A date once remarked to me that she felt a bit left out of the general shidduchim scene because she had gone to Touro, and thus had no real connection to get set up with YU guys. Her father attended YU a number of years ago, and she had an older sister who went to Stern, but neither could provide any real contacts to get her “in” the system of the YU dating world.
She mentioned that a bunch of her fellow Touro classmates felt similarly, and that it was a bit frustrating since they saw themselves as looking for guys more akin to those found at YU than at Touro/Landers. The Touro-branded gender-separated schools also lack the frequency of contact that YU and Stern have, so the opportunities for inter-campus dating didn’t really exist for her either.
Thinking back on my own dating experience, I realize that the majority of girls I’ve gone out with did, in fact, attend Stern. Those that didn’t (and there were a few) ended up as somewhat short-lived matches, lasting no longer than 2 dates. While those shidduchim were ended for various other reasons (by me or the girl, depending on the case), I wonder to what degree the difference in educational background played a part in the termination of the shidduch.
The saying goes that opposites attract. However, for most people, I don’t think this is true at all. People are most comfortable around others similar to themselves, and often develop relationships (friendship or otherwise) with different individuals based on a shared experience that then unifies them into a similar experiential subset – such as classmates or HASC/NCSY advisors.
I know from my own experience that I’ve had some difficulty becoming friends with guys who went to Gush. I don’t mean this as an insult in any way to their yeshiva or hashkafa, since I find many things to respect and admire in their approach, just as I do with most every halachically observant group out there. However, there has always been some undermining factor that created friction between me and the Gush alumni. With one particular friend, who I have known for a number of years, dating back to before either of us went to Israel (he went to Gush), I find almost impossible to have a normal, casual conversation with. I don’t think he’s an argumentative instigator of any sort, but we almost always end up verbally tussling over issues such as the existence of platonic relationships (which is another topic for another post and not up for discussion now). Despite all this, I still value him as a friend, and he often has very sharp, extremely intelligent things to say which I find very thought-provoking.
More recently though, I’ve begun to become friends with guys from Gush and other yeshivos as more primary friends than those from my own yeshiva, as has been the trend in the past. This development could be out of necessity from the fact that almost all the guys from my year in Israel at my yeshiva have graduated or gotten married and moved away. A more likely possibility, in my opinion, is that we have gone through the YU educational system and thus our cliquey behavior from post Shana Aleph/Bet has been broken down in favor of a more unified relationship stemming from our new identities as YU students. Sure, we still have strong loyalties toward our alma maters, but YU has become a new home of sorts, a new united yeshiva where we all have our unique niche among the overall Torah Umadda commonality that binds us together.
In the realm of dating, I tend to find that I very often have more in common with girls who go/went to Stern, since there is a very shared history between us, somewhat akin (though different in nuanced ways) to the idea in the previous paragraph. Even though we usually have never met before, we have a mutual educational history. Being able to engage in the ‘hock’ about goings on in the YU world is always a fun topic for the first date or two, and that basic connection is entirely lost when I’m going out with someone who has no connection to YU.
I have noticed a similar thing with regard to girls who went to Israel vs. those that did not (for whatever reason). I admittedly have gone out with very few girls who chose not to attend a seminary for the year, and it always feels like there is this huge chunk of connecting fabric that is utterly missing. We can’t trade stories about the craziness we experienced living in Israeli society or other adventures we took part in – all of which is usually perfect fodder for the first few dates when all you really do is play Jewish geography and compare/contrast the year(s) spent in Israel before college. The less than handful of times that I’ve been on dates with someone who went straight to Stern I end up feeling bad because I find myself going on and on about my Israel yeshiva days, and realize that I’m basically having a one-sided conversation because she can’t participate in a proper give-and-take in this area. Many girls are also a bit (or more than a bit) sensitive about this aspect of their educational record, and that can make things difficult as well.
Another similarly relevant point is the in/out-of-towner status. As an out-of-towner, I was initially encouraged by my rabbeim to only go out with girls that were also out-of-towners, simply because it meant we would have a common background that would potentially help produce mutually feelings about lifestyle and hashkafa. Being from out-of-town has a real profound influence on how a person views the world – I still can’t see myself ever living in New York on any permanent basis. I love YU, but I can’t stand New York. At first, I only went out with girls from hometowns similar to my own – which was probably more coincidence than absolute intention, since the candidates that married friends and their wives thought of always happened to be of that particular background.
Then, after a dry spell of not receiving any suggestions from my helpful and caring friends, I started using YU Connects and ended up dating several "local" girls. All were fairly unproductive, lasting no more than 3 dates (with refusals coming from both sides at different times). That doesn’t necessarily mean I’m entirely incompatible with in-towners, and in fact many probably wouldn’t mind living somewhere a little bit warmer and with a slower pace of life. So while I don’t outrightly turn down any girls from the Tri-State area anymore, I do make sure to inquire to see what their mindset is about at least the possibility of leaving somewhere very out-of-town. As a result, I’ve met some very great girls, and have also rejected profiles sent to me (via YU Connects) of people whose mantra is “New York or Israel.”
