A few weeks ago, Srulik Lazarovich stood before a large crowd in an elegant hall in Yerushalayim and issued an impassioned plea that no one who was present will ever forget. Srulik, a chareidi man in his mid-30s, was not an experienced speaker. But the message he conveyed to the hundreds of shadchanim who had gathered together at the invitation of the adult shadchanus organization Hagefen was moving and heartfelt.
“My name is Srulik,” he began, “and I am 36 years old. All of my friends have already been parents for 16 or 17 years, while I have not yet established my own bayis ne’eman b’Yisrael. I have a request to make, dear shadchanim: Within the next few years, my friends will be coming to you for help in finding their children’s zivvugim. I am not asking that you ignore their plea, G-d forbid. Of course not. But I am asking that you set aside ten minutes of every day to try to help an older guy like me who is approaching 30 and even beyond. You need to know that we exist, and that we also want to get married. And please remember that we are not alone; we have parents who worry about us constantly. Whenever we attend the bris milah of yet another brand-new nephew and everyone wishes the baby a life of ‘Torah, chuppah and maasim tovim,’ we weep silent, bitter tears that erase any joy we should be feeling.
“Not long ago I was standing in a Judaica store and I heard someone ordering a new tefillin bag for his father, who was celebrating his 40th birthday. I am 36 years old. It’s been 23 years since my bar mitzvah, and I’m still using the same tefillin bag I got as a present for my 13th birthday. I’ve thought about buying myself a new one, but that would mean that I’ve given up, and I cannot allow myself to do that.
“Have you ever thought about the older guy davening behind some avreich whose tallis is already starting to turn yellow even though he’s several years younger than the single fellow? The older guy can even remember back in yeshivah when this avreich celebrated his bar mitzvah, and now he has to buy a new tallis while the older guy has yet to get his first. Have you ever thought about the older bachur who sits down next to some of the younger guys, and they immediately stop talking about whatever it was they were discussing and apologize, saying that the topic doesn’t concern him?
“Maybe,” Srulik continued, “you do sometimes think about the 32-year-olds or even a 36-year-old like me, who has already tried all the segulos. But there’s another segulah that we are waiting for: a phone call from a shadchan letting us know that someone is working on our behalf and encouraging us not to give up hope. These are the people I want you to think about, if only for ten minutes a day. Months go by and it seems like no one remembers us. We don’t even bother asking our parents anymore if anyone has called with a suggestion; it’s too painful to see their anguish. We older singles feel like we’ve been thrown off a speeding train that not only continues on without us but repeatedly runs us over.
“There are hundreds of people just like me whose names are in Hagefen’s database or still listed in the yellowing notebooks of the previous generation of shadchanim. Every day we open the morning paper and see the announcements of the engagements of young men—children, really—on whose behalf someone gave of his time and experience to find them a shidduch. We refuse to give up, but we ask that you not give up as well. Trust me, your younger clients may bring you parnasah, but we will bring you brachah. They may enhance your olam hazeh, but we will enhance your olam haba.
“What I’ve described to you is only a glimpse into the world of turbulent emotions that is our reality. Please do not ignore our request. You are our hope, and we are counting on you.”