cons. The Modern Orthodox world is a little bit more fluid, more naturalistic, but that has certain benefits. It makes parents even more comfortable with the system. It helps people find people they wouldn’t otherwise. But also a certain cons along the way, where people may be less likely to immediately lead to marriage, which some people really want.

David Bashevkin:
It’s less institutionally mediated. It’s not mediated by third party shadchanim. A lot more friends are involved, et cetera, et cetera. Do you notice any difference in terms of résumé expectations? In terms of, aside from the religious cultural differences, but in the actual process itself, the general rigidity. Are there differences in terms of what’s expected to be listed on a résumé? The Modern Orthodox world also has shidduch résumés at this point.

Yosef Sokol:
Yeah, I know.

David Bashevkin:
So I’m curious if you see any differences with that.

Yosef Sokol:
That actually surprised me, to be honest. When I first learned with Modern Orthodox world is now having résumés, I was like, Wow, we are all doing this, this is where we’re at? But yes, both systems are kind of… In some ways, the Modern Orthodox world has moved closer to the Yeshiva Orthodox world in certain systematic ways of dating. But then in the Yeshiva Orthodox world, this has become even more so. The amount of we call checking into the person ahead of time, using the resume, using community connections before the first shidduch actually occurs, seems to be much more intensive in the Yeshiva Orthodox world, from what I can tell. So while the Modern Orthodox world has moved a little closer to the Yeshiva Orthodox world, the Yeshiva itself has moved further into the very intensive vetting system.

David Bashevkin:
If I’m understanding correctly, your research does not make a value judgment whether or not there is or is not something called a shidduch crisis.

Yosef Sokol:
Definitely. Certainly in the sense that in what crisis is that there’s a tremendous problem. It’s value judgment. I’m not necessarily…

David Bashevkin:
Objective experience.

Yosef Sokol:
As in personal, I’m a member of a community. I can say there is a crisis in the sense that many people are unhappy. There’s a tremendous amount of pain. I would call that a crisis. But in the sense that any particular numbers are objectively speaking to crisis, it’s hard to say. I can make sort of a claim that if you define shidduch crisis, which many people do, is that 10% to 15% of Yeshiva Orthodox world will never get married based on a mathematical model. I can say that appears to be unlikely, very unlikely, based on the data we collected. So that should shidduch crisis, I can say probably not. But in the sense of a crisis, whether or not there’s a lot of pain, certainly. Whether there’s a crisis in the sense of specific numbers are a crisis. As a scientist, I can’t really say that.

David Bashevkin:
Given that this is your area of expertise, I’ve heard many different theories of why or why not there may be a shidduch crisis, assuming there is one. I believe that the real crisis is very subjective and experiential and may not be a crisis of process, which we will talk about in a later episode. I don’t want to talk about that now.

But I am curious, one of the theories that is often discussed is the age gap theory, that men are able to conventionally date a wider range of ages than women. Does your study either validate or undermine that theory?

Yosef Sokol:
Yes. Based on that model, your community is growing at X rate per year, there’s a specific age gap between the men and women in the pool. One would hypothesize two things that we did not find. That at least 10% of girls would not be married by 40, and there would be a difference between the number of men and women getting married, in the direction where more men are getting married significantly more. We did not find either of those. If one would use that theory as a scientific theory and create a hypothesis, this study appears to contradict those results.

I would also add, though, that a lot of the mathematical numbers used when people talk about this are often incorrect. For one example, people talk about a four-year age gap in dating, ignoring that while dating maybe a four-year age gap, actual marriage age gaps might be smaller because some women marry men who are younger than them, it happens. Just because there’s a four-year when people begin, doesn’t mean that’s what it ends. We actually found a two-year age gap, approximately 2.2 based on our study. And a lot of the numbers that people use in these mathematical models are really just not reliably-vetted numbers based on empirical research. So there’s no real strong reason to assume that amount to begin with.

David Bashevkin:
After doing this study, there was a recent call, I believe it was by Viarlo Bianski, who called that we need more data about dating to really assess what is going on in the Orthodox world when it comes to marriage. That is a broad call. I’m wondering as a researcher, what specific data, what specific studies and questions do you think are most pressing for researchers to continue to explore this area? Your study, I assume, is just the beginning. It’s not the end all be all of all studies. There will be more. What do you think are the most pressing questions that we should be investigating in this area?

Yosef Sokol:
The two most pressing questions for me are why are specific people having a much harder time getting married than others? Because eventually people are getting married, the men and women exist. How can we figure out what’s going on if unique individuals have a harder time?

David Bashevkin:
Is there a pattern based on location, personality, whatever.

Yosef Sokol:
What people are looking for, what their characteristics are. Just the hypothesis might be “Women who are looking to marry a long-term learner, but whose parents don’t have money and are not in a profession that could support them, have a harder time getting married.” Hypothesis. I don’t know if it’s true, but if we could understand a lot more about what is going on in why individuals have a harder time than others, both men and women, to be clear, then we could actually create new studies of figuring out what to do about that. Intervention studies, community interventions and see if they actually help.

Those two things, we need a lot more studies. And even my first study, I’m not saying that the numbers I found are exactly precisely accurate. I’d love to see other studies using different methodologies find similar results before I said this is the truth.

David Bashevkin:
How many responses did you get to your study?

Yosef Sokol:
About 5,000. But it’s about 15,000 people ’cause they each filled out about their whole family. So I have about information about 15,000.

David Bashevkin:
Really, really incredible. And if somebody wants to read the actual study, where can they find it? I know it was in a peer-reviewed journal.

Yosef Sokol:
Yes. And they can either go directly to the journal, but you have to pay 10 bucks. If anybody emails me, I’m always happy to send it to anybody individually. Or I can send you a copy and they can email you for it. I’m not allowed officially make it publicly available on a website because it’s embargoed copyright, but we’re allowed to email it to any individual and so can you do the same.

David Bashevkin:
We cannot thank you enough.

Yosef Sokol:
By the way, if you ever want to chat about possible solutions, we didn’t really get to that, but I have ideas. I’m sure you have ideas. That would be fun.

David Bashevkin:
You could share a moment now. What do you think the possible solutions are?

Yosef Sokol:
My guess, and this is hypotheses, this is not empirical data, is that people have a hard time knowing what to look for, knowing when they found it, and knowing how to develop a relationship in which to commit to that other person. People also have a somewhat hard time in navigating the shidduch system itself to find the people that they would end up matching with.

David Bashevkin:
Sure.

Yosef Sokol:
Many of those things can be dealt with through education, through training, shadchanim training, dating coaches. Certified trainings that actually have, and community available shadchanim and dating coaches that are not responsible, they don’t have to be paid by individual if they’re a community resource. And classes for people before they start dating, maybe even while they’re dating, that are kind of based on real knowledge research that is approved by rabbanim, the hashkafos are community hashkafos. These type of things might help people through a lot of these stages.

Then there’s also just… One thing that would be very important is getting people to know when they’re allowed to get married. The idea… Something I’ve thought a lot about is green flags. As a society, we’ve become very, very worried about red flags. Like, oh, don’t do that, don’t do that. Don’t get married if this person… When we have green flags, we need to be clear about those, too.

David Bashevkin:
What is enough to get married on to make that final commitment? I get that question so often. Am I excited enough to get married? Yeah, a lot of those questions. I love that answer. The only thing that you left off from that answer are podcast series about dating and marriages, which we’re in the middle of, and I hope is instructive. I developed this series in mind that somebody who’s beginning dating could listen to our five episode series on this and really find some approaches to help them in their own life.

Yosef Sokol:
…this, and really find some approaches to help them in their own life, even if they’re already married, about commitment itself. Because I think, dating is a lens to explore all decision-making for your entire life.

David Bashevkin:
That scares me, how probably correct you are.

Yosef Sokol:
Absolutely fascinating and illuminating. We cannot thank you enough.

David Bashevkin:
Take care.

Yosef really helped me understand what we do and do not know about shidduch dating, particularly within the yeshiva world. There is such an absolute need for more data in this universe.

And I also spoke with, and will share briefly, because so much of the interview kind of overlaps with what I spoke about with Yosef. But one of the other members of this study, the person whose institute facilitated the entire study, and that is Dr. Yitzy, or Isaac Schechter, who I have a longstanding relationship with. Those who have bought my book, may be familiar with him, it’s the weirdest way to be familiar with him. But why not? He happened to have written one of the blurbs for the back of my book. It’s not at all why he’s famous, just a great way to plug my book. Please buy it.

But leaving that aside, he’s really most well known for the incredible work that he has done in mental health, as Director for the Center for Applied Psychology, at the Bikur Cholim in Monsey, New York. Also runs the Institute for Applied Research and Community Collaboration, what’s known as ARCC. He’s one of the most major figures when it comes to communal research. He was involved in this study, and I spoke with him a little bit afterwards, about what the takeaways are and what the takeaways are not, and how we should be thinking about dating in the Orthodox Jewish community.

Can you help explain, because I’ve really been struggling with this, and you’re uniquely situated, a lot of your works in the Hasidic community, but you really deal with across the spectrum in the Orthodox world.

Isaac Schechter:
Yeah.

David Bashevkin:
What is the essential difference between Modern Orthodox and Yeshiva Orthodox when it comes to dating in the systems? I understand the differences in the Hasidic world. I really, really struggle. And I dated in both of these worlds, and I even struggle to articulate what exactly are these differences? Is the length that they date before getting engaged? What’s the essential distinction in the way the systems operate?

Isaac Schechter:
Okay. Before I see the essential distinction, I have to make a technical points. That within each of these things that we call Mordern Orthodox, Yeshiva Orthodox, there is a spectrum in a range. It is not a monolithic community in any of those things. That’s why, by the way, in our measures, not for the study, I have to say. This study, we just asked for self-identification, which is simplest but gets complicated. I have a multiaxial, or a two access way of looking at this. One is socioreligious category, Modern Orthodox, Yeshiva Orthodox, Hasidic, Lubavitch. You have to put Lubavitch separate from Hasidic for a variety of important reasons.

But then, you have the level of adherence to the cultural norms and standards. That’s the second distinction. It’s a two act multiaxial, because those things intersect. So somebody that’s a very, I’ll use the Israeli term, Haredi-lite, or the like, they’re going to have a different pattern than somebody that’s more Yeshiva Orthodox, or strictly identified and adhered.

David Bashevkin:
How strictly you adhere to the communal standards? Meaning, there’s the communal standards, but there’s a second axis which is, how strictly does the individual adhere to those communal standards?

Isaac Schechter:
And those are very important distinctions. You might, as a Yeshiva Orthodox person, would never in a million years send to a particular school or institution, but you’ll engage in some of the same behavior that would be looked down upon in that same institution.

David Bashevkin:
They might vacation in similar spots.

Isaac Schechter:
Exactly. Exactly. Right. So it gets complicated. So going back to the essential, I would say the following two things. One’s more structured in the Yeshiva Orthodox community. There is a stronger structure, because it’s coming from a place of more separation. And therefore, it has to be more structured. And now, it doesn’t mean eight dates, 12 dates, but it’s still a more structured system, whether that’s with or without shadchan. When you drop shadchan, et cetera. Then, in the Modern Orthodox, it’s more about relationship. It’s about building relationship, in a way that it might be a little bit less than Yeshiva Orthodox. People might jump on me on this and say, “No, you’re building relationship.” Yeah, it’s true. But if it’s more structured versus-

David Bashevkin:
More individualistic relationship, true.

Isaac Schechter:
Exactly. More individualistic versus more structural. One simple way is, we just read in these past parshas of two models of dating. There’s the Yitzchak and the Yaakov. Yitzchak, he takes her into his home, they get married and he loves her. As opposed to Yaakov, of tremendous passion, tremendous interest, however you understand it. He sees Rachel, he loves her, and he falls in love with her, however you work that out. And of the most romantic pasukim in the Torah. And it was just like a few days, a short time, because of his love for her. First you had the relationship, then you had the culmination in marriage. Obviously, a sneaky father-in-law messes things up along the way. But the point is, these are two different models.

