By Rabbi Gershon Avtzon, Cincinnati, Ohio
Yud-Daled Kislev, the anniversary of the Rebbe and the Rebbetzen, is approaching and it is a very appropriate time to talk about (an often unspoken) part of the shidduch process: The reference phone calls. It is an integral part of the process, as many shidduchim are made or dropped based on these phone calls, and I see that much guidance is needed in this area.
My children are still too young to be in the shidduch “parsha”, but by the nature of my shlichus – nearly 20 years of educating Mesivta-age bochurim and Talmidei Hashluchim – I am constantly being called as a reference for a Shidduch. Over the many years, with countless hours answering shidduch calls per year, I have come to formulate many thoughts and theories of how these calls should really be made. I always joke to my colleagues that I should write a “How to make shidduch calls” book which would definitely be a bestseller.
I will spare you all my thoughts and theories, but would like to share three pointers to the following three groups: 1) The parent that is putting down names and numbers of references that will be called. 2) The parent that is making the phone-call. 3) The person that is the reference answering the phone call.
The parent that is putting down names and numbers of references that will be called:
Please ask the person that you are putting as a reference if they are fine being a reference. Acknowledge that you are asking a person to share their time on your behalf, and show that respect for their time. Find out what hours, and on what phone number, the person would prefer being called. This is also a sign of respect. If/When the Shidduch happens, thank the reference for their time and effort.
Take a few minutes to explain to the reference what your son/daughter is looking for in a shidduch. While many times they may just be character or family references, it is always best if they are aware of the priorities that you are looking for.
Very important: Call your own references yourself! Have a friend call these references to truly see how they portray your child. Many promising shidduchim were ruined by things that were said by your own references. While you can’t control what people will say about your child, you could control who you will direct others to call about your child.
The parent that is making the phone-call:
It is always best to text the person you are trying to reach and ask them as to when is a good time to call as a shidduch reference of so-and-so. This is a sign of respect for the person’s time and it will ensure that the person you are calling is in the right frame of mind, and has the proper amount of time to thoroughly answer your questions . It also gives the person the opportunity to formulate their thoughts about that particular person.
I was once called as a reference, and as I was busy with something else, I told the person that I don’t have time and they should call back later. I then heard that the person calling put the shidduch on hold, because she felt that the reference was hiding something and was scared to speak.
[ In addition: Identify yourself when you call the (married) reference. You are asking people to share personal thoughts and information, it is only right that they know who they are talking to. You will get much more honest information this way.]
The conversation should not just be: “what can you tell me about this person?” It is very vague and open-ended. Many people are not able to “just speak”. While there is a certain benefit in hearing the first things that come to mind about the person from the reference, It is always best to prepare additional specific questions that you would like answered by the reference.
[ In addition: Try to research the relationship of the reference to the person. I get countless phone calls asking me about a bochur when he was 15 years old and asking about his relationships with his friends. I need to remind the parents that I was the teacher of the boy, not his roommate. In addition: I hope that the boy at 24 is more mature than at 14. ]
Very important: Make sure that you and the person that you are calling are talking “the same language”. A typical example : Many people ask: ”Is the bochur Chassidishe”? Each person has their own definition of what Chassidish means. To one person, if the bochur has a full beard – but watches movies and follows sports – he is fitting to be called Chassidish. To another, if he has a smartphone, he is not Chassidish. For Shidduchim purposes, there is no wrong answer or definition. Keep in mind that many times, people use the same words and mean totally different things. It is always best to spell out clearly how you define Chassidish (give details), so that the answer will be a proper response to your question.
The reference that is answering the phone call:
I would like to preface by sharing a personal story: I was once put as a reference for a friend that was looking to be a chaplain for the FBI. I got the call and they thoroughly “interrogated” me. After an hour of questioning me, I asked permission to ask them a question. I asked: “As I am a friend of the person, did you really expect me to say negative things about the person?”
