Dear Goldy:

I’m 25 and “in the parshah.” I love your column and think you have done your best to cover all topics that are current, except one. The topic: people who have someone with special needs in their immediate family. My brother is on the autism spectrum. He’s highly functioning, but he still has the diagnosis. Very occasionally, that affects a shidduch for me and my other siblings. What I mean is, sometimes the shadchan is stupid (yes, I wrote “stupid” because that’s the only explanation) enough to tell me that the reason why a guy doesn’t want to date me or continue dating me is because of my brother. I know that the shadchan doesn’t mean that these people hate my brother; it means they are afraid that marrying into my family will give them the greater chance of having their own children with special needs. You may think that I’m exaggerating, but I’m not.

I am sending you this letter because last week a stupid shadchan said that the “great bachur” she had been trying to redt to me for a while suddenly became available, but when she told him about me, he said he didn’t want to date me for fear of “passing on the autism gene.” Those were her words exactly.

I can understand why people may be hesitant at first. Even during the dating process, everyone envisions the family they will have when they find their mate: kids, nice house, vacations, simchos, etc., and having a child with special needs affects daily life. So, they try to cut their chances of disrupting their life by not going out with someone who obviously already has someone in the family with a disability. Like I said, it’s understandable. All I ask is that all of you who say no to date me or others with family members with a diagnosis (of any kind) do so in an educated way. Don’t be the ostrich that buries its head in the sand and not find out what needs to be found out before you say, “No, thank you, I don’t want that.”

And for those shadchanim who have the “don’t shoot the messenger” attitude, I’m shooting the messenger! How can you be so dumb and not have any feeling toward the person you are talking to? You’re basically saying, “He/she won’t date you because your ______ has _______ and he/she doesn’t want it passed down to their kids.” Why are you not worried about hurting my feelings? Don’t you realize how your words sting? You can make up any reason: “It’s not shayach” or “thinks you’re hashkafically too different” or anything else like that.

I’m not asking anyone to do hours of research. We all have phones or access to Google. It takes Google less than one second to find dozens, if not hundreds of articles and websites on a topic. Why don’t you spend three minutes looking up autism or any other illness and find out the probability of passing it on to the next generation. Or, better yet, find out about the actual illness: how the diagnosis affects the individual, how able or disabled are they, etc. In just minutes, questions can be answered.

Let me let all of you in on a fact that will blow your mind: Couples who don’t have a history of illness have children who sometimes do have a diagnosis. It’s just the way it is. You may want to try to lessen your chances and think you’re dodging a bullet by not dating people like me, but nothing is guaranteed. Guess what? My parents didn’t have anyone on their family tree branches with an illness, and then my parents began realizing something was off when my brother wasn’t reaching milestones when the rest of us did, and so the evaluations began. Once the diagnosis was given, there was a long period of adjustment. It was hard to accept; and once my parents did, they managed to get him all the services he was eligible for and that he needed. We still went on family trips, and it was “normal.” All my brothers and sisters “misbehaved” equally. Our parents were exasperated by all of us. Shabbos and Yom Tov were fine. Like I said, my brother is highly functioning. He sits at the Shabbos table and he participates in discussions. He attended school and now has a job he is very proud of and is very good at.

Cancer runs in families, as well as diabetes, mental illness, etc. I can go on and on. There are some people who ask shadchanim if mental illness runs in the family of potential shidduchim. Is it because they don’t want to have to deal with the “crazy aunt” or because they don’t want there to be a chance of passing it down to their kids? No one has ever asked me or any of my friends (because I asked them) if diabetes or cancer runs in the family. Cancer and diabetes can be just as debilitating as any other diagnosis, or worse. Baruch Hashem, my family doesn’t have to worry about my brother passing away due to autism, but can you say the same about cancer?

I love my brother. He is my best friend and I mean it. He’s in his 20s and we go out all the time shopping, dinner, parks, movies. My friends love him - and not because they feel sorry for him or me - and they try “extra hard” to include him. I proudly walk down the street with my brother and will introduce him to anyone. Once people meet him and see how happy he always is, listen to his sense of humor and love of football, as well as war tanks and how enthusiastic about life he is, they treat him just like anyone else, and his autism isn’t an issue. We can tell when someone is being “extra nice” and even when someone is apprehensive when around my brother. We are happy to answer any questions, but don’t be fake.

It is not my loss that you will not date me because of my brother. It is your loss that you will never get to meet my amazing brother or his sassy sister. We will not be a part of your life.

Again, all I ask is that when you are redt to someone who has a family member diagnosed with anything, do your research before you decline. It takes four seconds to Google something. You don’t have 10-30 seconds to spare? Are you that busy or that selfish and caught up in your own greatness to not want to even consider dating someone who is closely related to someone diagnosed with something?

Ahuva Steinberg
proud sister of Menachem


Thank you for your email, proud sister of Menachem!

When I’m wrong, I admit it. It’s the only way to learn, actually. I have not written about siblings or relatives of those with Special Needs. Thank you for writing and opening the door for discussion.

Menachem is very lucky to have a sister and family like he does. The “parshah” is cruel at times. I can only imagine what reasons are given to you. I have been told by shadchanim:

“He said no because he doesn’t like your brother-in-law.”

“He said no because of the picture in your house.”

“He said no because you’re not girly enough.”

And I agree with you regarding the shadchanim who don’t know when to simplify and generalize it all with “He doesn’t think it’ll go anywhere or is shayach.” I, too, would shoot the messenger in this instance. In essence, the shadchanim are insulting and hurting you and others in your situation and, inadvertently, your brother. Whether or not you have thick skin and you don’t care about it doesn’t matter. Words hurt.

Trying to be dan l’chaf z’chus here, I will say that people are afraid of what they don’t know. They may hear of a diagnosis within the family and have that panicked rush of “Autism? Sitting in the corner spinning in circles...” – which I know is not the case (no hate mail, please). There are different levels of severity of autism, just as there are different types of diabetes and types of other “illnesses” that I won’t mention. We can’t fault people for their knee-jerk reaction, but I fully understand and agree with you that finding out more about a diagnosis and everything associated with it can take less than five minutes in today’s world.

You are correct in writing that healthy families can have a child born with special needs or, chas v’shalom, a child who develops an illness later in life. One spouse can have one gene and, when mixed with the genes of the other spouse... It’s really all up to Hashem. They may want to try to cut out the unpleasantness and downside of having an immediate family member with special needs, but then they miss out on all the good things that you can be introduced to in life because you have a family member with special needs. And I’m not talking about skipping the line in amusement parks to go right to the front. Ahuva, I’m sure you and others know what I’m speaking about. You have a better appreciation of things and a new way to look at life when someone with special needs is in your day-to-day life.

I won’t get preachy. I’m not telling people to amend their ways and to say yes or do research. All I am saying is that looking into an issue for a minute or two isn’t that hard to do. But I have nothing to say to the shadchanim who are telling you that someone won’t date you because of something having to do with your brother. Take away their shadchan membership card! If you don’t have enough seichel to sugarcoat the actual reason or generalize it, then you don’t have enough seichel to put together a proper shidduch.

Hatzlachah to you all!

Goldy Krantz  is an LMSW and a lifelong Queens resident, guest lecturer, and author of the shidduch dating book, The Best of My Worst and children’s book Where Has Zaidy Gone? She can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..