Saw You at Sinai or Did I?

Over Facebook chat, my friend scolded me about my dating life.  She insisted that I put myself out there more by going on TV shows, online dating sites and to matchmakers.   God-forbid I be single.  Although I personally think my dating stories are far more interesting than my married friends’ stories of laundry, cooking and diapers, I guess I, too, am susceptible to the desire to couple up.  So, I opened a new tab in my Internet browser and went to an orthodox Jewish matchmaking website called www.sawyouatsinai.com.

 

The first step is to fill out their questionnaire.  I thought, “How hard could this be?  I’ll just click single, no children and orthodox, put up some pictures, write about myself and what I’m looking for in a man and voila.”  Um, wrong!  The first question alone made me feel like I was in front of a bet din.  It asked with which sect of Judaism I identify?  Easy enough, right?  Except there were about 50 selections!  (I guess the Jewish people really are divided.)  Then, there were questions about my level of observance: kosher, how I dress, whether I will cover my head and how I often I pray and study Torah.  Fine.

 

Following these questions, I had to answer the section of whether I am a convert or baal tshuva.  Click yes or no, right?  Ha!  What year did you convert?  Under which organization did you convert?  Who was your conversion rabbi?  What’s the bracha on a banana?  Okay, the last one I made up (and it’s a trick question).

 

Then I came upon the question, “Are you disabled?”  Wait.  What?  Why?  Am I filling out my taxes?  Am I buying a train ticket?  Did I just skip the line at Disney World?  Nope.  I double-checked, and I was still on the dating website.  But, okay, I clicked “yes,” and a follow-up question appeared.  This time it asked me to “please describe.”  Okay, now I was confused.  Did they want the percentage of disability the Israeli government has declared me, or my actual diagnosis, or my doctor’s name and number, or a list of medical devices I use? Ugh!  I just wrote “wheelchair” and moved on slightly agitated.

 

It wasn’t until the website asked, “Are you willing to date someone with a disability?” and “Are you willing to date a baal tshuva?” that I got angry.  The site didn’t ask: Are you willing to date a Satan worshiper?, or a rapist?, or a murderer?, or a child molester?, or a psycho?, or the absurdly stupid?  ….  Right.  No need to explain if you are unattached due to your serial adultery as the make or break issues.  Where they draw the line is disability and returning to G-d.

 

I am not certain why these questions are here.  They do not seem intended to link up people with similar worldviews and parallel lifetime goals, such as: marriage, children, and a Torah-centered home.  These questions seem to cater to a bias in order to make the matchmaker’s life easier.  Weed out the undesirables. Rather than go to the trouble of finding an appropriate match or looking at my actual characteristics, the matchmaker would only have to look at a small pool of men, that is men in Israel, who are religious and who would date a disabled girl.

 

Sure this may be convenient.  Limit the number of men you need to sift through.  But, most people don’t even know anyone with a disability.  People know stereotypes.  When they think of a disabled person, they think of Christopher Reeves or Jerry’s kids, who are often portrayed as sad, deformed and drooling.  I am not on their radar screen.  Disability is not normally linked up with someone, who is an attractive blond with a bachelors and juris doctorate degrees, and who is independent, worldly and witty, yet artistic.  (Who, by the way, is neither deformed nor drools.  Well, except on my pillow at night).  So, yeah, they click “No” to that question.  So would I to avoid a deformed drooler, who is also an absurdly stupid Satan worshiping, psychotic, child molesting, rapist.  (Oh, yea, they forgot to ask about those hobbies).

 

A close friend of mine once told me that before we met he signed up for a dating website. The website asked him whether he would date someone with a disability.  He answered “No.”   After meeting and getting to know me, and asking me out, he went back to the website and changed his answer.

 

The website superimposes its own biases on the orthodox community.  Ba’alei Tshuva and the disabled are undesirable.  No need to allow users to make the choice for themselves.  The site asks a question that its users are too uninformed to answer.  At the same time the site denies users, such as yours truly, little to no chance of being matched with a suitable candidate.  The website does not ask whether its users are willing to date someone based on their race, national origin, criminal background, IQ level, bank account, family tree, or clean mental bill of health.  No.  The only undesirable traits are how G-d made us and whether we have returned to Him, only disability and length of religious observance.  In doing so, the website discriminates against the disabled and ba’ale tshuva.