As an aside, take notice that New York is dead last in the CDC’s survey of the nation’s happiest states, while New Jersey is 47th.
The last major point of comparison/contrast I find is the ba’al teshuva (BT) vs. frum from birth (FFB) interaction/disconnection. I will proudly admit I am a ba’al teshuva, dating back to my early high school days. I, along with my family, have gone through a lot of growth in the last decade since I’ve become religious. The experience of becoming frum can be very tumultuous, resulting in tense/argumentative relationships with parents and siblings, a ton of self-doubt about the entire process, and at worst can ostracize parents and their children. Thank G-d, the rougher times of conflicted interactions between my parents and I have long past and we are on extremely good terms wherein they recognize and appreciate the value of being religious (and have made great strides in that direction as well, to follow their children). If anything, our relationship is far stronger than it was before this religious journey began. But not every BT’s story is the same. Some never regain a positive relationship with their parents, and some maintain a very tentative “walking on pins and needles” connection to their mother and father (certainly a sad situation).
Oddly enough, I’ve only gone out with 2 ba’alei teshuva. One became frum along with her family at a very young age, so for all intents and purposes, she was no different from any FFB I’ve gone out with. The other had a situation similar to mine, but only her mother became more religious and not her father, so her parent-child relationship, though generally positive, is far from perfect in many ways (as are all of our parent-children relationships, though this adds an extra kink into the mix). Though we had similar basic stories in how we became frum (NCSY, rabbinic mentor, religious friends) our overall experiences, and the perspectives we developed were markedly different. That was the only “one-and-done” shidduch that was entirely mutual. She is a great person, and I very much admire her inner strength and tenacity for becoming religious in an admittedly difficult situation that I could really relate to, but we were on very different wavelengths.
I had thought that the mutual ba’al teshuva background would be a ripe source for finding connections between us. There are a great number of shared experiences that BT have had in their past which FFB’s will hopefully never encounter (this is also not up for discussion now, and could easily fill a post or two) which we draw strength from and have helped mold our often very unique perspectives on life and Judaism. I have always thought that the Gemara in Brachos (daf 34B) is an example of this principle. The Gemara there talks about the place where ba’alei teshuva stand in shomayim is a location that even tzadikim gemurim can never reach. Ba’alei teshuva who utilize their past, incorporating all the things they learned and were exposed to fashion a very distinctive pathway in Avodas HaShem. This includes the positive elements as well as beneficial points which can always be extracted from even the most negative situations.
So while BTs can have somewhat similar backgrounds (sometimes VERY similar) there can also be very disparate experiences that just don’t mesh. The conversation we had over the course of the entire date felt as though we were just talking past one another. We simply couldn’t properly grasp, or agree with the other’s views on lifestyle, interactions/relationships with gentiles, frumkite, and other things BTs struggle to define for themselves.
As ironic as it sounds, and especially because I certainly don’t have a right to be particular about the issue of dating fellow BTs, (since that is entirely hypocritical) I would honestly prefer someone with a FFB background. I love my parents and extended family to no end, and I don’t have any halachic issues with them anymore, but I like the idea of being part of another family that is far more grounded a knowledgeable about the finer details of halachic observance. Like I said, I can’t demand to only date girls with a FFB background, but this is something I think about a lot.
Lastly, there was an idea that I remember reading from Rav Aharon Feldman’s The River, The Kettle, and The Bird (which is FANTASTIC, by the way, and a must read for everyone engaged, married, or especially single – so you can work on the points of mussar he mentions NOW rather than waiting to improve yourself during marriage) or from my personal Rav (or it could be another source). In any case, the particular rabbinical figure said that whenever he meets with newly engaged couples for pre-marital counseling and guidance, he always has them sit down together in his office and starts off by relaying the same message. He turns to the guy and tells him “Your soon-to-be wife is a female,” then turns to the girl and says “Your soon-to-be husband is a male.” He does this to drive the point home that people often have unrealistic expectations about their spouse. Simply because this very special individual is someone you have committed to spending the rest of your life with, and hopefully your absolute best friend, doesn’t mean that he/she is also going to be the best equivalent of your male/female friends.
I recall hearing from another source that commented on the above mentioned catechism (“opposites attract”) that those who are looking for opposites have enough to deal with already since males and females are inherently different enough – why worry about other things like drastically different backgrounds, nationalities, family lifestyles, etc?
In any event, I know of at least one YU-Touro couple who are very happily married. My YU friend’s Touro-educated wife has acclimated quite well to the YU environment, and now she fits right in. I do think any specific differences of the sort I’ve written about in this post are by any means major red flags or deal breakers, but they are definitely something to consider.