David Bashevkin:
Yitzchak is more structured looking to replace.

Isaac Schechter:
Exactly.

David Bashevkin:
And Yaakov is much more driven by romantics. I’m not going to distill that idea as…

Isaac Schechter:
Yeah.

David Bashevkin:
I love that distinction.
Right.

Isaac Schechter:
I’ll get us both in trouble if we call Yitzchak Yeshivish, and Yaakov Modern Orthodox. But we’re not saying that.

David Bashevkin:
Don’t say that. Don’t say that.

Isaac Schechter:
But they are two different models.

David Bashevkin:
Right.

Isaac Schechter:
Two different models of relationship that is really, really important. And it’s much more subtle than Hasidic versus non-Hasidic distinctions.
Yeah. And I’ll just say, because Yitzchak represents maintaining tradition and the structure, and that’s a value. By the way, just to parallel that, Yitzchak gets married earlier, like our data, in other words, a more traditional structured way, traditional at age 40. And Yaakov gets married at age 84, as Rashi calculates.

David Bashevkin:
Wow.

Isaac Schechter:
Again, because he’s going out, and it’s something to think about.

David Bashevkin:
Yeah.

Isaac Schechter:
It’s not literal, we’re saying, but it’s a frame to consider these things in, and now you see these two different models.

David Bashevkin:
That works out. I cannot thank you enough. This is exactly what I was looking for. Illuminating. And I just want to just say, it’s so important that we have people working on providing a data lens. Specifically on the issue of dating, because it’s really a prism through which to see and confront so many other communal structural issues that we have in our community. It’s so much more than dating. It’s really about how we structure and develop the processes in our community.

Isaac Schechter:
I’ve very often pointed out that dating, shidduchim, is the central organizing principle of the community, in very pragmatic ways. How you date, who you date, who you come to be able to date, it’s how it all comes together. It represents the social system and the values. I’ll just say, the work was done by some phenomenal people. We had a great group. It came out of ARCC, Institute for Applied Research and Community Collaboration. I started in a great group, Dr. Yosef Sokol and Dr. Naomi Rosenbach, on the leads of those. So it’s good stuff, and it’s a good harbinger for how we’re taking complicated issues forward, and it’s great to see that there’s great interest in it. And again, this is the beginning of the conversation giving of the methodology to tackle complex issues with data.

David Bashevkin:
Thank you so much. And we will link to those articles on the website, God willing. Thank you again.

My next stop on the journey of different dating systems, was with somebody who I know for a very long time. Somebody who I’ve sat on panels about dating, even just this past week when I’m recording this. And that is Dr. Efrat Sobolofsky.
She was very involved in my own dating life, didn’t set me up all that frequently. I wasn’t really on YUConnects all that much. Though, I do remember the morning that after I got engaged. I got engaged on my birthday, which is February 15th. Feel free to send me your birthday gifts. But I remember the morning after I got engaged was like the first time, I got 20 suggestions from YUConnects. I don’t know if there was a glitch in the system, or for some reason, what attracts and excites people the most is knowing that you are actually able to get engaged. So my stock value skyrocketed the morning after I got engaged, and was no longer obviously, looking for other people to get engaged to.

But I remember waking up to like 20 suggestions from YUConnects. But I spoke to Efrat Sobolofsky about dating within the Modern Orthodox community. Particularly, the community that’s adjacent to Yeshiva University and Stern College. It is a world that, whether or not you actually attended those institutions, has outsized weight in the journey of dating. And she was incredibly informative about some of the cultural processes, idiosyncrasies, and the way that we approach dating in the larger, when I say Yeshiva University, I don’t mean students of Yeshiva University, but people who are in the orbit of that cultural universe that YU represents.

Here is our conversation with Dr. Efrat Sobolofsky.

It is my pleasure to introduce someone who looks nervous like she’s on a shidduch date. My goodness. I am so excited to introduce somebody who played a really crucial role in my own dating life. She runs, what’s the proper title? She is the founder?

Efrat Sobolofsky:
One of the founders.

David Bashevkin:
One of the founders, and the president. President?

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Director.

David Bashevkin:
Director. I’m already messing up. Of the dating system known as YUConnects. It is my pleasure to introduce Rebbetzin, Doctor Efrat Sobolofsky.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Thank you. Thank you for having me.

David Bashevkin:
I’m really excited to have this conversation with you, because I’m really trying to understand the different systems of dating. Because we talk about Jewish dating, and people use the word shidduchim a lot, and it refers to a whole lot of different systems. And you run something called YUConnects. When was YUConnects founded?

Efrat Sobolofsky:
It was founded in about 2007, 15 years ago, I should say. When President Joel and Rabbi Brander were on the YU campus, and they felt that there was a need to help the single men and single women, on campus and off campus, as they became alumni, to meet in healthy and appropriate ways. So there was a few of us who lived on campus actually, who wrote a proposal and presented to the president’s office, asking if we can start a matchmaking program on campus. After a few meetings back and forth, the agreement was that we could, but the mandate that the president’s office correctly wanted, since we are part of a university, would be that whatever we did through YUConnects needs to have an educational component. It’s not just about shidduchim.

David Bashevkin:
It’s not just matchmaking,

Efrat Sobolofsky:
It shouldn’t be just matchmaking. Everything needs to be grounded. Really, is this a healthy way to meet? Is this a healthy way to date? Is this a healthy way to be engaged? What could we do to infuse healthy relationship building skills throughout anything and everything we do? So using that light in our minds all the time, we always, no matter what we do, we try very hard to infuse any event, any curriculum, anything really, with that mindset of, is this a healthy way for people to date?

David Bashevkin:
Healthy and appropriate. Both of which I love. Though, I have questions that I’m sure we’ll get to on the contours, what it means appropriate. Which is always so, so tricky. So I really want you to take me through how the YUConnects system works. And I guess, I want to begin with a comment that I heard from somebody in Stern. I spent the Shabbos in Stern, which is YU’s college for women. We have two campuses. There’s a campus uptown, and there’s a campus in Midtown. And I spent Shabbos at the Midtown campus, and a very intelligent, wonderful young woman was frustrated. She said, “We are stuck in between two worlds.” On the one hand, you have people who are maybe part of a different community, not the YU community, they’re more, I don’t know, more modern, more progressive, whatever it is. And they get to just meet each other.

They just meet each other, they have apps or whatever it is. They just meet in the regular old-fashioned way. It’s not such an emphasis on healthy and appropriate. And then, people in the yeshiva world, and in the Hasidic world, they get like, it’s very top down, to make sure that they get set up. That everybody is getting mentioned to somebody else. What we say in Yiddish, getting s. And she was like, “I feel like we get lost in the middle. We get stuck.” And I guess, the first step, and maybe the answer to that, is why you connect in some ways. Why you connect, just before you take me through the process, is it just, you have to be a YU graduate-

Efrat Sobolofsky:
No.

David Bashevkin:
… to be on YUConnects?

Efrat Sobolofsky:
No. I mean, it started that way at the beginning. But then we, of course, realized early on, that not everybody from YU marries someone in Stern. We had people signing up from Columbia. We have people signing up from Baltimore, different campuses. So it’s not only for people who went through the YU system, but I would say that, we generally focus, and we’re better with, people who have the YU type of mindset, whatever that is.

David Bashevkin:
We’ll have to dig into that. What that-

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Which is a big tent.

David Bashevkin:
Yeah.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Which is a very large group, and it can range from one side to the other. But I would say, that would be our niche. That’s who we’re best with.

David Bashevkin:
Yeah, that’s your core demographic.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Yeah.

David Bashevkin:
And just ballpark number, do you have any idea how many resumes, or how many profiles you have on the site at any given time? It obviously, fluctuates.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Right. So it fluctuates. So I would say write this minute, before I came, we have 3,575 profiles.

David Bashevkin:
That’s not a small number.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
No, it’s not a small number. Over the course of time, we’ve had close to 12,000 profiles.

David Bashevkin:
Wow.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
So obviously, many of them got married or moved on.

David Bashevkin:
And how many actual shidduchim have you made? How many matches?

Efrat Sobolofsky:
The program. So I would say, the program in totality, through the website and through all of its events and activities, we made 573 shidduchim.

David Bashevkin:
Wow.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Today was our 573rd engagement, which is amazing.

David Bashevkin:
Wow. Mazel tov.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
And on an average week, over time at the beginning, we just had a few dates every week. But I would say, that on an average week, we have about 280 couples dating, through the website and not through the website.

David Bashevkin:
So you have to take me through, let’s start at the beginning.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Okay.

David Bashevkin:
I come to you. I am, as I was once upon a time, an eligible single person. When I came to YU, I was in my 20s. I probably could have gotten a profile when I was in Ner Yisroel. I didn’t. A stigma that we will probably talk about. And I come to you and say, “I want to join YUConnects.” What is that process?”

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Since it started through the database of SawYouAtSinai, meaning when YUConnect started, SawYouAtSinai, which was the largest online system with matchmakers, facilitating the matches… SawYouAtSinai came to the president’s office, at the time when we started YUConnects, and offered to host our own portal.

David Bashevkin:
Your own mini community.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Correct. Excellent. Right.

David Bashevkin:
SawYouAtSinai.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Our own mini community called YUConnects within the SawYouAtSinai database. The milo, or the benefit of that at the time, and still to this day, is that, we have our own brand, but you can be matched up with me.

David Bashevkin:
Even somebody outside of your system.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Right. You could be matched up with someone who signs up through a different port on the SawYouAtSinai system. So they could be coming through JMontreal, or they could be coming from the brand called SeeYouInIsrael. Or they could be coming from a program in Australia. Or they could be coming from JLIC Connections. So it’s a wonderful, wonderful site to see the cross pollination.

David Bashevkin:
All the things you mentioned are different, like entry points-

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Correct.

David Bashevkin:
… to the same, basically the profile system.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Right.

David Bashevkin:
And do you have any idea, when somebody makes a profile, what questions are they asking? Are they asking for a picture?

Efrat Sobolofsky:
We didn’t create the SawYouAtSinai profile system.

David Bashevkin:
So if any frustrations, you are not the person to send angry emails to.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
No. I mean, I get a lot of angry emails, but I’m not the person-

David Bashevkin:
I’d love to read some of those.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
… responsible for the angry emails. Because the SawYouAtSinai system started really before us, and it has a very sophisticated algorithm, which is trying to match people up, based on different check boxes, or boxes I should say, different points that they are matching up.

David Bashevkin:
That’s what I want to hear about. What is the input information that you are getting that allows that? I remember myself, the whole system, it’s very frustrating, because everybody wants somebody who’s out of the box but in the box. But everybody has the same descriptors. You want somebody who’s frum but not too frum. Everybody’s in the same Goldilocks descriptors.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Right.

David Bashevkin:
You don’t want to get locked into anything.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Right.

David Bashevkin:
So I’m curious. I like very objective questions. Shomer Shabbos, kosher kitchen. The deeper you get into the specifics of hashkafa, I think the trickier it gets.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Correct.

David Bashevkin:
Like around beliefs, or whatever it is. So I’m curious, what are the questions that the website uses? Do you have a picture? You have basic information about-

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Basic demographics, your age, how tall you are.

David Bashevkin:
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Where you’re from, where you grew up, what shul you grew up in, what your parents’ names are, and that.

David Bashevkin:
What are the stand-ins for the religious questions?

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Okay, again. So I didn’t make them up, and we use them just because they are matching up with close to 35,000 other people.

David Bashevkin:
Sure.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
So when people say, “Why don’t you get rid of that field, and that field?” We’ve tried that at the beginning, but then again, it messes up the algorithm. So there are some times-

David Bashevkin:
Okay. I’m curious to hear what field is most popularly requested to get rid of?

Efrat Sobolofsky:
People don’t love, do you watch TV? Do you not watch TV?

