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?