 

In the end, it seems the name of this website is quite ironic – Saw You at Sinai.  One of the greatest interpreters of Tora was Rabbi Akiva.  He was a ba’al tshuva.  You might have seen him at Sinai, but it will be hard to see him on this site.  Moshe was the father of All Prophets.  Our rabbi. Our teacher.  He saw G-d at Sinai.  When G-d saw Moshe, G-d saw a man disabled by a speech impediment, who grew up unaware that he was a Hebrew.  He was not “frum from birth” but rather, converted with the rest of the Jewish people at the foot of Sinai.  So, it’s a good thing Zipporah didn’t use this website.  She may never have met our greatest prophet.

 

Well, as the song says, “I’ll be seeing you.”  Though, perhaps not on this site.  To help, when we meet, I am the blond modestly dressed lawyer.  Excuse me if I don’t stand up.

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9 thoughts on “Saw You at Sinai or Did I?

  1. the phrasing of the disability and ba’al tshuva questions are but two points that highlight the flawed system that is the syas (dis)service in particular and the approach of the jewish matchmaking “industry” in general. sure, there are questions particularly on dating sites that are presented to help the algorithms do their thing but at a certain point the sheer volume and absurdity of the questions begin to gnaw at your hope until you’re left with raw humiliation. I am among those who would like to be matched up with a partner with like-minded spiritual goals to help set the religious tone of my home but when is the last time anyone asked a married person how frequently he davens? I’m surprised there isn’t a question asking about your level of kavana during prayer… and I don’t want a tv in my home but this decision is not religiously motivated. somehow it’s ok to ask deeply personal questions about religious observance and anything else really in the name of “finding your bashert”. why are these the first things you learn about a potential match? why do I need to scroll all the way to the bottom to read what the person has to say about themselves? (for the sake of this post we’ll move past the fact that the content is generally a poorly constructed, grammatically incorrect, incoherent bit of gibberish because I’m not sure how much syas can be came blamed for that.) the site developers certainly superimpose their own biases on the orthodox community and sadly I see it as a reflection of the attitude of wider shadchanus “industry”.

  2. Well written.. I loved how the ending wrapped it all up nicely. By the way… I drool on my pillow too…. Maybe we should start a support group?

  3. That was my objection to SYAS; I found the questions to be shallow and not deep enough to successfully match up couples. Considering their percentages of marriages, it could really be a lot better considering the hype.

    I’m supposed to select a life partner based on something as basic as keeping kosher in the home? I have no idea what sort of Jew I am. Then, I got an email from a “shadchan” saying my settings were set in a way that “guys don’t like.”

    Needless to say, I left. Hashem can send me someone a different way.

  4. I understand where you are coming from; however, I have a question for you. Have you ever been set up with someone, whom you did not know previously, by a friend or an acquaintance? If so, do you know whether or not your disability was disclosed to them before they agreed to go out with you?

  5. Disability should, of course, be disclosed before the set up. My point is that it should not be used to weed out individuals with one. Applicants don’t have enough information at the time of the question. It can be part of the person’s profile. And, if an applicant already knows beforehand that he does not want to date someone with a chair, he can put it in his message to the matchmaker. It doesn’t need to be a presumed filter.

  6. I applied for membership on SYAS because of so many success stories and because I was reluctant to go to Shadchanim and because other “Jewish” dating sites didnt seem very Jewish… And SYAS seemed to “frum” oriented.

    I agree with you about certain things. When I used to live in Israel, I thought there are only two “ways” about being Jewish; either you shomer Torah & Mitzvot or you don’t. When I cam to the US and started looking for a Shiduch, I realized there are much more. I still don’t understand whats a conseradox and many others… To me, a Jew is a Jew.

    I think it should be part of the criteria (the disability part), because many do not want to date a “disabled” person. but I understand what you mean. Being disabled could be very abstract.

    I had my criteria set to NO (guideline) about dating disabled. After reading your article I changed it to Yes. I realize I don’t mind dating disabled (as long as she’s cute :P) and I don’t want to miss my soul mate by limiting search criteria… You sound like a very nice person and a true Jew in heart and action, hopefully both of us (and all others) will soon find our other half 🙂 Good luck to you.

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