David Bashevkin:
They don’t like that. Can I just say, as somebody who watches TV, I have no problem with the question. I think there’s something, it’s almost like, you’re going to hate this analogy. It’s almost like people who smoke never like crossing off the, I actually smoke. It’s like, I don’t smoke, every yeshiva. The yeshiva guy is like-

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Not really.

David Bashevkin:
… “I smoke on Rosh Hashanah, on erev Shabbos, on Wednesdays.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Right.

David Bashevkin:
“Also Wednesday night. But I’m not a smoker.”

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Right.

David Bashevkin:
So there is this stigma, but I think this has changed of like, I don’t want to check off I’m not a TV watcher.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Right.

David Bashevkin:
I watch on Motzei Shabbos. I watch then.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Right. And it’s gotten more complicated now with TV-

David Bashevkin:
With film.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
… because people will say, “I don’t have a TV, but I could watch Netflix, I could watch on the computer. Does that mean I have a TV?”

David Bashevkin:
And it also comes off, that as a question, as a stand, it’ll probably skew a little more frummy.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Correct.

David Bashevkin:
Like a little more…. You know what I mean? Like that culture.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
So some people don’t like those questions.

David Bashevkin:
Okay.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Or covering your hair partially, halfway, all. They get more specific.

David Bashevkin:
Oh, you give a bunch of choices.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Again, when you say you-

David Bashevkin:
Again.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
… the system is.

David Bashevkin:
We’re not blaming you.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Yes. The system gives a lot of choices.

David Bashevkin:
So you do ask about what you plan on doing.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
How often do you learn?

David Bashevkin:
How often do learn.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
That’s one of the questions. Do you go to minyan, do you eat dairy out?

David Bashevkin:
Okay.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Do you eat kosher? Those kinds of questions.

David Bashevkin:
It happens to be, I like objective questions. Meaning, do you or do you not?

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Right.

David Bashevkin:
Where I bristle, where I find it frustrating, is when on the resume, they try to capture things that are uncapturable.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Right.

David Bashevkin:
Like your disposition, your personality, your outlook on life. That includes religiosity. Your, I don’t know, how much you love Eretz Yisroel, all these things, they’re much harder. I like a question, do you plan on making aliyah?

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Right.

David Bashevkin:
Yes. Do you ask that question?

Efrat Sobolofsky:
There is that question. Yeah. Maybe, definitely, definitely not. They give you those options.

David Bashevkin:
Okay, so you fill out all these things. Do you have a favorite and least favorite question in the profile?

Efrat Sobolofsky:
I don’t have a least favorite or most favorite, but I like what you’re alluding to. In addition to all these check boxes, there’s two places at the bottom of the profile, that one can describe themselves. So those three lines of, describe your own personality and describe whatever you can about yourself. And then there’s another descriptive-

David Bashevkin:
You do like that.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Yeah. Because that’s what distinguishes the person, from the other person who just checks everything off. Meaning, that’s-

David Bashevkin:
So funny-

Efrat Sobolofsky:
… where you said-

David Bashevkin:
… that’s my least favorite box.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
I know. But that’s like you said, that’s where you could kind of get the person to be alive. Who is this person? She could say, I’m making this up.

David Bashevkin:
I think that’s what the date is.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Right. But the data doesn’t say I hike here-

David Bashevkin:
No, no, the date.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
… or I hike there.

David Bashevkin:
The actual date.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Right, right, right, right. So yes, the date, you’re right.

David Bashevkin:
To me, it’s just like, let’s make sure there’s nothing irreconcilable. That’s always my hush. Let’s make sure there is no irreconcilable differences. We both keep kosher. I’m looking for someone who’s covering the hair. You’re going to cover hair. I’m looking for someone who’s not going to cover the hair, or partially, or whatever. I only watch, on my phone, television on Wednesdays. That’s it.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Right.

David Bashevkin:
And if it’s on Tuesday or on a Monday-

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Then, no.

David Bashevkin:
… then a hard no. No way.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Hard no. Right.

David Bashevkin:
No way. I like that. But then when it’s describing yourself, how would I have described myself?

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Right. So but think of it the other way, David. Because so many people can sign up and really check off the same boxes, the only way to distinguish yourself is in those three lines, of writing something unique about yourself, that’s not being asked. And then the same thing, writing something unique about the person you would like to date. I get along most with people, I’m making this up, people who like to read. I’m very adventurous. I like going on hikes. That’s not what makes us have a compatibility. But somehow, sometimes, that’s what gets the other person to say yes. Because they wrote, I like sports, I love watching basketball.

David Bashevkin:
But my concern is, because I think I personally suffered from this, is that, your friends who you’re most close with, and the part of you who is friends with those people, is not always the part of you that needs to get married. So my friends, you know who all my friends were, were the kind of very much faster, maybe skewed a little bit more academic, brainy, all these people. And God forbid, my wife is the smartest person in the world, in case she listens to this, and I love her to death, and she’s absolutely wonderful. But the part of me that needed to get married was not that part. And I would get set up with women who were getting a PhD, or this and that, and call a kol hakavod and those people could also be wonderful. But the thing I was looking for most was a personality trait.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Mm-hmm.

David Bashevkin:
And people wouldn’t believe me. I think, including you.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Really?

David Bashevkin:
I don’t remember if you believed me. Do you remember what I was looking for?

Efrat Sobolofsky:
No.

David Bashevkin:
Yes.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Remind me. I remember the drive home once that you were telling me.

David Bashevkin:
I used to describe what I was looking for. I said, “I want a tsunami of sweetness.”

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Oh.

David Bashevkin:
I just want sweet.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
That’s so nice.

David Bashevkin:
Sweet, sweet, sweet.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
And you got it.

David Bashevkin:
Thank God. Thank God.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
See that?

David Bashevkin:
And people wouldn’t believe me. They said, “Well, oh, it’s because of this. You just want somebody who’s a yes person.” My wife is not a yes person.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Right. I have a question for you then.

David Bashevkin:
Please.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Because this is something we struggle with. When you say, let’s say you wanted a tsunami of sweetness, did you find… My own kids are dating?

David Bashevkin:
Yeah.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
That everybody who described her to you described her that way?

David Bashevkin:
Well.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Because we find that sometimes different people-

David Bashevkin:
But here’s the thing.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
… describe different things.

David Bashevkin:
I came at a point in my life, where I don’t know if it was a conscious realization, but at a certain point of my life I realized, I don’t think I’m going to be able to meet my wife through any of these systems.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Mm-hmm.

David Bashevkin:
I need to meet them naturally.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Yourself.

David Bashevkin:
Yeah.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
But not rely on what people are saying.

David Bashevkin:
Correct.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Right.

David Bashevkin:
I was so stuck in descriptions.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Right.

David Bashevkin:
And I would find reasons to say no, and I was so hesitant. And the synthetic environment of the date that is produced from these incredible, incredible efforts, like yours, like all these systems. But the synthetic meetup, that date, was really challenging for me.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Right. I understand.

David Bashevkin:
Yeah. I needed that live banter to really connect to somebody. It was really hard for me, at a certain point, to be set up. Because I was almost, I was very good at dating. I was like-

Efrat Sobolofsky:
I can imagine.

David Bashevkin:
No, in a way, I was too good. I would just put on a persona.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Right.

David Bashevkin:
And I was able-

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Your dating persona.

David Bashevkin:
Yeah.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Right.

David Bashevkin:
And it wasn’t me at all. So coming back, so you fill out this profile.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Yeah.

David Bashevkin:
We have these questions.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Right. And then you have those two blurbs that you could write again about, anything about yourself, and also the type of person you’d be dating.

David Bashevkin:
Just give me a moment now, on those blurbs. Do you see common mistakes that people make-

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Yes. Sometimes.

David Bashevkin:
… when crafting those blurbs? What are they?

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Yes. Sometimes, people have typos, which sounds silly, but it happens often.

David Bashevkin:
Okay.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
And the other thing is, sometimes people put themselves down. They’ll say things like, “I’m really not good at this.” Or, “I’m really shy and reserved.” And even if they are shy and reserved.

David Bashevkin:
I’ve been rejected from prestigious fellowships and awards.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Yeah. When you put yourself down, it’s not supposed to be arrogant in any which way. But you need to distinguish yourself in a confident manner. And when we find that, when people are really struggling to write the blurbs properly, one of the tips that we give, advise, and maybe you wouldn’t even like it, you just described it, is what would a friend say about you? A good friend. A friend that you really trust. How would they describe you?

David Bashevkin:
Almost to have your friend write it. We did that for our yearbook bios.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Yeah, right. How would they describe you?

David Bashevkin:
Friends write our bios.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Exactly. What would be the compliments that they would give? If they were describing your personality, what would they say? So don’t write all the things people don’t like about you.

David Bashevkin:
Yeah. I have two friends who are still dating. I have more than that who are dating. But these two friends who are dating, I’m on their shidduch resume, as we call it. I always use the same adjectives to describe them. They’re loyal.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Nice. I like that.

David Bashevkin:
That’s always a word, loyalty.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
That’s a nice-

David Bashevkin:
… is a word that has always moved me. But I find the calls with parents, that maybe we’ll get to in a moment, are absolutely excruciating.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
For real.

David Bashevkin:
Somebody needs to step in and talk to these. Particularly-

Efrat Sobolofsky:
I’m laughing because we deal with it every day. Okay.

David Bashevkin:
No, particularly when you’re not in the… The shidduch world moves and evolves for different ages. When your precious, 20 year, 21-year-old daughter, or 22, 23-year-old son, is starting to date, the mothers, they’re so particular. They want everything to be exactly perfect, and they’re asking all these questions. And I find that like, okay, it’s 10 years later, you got to update your questions to be more realistic about what somebody’s doing when they’re 31, 29, 45, whatever age it is. And they don’t do that. They’re still asking questions as if-

Efrat Sobolofsky:
They’re still in seminary.

David Bashevkin:
They’re still in seminary, still in yeshiva.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Yeah.

David Bashevkin:
They’re early 20s. And it’s like you have to let these people evolve. And I’m very often able, the mothers, I’ve had mother hang up the phone on me. No. Because I’m tough with them, when they’re asking me about one of my friends, who’s 37, and asking me what his relationship with his rabbi is like. I’m like, “He’s a good decent boy. He goes to shul on Shabbos, whatever.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Wow.

David Bashevkin:
A little rachmones.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Right.

David Bashevkin:
I mean who’s like-

Efrat Sobolofsky:
He’s not 20.

David Bashevkin:
No he’s not. Correct.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Hopefully, he has different rabbi by now.

David Bashevkin:
Correct. So help me out now, to the next stage. You now have all of these profiles. Now it’s deliberate, I assume, that you are not able, a single person is not able to browse profiles on their own. Correct?

Efrat Sobolofsky:
So on this system, on SawYouAtSinai’s platform, it’s not that, like you said, the singles themselves cannot browse through the profiles. The way it was started a long, long time ago, before YUConnects, as I said, was through matchmaking facilitators, shadchanim who are supposed to use the algorithms.

David Bashevkin:
Yeah.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Match up people based on some of the algorithms, and not just the algorithms. Then they’re supposed to read it more carefully when they have choices of who could be matched up.

David Bashevkin:
Do you regret that choice, that you can’t… Do you get requests for people who are just like, “I just want to be able to look at like-

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Yes. We do get those requests. We 100% get those requests. I would say, every so often, we get those requests. Where, “Can I just look through the profiles myself, and I’ll tell you who’s good for me?” Unfortunately, with this system, we answer them, that there’s other apps for that. The SawYou system does not have that ability.

David Bashevkin:
Yeah.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
But I do think it’s a good feature, because sometimes people do say, “You know what? I know who I could be matched up.” I’ll tell you a cute story. We just had a recent engagement, where a young man was suggested a young girl, and he was showing his friend on his phone the matches that were coming for him. You understand?

David Bashevkin:
Exactly.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
So let’s say, it was Yosef was showing David, next to him, all the matches that he got on his phone.

