For Jerusalem's ultra orthodox, love is work for matchmakers

Families and rabbis organize weddings for young ultra-orthodox

21 November, 17:36

    Ultra Orthodox Jews celebrate Simchat Torah in Jerusalem [ARCHIVE MATERIAL 20141016 ] Ultra Orthodox Jews celebrate Simchat Torah in Jerusalem [ARCHIVE MATERIAL 20141016 ]

    (by Elisa Pinna and Nina Fabrizio) (ANSAmed) - ROME, NOVEMBER 21 - Despite current tensions, the tables of the bars of Jerusalem's great hotels near the great synagogue, or ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Mea She'arim, are all occupied by very young Jewish couples. They are a little shy and awkward. The men have long curls that cascade from their temples and the pale faces of those who pass long hours studying the Torah; they are dressed in black with yarmulkes on their heads. The young women wear high-necked dresses, long skirts, and cover their hair with nets. For many of them, it is their first date, perhaps the first time they have met. The goal is to like each other and get married.

    In the world of ultra-orthodox Jerusalem, a community that is constantly growing and that represents 30% of the urban population, marriage is usually organized by the families with the help of rabbis or special brokers, called shadcan in Hebrew, a local source told ANSAmed. Moreover, it is impossible for young Haredim (a word that means "those who tremble for fear of God") to meet and fall in love in the course of everyday life. The segregation of the sexes is absolute in Mea She'arim and in other ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods of the Holy City. Boys and girls attend separate schools and must walk on different sidewalks. Casting a glance is unthinkable, holding hands in public even worse.

    So the Haredi families turn to matchmakers, the shadchan, to find the right partner for their children. Among the ultra-Orthodox, marriage is celebrated at 18 to 19 years of age - little more than adolescence.

    The shadchan examine their archives, and scrutinize theme sheet by sheet, analyzing the character of the candidates - especially their religious determination. When they find a prospective couple, they submit it to the parents.

    Often without the knowledge of those directly affected, the families meet with the rabbi to work out the economic issues - who will buy or rent the house, who will pay the wedding expenses. If the families agree, an appointment is finally made that usually happens on Saturday or Sunday evening, at the tables of the bars of West Jerusalem. Candidates meet to the sound of the klezmer orchestras, and are entirely free to decide whether to marry or not. If the encounter triggers sparks of love, the wedding is quickly organized. Otherwise another blind date is arranged.

    In Haredi families, the women are expected to bear many children and often work to support their husbands, who are completely devoted to religious study. Faith takes precedence over personal interests or domestic disagreements. However, among the 30% of couples in Israel who divorce each year, it is not rare to also find the ultra-orthodox. The rabbinate, is willing to annul a marriage for religious reasons, as happens in Italy with the Sacra Rota of the Vatican. (ANSAmed).

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