The men in our family wear bekeshes and shtreimlach on Shabbos, but a jacket and “up hat” during the week. Our community considers us to be chassidish, because we daven in a chassidish shul. My son, who is turning 25, wants to stop wearing his bekeshe and put on a suit. He does not consider himself chassidish at all, though he did go to a chassidish yeshiva.
When he started with shidduchim, he wanted a more modern girl, but the shadchanim would not redt him to someone modern because of the way he dressed.
My question is, Would it ruin things if he dressed a little more modern? We know chassidish boys who changed to a modern way of dressing, and it still did not help them marry modern girls. We are not sure what to do.
By Baila Sebrow
Both circumstances—remaining in chassidish clothing and not—present similar problems in shidduchim. There are chassidish guys who, for personal reasons, come to the decision that marrying a modern girl would be best for them. Some of these guys feel that changing their style of garb to more modern will increase their chances of attracting that type of girl.
These guys, however, quickly discover that although they may appear modern on the outside, and might even take on a modern hashkafah, one way or another their chassidish background gives them away.
And then there are those who still wish to maintain their chassidish style of dress, yet insist that a modern girl is right for them. These guys make such requests to shadchanim and some even attend singles events dressed in chassidish garb. Sadly, they endure rejection after rejection, but they either refuse to understand the reason for being rejected or perhaps they just don’t get it.
From a girl’s perspective, especially one who is still young, marrying someone similar in hashkafah and values feels more comfortable. Even when marrying someone from a similar background, there will still always be differences—subtle perhaps, but differences nevertheless. How much more so this applies when marrying someone of a different background.
This is not to say that a boy with a chassidish upbringing cannot ultimately be happy married to someone who was brought up in a modern environment. There are numerous cases to support this notion. However, in these situations there were motives leading the young women to consider marrying someone of a different background.
You do not indicate the cause of your son’s desire to alter his hashkafah. Please understand that I am not insinuating that there is an underlying issue. It might just be that he chose this path without having endured a negative experience, as is often assumed. However, it is commonly considered that someone who modernizes himself has typically “left the fold.” In shidduchim, and especially amongst right-wing shadchanim, this is considered an impediment. Likely, they are coming to conclusions that are far-fetched. But it is not just the shadchanim. They are a reflection of the clientele they are representing. It does help somewhat that you, as a parent, are supportive of his decision. However, parents of modern girls are usually still wary of such shidduchim.
I want you to bear in mind that every single person on the face of this earth has experienced or will experience rejection. It is a fact of life that we learn from the time we are in preschool, when another child may refuse to play or share something with us. As people get older, there are other rejections along the way. Somehow, people usually tend to be resilient is those cases, except when it comes to shidduchim. That is when rejection hurts the most. As a shadchan, I have often asked those who take rejection badly what it is that they are afraid of. The responses are always the same. Rejection comes with the fear that they may never find someone to marry them. And such panic is logical.
So, let’s examine why people in frum circles reject those who are suggested to them. Attraction, hashkafah, money, and family status are amongst the myriad reasons why someone would say “no” to a shidduch. But there is another unspoken factor. And that is being embarrassed to be seen with a particular person. There are many cases where a shidduch might be right for a million reasons. But, if for whatever cause it would be embarrassing to the person, he will say no.
And that is why others who have been chassidish and want to marry outside their circles experience rejection. A more modern family is concerned with what the neighbors, people in their shul, or anyone else would say about why their daughter married a chassidish or formerly chassidish boy. Their concern is that people might think there was a problem with their daughter or within their family. The bottom line is that a shidduch is a personal decision. Right or wrong does not change that. And just as your son will not marry a chassidish girl, the non-chassidish girl and her family may feel the same way about marrying such a boy.
There is a possible solution to your son’s situation. It sounds like your son, although coming from a traditionally chassidish background, is open-minded. It also sounds like he has strong family support behind him. I am also confident that he is not going through a rebellious stage in life.
That said, I wonder if your son would be open to dating a girl who is a ba’alas teshuvah. Ba’alei teshuvah, for the most part, do have a sense of understanding that a person can decide to change his hashkafah at a certain juncture in life. They, too, undertook a major change, even more so than someone who becomes modern.
A person who has not been brought up frum and suddenly takes what may be seen as voluntary restrictions upon herself is highly meritorious. Not only that, but ba’alei teshuvah respect perseverance in the face of antagonism and the major alteration of a lifestyle. They understand the impact it can ultimately have on their lives and families. But that too is something your son would need to feel comfortable about. This would also have to be his personal shidduch decision.
With regard to your son changing his clothes to appear more modern, that is only something he should consider if that is how he would feel most comfortable. Under no circumstances should he dress in a suit if it truly makes him feel like he is not himself. All that would accomplish is what you have seen from the chassidish boys you mentioned. The effects end up being negative. Furthermore, those who change their style of dress when it is not something they really wanted have expressed that they feel like they are living a lie.
From what you are saying, the shadchanim you are currently speaking with are probably not equipped to deal with your son. They may even view him in a negative way. That explains why they are not eager to set him up with anyone.
You need to educate yourself on shadchanim who are open-minded and understand your son’s choice of lifestyle. These shadchanim might not be in your own community, and it is probably healthier that way.
When you do receive the recommendations of such shadchanim, do not allow them to set him up based on a phone call and résumé. The results will not end up being to your son’s satisfaction. They may send him girls who are totally not shayach for him for a variety of reasons. Insist that these shadchanim meet your son and your family. They need to get a full understanding of who he really is and where he comes from.
There are girls who are “internally modern” though they come from a chassidish or heimish background. Such a girl would likely feel very comfortable with someone like your son. Shadchanim with experience in dealing with boys like your son are also familiar with girls who feel that way.
Your son needs to remain true to himself, as he has until now. The girl he will ultimately marry will be someone who is of the same mindset and eager to live a happy life and raise an emotionally healthy family together. ϖ
Baila Sebrow is president of Neshoma Advocates, communications and recruitment liaison for Sovri-Beth Israel, executive director of Teach Our Children, and a shadchanis. She can be reached at Bsebrow@aol.com.
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