David Bashevkin:
Which was probably against the rules, officially.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Yeah. It’s probably against the rules.

David Bashevkin:
Okay.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
But it’s such a nice story. So Yosef showed David all the matches on his phone. And David said, “Oh that one’s not for you. That’s for me. That girl looks like she’d be good for me.” So Yosef sent the matchmaker a message that, could you please send it to my friend David? And they’re engaged.

David Bashevkin:
Really.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
So really, it wasn’t the matchmaker who made the match.

David Bashevkin:
That’s beautiful.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
But it was these two friends, sitting next to each other.

David Bashevkin:
Did you open up an inquiry about somebody sharing?

Efrat Sobolofsky:
I didn’t. I think I’m so excited. I’m happy that they’re getting married soon. This system goes through matchmakers, this system goes through volunteer matchmakers, and these women and men are spending hours of time.

David Bashevkin:
So tell me what they’re looking for. You keep on using the word algorithm. I don’t know how the Netflix algorithm works, but they’re always suggesting me shows. Again, I only watch on Wednesdays, of course.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Right.

David Bashevkin:
But I’m just curious. You sit together, you have these sheets of paper with different pictures, and what are you looking for to make a match?

Efrat Sobolofsky:
When the matchmaker takes a point person, the first person that they are trying to make the match for, they click a button. Let’s say, it’s David, and they say, “We have David. David is my member. David is the person that I’m responsible to try to find matches for.” So you take David’s profile, all the check boxes that he filled in, and you press go. And then it will put, side by side, a bunch of match ideas on the side, to see which ones you think are most suitable for David. Now it could be a bunch, and the matchmaker’s supposed to go through it and see the match criteria. It’s very cool, because it goes side by side.

David Bashevkin:
It’s like a split screen.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Split screen. And it shows you, like he said, he wants full covering, she writes partial covering, but the rest match up. And in different colors, it shows you what doesn’t exactly match up. It’s like a blood-test machine like you see, this is a little off.

David Bashevkin:
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Right. But the good part about it is, because sometimes it’s not identical. Sometimes-

But the good part about it is because sometimes it’s not identical. Sometimes, Rose matched up.

David Bashevkin:
Doesn’t need to be perfect.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Rose-

David Bashevkin:
Or the majority.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
… matched. The majority matched up in these different criterias, but here’s like a little bit of deviation. Is that something the person will be able to handle? Like you said, they watch TV, they don’t watch TV.

David Bashevkin:
They watch on Tuesdays.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
She’s flexible about aliyah. This guy’s a definite aliyah. Should they still meet? And hopefully the answer is yes because this way if we can encourage them to go on a date, maybe they’ll work out the rest of it. And again, sometimes people check these boxes off. Sometimes they do it by mistake, they do it too quickly. So-

David Bashevkin:
Are you able to edit after your initial check?

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Yes. Always. You could always edit.

David Bashevkin:
Because I would’ve done a lot of edits.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
The members are always editing and we encourage them to update it. Like you changed jobs, you moved. We always encourage them to please keep it current. Before people had regular resumes that they’d hand you. I never made up the resume situation, but we’re seeing that there is nobody today who is dating that is not able to first give you the resume. From YU to Lakewood, everybody is giving you their resume.

David Bashevkin:
The question is whether or not there’s a picture.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Yeah, whether there’s a picture or not.

David Bashevkin:
Yeah.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Yeah. No, but I’m just saying now we have the feature of, once I realize that, forget about, in addition to the criteria that you’re filling in, you could upload your resume on the side.

David Bashevkin:
Gotcha.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
So that if someone just wants to see your resume, they don’t want to see all of that TV, no TV. They just want to see the facts.

David Bashevkin:
Yeah.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Like you said, the facts that don’t tell you much except that you went to DRS or went to TABC. You could see that. And then the pictures are there too.

David Bashevkin:
So I want to talk a little bit about adoption. Again, coming back to that comment that woman from Stern told me, being stuck in the middle.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Yeah.

David Bashevkin:
I want to talk about the stigmas about people having profiles, specifically on YUConnects. Because my impression is that not every student in YU signs up for this.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Right.

David Bashevkin:
That’s fair to say.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Yeah.

David Bashevkin:
And I’m curious, why do you think some people are hesitant to make a profile on YUConnects.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
I would extend it past YUConnects. I would go back to the comment that the Stern young woman said to you, because I feel like it’s such a correct comment. We’re in the middle between those people who take shidduchim very seriously, one may even say too seriously. Let’s say in the very Yeshivish world, it’s very set. They know what they’re doing. I’m not saying everybody gets married-

David Bashevkin:
And you work with them.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
I work with them all day long because my kids are in that system.

David Bashevkin:
I want to talk about that in a second.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Yeah. So I speak to those people all day. It’s a very organized system and there’s a lot in that system that I have such-

David Bashevkin:
Esteem.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
… respect for. Yeah, esteem and respect and whether we like it or we don’t, there is a system.

David Bashevkin:
A system.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Whereas like you said, on the opposite extreme where they just meet very casually, I wouldn’t call that a system, but that’s just what’s done. They meet in… Like you said, the people who are more-

David Bashevkin:
Parties, bars.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Whatever.

David Bashevkin:
Friendships.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Yeah, and even that, unfortunately, we’re getting so many requests from those types of people too.

David Bashevkin:
I agree.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Sadly, saying, “Yeah, it’s very open. We could meet anyone but tachlis I’m meeting no one.”

David Bashevkin:
Exactly. Yeah.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
We’re getting so much, so many requests from those communities, without naming them, where they’re meeting, they’re meeting, they’re meeting, but it’s not-

David Bashevkin:
Well to me, it’s not a community, it’s an age demographic.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Yeah. Whatever you want to describe it. Right.

David Bashevkin:
When you’re younger, I think when you first start dating, you’re hoping that some mutual, whether it’s a parent or a friend, knows exactly who you’re going to marry and it’s going to be chick-chock, one, two, three. And then you’re like, “Okay, that doesn’t work.” Then this knapsack’s a little heavier. “I need some help.” Then you do soft networking. Soft networking.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Right.

David Bashevkin:
That’s probably where you meet, not a formal shadchan, but you might meet somebody who’s knows a lot of women. You might go back and meet your teachers in seminary and make it clear. Or your teachers in yeshiva, like, “Do you know anybody?” Then I feel like past that point, that’s where, “Okay, I need actual systems, algorithms on my side.”

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Right.

David Bashevkin:
But I think a lot of people get burned out on that.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
They do. Because again, they’re tiptoeing into it.

David Bashevkin:
Yeah.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
The way you’re describing it, because again, if it’s in the very Yeshivish system, it’s normal to meet a shadchan. I’m not even saying this makes sense, but when you’re 19, 20, you come back from seminary, of course you’re going to meet shadchanim. These people do not feel low about themselves to meet a shadchanim it’s part of the system.

David Bashevkin:
It’s part of the system.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Whereas in ours, the conversations like you said, from, “Well, first we’re going to just talk to some people that we know.”

David Bashevkin:
Yeah.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
“I don’t really want to make a resume for you.”

David Bashevkin:
Yeah.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
“No, no, no. Can you just write the facts down?”

David Bashevkin:
Yeah.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
And it’s very informal and I understand it because they’re just kind of getting used to the whole system. The trouble is, there’s two troubles with it. The first trouble is that some of these parents or the singles themselves don’t realize that the real engrossed and involved and busy matchmakers are handling so many of those calls every day that they can’t keep it straight together. “I don’t have a resume. Could you just remember that I went here and I went there?”

David Bashevkin:
Yeah. Yeah.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
So that’s the first issue. And the second issue is that when it lasts for long, like you said, they’re not comfortable with it now, but then at a certain age, five years later, they’re still not comfortable with it and they still won’t send you their information and they still don’t want to share a picture and they still don’t want to send a blurb. You’re really stuck because you’re trying to help them and you can’t force it upon them.

David Bashevkin:
But they don’t want to work within the system.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
And I’m not judging them. I completely understand it because they get burned out. But when it’s the single or the parent that’s very upset with us, like you’re not helping them, but you don’t want to meet with us. So what do you want me to do?

David Bashevkin:
What is the most common frustration that you hear from either people who are dating or their families about YUConnects?

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Again, I don’t think it’s just why YUConnects, I think that the women are more forthcoming.

David Bashevkin:
Forthcoming. They’re more willing-

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Willing to say, “I’m ready to be set up. I’m interested in dating.” The men are, number one, dating a little bit later.

David Bashevkin:
Yeah.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
The ages has gone down recently, YU hasn’t had kids dating at 21. Now they all are.

David Bashevkin:
Yeah.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
So it’s gone down. But between the men coming a little bit later and the men getting a lot of ideas, even if they’re just doing nothing and they don’t have to be proactive. So there is a fear from the women’s perspective, from the parents, of just saying that, “How many good guys are out there?” So I would say that’s the bigger complaint and it’s not… You should know and I really say this not in defense, we’ve been studying it in the secular world, it’s not just a YUConnects issue, it’s all over, that the women are mature, accomplished, very educated, moving up quicker than they used to many, many years ago. I’m not saying that the men are not, but between the men having a lot of ideas-

David Bashevkin:
No, I-

Efrat Sobolofsky:
… and the men advancing a little bit later, it’s become a challenge.

David Bashevkin:
To get your life together-

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Right.

David Bashevkin:
… for me was really difficult.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Right.

David Bashevkin:
It was really… I still don’t feel like it’s fully together, but by most common metrics, it is.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Right.

David Bashevkin:
And it was really hard. I felt like dating in my early twenties was like when you go to bring in bags from the trunk in the grocery and you just fill up with too many bags and you’re going to drop something by the time you get-

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Inside.

David Bashevkin:
… to reach the door, certainly even when you lift up their hand, excruciating pain to just get the doorknob-

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Doorknob.

David Bashevkin:
… down.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Right.

David Bashevkin:
Something’s going to fall.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Something’s going to give, right.

David Bashevkin:
And I felt like that was me in my twenties trying to get my religious life in order, my professional life in order, my romantic life in order, like I was dropping-

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Dropping.

David Bashevkin:
… packages.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Right. And especially in our world, in the more Yeshivish world, the ones that are encouraged to learn for longer, they’re not expected to know what they’re doing. But in our world, I should say our world, in the more YU College educated world, people are expected to know a little bit more than, “I’m just going to learn and then I’m going to figure it out.” So that’s become a challenge in terms of the women feeling like, “Where are all the men? And if we don’t hurry up and meet quickly.”

So even if they’re not ready to date, sometimes there’s a feeling of, “I must meet quickly because I don’t want to miss the boat.” Whether they’re right, they’re wrong, these are just some sentiments that are being shared that we have to address and we have to make people feel like, “Don’t date stam because you think you need to just because you don’t want to miss the boat.” If they’re not ready, it’s also dangerous because then you have unhealthy relationships, broken engagements, young divorces. We have a lot of those challenges as well because there’s this panic.

David Bashevkin:
Just rush into it and then-

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Or just rush into meeting or figuring out, even though I don’t believe in a lot of parts of the system or I’m not really ready. So it’s a challenge. And going back to the Stern person’s expression is that is one of the challenges is because we don’t have a very set system. I feel like YUConnects tries to formalize any part that we can, but it’s not like a real hundred percent system like it is let’s say in Lakewood or in the Hasidic world.

David Bashevkin:
Correct.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
I know, again, I’m not saying that it should, but people, even parents who call us, they’ll say things like this. They’ll start off the conversation by, “I’m not sure if this is my role or not. Am I supposed to be calling you or should my son call you or should my daughter call you? Should I be meeting with you?”

David Bashevkin:
And you don’t hear that-

Efrat Sobolofsky:
No.

David Bashevkin:
And the yeshiva world knows exactly-

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Exactly.

David Bashevkin:
… what their-

Efrat Sobolofsky:
And again, I’m not saying they’re right.