His answer was very thought-provoking and insightful: Eighty percent of communication is non-verbal. Thus, we are not just looking to hear what you say, rather how you say it. By which answers did you hesitate, and which answers did you speak with conviction. What you answered in full detail and which things were glossed over etc.
Realize the Mitzvah and Zechus that you are involved with: Building the future of Klal Yisroel! Take time to answer the phone-call politely and thoughtfully. Realize that what you say, and how you say it, can really affect the outcome of this potential shidduch.
B) There is a rule: “Everything that you say must be true, but not everything that is true must be said.” Don’t feel the need to overshare personal and sensitive information. There are some things that you need to check with a Rav first.
C) Very important: Never answer the following question: “Do you think it is a good shidduch?”. That question can only be answered by Hashem. The Meraglim did not get punished for the negative report they said about Eretz Yisroel, rather for the conclusion that “we can’t go up and conquer it”. Your role is to share information, not to play the role of Hashem.
Looking forward to sharing in the Simchas of Klal Yisroel and to merit the Geula – the Chasuna of Bnei Yisroel and Hakadosh Boruch Hu!
Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below, or by sending me a personal email at: Rabbiavtzon@gmail.com
Before spending so much of your time (and of other people) on making phone calls, make sure that the one you’re calling about is interested in you.
Alot if people spend so much time on calling the references etc. And when you’re done and ask the person you were inquiring about if they’re even interested they say no, and you’re surprised…
So before you start doing calls ask if the other side if they’re interested in the shidduch idea, then make calls and see if it’s what you’re looking for….
Excellent point ! and its unfair to references to be spend time when there isnt any potential interest.
I see no reason for one side to do all the research and give a yes when the other side hasn’t even heard the name. Let both sides hear the name at the same time and decide if they want to start researching.
Before anything, I must thank Rabbi Avtzon for his insightful articles. They’re informative, persuasive, and compelling, and he addresses the issues we’re all afraid to discuss. Moreover, it’s a pleasant surprise he’s moved his writing from the Bais Moshiach magazine to the more mainstream collive. In the article, Rabbi Avtzon writes that callers should identify themselves to the references they call. He qualifies, however, that this expectation of identification applies only to married references, not to single ones. That’s pathetic. You should identify yourselves to anyone you call. If you expect them to trust you, you should trust them. And… Read more »
A bochur once did that when I didn’t speak to him according to his judgement of what would be a good Shviger for his friend. Then that same bochur came up for my daughter and of course I wouldn’t consider him.
While I agree that anyone calling should identify themselves to the reference-whether married or single-I think you should politely explain that you would rather not speak with them until they identify themselves. No need to tank the shidduch. You are not Gd
That’s ridiculous. Do you think that every woman who calls a reference is a potential shvigger? Maybe it’s an aunt, sister, grandmother, friend. Why should I identify myself when calling a reference? I just want to know information about someone. The reference just needs to given open and honest responses. There is no reason to say who the person is that I’m calling for nor what my relationship is to them.
I hope you re-think messing with peoples lives.
Personally I feel like references should be stopped. 1. A lot of References lie to kill the shidduch or they “steal ” the shidduch and give it to someone else 2. Tons of people know me but wouldnt want to “take the job” 3. Chabad has issues that they will only call getze references that they know the person. If its outside of chabad reference they will dismiss the reference even though later they find out through the cousins friends sisters neighbors grandmother that it was a great shidduch they lost “just because ” the reference wasnt chabad. 4. Chabad… Read more »
What a blanket defamatory post. You besmirch the entire movement for one bad experience which you think somebody may have experienced.
And what type of suggestion is meeting without references? So they should schedule to preview/facetime literally every name that comes their way without any background info? That’s possibly the most discouraging, and least productive way to find shidduchim. Please leave the sour attitude and senseless suggestions for another time and place. Thank you.
or just a bored bochur
And when its happens to you, cant wait to see YOUR reaction. Only one bad experience? Why ? You want to wait for everyone to have my experience? You can have the “regular ” way of shidduchim but then dont complain how the package came in.
