SELF-ESTEEM AND SPIRITUALITY
Your symposium on spirituality (“In Search of Spirituality,” [fall 2023]) highlighted a variety of considerations regarding the topic. I would like to suggest one more.
Perhaps we struggle today to find Hashem because we are struggling to find and appreciate ourselves. We live in a world where depression, anxiety and low self-esteem run rampant. But when one is energized and inspired by his own unique potential, there is a natural expansiveness that seeks to include G-d and to understand one’s relationship with Him.
Internalizing the truths below has created an inspiring pathway of deep spirituality for me:
• I am the daughter of Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel and Leah.
• I am the source of unbelievable potential.
• I am an eved Hashem. My incredible potential comes from that relationship, so I will make my actions today consistent with that relationship.
• I see the Divine within me, and I will spend my day revealing it.
• I have everything I need, a fact that makes me tremendously grateful.
Dr. Miriam Banarer
THE SINGLEHOOD EXPERIENCE
Thank you for your well-researched and well-presented article about the relationship between singles and our communities (“Singlehood: Are We Missing the Mark?” [fall 2023]). I have a few more suggestions to add:
• Provide support for ba’alei teshuvah who have returned from yeshivah, and are striving to restart their careers and shidduchim on their own.
• Start a hotline for singles in shidduchim to navigate issues of dating.
• Offer resources for singles to build their community involvement, such as volunteer projects, mentoring services to help singles and pastoral education for synagogue and community rabbis about this life stage.
I read with both interest and empathy the cover story on singles. I’d like to suggest another important aspect—namely, that we not pigeonhole single men and women based on backgrounds and hashkafot. Did our ancestors have shidduch résumés, with a photo and a profile that defined them with a few choice details? Many happily married couples have indeed said that “on paper” their shidduch would never have worked.
Ultimately, we must all remember that despite any shortcomings in our shidduch “system,” nothing stands in the way of the ultimate Shadchan, and if His will is to bring two people together, they will meet no matter the circumstances.
Freidele Galya Soban Biniashvili
Kudos to the OU for its multi-year study of the challenges of singlehood and for the accompanying article in Jewish Action, as well as for hosting a panel discussion on the topic. While there were important findings and recommendations that resulted from the study, I feel there are some weaknesses in the presentation.
Firstly, the study never defines what it means by “single Orthodox men and women.” Does the study include all age groups? All categories of “single” (i.e, never-married, divorced, widowed)? What was the makeup of the 2,300 singles who were surveyed? To which singles’ audience are the recommendations intended? As I’m sure the study team recognizes, there are vast differences between the needs of younger versus older singles versus never-married singles versus single parents. I didn’t see any of these distinctions addressed in the actual study, the Jewish Action article or the subsequent discussion on singles.
Secondly, I don’t recall seeing suggestions as to what singles can do to improve their experience and their connection to the community. In my experience, many shuls and communities are not purposefully ignoring singles, they are just not sure what is needed. Often singles need to be their own advocates.
Singles—speak to your rabbis and shul/community leaders. Let them know, constructively and respectfully, how you are feeling and what they can do to improve the situation for singles. There are also benefits to the shul and communities by having a more active group of singles involved in activities.
Lastly, I’d like to give a shout-out to Rabbi Yisrael Motzen, special assistant to the OU executive vice presidents and the rav of my shul, Ner Tamid in Baltimore, for being a shining example of how to create a seamless experience for singles in our community.
When I was young and single, weddings were a great place to meet potential mates. Each singles table would usually be a mix of the kallah’s and the chatan’s friends. The happy new couple would carefully try to seat together friends who they thought might be compatible. Even if no specific couples at the table were appropriate for one another, someone might think of a possible match (“You like modern art? My roommate likes modern art!”) and make an introduction.
Nowadays, singles are seated at opposite sides of the room, often behind mechitzot. How are singles supposed to meet and marry if they aren’t allowed to speak with one another? We are putting up both metaphorical and physical barriers to singles meeting in what should be one of the most natural environments for mixing and making connections. And then we bemoan the fact that singles have no way to meet!
If we want to help those who have not yet found their bashert, they need to be allowed to talk to each other. Seat them at the same table, and see what happens!
Elka Tovah Davidoff
CORRECTION: In “In Search of Spirituality,” in the fall 2023 issue, we incorrectly noted that Rabbi Marc Angel serves as rabbi of Congregation Shearith Israel in Manhattan; in fact, he is rabbi emeritus of the congregation and currently serves as director of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals.