A month or so ago, I published a letter from “Annie,” who wanted to be left alone by people who were calling and annoying her, urging her to begin dating again after the demise of her marriage. Annie wanted to tell everyone to leave her alone and she will date when she is good and ready to do so, on her own schedule. The responses received to that article really overwhelmed me. I guess Annie’s letter has inspired others, and I have received requests from people in different types of situations asking me to publish their letters, their requests to the frum community. Many of the situations in the letters, I thought, were inappropriate for the Queens Jewish Link, but then I read an email that made me think. As I read the letter, I was able to think of a friend of my husband’s in the exact situation, and it is one that I feel needs to be spoken about and addressed. So here I publish a letter from Avi. Go ahead, Avi, have at it. Say your piece. I hope people are listening.
I’ll start off with honesty. I’m not a reader of your article or of the Queens Jewish Link, mainly because I don’t live in Queens. But some friends (wives) are readers of your column and they suggested that I write to you. It is almost as if they got together to convince me to do this. I was sent the article that published the letter of a woman asking people to back off and give her room. She was either divorced or widowed and wasn’t ready to be pushed into dating. Shoshanah, a friend’s wife, said I should write to you about my situation and ask for assistance for me and all like me in my situation. I was against it, but once she enlisted the other wives, I knew I had lost the battle.
My situation is a simple one, but not one with a simple solution – or maybe there is one, with your help. I’m a divorced kohen with children. In six words, I summed up my situation. I’m 30 years old, not old by anyone’s standards. I got married when I was 22, and had children; but by the time I turned 28, I was divorced from the mother of my two children. At first, I wasn’t prepared to date. But when I was, I couldn’t do it the same way I had done when I was single. I was a divorced kohen – with children. Believe it or not, that is like finding a mate for a two-headed, purple monster. I’m not joking when I tell you how many shadchanim told me that they would be able to help but never called me, and a few who told me I was going to have to settle for whatever came my way. Yes, they said “settled.”
After feeling like a loser and pariah and going on a few disastrous dates that were set up through shadchanim, I began asking my married friends to speak with their wives on my behalf. I know that I have very specific requirements, but at least my friends’ wives gave me hope and didn’t say it straight to my face that it’ll take a while to find a girl who’ll even agree to date me. After a couple of weeks, they called me with names of single friends, cousins, and even former classmates. I can’t tell you how appreciative I am that they were really trying to help me when I was given no hope and turned off by what the shadchanim said to me and who they set me up with.
It took a while, but I finally met someone through one of my friends’ wives. We had gone out more than a few times. I started to get hopeful again, but she soon realized that dating a divorced man is one thing, but a divorced man with children was something very different and she wasn’t ready to be a stepmother. I was let down again. This was a time when I wasn’t being rejected for something I did or who I am, but because of my children – whom she didn’t even know. I took a break from dating and just concentrated on working and being a good father. Luckily, my ex-wife and I have a semi-amicable relationship, and she doesn’t make it difficult for me to see my children or speak with them on the phone in the evenings to ask them how their day at school was.
But this is the reason why I am writing. I was recently put in touch with a shadchan who told me that she can help me because she deals with girls who don’t mind if the man is divorced or widowed, with or without children. I don’t want that type of girl. I want a woman who likes me and wants to marry me for me and doesn’t mind that I’m a divorced father. I want someone who has standards and is not willing to take the first person who agreed to date her. I don’t think that is too much to ask. I gave this shadchan a chance and immediately regretted it. I am not going to mention anything about the date except to say that I will never call that shadchan again nor will I ever refer someone I know to her.
I am 30, I earn a very decent salary, I am a caring person, and I’m a good father. I don’t think that any kohen in my position – under 35 or 40 with a child or two and a good personality – should be made to feel as if he is the two-headed, purple monster and told to settle for whoever will agree to date him. I was purposefully set up on a date where a shadchan basically lied straight to my face about the woman. I had no business going out with her.