David Bashevkin:
Yeah.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
I’m not saying they’re right. But let’s say my son meets a shadchan in Lakewood, they wouldn’t dare give him the idea. They only call us first and say, “We met your son yesterday and we have an idea for him.” Now again, maybe it would’ve been better for him to discuss it with him on the spot in the beis medrash but that would be going out of line.

David Bashevkin:
You’ve married off children already?

Efrat Sobolofsky:
One so far. Now I’m in the process of trying the second.

David Bashevkin:
And that child went through the Yeshiva system too?

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Yes.

David Bashevkin:
Did not have a YUConnects profile?

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Did not have a YUConnects profile. No.

David Bashevkin:
Were you heartbroken-

Efrat Sobolofsky:
No. No.

David Bashevkin:
… that they were not willing to participate on YUConnect?

Efrat Sobolofsky:
No, but I do want to say because you’re spending a lot of times on YUConnects, I want to say that the Yeshivish system, not exactly the BMG-Lakewood formal system, but the people who are more to the right, it’s called the Adopt a Shadchan world. Lisa Elefant runs it. They have even themselves started to put in a lot of the people, the singles that they are meeting in this SawYouAtSinai system and they’re calling it a different name called Adopt a Shadchan. And there’s cross pollination because they also… Why? They can’t keep up with the data. It’s not because they think people should be meeting online. It’s because everybody who is good at this is getting inundated and nobody could keep their facts straight. When we were younger, we didn’t have phones, we didn’t have WhatsApp.

David Bashevkin:
It was a smaller dating pool.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Smaller dating pool.

David Bashevkin:
But in a way, that made it easier.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
But also you couldn’t… I remember when I lived in Washington Heights and we all lived in Washington Heights, all the young kollel couples that now are rabbeim how did we make shidduchim? We would come home from work at 5:00. Some mother would call us and say, “Do you know anyone in the beis medrash?” Now just understand, anyone who people think knows anyone is being bombarded all day long with texts and WhatsApps.

David Bashevkin:
I’m shocked I don’t get bombarded more.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
You want me? I’ll send you half of it, David.

David Bashevkin:
No, it’s crazy-

Efrat Sobolofsky:
You won’t be able to manage.

David Bashevkin:
… because I am one of the few people who I teach in Midtown at the Stern campus and I teach Uptown.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Okay, so you’re opening yourself up, but then you’re going to have-

David Bashevkin:
I think I should for a great deal of money. But my class rosters, which the only person who’s ever made use of that, is my sisters when their kids were marrying, they’re like, “We need to see your class roster.”

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Right.

David Bashevkin:
And of course I said, “No, that’s against-”

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Conflict of interest.

David Bashevkin:
Exactly. And confidentiality.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Right.

David Bashevkin:
So I said absolutely not. I did not show any of my nieces my class roster. My niece did get married to somebody who was in my class and I didn’t make the shidduch.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Look at that. You could have made a lot of money.

David Bashevkin:
I was furious. I was furious.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Cash back.

David Bashevkin:
But I do think that that traditional deep knowledge of people, meaning there’s at a point where there’s only so many people you could know.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
But their expectation is that you know. People who are viewed as matchmakers will walk into a wedding and right away people will be like, “Oh, you’re here. I need to talk to you. I need to tell you.” And it’s kind of like my husband gets a shaila. Someone will be like, “Rabbi Sobolofsky, I just saw you. What are you supposed to do on Shabbas?” And unfortunately for me, he could spit back the answer in a second.

David Bashevkin:
Yeah.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
But people like us who are matchmakers, when we are caught somewhere in Glatt Express or at a wedding, “Here’s my daughter. Let me explain to you. Who do you have for her?” Like one minute.

David Bashevkin:
Well, one thing, one disadvantage, and I’ve mentioned this to you before, is that in the, let’s call it the YU dating world, you don’t have enough male matchmakers.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Right.

David Bashevkin:
In the Yeshiva world-

Efrat Sobolofsky:
You do.

David Bashevkin:
… there are a lot of male matchmakers.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Right.

David Bashevkin:
For some reason, I could think about the economic factors, a full-time person in the YU, whether it’s the beis medrash or the library, who sets up shop and just knows everybody who’s there-

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Right.

David Bashevkin:
… does not exist.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
I’m so glad you brought that up because that is something we’re actually right now working on with our donors because they’re recognizing the importance of it. I have to say that we have a few candidates that could do it part-time. And part of the reason is what you’re saying, number one economically, it’s not something like nobody grows up in the YU world, says “I’m going to be a professional shadchan.” Whereas in Lakewood, they groom these people and it’s fine. They are.

David Bashevkin:
Matchmakers is taken very seriously in the yeshiva world.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Correct.

David Bashevkin:
And that could be people who do it as a full-time job. And the Modern Orthodox world in general has such an unhealthy relationship with their professional-

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Matchmaker.

David Bashevkin:
No, with their professional identity. It’s in general. The Modern Orthodox world, we’re so elitist with the professions and the things that we do and the things that we go into. And I think to me, this is becoming the biggest issue with dating in the Modern Orthodox world is there’s such an emphasis on being able to earn a very serious living.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Correct.

David Bashevkin:
I know for myself, the fact that I wasn’t in a traditional job trajectory, absolutely it was the number one factor that made it harder to get set. People were nervous about it.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Right, and they still are. You should hear some of the comments we get when we’re describing wonderful men. “He’s only going for that? How’s he going to earn a living? What? Doing this?” I can’t even say the examples because these are prominent departments in YU and they’re just knocking them.

David Bashevkin:
Let’s talk a little bit about the educational component.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Yeah.

David Bashevkin:
Because that’s a big part of this.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Yes. Yes.

David Bashevkin:
And I want to hear what you offer and what you do. To me, there are two parties when it comes to dating. There are the actual people who are dating and I believe, their parents.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Yeah.

David Bashevkin:
I think both of them need deep education on how to manage this process. What do you offer in education when it comes to dating?

Efrat Sobolofsky:
We used to, and we still do, have a lot of educational platforms, forums on campus, out of campus, in different communities. Even next week, I’m speaking on the men’s campus. Mindy’s speaking on the women’s campus.

David Bashevkin:
I think we’re on a panel together.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Yes, we’re on a panel together.

David Bashevkin:
We have the most fun when-

Efrat Sobolofsky:
So it’s exciting.

David Bashevkin:
… we’re on a panel together.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Us and Rabbi Newberger for lunchtime.

David Bashevkin:
That’s a repeat. Us three were on a panel together-

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Yeah, so that’s exciting.

David Bashevkin:
Yes.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
And then there’s a rebbetzin conference that we’re going to speak at. So we do a lot of in-person educational panels. But since COVID and since the whole creation of podcasts like 18Forty, we have learned that many people are enjoying listening to education and entertainment online through whatever they’re listening.

David Bashevkin:
What’s the name of your podcast?

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Ours is called CandiDate.

David Bashevkin:
Cute.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Like to be candid conversations about dating and marriage. And so far we released already 40 episodes.

David Bashevkin:
Wow. Who hosts that?

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Yeah. Different faculty members on campus who were great hosts. They did it for the first two years. Now we’re transitioning to other hosts. People who are going for their social work degrees, who are doing an internship for YUConnects, makes it a great partnership for them to interview and delve into what are healthy relationships with different experts in the field.

David Bashevkin:
Do you know what your most popular episode was?

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Yours was excellent. About what is bashert,

David Bashevkin:
Check that out. We could link to that.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Please. Please.

David Bashevkin:
No spoilers. Well, minor spoiler. I don’t believe in bashert.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Yeah, I know. So it spoke about that. That was an excellent one. The other one which was very popular, which we touched upon in our conversation about the dating profiles, but it’s a whole separate conversation, is about the use of labels where different hashkafic labels mean different things to different people.

David Bashevkin:
I hate the hashkafic labels.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
They’re awful. We used to only have-

David Bashevkin:
You have the labels.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
We had them. I once showed-

David Bashevkin:
Because it’s the SawYouAtSinai. You have Modern Orthodox, Machmir

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Machmir, Liberal, Traditional.

David Bashevkin:
Traditional

Efrat Sobolofsky:
There’s so many. There’s so many.

David Bashevkin:
I just know my least favorite by a mile, it’s the most stressful demographic in Judaism-

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Is?

David Bashevkin:
Modern Orthodox Machmir.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
We don’t even know what it means.

David Bashevkin:
They’re the worst. No. They take the stringencies of every community.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Right.

David Bashevkin:
I need to take Advil when I meet the Modern Orthodox Machmir crowd.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
It’s so confusing.

David Bashevkin:
Oh Lordy.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
The challenge is that the operational definition… The real challenge is that the operational definition of each one of these labels means something completely different to two different people.

David Bashevkin:
Yes. That is why I like objective measures.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Right.

David Bashevkin:
I think about dating, I hate to say it like an economist. I’ve mentioned this before. There’s a theory called information asymmetries and signaling where two parties don’t have the same amount of information about one another. How do they signal to one another that they in fact are of the value that they hope they are worth, so to speak.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
No, but ask people, is he Modern Orthodox Machmir? Like you said, this is a new term which I really don’t like. Is he a flip-out? Does he carry himself like a flip-out? Is he Yeshivish? Is she Yeshivish? You have to hear how they define so differently.

David Bashevkin:
I want you to know, I tell my students, I love them. There are always people who are trying to be Yeshivish.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Right.

David Bashevkin:
My classes in YU, I was like, I said, “Bubbale, I love all of you. None of you-

Efrat Sobolofsky:
No clue.

David Bashevkin:
“None of you are Yeshivish.”

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Right. That’s what’s funny because my son-

David Bashevkin:
Here’s the bad news.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
… in Lakewood says to me, “Ma, they have no clue-”

David Bashevkin:
no, no.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
… to what Yeshivish means.

David Bashevkin:
I love them. I know you’re wearing a hat and jacket to my public policy class, but Bubbale, you’re not fooling anybody.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
The funniest part is that when we have these conversations in the house, and my kids will say to my husband, “Are you Yeshivish?” And he always says, “What happened to just plain Torah mitzvos?” That’s my label.

David Bashevkin:
But that doesn’t work either.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Doesn’t work either.

David Bashevkin:
Labels are necessary, labels are necessary.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Right. But they’re confusing.

David Bashevkin:
They are very confusing.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Very confusing.

David Bashevkin:
I like objective measures. I like, “Do you watch television, aliyah, hair covering, kosher?” We need some metrics, some what I call like a currency.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Right.

David Bashevkin:
Where it represents value, so you don’t have to unpack… Institutions you’re affiliated with. So what advice would you give people who are in this world, whatever age they are? They’re trying, they’re doing their very best. Do you ever tell people, “Maybe try other systems of dating?”

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Mm-hmm. I mean, I tell people that they should try everything in today’s world. If they’re really looking to get married and they’re really at that stage where they feel like, “Okay, it’s time. I really want to meet someone,” they should try everything. They should definitely try the YUConnects database online system. However, it’s not the only system. So we also meet with people on Zoom who don’t want to sign up on the online system. And we have shadchanim who every single week meet with dozens of women and men-

David Bashevkin:
Wow.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
… online, 15 minutes, a Zoom meeting, just to meet them and get a feeling, feeling for them if they don’t want to sign up. If they do want to sign up, of course, it makes it easier for us to match them up and also keep track of who’s dating who. But if they just want to meet matchmakers on a Zoom, that’s also something they should do. There is many, many different apps.

David Bashevkin:
And what about parents?

Efrat Sobolofsky:
What should parents do?

David Bashevkin:
Education for parents. Parents are so clueless and-

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Trying their best.

David Bashevkin:
They’re trying their best. I call them clueless. You said they’re trying their best.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
No, we’re all trying.

David Bashevkin:
Everybody’s trying their best.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
We’re all trying our best.

David Bashevkin:
Some people are trying too hard.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Too hard, right. So when we try too hard, even now myself, when I have a child dating, I sometimes ask myself, “Am I trying too hard? Am I not trying enough?” And it’s something that we have to ask ourselves all the time. When we’re too aggressive and too assertive and it’s too much and it makes the person dating feel completely burnt out and vulnerable.

