Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Matchmaker, matchmaker

Last night I went to a local kiruv center that allegedly offers matchmaking services. The person who runs it is a Facebook friend of mine, Adam Hashakran, and he's always posting status updates about the people he's set up. I figured it was worth a shot. On their website, it states:

Does your busy lifestyle present challenges with meeting quality Jewish singles? Would you like to be able to work with a live dating coach who gets to know you? Are you a non-native New Yorker who would like to expand your Social Network and meet great people?

Kiruv Center Intros with Adam Hashakran

KC proudly presents an Introduction Service every Monday night for young Jewish professionals looking for quality, thoughtful, and personalized introductions. Stop by for an interview with our own relationships expert, Adam Hashakran, who has years of success and experience in creating great couples.

Here's how it works: stop by between 7-8:30pm for a meeting of around 10-15 minutes long with Adam Hashakran -- no appointment necessary, though there might be a wait time. Adam gathers information about who you are and what you're looking for and will contact you to make suggestions for potential dates.

Initial Consultation - Free, with admission to the Monday Night Learning program. All these, coupled with our interesting and practical dating classes and the sagely advice of our rabbinic staff, combine to offer a world of dating possibility.

(Check out our photo gallery for a listing of couples who got married through Kiruv Center!)

When I got there, I waited for a few minutes while the desk person finished chatting with the person she was talking to. I told her I was there to see Adam.

"Please fill out these two forms," she said. "And it's $10."

I had thought "free" meant "free." But whatever. I gave her $10, filled out the form about myself, and partially filled out the registration form. I wasn't about to give them my e-mail or snail mail addresses; I get too much junk mail already. She seemed miffed when I told her I wasn't interested in their mailings.

Near the entry was a large room filled with tables, and pairs of people seated and learning together in chevruta. She told me to sit near the entrance, and soon Adam came and sat across from me.

"We're going to talk... here? in front of all these people?" I asked.

"Oh, it's so many people, nobody's going to hear anything," he said. I didn't like it, but I figured I could speak quietly.

As soon as he found out I'm a clinical social worker, the interview stopped being about me.

"You know, I'm having trouble with one of my children..." he said, and launched into a description of adolescent rebellion and parental strain. I felt very uncomfortable. Not least because I'm really not any kind of expert on adolescents. I don't even like adolescents; I don't work with them.

I probably should have said, "You know, this really isn't my area..." But I didn't want to appear unhelpful. After all, this man has dozens of potential matches for me in his pocket, right? So I tried to give some very general advice, which he appeared to find very helpful.

Fine. After about 25 minutes, we meandered back to me.

"Are you high-maintenance?" he asked.

That kind of blindsided me. "Well, I don't... I mean, I --"

He cut me off. "It's not a bad thing to be high-maintenance. You're dressed very nicely, nice earrings. Many guys like high-maintenance girls; some even ask me for high-maintenance girls."

"Well, I like nice things, but I don't need them," I said, trying frantically to explain myself. "These earrings are gold-plated. I just don't want to have to worry about money all the time, you know, so I'd like the guy to have a decent parnassah. And I know how to shop for bargains; my top is from Kohl's and my skirt is from Target."

"I love bargain-shopping!" he chortled, pulling his jacket away from his body to show me the designer label. "Guess how much this jacket cost me!"

"Uh... $75.00?" I hazarded. What does this have to do with setting me up?

"Try $30.00!" he caroled. "The day after the Syms bash!"

"Wow," I said. "Impressive!" When are you going to get back to setting me up?

He regaled me with the costs of his shirt, tie, and eyeglass frames. Then we spoke more about my interests and accomplishments.

"You're a very educated woman," he said. "Does your husband need to be as educated?"

"I don't think so," I said. "As long as I don't have to define all the words I use in conversation -- as long as he's not intimidated by me or my job..."

"You're a powerhouse," he declared.

"I guess... I mean --" I said.