When I began dating my ex-wife, phone calls were made, texts were sent back and forth. I knew what I would be up against in case things didn’t work out between me and my ex. No one goes into a marriage thinking about divorce, but I went in with my eyes wide open, knowing what difficulties I would have should the marriage end badly. We asked all the questions, looked into families, called friends. But here I am because I married a person and not the piece of paper her shidduch résumé was written on. She’s a wonderful mother, but it just wasn’t possible for us to live “ad mei’ah v’esrim” together. The issue is, my ex can move on with her life and I hope she does. I feel that everyone deserves to be happy, and if her happiness brings happiness to my children, then I fully support it. But why do I and other divorced kohanim (with or without children) feel this way.
I told my friends that I am not going to another shadchan who will try to match me up with someone who “doesn’t care” that I’m a divorced kohen with children because her hopes are low to begin with. Do you know how that makes me feel? Do you know what that can do to a person? I’m young, have a full-time job, still have a full head of hair, I’m in good shape – so why am I feeling like the Elephant Man when I speak with shadchanim? I know I’m limited in choices. Yes, I am a tough sell. I know everything I have against me, but I have seen a friend from way back who was divorced, and he had the mazal of marrying a girl four years younger than him who didn’t mind that he was divorced. That must have been the once-in-a-blue-moon event people talk about, because I have not experienced that, nor has any other person I have met who is in my situation.
I’m here to tell shadchanim to stop telling me I’m “lucky if anyone would date me,” so I should grab “the first girl who says yes.” I’m constantly told what I have going against me: I’m a divorced kohen with children. But what about my positives: young, good looking, full-time job, good personality, baal chesed, I have twice weekly chavrusos, etc.? I’m limited, so I need to stop looking for a diamond and settle for a cz – and a cz of poor quality? How can someone say this to me and add, “but I’m being honest with you. I’m helping you by telling you not to get your hopes up.” If I listened to any of these shadchanim, I wouldn’t go out anymore! I’m here to tell these nudniks to stop it!
Thank you, Eli. Like “Annie,” you said how you truly feel.
I can’t even imagine what it’s like for you and other kohanim who are divorced and looking to remarry. I agree with you, it’s not right and I’ll just come right out and say it – it’s wrong and mean for those trying to help you to tell you to settle or to make you feel like the two-headed, purple monster you mentioned twice. Because you mentioned it twice tells me that you really feel that way.
I agree. You are a tough sell. So is my husband’s friend. All that means is that we have to try a little harder to find your bashert. You’re a tough sell, but not an impossible one. Yes, I’m a social worker, and in college and graduate school we are taught that social work and sociology is the study of people and cultures. That may be true, but I can’t tell you anything regarding why people say stupid, hurtful things to others, but make it nice with a bow by adding, “But I’m saying this to help you.” No, they aren’t. They are probably saying that to make themselves feel better because they know the shidduch isn’t possible. They know it from the very start, but because they redt a shidduch for someone in a situation such as yours, it means they are good people.
So yes, this is the internal dialogue I think they have with themselves, “I’m helping him/her by hearing myself tell them that they should take what they can get. I’m telling you the truth of how I see it. I won’t have to live with the person I set him up with, so what do I care? I’m just building my pile of mitzvah bricks in Gan Eden so when Mashiach comes, I have bricks to build the Beis HaMikdash with (I was told as a child, every time I do a mitzvah, another brick gets put in your pile to help build the Beis HaMikdash with). Oyyyyy. These people should not be shadchanim and they know it in their heart of hearts; but to admit it out loud would be like taking away a medal of honor that they think they have earned.”
“I’m a shadchan.” No, you’re not. Shadchanim are supposed to be people a single can trust, confide in, tell them what you want out of life. One builds a relationship with a good shadchan. People who tell you to settle and will set you up with someone who, as you say, has very low standards, should be ashamed.
Eli, I advise you to stay away from shadchanim. Your friends’ wives sound wonderful and caring, and I’m sure you will find someone through them – people who know you and not just know what you are by your six-word description of yourself, “I’m a divorced kohen with children.” That’s how it will come. I wouldn’t put myself through it over and over again if I were you. It may not get to you, but after hearing it time and again, it may begin to get under your skin. Do not settle, and you are not going to get dusty waiting on the shelf – your friends’ wives will make sure of that.
I wish you and all in specific situations who can only date and marry a specific type of person, hatzlachah and mazal. I hope the road to find your true bashert isn’t a long one that’s bumpy and muddy. It may not be smooth, but it shouldn’t be treacherous with road hazards such as shadchanim like you described.
Hatzlachah to you all.