I once was called as a reference and asked if I thought it would be a good match. I honestly didn’t think it was (I knew both parties), but I held my tongue, and just said that this isn’t something I felt I could comment on. Who am I to decide if their personalities would get along? There were no red flags, just the two people paired together made no sense in my brain. But my opinion didn’t matter, they went out and got married and are happy together. Why are we putting so much credence on one person’s opinion?… Read more »
Nothing you could or would say would stop it,
If it’s the right match, then it would happen regardless,
But yes you should not say something like that, but don’t say if you would have said it, it would not happen
I get what you’re saying, but there are shidduchim that are delayed (sometimes by years) because of things like this.
Additionally, just to be controversial, you’re operating under the assumption that people always marry their bashert.
It’s easy to say it always would have happened…when it already happened. The truth is, we don’t actually know what would happen if something was said.
Your emunah is stronger than mine, I’ll give you that.
he knew it takes one behama to ruin a good shidduch
I always get the “he’s a great guy” response, to which I respond: “I’m also a great guy untill you get tto know me”. I ask the people to be more specific
You got a vague answer to a vague question
I was always against those “unknown callers”, but I don’t think it has to do with the reference being married or not, if you’re asking private questions, i should know who I’m talking to
Usually people like to call anonymously since they know the references (especially if they’re friends) will let the other side know that so and so is looking into them. If they decide it isn’t a match, now it’s known that one side rejected the other.
My daughter is twenty and has been told by callers that they are trusting her to be confidential. Telling friends is immature. Why did my friend have to tell me my mother in laws unflattering questions..i felt so horrible after especially since we got married …
Usually if someone goes out with someone and it doesn’t work out, they don’t want friends k owing who they went out with. This is sometimes hard when they were a reference…
“Mrs. Cohen” calls me about my friend mushky for a potential shidduch, mushky goes out and it doesn’t work out, in the meantime:
1)i had no idea who Mrs. Cohen was looking for, her own child or someone else’s.
2)not necessarily do i know Mrs. Cohen to begin with
3)had no idea mushky went out bichlal
4)even if she did, i have no idea with whom
and the list goes on.
point being, you don’t lose anything by saying your name, and its only right to do so!
Thanks for sharing these important points!
You really expect a friend/reference to tell you if their friend has issues. Ya right
There are ways to ask a question! Be specific and read between their lines!
Did you read the article?
You’d be surprised how many friends give bad or non complimentary info. When inquiring into some references for my brother, quite a number of girls on resumes have said either silly things, bad info, disparaging info. I guess that is Hashems way of letting us know it is not for him.
Well said, I agree with everything, except the part of calling your references to test them. You’re asking someone’s friend to do them a favor,so you need to trust them. Making a fake call to them is a betrayal of trust and kinda rude.
Ask your own rabbi
My Rav told me to do this! Ask and do what you’re told!
No not true . I have called people who told me totally unrevelant information that could be used against someone or who told me I don’t really know her so well
I called as per request someone’s references and NOT ONE of them responded within 2 days. Not a message or call back . No wonder my friend was getting “no” from all the suggestions.
Serve Hashem with joy, fear nothing except Hashem and love every yid
I like this description of a chassidishe yid!!
and it’s the most emesdike chossid
I’ve been a reference many times for friends and answered plenty and plenty of calls. The caller *always* qualifies what they mean by “chassidish”. I’ve never been asked “Do you think it is a good shidduch?”. This article is about things that don’t really happen
Thank you Rabbi Avtzon fot putting this out into the open. The whole process is torture.
Wether the reference is married or not one must identify themselves. It’s only basic respect for the person who regardless of their married status is being asked to share personal information.
When a caller refuses to identify themselves I refuse to share any information.