"That's fine," he said, writing "powerhouse" on the form.

A slender woman in jeans and a leather jacket, with sharp, pretty features and long brown hair, walked up to the two of us.

"Adam," she said urgently, "I need you to think of me this week!"

"I can't talk to you now," he said.

"Adam, you know me four years already," she said. "I'm just asking you: please think of me this week!"


"I'll think of you," he promised. She walked away. My heart started sinking. He turned back to me, and we finished discussing who I am and what I'm looking for.

"So, I don't promise anything," he said. "I don't promise dates."

Then why did you take my $10?

"I have tons of girls -- gorgeous, stunning, beautiful girls -- that I've never set up," he continued. "It really depends on whether I have a guy who is a match for you. What are you doing to meet guys? Do you go to events? There's a book I want you to read..."

I looked down. I just spent an hour with this guy, talking about his family problems, his love of bargain shopping, his passion for the opera. I came here because he said he sets up tons of people. What am I doing to meet guys? It's irrelevant because it's not working. I came to him hoping he would offer something different. What did he offer?

"When you go to singles events, make sure you don't hang out with other girls," he said. "It makes it impossible for men to approach you, talk to you."

That and $2.50 will get me a ride on the subway. For now. I walked home in a fog of rage. I don't think I showed my anger to him or to the Kiruv Center rabbi he introduced me to. I hope I remembered to smile. I know I thanked him, although for what? As he requested, I sent him some photos of myself. But I don't think anything will come of it.

I went to bed angry and woke up morose. I didn't feel like getting up, since I start work at noon on Tuesday -- one of my late nights. So I missed Ziva Kramer's 8:35 a.m. email:

you can come today at 10 am.
please confirm!

I got this at about 9:30 a.m. and wrote back that I couldn't get there in time, so she said I could come at 11 a.m. Which I did.

After complimenting me on my "shining" skin (I think she meant "glowing," not "greasy") and youthful appearance, Ziva asked me what I was doing to meet guys. My heart sank.

"I can't know how to advise you until I know what you're doing," she said. I told her that after a bad experience with SawyouatSinai, I'm not willing to be a member, but that I had been an active member on Frumster and I sometimes went to singles events.

"I thought about what you said about oxytocin and testosterone in reference to a guy I dated last fall," I said. "I made the mistake of kissing him, and after that it was bad decision after bad decision until he decided he wasn't interested in me. And getting physically involved with other guys did seem to lead to them losing interest. So I want to try things your way. I also really liked what you wrote on your blog about not living with a guy."

"Thank you," she said. "So tell me: do you daven?"

I looked down. "Not much anymore," I said. "A friend of mine davened for me in Uman, and another went to the kever of the Rebbe of Zvil. But... I guess I feel like my prayers aren't being answered. So I stopped praying."

My eyes filled with tears. What an ungrateful wimp I am. I have most of my health, I have a job, I have a place to live and food and clothing. I've survived horrible situations. And yet my burning envy and anger prevent me from being thankful to Gd.

"I want to recommend a book to you," Ziva said. "It's called The Garden of Emuna."

"Funny," I said, "my friend Levi just recommended it."

"I really think you should read it soon," she said. "And every night, you should daven. You don't have to open a siddur -- I see how hard that is for you now. Just talk to Hashem like you're talking to me. Talk to him, cry to him, ask him for what you need. He loves you. He is your father, you are his daughter."

I nodded. I didn't trust myself to speak.

"Now, I can't promise anything," she said. "But I will try. And I see good things for you! You are a beautiful woman, kind, intelligent. You are going to get married! I want you to believe that! Every morning when you look in the mirror, say, 'I am going to get married this year.'"

"I am going to get married this year," I repeated.

"I want to hear from you every week," she continued. "Just a short email to tell me how you are doing." I promised. "One more question: before you were a social worker, you said you were a writer?"

"Yes," I said. "I wrote press releases and brochures and website content for nonprofits."

