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Shadchan, Shadchan (Matchmaker, Matchmaker)

According to Leo Rosten, "In Eastern Europe, the shadchan [matchmaker] performed a very important social function. Not only did he scour communities for eligible boys and nubile girls; he was the prime source of news/gossip as well to shtetlach [villages] bereft of newspapers, radios, travelers."

  • Steve M. Schlissel,
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How the Jews Do It
According to Leo Rosten, "In Eastern Europe, the shadchan [matchmaker] performed a very important social function. Not only did he scour communities for eligible boys and nubile girls; he was the prime source of news/gossip as well to shtetlach [villages] bereft of newspapers, radios, travelers." Thus the famous matchmaker in Fiddler on the Roof was given the name "Yenta," a Yiddish noun denoting a gossipy woman.

While modern media has effectively retired the reporter function of the shadchan in America, many orthodox Jews continue to rely on matchmakers to arrange a shiduch (be careful how you say this Yiddish word for "marital match") for their children.

And after years of waiting for some other solution to come along for what seems to be untold thousands of Reformed singles, I reckon the time has come to bring this service to the Reformed Christian community. Yes, the gossip you've heard is true: I'm hanging out yet another shingle: Schlissel Family Service, Shadchan to the Reformed Community.

This new service has been foisted on me, as it were, by God's providence. In our twenty-four years of marriage, my wife and I have been instrumental in getting I-can't-tell-you-how-many couples to the altar. Praise the Lord! And our reward, to this point, has been the simple joy of seeing sacred human covenants made within the grand Covenant of Grace. Not one divorce in all those matches, blessed be God. And children? So many arrows in those new covenantal quivers, it'd take us a spell to count.

But it appears that a more formal approach in helping singles find their match is warranted, if not demanded, by circumstance. Thousands of perfectly wonderful Reformed people are passing their years alone while carrying a deep desire to be married. For many, there just isn't a convenient, dignified or effective alternative to a shadchan. A recent experience brought this truth home to us.

How This Got Started
A woman about whom we care deeply (she had been converted, by the grace of God, under our ministry) had passed the big "four-oh" and was still unattached. The tick-tock of her biological clock was becoming painfully loud. She took various steps to improve the likelihood of meeting Mr. Right, including using an Internet matching service ostensibly for Christians.

Well, if she didn't know before how elastic the word "Christian" is today, how loosely it is applied, she soon found out. Crackpots came knocking on her electronic door from across the country. And you thought New York and California had a monopoly on weirdoes? Not even close. The bitter part of this pill, though, was that all alike called themselves Christian, yet most seemed not to have even the vaguest idea that being a Christian involved a genuine commitment to Jesus Christ and, minimally, an attempt (even faking it would have been an improvement for most of these guys) to live according to his word. And when our friend tried to talk doctrine with any of these "prospects," the responses ranged from complete disinterest to ignorance to casually tossed about heresy.

What's a forty-ish, God-fearing, fun-loving Reformed woman to do?

"Pastor Steve, you gotta help me."

That was four months ago. By the time you read this, our friend will be married to a man I matched her with. The wedding is set for November 25; the ring is on her hand, the hall is booked, the dress is bought, and our heroine told me last week, "I've never been so happy in my life. I am so happy."

Yes, thank the Lord. And we were glad to be of help. But no sooner had we arranged this marriage than we got an e-mail from Michigan: "Is it possible for you to help me find a Reformed woman to marry?" Then another inquiry from Louisiana, then another from Pennsylvania.

"Jeannie," I say to my match sent from heaven, "it's time to do this right."

"Amen," says the wiser half of the Schlissels.

Here's How It Goes
And so here we are: Schlissel Family Service is officially accepting applications. There is finally a shadchan for Reformed Christians. This is how it works: You call or write or e-mail me for an application. Women fill it out and return it with a registration donation. Men fill out their questionnaire and return it with a heftier registration fee.

Both men and women must meet certain minimum criteria before they are accepted as clients. For example, they must be members of well-ordered churches. Also, men must have the means to marry, women must be of noble reputation. Further, multiple references are required by Schlissel Family Service, and they are checked.

Shortly after the application is received by us (as soon as God permits, perhaps within a month, but guaranteed to be within a year or the "regi" is returned), the man is provided with information about a special Reformed woman. The man is provided with this information only after the woman has been told about him and has granted permission for him to initiate contact.

Further, female clients of Schlissel Family Service are encouraged to use covenant heads as their representatives. A covenant head is someone the prospective suitor should contact first. Ideally, of course, this would be her Christian father, but there are circumstances wherein it might not be possible, or perhaps even desirable, to have a Daddy serve in that role. In those cases, an older brother, an elder, or a close Christian friend might be the only, or the better, choice. In any event, it is up to the woman to decide if she'd like to be contacted and how she'd like the first contact to be made. Providing guidance for both man and woman is part of the shadchan's job.

In addition to the respective registration amounts, male applicants promise to pay a fee on engagement to someone whom we arranged for them to meet. That fee is refundable only if the woman breaks the engagement, for she does not promise to pay it; the man does. Moreover, the man, as the soon-to-be covenant head of a new household, must demonstrate all along the way that he is trustworthy and a man of his word. What beauty is in making a woman attractive, integrity ought to be in making a man so: character, strength, consistency, dependability, reliability. Men as covenant heads may not "toy" with the emotions of those who are coming under their authority. To beg for her hand in marriage, to have that granted, and then to break faith, is to play the cad. It is a mark of our current lawlessness that breach of promise is a crime no longer prosecuted in civil courts, and a sin not even reckoned as such by most churches. Bible students will recall, however, that the equivalent of the modern "engagement" in Biblical times was one in which the "troth" was pledged.

Yes, much more can be written about this whole subject, and perhaps I'll steal space in this periodical from time to time to tell you how it goeth. Minimally, I'll have to see to it that the wedding picture of our above-mentioned friends appears in these pages. But for now, I'll leave the writing to you--I invite you to write to me for an application.

For a variety of reasons, multitudes of Reformed believers from twenty-one to seventy-one, find themselves in circumstances with no visible match on the horizon. But your match may be one in our sights, and we invite you to join in this perfectly sound method of matchmaking for the Reformed community. You want a match made in heaven. Perhaps God ordained that very match to come to earth via Brooklyn.

Matchmaking for Reformed Singles
For an application, contact:

Schlissel Family Service
2662 East 24th Street
Brooklyn, NY 11235-2610
[email protected]

  • Steve M. Schlissel

Steve Schlissel has served as pastor of Messiah's Congregation in Brooklyn, New York, since 1979. Born and raised in New York City, Schlissel became a Christian by reading the Bible. He and Jeanne homeschooled their five children  and also helped raise several foster children (mostly Vietnamese). In 2003, they adopted Anna (who was born in Hong Kong in 1988, but is now a U.S. citizen). They have eight foster grandchildren and fourteen "natural" grandchildren.

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