I have no issue talking to anyone if they wish to remain anonymous in this uncomfortable situation. I think I would like to remain anonymous thereby ensuring it doesnt get back to the other side. Why can’t everyone understand the sensitivity here
Someone complained to the Chazon Ish that a reference was giving him a bad name for shiduchim. The CI told him, when the right time comes, that person won’t be called. And that’s what happened.
1 why would you put someone you dont trust enough
Even more so:
2 what are you going to do when you dont like what they said? Are you goinf to confront them? What are you going to tell YOUR friend?, ;
-eehm listen, I dont like what you said about my children etc etc, because this and this told me you
– wait what this and this has to do with the whole thing?
-yeah he told me
You just take them off the reference list
The Idea is not to confront the person at all, rather to remove them from the official references. The parent should also be smart and not tell their child what their friend said. Many times the friend did not say bad things, just did not portray the child in best light or gave too much information.
Thank you for posting this important article.
I could write a whole article in response to this as shidduch calls are something I’ve done a lot of thinking about and recently concluded the following: I’m a big fan of doing research after the second date. If someone who knows both sides is setting the man and woman up, they must think there is something in common. If the the man and woman had a good time on their first date/coffee outing, they can do further research. We’re so afraid to send our children out on dates and this is hindering the process. I could go out with the man in… Read more »
I was moved to respond to this even though I do not generally like anonymous op-eds as they can easily create misunderstandings. Years ago a shidduch never came to fruition. I was told that a ‘Big Lady’ in crown heights had incorrectly identified my mother to the boy’s parents as someone who was involved in a particular scandal. As a result the shidduch did not happen and the acquaintances who suggested it never ended up suggesting anything again. The problem is that although my mother and the woman she was mistaken for, shared the same last name, a very slight… Read more »
You resolved not to be bitter or blame that woman, but instead to use your experience to caution people against lashin hara and making snap judgments.
We have so much to learn from you!
May Hashem give you much hatzlacha in your life journey and may you experience ach tov vachesed for the rest of your days.
And her shidduch!
i feel like this article will influence so many ppl lives
Just want to add my two cents:
1: Ask SPECIFIC questions. People can’t answer general questions, such as “would you say he’s a good guy?”, or “what is his greatest strength?”. These are pointless, stupid questions, and you will get pointless, stupid answers.
Ask questions like “is he kind and considerate to others”? Does he lose his temper? When given a job, is he responsible?”
2. Prepare a list of questions that are most important to your child, and make sure they are specific. Don’t call without a prepared list or you will waste both parties’ time.
As a single, the information I get back about someone sometimes isn’t current because they knew the person 10 years ago or more. Please put people who know the single person now. It is a waste of time to find out they were like this at one point in their life but now it could be very different.
ALL THE ABOVE ADVICE IS A PROVEN TOTAL WASTE OF TIME… LETS CUT TO THE CHASE, YOU WONT GET AN HONEST ANSWER PHONING FRIENDS AND FAMILY MEMBERS THAT ARE ON A REFERENCE LIST AND HAVE BEEN PRIMED TO SAY WHAT THE PARENTS WANT THEM TO SAY. THATS WHY THEY WERE CHOSEN TO BE REFERENCES IN THE FIRST PLACE…..EVEN AVROHOM OVINU DIDNT TRUST THE MACHINATIONS OF ELIEZER! THIS IS MY BEST ADVICE FROM THE EXPERIENCE OF MANY…… 1) YES, MAKE SURE THE OTHER SIDE ARE EVEN INTERESTED IN YOUR CHILD BEFORE MAKING FRUITLESS ENQUIRIES, ESPECIALLY IF THEY ARE A GHEZE NAME,… Read more »
All the time I get shidduch suggestions through HINTS from friends. Thinking that they know me and want the best for me that itll pull through. Oh wait I’m still single over 30. Shatchanim give you live people with a live resume. Friends from my experience are giving me “in the air” someone out there from another continent or universe that MAYBE it will be a match?! Seriously?!