"What did you think of my blog?" she asked.

Sigh. Everyone wants a professional piece of me. But unlike Adam, I really feel like Ziva will at least try to help me. So I gave her some pointers. I don't think she realized that she's read and liked my blog. I didn't tell her I was Ayelet; for that matter, I didn't tell Adam that I have bipolar disorder either.

I ordered a copy of The Garden of Emuna. Tonight I'll try to pray and give a coin to tzedaka. Ziva also wants me to rejoin Frumster and pursue that avenue. I'll wait until they offer a discount. For some reason, she thinks I should look at guys from Baltimore, but I feel like they're too religious.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"


  1. Wow. Was his name REALLY Hashakran? Or is that you being sarcastic?

    He does sound like the typical unfortunate "everything is your fault, and no one can help you, but I'm not going to try at all anyway" shadchan. UGH.

    The second one sounds lovely. There are SOME more laid-back Baltimore dudes, along with the black hatters. I say try it. And stick with this shadchan! :)

    Good luck hon...


  2. "Adam Hashakran" is a slightly jaded pseudonym. I was angry because I don't need to spend money and time to hear that I need to read another book and go to more singles events. I want to work with a matchmaker so I won't HAVE to go to singles events!

  3. What an emotionally charged two days.

    Couple of observations:

    1. Don't beat yourself up about davening or lack thereof. There's only one God. He's there one way or the other.

    2. I'm leery of definites. Four years ago, a rabbi in Israel told me I would have another child by Rosh Hashana. Didn't happen. Faith and certitude are important, but you can't put a deadline on it.

    3. Not all Baltimore people are chnyuktards.

    4. What do you think of my blog? ;)

  4. You have a way with words.

    Please don't forget, even if nothing comes from Adam HaShakran, the effort you put in is hishtadlus. Even putting in hishtadlus that doesn't seem to matter, it all matters. Your beshert is somewhere right now.

    Incidentally, when these people "want a professional piece of you" they are complimenting you by asking your advice, and they are probably feeling you out with that type of conversation. If you were a shadchan woudn't you engage the single person in some type of conversation besides the investigative interview? You want to get a feel for the person besides "So what are you looking for, dear?"

    Just sayin'.

  5. Well, that's why I put together an impromptu treatment plan for the difficult adolescent. I wanted Adam to think I was helpful and competent. And I appreciate that I'm getting credit for hishtadlut even if I never get a date from Kiruv Center. It's just exhausting to try and try and try and see nothing come of your efforts.

  6. As a formerly frum former Baltimorian let me say that Baltimore is and isn't everything its reputation says.

    There is definitely the VERY right-wing element there. There are a lot of them there, it is easy to fall in with them if you aren't careful, even if you don't want to (and these are the people that after a decade finally pushed me away from Frumkeit). However, that isn't all there is.

    Not every "black hatter" in Baltimore is really a black hatter. It is so common in Baltimore that even some pretty modern people and new BTs who are barely frum wear the hat and dark suit on shabbos. It is just part of the Baltimore uniform at this point. I know plenty of very frum looking people who watch TV and movies, listen to secular music, read secular writers, have non-Jewish friends, value education and science, etc. So, until you actually get to know the person, you can't know what they really are. Heck, even among the right-wingers, Baltimore black hatters aren't exactly Lakewood or Monsey black hatters- many do the exact same things the more modern folks do, they just have a different attitude about it and/or hide it.

    Finally, there is also a much more left wing Orthodox element in Baltimore as well. Heck, Beth T'filoh is now the largest Modern Orthodox synagogue in the country- and Beth T'filoh is VERY Modern. Suburban Orthodox, Ner Tamid and a few other shuls have guys who any Modern Orthodox woman would probably feel very comfortable with.

    So, while I don't know you and won't presume to state whether Baltimore guys may be good for you or not, I can say you shouldn't automatically discount them as being too right-wing.