David Bashevkin:
And they feel the anxiety. They soak it up.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Yeah, it doesn’t make them feel good. At the same time, if we just sit back and do nothing, they might not like that either. So it needs that balance of networking on behalf of adult child in the way that the adult child is most comfortable with, as opposed to not. And then after that, networking with family, with friends. It doesn’t just have to be through shadchanim. A lot of times, we could talk amongst ourselves and say, “How about his daughter? Or how about his son?” It doesn’t just have to be through shadchanim There’s a lot of different resources within our community. And I also think that everybody could do something. It’s not just these formal matchmakers-

David Bashevkin:
Absolutely.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
… paid or unpaid. I think if everyone just had it in their own mind that, “Oh my goodness, I just saw him in shul. Who do I know for him?” It could be that that’s the person who strikes the gold.

David Bashevkin:
My final question is really about you. How did you meet your husband and what do you think gave you strength during that period in your life?

Efrat Sobolofsky:
That’s a great question. I dated for six years before I met my husband.

David Bashevkin:
Okay.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
My husband also was close to 30 when we met.

David Bashevkin:
Okay.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
So I feel like we’ve had enough dating history, each of us on our own level.

David Bashevkin:
Yeah.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
The way we met is somebody who literally met me for one minute. One minute I was in Wurzweiler. I came for the summer to do internship for social work. And I was staying at someone’s house who was kind enough to host me for the summer, someone from LA who lived in Passaic, and she hosted me for the summer so that I could do Wurzweiler and go every day to YU. I came downstairs one day and she told me, “Just meet my Aunt Sandy. Meet my Aunt Sandy from Riverdale.” And she said to her, “Aunt Sandy, this girl needs the frummest boy you know.” Because she was from Riverdale and she saw me. She didn’t know who she know-

David Bashevkin:
Yeah.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
And she’s like, “The frummest boy I know who’s still single in Riverdale is Zvi Sobolofsky.” So she said, “Okay, let me try that.” And that was it. Two seconds I met her and that’s what she said, “The frummest boy that she knows.” Again whether he was the frummest boy, I was the frummest girl, who only knows? I don’t think we are.

David Bashevkin:
I think you are.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Thank you. But that’s why I always say, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the person who sets you up has to know you so, so, so so well. Focus more on the idea as opposed to the messenger. Don’t focus so much on who’s giving the suggestion. Sometimes people don’t take suggestions because they’re like, “That person doesn’t even know me. Who is that person?”

David Bashevkin:
Yeah.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
I always say, “Forget about that. Who’s the suggestion?” So with Zvi Sobolofsky, that suggestion, the next day I went back to Wurzweiler and I asked one of the kollel couples walking with a stroller, “Did you ever hear of Zvi Sobolofky?” And they’re like, “Oh yeah, he’s a great boy. He’s across the street. He is a talmid chacham. Does someone want to set you up with him?” I said, “Yeah.” “Say yes.” That’s what she said to me. “Just say yes. Just try it.”

David Bashevkin:
You didn’t even ask if he watches television.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
I didn’t ask if he watches television. I didn’t even know. He probably… He used to know a lot of Gilligan’s Island, but he doesn’t do that anymore.

David Bashevkin:
You heard it here first.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
Yeah. I didn’t ask any of those questions. I didn’t know anything. But the rest was history. And then we went out and baruch Hashem.

David Bashevkin:
What gave you strength during that period in your life?

Efrat Sobolofsky:
What gave me strength? I was busy. I was in school, I was working. Kept myself busy with other parts of my life and I just kept at it and I kept looking for more opportunities. After I finished college, I said, “You know what? I’m going to go back to Israel for a year.” I was already 23.

David Bashevkin:
Wow.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
“I’m going to try again. Maybe I’ll meet people in Israel.” And I dated, but nothing.

David Bashevkin:
Nothing.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
It just kept going and going. And I just said that.

David Bashevkin:
You do so much to inspire so many. Doctor, Rebbetzin Efrat Sobolofsky, thank you so much for joining us today.

Efrat Sobolofsky:
My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

David Bashevkin:
There’s no question, the online dating profile, in some ways, kind of checks off and merges two different categories, which is the role of the shadchan but also kind of giving a little bit more choice to the people who are dating. It’s kind of straddles those two worlds. Some may say that it is in neither world. It’s kind of in a no-man’s-land of dating, which I think a lot of people feel in their dating lives. I think, like what Dr. Yitzy Schechter had mentioned to me, I think everyone who is struggling is looking over to the next world that’s saying, “Ah, they have it so much better.”

And so much of this process is finding alignment between what works for you personally and the system or the cultural universe in which you date, in which you inhabit in your dating life. And finding that alignment is not always so easy. There’s no checklist to figure out which one works. But knowing that they are out there and they operate sometimes in drastically different ways, sometimes in slightly different ways, I think is important in making decisions in how you approach your own dating life. I always think there can be things to learn from understanding these different universes.

Our last conversation is with somebody who I know personally, is one of my wife’s closest friends. I’ve known her for many, many years. We grew up really in nearly identical universes. We both grew up in the Five Towns, but I wanted to have a conversation about JSwipe. I think there are a lot of misconceptions about what are the opportunities and what are the costs, why are people on JSwipe, how to make sure you have an effective experience on JSwipe.

And our final conversation is with Devorah Mansdorf Agami. That is her married name. I, of course, know her as just Devo. And we spoke about JSwipe where she actually met her husband. She didn’t begin dating in that world, but she eventually migrated there. And we spoke a little bit about some of the advantages, disadvantages, the struggles, the hurdles about finding commitment and love on JSwipe.

Okay. I am so excited because we’re talking to somebody who I know quite well. One of my wife’s closest friends, a former Kesser Shem Tov awardee.

Devorah Mansdorf:
Keter Shem Tov. SKA.

David Bashevkin:
Keter.

Devorah Mansdorf:
Yeah.

David Bashevkin:
SKA Keter Shem Tov awardee from the SKA graduating class of-

Devorah Mansdorf:
2006.

David Bashevkin:
2006. It is my absolute pleasure to introduce Devorah Mansdorf, now Agami.

Devorah Mansdorf:
Agami. Agami.

David Bashevkin:
Oh, Lior is going to kill me. But the reason why I invited you on, we are speaking because you met your husband through JSwipe.

Devorah Mansdorf:
Right.

David Bashevkin:
And we’re going to get to that final end of the story. But I want to start at the beginning. How did you start dating and how old were you when you started dating?

Devorah Mansdorf:
I started dating in Stern College, so I was probably 21-ish. And I dated the typical way most Stern girls date, which is friends setting me up, friends, family members.

David Bashevkin:
This is a little known fact. I think I mentioned to you once, our sisters who were close also tried to set us up.

Devorah Mansdorf:
Yeah, I wasn’t aware of this till recently, but yeah.

David Bashevkin:
Yeah. I think somewhere in a Yahoo email. But I was at the peak and-

Devorah Mansdorf:
Maybe AOL.

David Bashevkin:
Yeah, maybe. So you started dating regular… What kind of boys are you going out with? A regular frum, YU?

Devorah Mansdorf:
Yeah. YU type, regular. I grew up in Young Israel of Woodmere, if anyone knows that type. Yeah.

David Bashevkin:
And you came from a very established, very active family within the five towns?

Devorah Mansdorf:
Yes, very much so. Just run of the mill.

David Bashevkin:
Yes. Let me ask you this question. At what point when you were dating, did you realize, or maybe that it first dawned on you, this is not working out as planned?

Devorah Mansdorf:
I don’t think I realized that it wasn’t working out as planned. I would say that when I graduated Stern and I was applying to dental school, I was highly considering leaving the New York area and going to University of Maryland because I liked the school. And the idea of leaving the New York dating world was scary to me, but also scary to others that I was leaving that typical realm. So I’d say that was the first time I realized I was going to be stepping out of that.

David Bashevkin:
When you say, it’s so interesting, “the New York dating world.”

Devorah Mansdorf:
Yes.

David Bashevkin:
What do you mean by that? We talk about Yeshivish dating, we talk about Modern Orthodox dating. We could talk about Hasidic dating. We rarely associate dating with a geography. What do you mean when you say New York dating world?

Devorah Mansdorf:
It was a really big deal for me to leave New York. Going to Baltimore, I would say, I was stepping into more of a Yeshivish world. So that was a different style of dating. The YU type single guy just stays around-

David Bashevkin:
New York.

Devorah Mansdorf:
New York. Yeah. I’m sure there are those out there going, doing whatever they’re doing in other places. But the vast majority of them are in New York.

David Bashevkin:
And when you moved to Baltimore, did you step out of dating or did you try to date within a Baltimore structure and system?

Devorah Mansdorf:
I didn’t choose to step out of dating, but I did somewhat because the New York dating guy doesn’t typically want to travel to Baltimore to date. And it’s hard to date that kind of distance. So I’d say I narrowed my fields a little bit.

David Bashevkin:
Would you travel into New York to go on dates while you were in dental school?

Devorah Mansdorf:
I would, but it wasn’t a top priority, I would say. If I was traveling into New York, I wanted to see my friends, I wanted to see my family. I was happy to go on a date, but it was frustrating to go out on first dates that weren’t necessarily fun when I was traveling in for the weekend.

David Bashevkin:
For three and a half hours.

Devorah Mansdorf:
Yeah.

David Bashevkin:
I’m curious how you responded, especially during this Baltimore period, or if you even got this pushback of like, “You’re not prioritizing dating enough.”

Devorah Mansdorf:
I did get that pushback, not from my family. My parents were very supportive of me going to Baltimore and going to the dental school I wanted to go to and figured everything would work out. But I did get a lot of pushback from friends or even not close friends, but people around or just concerned neighborly-

David Bashevkin:
Like, “Why are you prioritizing your professional future on top of your romantic future?”

Devorah Mansdorf:
Exactly.

David Bashevkin:
Did that make you nervous or you were like, “Eh, you’re crazy”?

Devorah Mansdorf:
It made me nervous, but at the same time, it was also exciting to kind of step out of what I’d been living in for my whole life. And Baltimore’s not that far, but you see what else is out there.

David Bashevkin:
Because it is a different kind of community. It is a little bit more of a Yeshivish, low key.

Devorah Mansdorf:
It is.

David Bashevkin:
The inverse of the Five Towns where we both grew up in a lot of ways.

Devorah Mansdorf:
Yes, it’s much more Yeshivish, but it’s also just another place outside of New York.

David Bashevkin:
And this is just an important part. It seems niche, but I think a lot of people struggle with this. I know I do. I know all of my friends who grew up in major Jewish communities and Baltimore’s forever been on the cusp. It’s very major, but it doesn’t have the maybe fancy infrastructure, gazillion fancy restaurants and all that stuff and the culture that exists in a lot of other densely populated Jewish areas. In terms of your long-term experience with dating, do you think that was a positive experience or a negative experience? It was something you would recommend to people to step out… I don’t want to use the word traumatic, but I know for myself….

… To step out the, I don’t want to use the word traumatic, but I know for myself I was yeshiva in Baltimore for many years. You’re really stepping out of the universe you grew up in.

Devorah Mansdorf:
Yeah. So I would say that it was tremendously difficult at the beginning for many reasons to leave all of my friends and family. Even though they were so close, it was still so far I was, as you’re saying, stepping into a completely different world. I will say that the New Yorkers in the Baltimore area were extremely warm and welcoming

David Bashevkin:
You found one another, the New Yorkers in the-

Devorah Mansdorf:
Exactly.

David Bashevkin:
It was like a-

Devorah Mansdorf:
Exactly.

David Bashevkin:
The lawns men.

Devorah Mansdorf:
Yes. And there’s something very nice about that. But I do think, although it was very difficult, it was also important for me to see what else is out there and just step out of what you’ve grown up with your whole life and just get a feel for other communities, other areas. Screen some independence, not just for yourself, also from that dating world, what you’re expected to do.

