Chana Rachel Frumin is the director and founder of the Jerusalem Narrative Family Therapy Institute, where she is a marriage counselor and Orthodox matchmaker. With Tu B’Av, the Jewish day for love and matchmaking, coming up soon, I spoke with her about how she started setting people up, the challenges of making connections in the Orthodox world, and helping people get past prejudices and be friendly on dates.
Tamar Fox: Can you tell me how you got started as a matchmaker?
Chana Rachel Frumin: I’m a marriage and family counselor, and there were a lot of women coming in that were getting very hurt by the dating process. And I decided that I had to try and help them. So I started a group with Rebbetzin Esther Ticho and Rabbi Aaron Mertzel, and I taught them about coaching people to have friendly dating services. We coach people how to stay friendly, how not to get excited, how not to get upset, how to give the person a chance. I told them like, when you ride on an airplane, you kind of, give them a chance, and you just get to know who they are and you don’t make any kind of demands or, you don’t have any confrontations or arguments. So I coach people how to be friendly. A lot of people go on dates and they’re very critical and very judgmental, so I try to teach people to lighten up, lighten up on dates.
How long ago did you start doing that coaching?
I’ve been doing it for six years. I’ve been a marriage counselor for 15.
What are the toughest issues you face when trying to make a match?
Unrealistic expectations. Too many demands. What else? People not being honest. No, I don’t think I want to say people not being honest. I think I want to say, they’re not industrious enough, like they say they’ll call someone and they won’t call someone or they say they’ll date them and they date someone else. So it’s a matter of not being organized. And that really hurts people’s feelings and then nobody wants to go out.
I’ve been reading about the history of matchmaking, and for a really long time shadkhans were all men, and it’s only in the last 150 years or so that it has become common for women to be involved. What do you think a woman brings to the job? Or do you think it doesn’t make a difference if it’s a man or a woman?
I think women are more flexible, and they’re more intuitive, so they can more easily see a potential date, a potential possibility for someone. I mean I once had an experience where I had known somebody really really well over a period of a year, and then when his lady walked in I mamish knew it as soon as I met her. As soon as I met her I said, “Oh my gosh this is her for him!” And I called him up and I said, “I met her!” So women are very intuitive.
Are you married?
Yeah. 30 years.
How did you meet your spouse?
I was working on a moshav, and he lived on the moshav.
There’s a lot of people who basically think now that men are waiting to get married for too long, so there’s Jewish women who are remaining single for too long.
Yeah, I would agree with that.
And there’s just not enough men.
I would agree with that.
Uh-huh. I’ll tell you the other big problem: is that people are extraordinarily prejudiced against short people, heavy people. You know there’s just a whole lot of prejudice, so people don’t even get a chance, which doesn’t make any sense.
What’s the biggest reward of your job?
Well that’s pretty obvious–when a couple finds each other. It’s extraordinary. That’s extraordinary because they don’t have to be lonely anymore. The other reason why I do this is because I’m taking a stand against loneliness. There’s just an incredible amount of loneliness in the world, and some of it’s unwarranted. Because it’s very hard–Israel’s not a dating society, you know you don’t meet people on the streets so much you know there has to be context, and it’s very difficult.
What do you think is the most common mistake people make when they’re dating or looking to get married? To be decisive quickly, much much too quickly. I think there should be four dates. There should be like a common practice of four dates. Even if those four dates are in a two week period, you know, four dates–you could at least know who the person is, give the person a chance just treat them with respect and, you know, decently.
Judaism has this concept of yichus, of coming from good lineage. How does this factor into your matchmaking? So my partners are the ones who work more traditionally. My own experience is I try to set someone up with a complimentary hashkafa, [Halakhic outlook] something that is in the ballpark, but in terms of yichus that’s out of my range.