Someone called my doctor fishing for derogatory info about me. I was not looking for shidduchim. My doctor believed they had a shidduch for me and never got their name. There was nothing derogatory in my health records and my doctor told them that. But it bothers me that my doctor didnt see through it.
Your doctor isn’t even allowed to tell them you’re a patient of his let alone share information about a shidduch.
Situations like this is why HIPAA laws were invented!!
Nothing is private. Just one big happy family..
Doctors are accountable to keep HIPAA privacy laws. No dr is allowed to discuss anything about your health with anyone unless you signed a release of info.
“Someone called my doctor fishing for derogatory info about me”
I never even heard such a thing. If the doctor says anything they can lose their license to practice medicine.
After you get engaged iyh say THANK YOU to the people who spent hours being reference
I didn’t read the comments, so maybe someone addressed this already. I always call my references before a potential shidduch date to let them know that they will probably get a call from so and so, for the following reasons. 1) To thank them in advance 2) to be prepared for the call, and put in the proper time and effort 3) some people will not agree with me, on this one. We don’t want our references to lose their patience, and get burnout. Sometimes, people get a profile, make calls, and keep someone on the phone for an hour… Read more »
Why do you think everyone will disagree with you on this point? Bc it doesn’t make sense. Not everyone has married friends. And single friends are absolutely perfectly capable-they are people just like those married and have depth, seriousness, and experience. They are looking to get married just like the married ppl were.
Sorry,You did NOT understand my point,
I will not go into specific details, I am just trying to help, from my experience. Like I said, you don’t have to agree with me, but
I am actually stating this
as a FACT, and not as an opinion.
It is not appropriate on many levels, to call unmarried friends, especially today.And I am giving my piece of advice, only for your benefit, for your good.Not to say, that there are many amazing, and totally helpful conversations with single friends.Take it the way you like.
#6 Married friends are not loyal and protective?
They sure are, but they understand much better, what has to be said, and what doesn’t. You know, I’m sure, that quite a few Rabbonim gave out protocols, as to what has to be said, and what doesn’t. I will not go into details, here.
Actually, I’ve had equal amounts of silly info given by both married and unmarried. Just make sure whomever is on your reference list is mature and responsible
I am almost 100% sure that I saw it paskened explicitly in Sefer Chafetz Chaim
Unless there are other poskim of which I am not aware, it is a straight-out aveira to call a shiduch reference just to test what they would say
I had to test my references. My closest friend said things that were not nice and not even true.
I am thankfully married.
#I’ll have to contradict with #2
Truly sorry to hear you haven’t found your bashert, but if you believe close friends and families, who know you well, and usually the other side as well, are not able to help you with ideas and introductions, why would shadchonim be better solution who probably hardly know you or the other side that well, except what they have been sent from a long list of names sitting in their files??
It hurts more when it’s family and friends who are suppose to be there for you behind your back and they aren’t. Shatchanim are strangers who dont owe you anything so I dont expect much from them. But at least I’m getting a name with a resume vs. A make believe person with no information AND I might not even want that bochur… again, my experience.
Unfortunately very well meaning people, sometimes,TOTALLY RUIN SHIDDUCHIM. I had with 2 children, very close people. With each child it was a different scenario. The split second I took them off the reference calls, each in their time, they started getting actual Shidduchim. As long as these certain women, were on the resume, nothing materialized. It also came back to me through various avenues, what these 2 women were saying. (which wasn’t even true) So if you suspect that a certain reference is an obstacle to you, take them off immediately, or test them. I would highly suggest eliminating them,… Read more »
I don’t see the point of all the references. When the couple actually sits down together face to face usually within 5 minutes they know if they like each other.
A young man, a good friend of my family, asked my married daughter if she thought a particular young lady who had been suggested to him would be a suitable match for him. I believe he had actually met the young woman. The young woman had been a high school friend of my daughter, but they had not stayed close post high school. My daughter thought for a moment, then said she “didn’t see” them together. Current situation: The young man married that young lady and they have b’h several children. I’m in touch with the fellow, and he and… Read more »