David Bashevkin:
So you graduate dental school, how old are you at this point?

Devorah Mansdorf:
I think 26.

David Bashevkin:
Super young.

Devorah Mansdorf:
26, 27. Yeah. Super young. But also-

David Bashevkin:
Did you feel young?

Devorah Mansdorf:
I felt like I was at that cusp age young and then in my community turning towards the older end in terms of dating.

David Bashevkin:
Okay. And then you moved back to New York?

Devorah Mansdorf:
I moved back to New York.

David Bashevkin:
And how are you dating now? Now, you reenter the New York world. Are you still dating? Is it still kind of Modern Orthodox family and friends?

Devorah Mansdorf:
Yes. Still that and JSwipe had taken off a little bit at this time. A bunch of my close friends had downloaded it, including myself, just to kind of see what’s out there. It was just like a fun app. I don’t think any of us knew if we were really going to go out on that many dates from it. But it was just a new concept.

David Bashevkin:
The first time that you downloaded it was like half joke, half serious, that kind of thing? And you’re all filling out the profile together.

Devorah Mansdorf:
Yeah. Exactly. Going through other people’s profiles, a lot of curiosity and just fun.

David Bashevkin:
And you’re just exploring. Do you remember what you wrote on your profile or what the prompts even are?

Devorah Mansdorf:
I think I didn’t write anything. There are no prompts or there were no prompts when I started using it. I don’t think I wrote anything at all. I just put up probably a picture that was probably the same as my Facebook profile picture and let it be. Yeah.

David Bashevkin:
And you got matches right away?

Devorah Mansdorf:
So you have to swipe. So yeah, I don’t remember exactly if I’m being honest, but yeah, you got matches, you start swiping right,. And then as we actually started using it for dating, because people did start using it for dating, at that point you start seeing the same people over and over. So less exciting than the beginning.

David Bashevkin:
Because you do it based on the geography.

Devorah Mansdorf:
Exactly, location.

David Bashevkin:
And when you first started, you at no point retired from family and friends being set up that way.

Devorah Mansdorf:
No. No, wasn’t tired. I was tired of going on bad dates, but I wasn’t tired of friends reaching out, wanting to set me up.

David Bashevkin:
And you moved into, would you call it a different scene? Meaning religiously the sociocultural expression of your religious life also begins to evolve as you’re now older, you’re living on the Upper West Side. Was there a conscious shift about the type of guy that you were looking for at this point?

Devorah Mansdorf:
I wouldn’t say there was a conscious shift. However, I think that as the dating scene moved as my friend… I never lived in Washington Heights, but I visited my friends in Washington Heights, as my friends moved from the Heights to the Upper West Side, there’s definitely a shift of being more open, more involved in a different world than that Stern YU world.

David Bashevkin:
Can you be a little bit more specific? Open to what, what does that mean open, like I used to care if the boy wore a yarmulke, now I don’t care.

Devorah Mansdorf:
I would say smaller things like at the beginning it’s more typical to be dating guys who were going to minyan a few times a day or wearing a certain type of thing on Shabbos, a suit, you move to the West side, it’s more relaxed. It seems silly, but you know, could wear a pair of pants, a button down and you can still be religious. It’s not necessarily how you grew up with a jacket, tie being considered the only way you can step into a shul.

David Bashevkin:
It’s funny that you mentioned that. It’s one of the things I never let go of when I was single. I don’t know why it meant so much to me religiously and I remember I would feel out of place and it’s almost one of the reasons why I never fully transitioned into what would be called a single’s community because I was still fairly formal on Shabbos. And that is a cultural distinction. It sounds silly, but it’s a real thing.

Devorah Mansdorf:
It is. And for me that was actually, I don’t think I consciously realized this, but now that we’re talking about it, those were little things for me that I guess a part of my community is, I wouldn’t say stuck on, but that’s a part of the culture that just didn’t matter to me in the overall mindset of who I wanted to be with. Those things can be fairly important when you’re being set up from the world that was being set up from. So little things like that changed my mindset.

David Bashevkin:
And you started dating JSwipe, I mean, the basic idea of JSwipe is that it’s an app where you can set geographic parameters and then if two people both swipe on the same profile, what happens next?

Devorah Mansdorf:
So then you get matched and then you have a certain number of days. I want to say it’s 18, I might be wrong, to one of you can chat with the other, doesn’t matter who initiates.

David Bashevkin:
And then you chat, but does the chat mean that you’re going to actually go on a date?

Devorah Mansdorf:
No, definitely not necessarily. With my husband an Israeli, if he’s going to start chatting with you, you’re going to end up going on a date. But with a lot of the Upper West Side guys or just around, not necessarily, they could just be chatting, you know, might not want to go out, they might not want to go out

David Bashevkin:
Like you match, but you’re still not-

Devorah Mansdorf:
You might not even chat. You might not even chat. You might just have matches that are just there and you just never chat and then you pass them on the street or you see them at shul.

David Bashevkin:
That’s a real thing.

Devorah Mansdorf:
Yeah and you’re like, oh, I matched with that guy.

David Bashevkin:
But you say that in your head, you don’t actually-

Devorah Mansdorf:
Or to your friends. Yeah.

David Bashevkin:
Yeah. It just didn’t go anywhere.

Devorah Mansdorf:
Yeah.

David Bashevkin:
I don’t need you to comment on this, but you did live in kind of the Upper West Side cultural world for a while.

Devorah Mansdorf:
Yes.

David Bashevkin:
There is a part of it that I guess when I was single, I don’t think about it that much anymore though. I know people who are still in it, so to speak. There was this reputation that you can get stuck in that world.

Devorah Mansdorf:
Yes.

David Bashevkin:
I think from a distance I was scared of that. And so I never did move to the Upper West Side. And there is from, again, this is from a distance, it’s not coming from a judgmental space, but it’s kind of dovetailing on the experience you had, which is that you have this situation where the guys, they all know each other. You knew a lot of guys. It wasn’t forboden for you to talk to a guy or even text a lot. I’m sure you knew guys.

Devorah Mansdorf:
Yeah.

David Bashevkin:
But there’s something that is a block to the actual romantic date.

Devorah Mansdorf:
And I’m still not sure what that is, but what you’re describing, I did start to feel a few years into the West side feeling a little bit stuck. It centers around Shabbos meals, Shabbos, you’re inviting the same girls, the same guys, you all know each other. You might have gone out on a few dates with a few of them from meals, but for the most part it’s just that circular, knowing the same people doing that same thing every single week.

David Bashevkin:
And it’s so obnoxious. And I know I’m saying it’s obnoxious and I want you to react in Devora-now and Devorah, when you were kind of in your late twenties, very early thirties when you were going this, I come into a meal, Tova and I, you know Tova who you really are close with. And we come into a meal and we look at the table and we see all these guys and all this girls and there is this sense that it’s such a married for, it’s like why don’t y’all just marry each other? And it’s the most obnoxious effect I can feel the offensiveness. How would you react if I would’ve said that and just, I wouldn’t literally announce that the meal, but it’s like why does everybody just marry each other? You all kind of get along.

Devorah Mansdorf:
I think we would say the same thing to each other. Meaning single on the Upper West Side. Why does this not work? We know each other, we’re with each other all the time, but it just doesn’t, I don’t know what it is. I could only speak for myself. Maybe at a certain point I was looking for something a little bit outside of that, of that Upper West Side scene of all the shtick from the Upper West Side. Maybe we’re all just sick of it and looking for something a little bit-

David Bashevkin:
Outside of it. When you say shtick of the Upper West side, what’s the first things that come to mind?

Devorah Mansdorf:
Shabbos, kiddush, talking to each other, going to all those meals. It’s like your friends but you’re not dating.

David Bashevkin:
There’s a lot of it.

Devorah Mansdorf:
There’s all that pressure there is in every society. Every community has their own thing. Looking cool, being friends with the right people, dating the right people, and it’s like at a certain point, what does that even mean?

David Bashevkin:
Yeah. And this is a theme throughout, every community has it in its own way.

Devorah Mansdorf:
Yes, definitely.

David Bashevkin:
I’m sure in the Hasidic world, or at least I know for sure in the Yeshivish world, for sure in the Modern Orthodox world, and also in this world. So take me through, how many dates, different guys did you go out with on JSwipe? Do you have any ballpark?

Devorah Mansdorf:
It’s just so not my personality to keep track. I don’t even know, but a lot, at a certain point that was how I dated the most and it’s actually how I preferred to date at that point. When I was getting set up, it’s more what other people want to set you up with. And then there’s a lot of pressure. They might think they know what you want and then they’re texting you and you know, you should go on another date telling you should go on another… The other day, should go on another date. I was an independent person at this point. I was professional doing my own thing. I appreciated the ability to take charge of my own dating life.

David Bashevkin:
Did you feel like getting set up by people… Did it feel infantilizing at a time? Is that-

Devorah Mansdorf:
It felt like it was just pushing me back into, not being in high school, but being in college where it’s the married people or the people who are setting you up, they are the ones who kind of have the control.

David Bashevkin:
They’re the arbiters of real life.

Devorah Mansdorf:
Yes.

David Bashevkin:
We live in the real world and let’s reach our hand out and say, do you want me to pull you up into the real world or do you want to stay in your single dungeon?

Devorah Mansdorf:
And it can turn kind of patronizing, because they think they know what’s best for you. I have a specific memory coming to mind of a friend setting me up with someone and I went out on a couple of dates with them and it was just definitely, definitely not for me. And I told them, thank you so much for setting me up, but it’s just not for me. I just don’t feel we connect. And I remember him saying to me, “What does that mean? Have you ever connected with anyone? Do you know what that means? To connect with someone?” That to me was the epitome of the frustrations of dealings with being set up by others.

David Bashevkin:
I’m like, double check. That was not me.

Devorah Mansdorf:
No, definitively not. Yeah,

David Bashevkin:
That is painful when all of your relationships are mediated. That’s really hard. I mean, I met Tova at work and there was something refreshing to have an unmediated relationship. It doesn’t work for anyone. There are real cost to it. I want to talk about one cost, which you don’t have to comment on, but I wanted to spell… I spoke to a few people who are still in the dating world and I asked them about JSwipe and they said, I don’t feel comfortable on JSwipe because it is a portal to, and I’m just going to say it straight out, hookup culture. Do you think that that is a fair characterization or an unfair characterization? Meaning, just to be clear to our listeners who vary, there is this characterization of JSwipe that this isn’t dating for marriage, it’s dating for people to just have quick experiences, sexual experiences with one another, hook up with one another and then like sayonara.

Devorah Mansdorf:
So I understand that, it wasn’t my experience. I think that if you go onto the app, knowing what you’re looking for, you can weed out those people and shut those things down pretty quickly. They’re definitely going to be people like that on the app. And if that’s what you’re looking for, I’m sure you can find it, no problem. But again, for me that was another sense of taking control.

David Bashevkin:
Do you have tips for how to weed out the people who are not there for the right reasons.

Devorah Mansdorf:
Definitely. There are definitely have been people that messaged me that have said something that I viewed as maybe a little creepy or just not what I was looking for and I would just shut it down right away.

David Bashevkin:
How do you shut it down? You’re able to like-

Devorah Mansdorf:
I would just delete it. Delete the chat.

David Bashevkin:
So they no longer have the ability to communicate.

Devorah Mansdorf:
Or if I wanted to be a little nicer, I didn’t think they were quite rude, but it wasn’t for me, I would just say, listen, I don’t think we’re looking for the same thing. And just then delete the conversation.

David Bashevkin:
So what really fascinates me is that you married one of the loveliest people. We’ve become quick friends. Dare I say best friends of all. I really, really like you married Lior Agami. Who has an incredible business. I just want to give a quick shout out to remind me what it’s called.

Devorah Mansdorf:
It’s called Israeli Bamitbach. You could look him up on Instagram. He’s an incredible chef as David can attest, he’s tasted some of his stuff.

