In many traditional cultures, marriages are arranged by the parents, often using matchmakers. Reader Tim sent along this link about a dating service in Israel aimed at ultra-Orthodox Jews that circumvents the traditional matchmaker’s role for those cases in which the young person does not fit the desired profile and is seen as a ‘difficult’ case, though the things that cause the problems are those that the rest of us might see as desirable qualities.
In the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, the men spend all their time studying religion while expecting the government and/or their wives to support the family, no easy task since they usually produce many children. Adding to the problem is that women and men are expected to stop even their religion-heavy education at the high school, leaving them with few skills to get decent paying jobs.
This leads to the peculiar situation where women and men with good secular educations and jobs are seen as somehow inferior and thus less eligible for marriage, making it hard for traditional matchmakers to find spouses for them. Given that they also move in a society that is highly segregated by gender (especially for unmarried young people), their chances of finding someone on their own to marry are next to none.
The article examines the plight of a 33–year old woman named Yael Mizrachi who not only is hurt by still being unmarried at her ‘advanced’ age, but also has bachelors and masters degrees, making her hopelessly damaged goods by the standards of that society. She wants to marry someone who has a real job and is educated and so has turned to a new dating service that connects people in the segregated religious schools in Israel.
The person who started this service is also an ultra-Orthodox Jew who studied things other than the Torah and thus was also less eligible in marriage, and was a difficult case for matchmakers. As the principal of his school said,
“What he means is, he wasn’t offered girls that would really fit for him,” he says. “Because he was not a regular boy, he was offered second-rate girls.”
The idea that being educated meant that you are not a ‘regular boy’ and that hence you would be offered ‘second-rate girls’ (presumably those who are educated) turns the social norms we are used to on their heads.