Soulmate search turning stressful Author offers help

Finding a soulmate is rarely easy. But if you're single, female and fervently religious, it can be particularly challenging.

"I know what people are going through," said Shani Stein, 23. "It can feel like a pressure cooker sometimes."

That's why the author of the well-received "The Survival Guide to Shidduchim" (matchmaking) penned her latest self-help book, "Finding Your Bashert: Strategies for Success."

"Everybody in this community feels they have to get married young," said Stein in a recent phone interview from her home in Brooklyn, N.Y.

"Not to find your meant-to-be can be very stressful," she said, "and I wrote this book to let them know that we're all in this together,"

Stein, a regular contributor to the Jewish Press, an Orthodox weekly, grew up in a religious Jewish family with her parents and four siblings.

She finds herself, along with many of her peers, both male and female, trying to find that one "prince or princess charming" that is meant for them, out of a field of many, many frogs.

"There may be a little less pressure on guys," she said, "because they often go away to yeshiva and it's acceptable for them to start dating at 22 or 23, after a couple of years in college.

"Girls, on the other hand, are expected to marry earlier," she said. Many are thinking, "'I really want to get married — and where is it?' They are fed up with dating people who are really off the mark."

Stein tries to bring some clarity to the issue in her book, which she dedicates to her father, "who taught me the meaning of pursuing one's dreams, and maintaining one's Torah commitment at all costs."

While Stein believes many aspects of her book could be helpful even to non-Jews in search of love, it is written from the perspective of Jews who date the traditional way — through shadchanim, or matchmakers.

It's aimed at young people who have not had much social contact with members of the opposite gender and are suddenly faced with the daunting task of finding the right spouse.

In "Bashert," which is Yiddish for "destined partner," Stein shares her own knowledge, insights and perspectives, along with information gleaned from dozens of interviews with rabbis and a professional matchmaker.

What has resulted is a veritable manual for successful spouse-hunting for the serious-minded Jewish single.

"It's the result of a lot of people's input and expertise," said Stein. "I feel that to be successful in anything, you have to engage the help of people who know more than you."

The book addresses virtually every aspect of dating, offering tips and strategies. Subjects range from how to dress for a date to how to deal with rejection.

She's straightforward with her advice: Take a shower, comb your hair, press your clothes.

If a date lets you down, she writes, "Reach out to friends, rediscover your attributes, try laughter therapy."

Stein even points out how to eliminate the emotional barriers preventing singles from recognizing a potential soulmate. These may include "insecurity about what you might be able to offer someone in marriage," confusing your needs with your wants, or fear of getting hurt.

"Are you unsure about your dates," she writes "because they don't give you a giddy, excited feeling that you've heard people say that they experienced when they found their bashert?"

Take heart. Headiness doesn't matter as much as compatibility.

"The most important criteria in choosing a partner is finding someone you really like and who has similar values and goals," she writes.

Insight and advise is offered not only to singles, but to their parents as well, because looking for a matchmaker is stressful.

"Parents are under equal pressure," she writes. They have responsibilities to their children.

At the brit, for example, the father says, "I will lead my child in the ways of Torah, I will walk him down to the chuppah…"

According to Stein, "It's impossible for [parents] to say, 'So what if my daughter is 42 and not married. She has a great job in the city making $250,000 and she's happy. She has her own life.'"

She hopes "Finding Your Bashert" will "bring single people some clarity in a very confusing process."

Rachel Raskin-Zrihen
Rachel Raskin-Zrihen

A wife and mother of two grown sons, Rachel Raskin-Zrihen is a longtime Bay Area journalist, columnist and co-author of the book "Jewish Community of Solano County."