David Bashevkin:
He is, yeah. Incredible.

Devorah Mansdorf:
And he does pasta-making classes, which are super fun.

David Bashevkin:
He does pasta-making classes.

Devorah Mansdorf:
Yes.

David Bashevkin:
It’s so fascinating. And again, where is it on Instagram you could find it?

Devorah Mansdorf:
Israeli Bamitbach.

David Bashevkin:
Bamitbach.

Devorah Mansdorf:
Meaning Israeli in the kitchen is what it translates to.

David Bashevkin:
Of course, I knew that. Mitbach means kitchen. Of course I knew that.

Devorah Mansdorf:
But we write it in English.

David Bashevkin:
Yeah, my Hebrew’s phenomenal. Even though I went to South Shore, my South Shore roots are peeking through. But your relationship with Lior in many ways highlights both the opportunities. It’s so beautiful. You’re married. It was not a quick or easy trip getting married. Much like myself. It didn’t go smoothly or so to speak, I’m using air quote, as planned. But on another sense, in order to foster this commitment, there were dare I say, cost or real hurdles that the more mediated shidduch system is designed to avoid.

Devorah Mansdorf:
For sure.

David Bashevkin:
So take me through the initial relationship. When you finally meet him. When did you find that he’s coming from a very different place.

Devorah Mansdorf:
Very different background. So when you were saying did I put anything on my profile at the beginning I didn’t. But when I was on JSwipe more recently before I got married, I did put on my profile shomer Shabbos and shomer kashrut because I did want to, I don’t know, weed out anything else. And this is one of the things that I appreciate about JSwipe or about the ability to take control a little bit more of your own dating life. Even if Lior isn’t someone… Because Lior comes from a masorti background.

David Bashevkin:
He came from a traditional… In America wouldn’t be called Orthodox.

Devorah Mansdorf:
Right.

David Bashevkin:
But it’s not another domination, only exists in Israel. Almost like his family from where again?

Devorah Mansdorf:
They’re from a moshav called Shtulim, which is 15 minutes from Gaza. It’s close to Ashdod area and yeah, exactly. It only exists in Israel. They would consider themselves religious, but in our Orthodox world, we would not call it religious, where we come from.

David Bashevkin:
And we wouldn’t call it shomer Shabbos for sure in that home.

Devorah Mansdorf:
But they do keep the Shabbos in their own sense, his family and kashrut as well. But again, not in the Modern Orthodox traditional sense.

David Bashevkin:
And they’re deeply Jewish.

Devorah Mansdorf:
Deeply. Yeah.

David Bashevkin:
That’s not even a question. And they have a basic education that you would get in the Israeli public school system.

Devorah Mansdorf:
Right, right.

David Bashevkin:
So there are gaps in that because it’s very Tanakh-centric and not so familiar with Mishnah, Gemara.

Devorah Mansdorf:
Exactly. I would say that Lior often quotes things from Tanakh that I am not familiar with, but I have a very different education and I’ll speak about things that he’s not familiar with at all as well.

David Bashevkin:
It’s fair to say, and you would never have been set up with your husband had you been, it was mediated through friends.

Devorah Mansdorf:
For sure not.

David Bashevkin:
For sure not. So at what point you finally meet him, your first date I just want to ask, was he wearing a yarmulke?

Devorah Mansdorf:
No.

David Bashevkin:
Was that already different?

Devorah Mansdorf:
It was already different and for sure if it was anyone but Lior, it might not have progressed. But I liked him as a person and we spoke about very real things from the very beginning. And I could see early on who he was and what he was interested in and how he felt about religion and Judaism without all of that.

David Bashevkin:
The process of making a commitment with somebody who you know in the world that you came from, and this was mediated by family or friends is not easy. I’m sure there were many people whispering to you, Devorah, what are you doing?

Devorah Mansdorf:
Extremely difficult. I would say very, very difficult. And if I wasn’t very sure, it probably would not have progressed. At that point though, for talking about Upper West Side shtick, I felt that Lior was more religious than any of the guys I was being set up with from the Upper West side. His relationship with spirituality, with God, with Judaism was just so much more real and connected than any of the people I was dating.

David Bashevkin:
It’s interesting because in a way, Lior, his education and relationship to Judaism was kind of unmediated through traditional, typical institutions. The same way that your relationship itself was unmediated by family and friends. And just the difficulty of that is when you introduce them and the mediation allowed me to say it wasn’t just religious difference, it was professional difference.

Devorah Mansdorf:
Yes, very much.

David Bashevkin:
And we don’t talk about this enough, I think in the Modern Orthodox community that we both came from, we grew up a few miles apart from one another, our families are more or less on the same page. You could nitpick different important distinctions, but more or less in the same exact universe, one of the major emphasis on dating and I think it’s gotten much more intense. It’s not just religious, same page, but professional. What is this person doing for a living? And I’m curious, how did you tackle that? And it was almost compounded by the fact that you’re not just a slouch. I mean, I don’t look at any job as good or bad, but you were an endodontist. I mean you have a… You know what I mean?

Devorah Mansdorf:
Yeah. I first had to teach Lior what an endodontist was. But yeah, that was a big deal for me too. That was something that I had to-

David Bashevkin:
The professional component.

Devorah Mansdorf:
Grapple with myself. The education component, the background component in the New York area, again, I can only speak from the area I grew up in, it is expected that once you graduate high school, go to Israel for at least a year. You will then go to college and do whatever you do.

David Bashevkin:
It’s a little bit more than that. You go to college and you’ll get a white collar job that pays maybe starting low six figures and you’ll work your way up. I mean it’s not just you’ll do it. You’ll write poetry. It’s a little bit more than that.

Devorah Mansdorf:
Right. You’re right, a 100%. Lior had a very different background. He served in the Israeli Navy for six years and then he moved on to become an investigator with the Israeli police forces. But for me, it was hard to deal with the fact that he did not go to college, even though he is someone that was working very hard in a very different way. And it took me a little bit of time for me to realize how motivated and driven and smart he is, even though he didn’t go that typical route. So two very different backgrounds and both respectable and I think it just takes time to merge the two and figure it out.

David Bashevkin:
I think this is a very instructive story that a lot of people grapple with. And I just want to emphasize, because I think too much of the dissonance, we often wink and we say it’s religious, a lot of time it’s professional. Like coming home and say, mom, dad, I have this great guy and they’re… What does he do? He’s a firefighter, he’s a police officer, he’s a plumber and you can see the parents may not say it explicitly, but you can see their face tighten up.

Devorah Mansdorf:
The cringe.

David Bashevkin:
The cringe, and I’m curious for you, what was the advice, the mindset or the ideas that allowed you to overcome these hurdles?

Devorah Mansdorf:
Dealing with the typical system and realizing it didn’t work for me. Coming to a point and saying, this didn’t work, so I need to do something a little bit different. Stepping outside of my comfort zone, knowing exactly what I wanted also and what I would compromise on and what I wouldn’t. And just allowing myself to realize this is making me happy and maybe my life is going to look a little bit different than I thought it was going to look five years ago, but it’s working for me. So make sure you know what works for you.

David Bashevkin:
How old were you when you got married?

Devorah Mansdorf:
32.

David Bashevkin:
32. I was at your wedding, a COVID wedding.

Devorah Mansdorf:
COVID wedding.

David Bashevkin:
Extra. Lovely.

Devorah Mansdorf:
Thank you.

David Bashevkin:
It felt different, not just because you were marrying Lior and it like, it felt like it should have been a COVID wedding in a way, it was this very close knit, very familial, very special. I’m sure there were many loved ones who you wish could have been there who weren’t. But it ended up being one of the most special weddings I’ve ever been to. A 100 people.

Devorah Mansdorf:
70.

David Bashevkin:
70 people.

Devorah Mansdorf:
Yeah.

David Bashevkin:
Super, super lovely.

Devorah Mansdorf:
Thanks.

David Bashevkin:
But I’m curious, your experience to me is so deeply instructive of somebody who really took initiative and really, I don’t think you settled your values, I think you clarified them and laser focused them. What matters to me. You didn’t compromise, you had very real red lines as you continue to have. But I’m curious, when you look at people who are kind of still, maybe they are stuck, what advice do you give them if you are in that world? And I appreciate that me asking you to give advice is breaking every rule. You don’t want to be the two married people sitting in a room being like, here’s the advice. But I’m curious, when you speak to friends about this and you did kind of break out and find a path of yourself, what advice do you give people who are dating or thinking about leaving the system they’re in, the geography they’re in and going elsewhere.

Devorah Mansdorf:
So hard for me to give advice because just a second ago I felt annoyed sometimes when people would give me advice and sometimes it’s just not working for no other reason than it’s just not working. But I would say that you have to figure out what’s important to you and then be open, just be open. I think in the community we’re in, it’s hard to really open up and see other things and appreciate other values and honestly respect people who are a little bit outside of our typical realm.

David Bashevkin:
And I think people who grew up in the very dense, I would even use the word insular. When we use the word insular, we’re usually describing the Hasidic world. I believe that word is very fair to apply to the five towns, to these very close-knit Teaneck, Bergenfield. There’s an insularity. We bristle at using that term like insularity. I went to graduate school, but in insularity in what you’re willing to consider and being able to see something in front of you that’s a real opportunity for love and commitment and saying we could build something together.

Devorah Mansdorf:
I think that no one would’ve thought Devorah Mansdorf, SKA girl from Long Island-

David Bashevkin:
Keter Shem Tov awardee.

Devorah Mansdorf:
Keter Shem Tov. Is going to end up with an Israeli chayal from the south who grew up in a Masorti background. But you never know, you never know.

David Bashevkin:
And you finally were willing to know. And knowing you and knowing Lior is really a treasure and I cannot thank you enough for joining me today.

Devorah Mansdorf:
Thanks for having me.

David Bashevkin:
This has been a fairly long journey. We began in the Hasidic world. We spoke a little bit about the shidduch crisis, the differences between the yeshiva world, the Modern Orthodox world, spoke about why YUConnects, and of course JSwipe. And I think that each of these are different options that highlight or emphasize different values in dating. And I think in everyone’s dating life, it is about figuring out how you take these different emphases and center yourself and align yourself in a world that you’re most comfortable with in order to find what dating is all about and that’s somebody who you can love and commit to and build a life together. But I think it’s so important that we don’t take preconceived notions about any of these worlds. Not for ourselves, not for friends or family members that we know and love who are trying to navigate this.

Dating is already a very lonely and isolating experience. And one of the ways that we can make it a little bit easier is knowing the different systems and worlds that are out there, knowing the different processes and approaches and finding that alignment in the process itself between what works for you personally and which system will be the kind of the least difficult or bumpy road. There’s no doubt that each of these roads is bumpy in their own way. Some of them are obviously not even in consideration depending on where you are situated now. But knowing that they’re all out there and knowing that each of us has a role to play, whether we are married or whether we are single, each of us have a role to play in making this journey a little bit easier and with a little bit more dignity and choice to allow people to find that romantic commitment in their lives.

So thank you so much for listening this episode, like so many of our episodes, and she deserves an extra round of applause for this series, which has required so much more editing and assembling and all of that stuff. But our dearest friend Denah Emerson, it wouldn’t be a Jewish podcast without a little bit of Jewish guilt. So if you enjoyed this episode or any episode, please subscribe, rate, review, tell your friends about it. You could also donate at 18forty.org/donate. It really helps us reach new listeners and continue putting out great content. You can also leave us a voicemail with feedback or questions that we may play on a future episode. And that episode is coming fairly soon, so be sure to leave that voicemail. That number is 917-720-5629. Again, that’s 917-720-5629. Feel free to leave your name or don’t, but we’d love to hear from you. And if you’d like to learn more about this topic or some of the other great ones we’ve covered in the past, be sure to check out 18forty.org. That’s the number one eight, followed by the word forty, F-O-R-T.org. We can also find videos, articles, recommended readings, and weekly emails. Thank you so much for listening and stay curious my friends.