Pulling back the curtain on courting

Chananya Weissman exposes the madness of the Orthodox dating world – and his own – in a new webisode series.

Chananya Weissman in Jerusalem’s Bagel Cafe (photo credit: ORIT ARFA)
Chananya Weissman in Jerusalem’s Bagel Cafe
(photo credit: ORIT ARFA)
In 2013, Chananya Weissman came out with a book called End The Madness: Guide to the Shidduch World (Kodesh Press) about ways that dating and matchmaking in the Orthodox Jewish world could and should be improved. In it, he lists 10 principles, among them: • Don’t judge someone on non-halachic externalities.
• Social pressure in all its forms (to date, not to date, to further a relationship, to terminate a relationship, etc.) is morally wrong and frequently in violation of the Torah.
• The only true shadchan [matchmaker] is Hashem [God].
In a recent interview over tea and a fruit shake with Weissman at Bagel Café on the German Colony’s main drag of Emek Refaim Street in Jerusalem, he revealed some of his own dating principles that may make the casual observer – such as this reporter – believe that the madness might be his own, although it makes for good comedy.
The madness is on full display on YouTube through a new webisode series, The Shidduch Chronicles, which he has produced on a shoestring budget to dramatize dating disasters and frustrations based loosely on his own experiences, but might resonate with other singles in Jerusalem. He intended for it to provide visual enrichment to the grassroots organization, www.endthemadness.
org, which he created to provide Orthodox singles with meaningful advice and events. (Neither the organization, nor the Kickstarter campaign to fund the webisode series, ever took off, he admitted.) In the first webisode, “Mid Season Pickup,” his date, clearly bored, amuses herself by talking to another man in the Jerusalem café. In “The Graduation” – a silent film – he poignantly portrays the cold shoulder singles often get at shul from married people.
In his newest webisode titled “Coffix” (typo intentional), whose release he hopes to time with this article, he debates whether or not it is okay to take a girl he’s reluctant to date out to Cofix, the five-shekel café.
The bespectacled Weissman is a Woody Allen-esque character with a nerdy mien, know-it-all attitude, fast-talking speech and classic Jewish kvetching. Having made aliya from New York eight years ago, Weissman started his own eBay business after being fired from his classroom teaching job in New York. He holds a BA, MA and rabbinic ordination from Yeshiva University and sees his dating commentaries as an extension of his work as a Jewish educator.
Weismann, 37, in all of his 14 years of dating, has never used – and apparently never will use – dating sites.
“I don’t have to experience it in all its glory to know why it’s not right for me.”
He thinks their success rates are overblown, and he avoids them because they render singles as products who are “the same.”
He would prefer to meet women through the course of normal life, without the help of a third party, especially busybody but well-meaning yentas who don’t really know anything about him – except that he’s single.
“I really believe that it’s God’s responsibility.
I’m out there enough,” he said, while also describing himself as a private person who doesn’t even have a Facebook account.
He won’t read pick-up or self-help literature that provides advice on how men should behave to increase success with women, because he thinks the pick-up world teaches men not to be authentic.
“My goal when I go out with a girl is not to make her like me,” he shares. “My goal is to let her know who I am as a real person and to find out who she is as a real person.”
A Jewish mother who watched the latest “Coffix” webisode with this reporter sympathized with Weismann’s married female confidante (played by his real-life friend Susan), who rebuked Weissman when he kvetched how the girl – who sounded surprisingly normal on the phone – hadn’t been to Israel since age six. How could a passionate Zionist like him date a woman who wasn’t gung-ho about moving to Israel? (In the end, he decided to minimize the risk and meet her at Cofix to bring the “price revolution” to blind dates.) “Don’t you think you’re taking this just a little too far, Chananya?” Susan tells him.
“Just take her out. Be a little open-minded.”
It’s the kind of note Weismann probably receives from people who are not afraid to tell him such.
“I get criticism from every direction – every type you can imagine,” Weissman reveals.
“Some criticism can contradict other criticism. That’s why I have thick skin, laugh about it, make videos about it.”
He hasn’t given up, and still prays (although admittedly not as often as he used to, since it hasn’t worked out too well for him) that the last scene of “The Graduation,” in which a single man makes Friday night kiddush alone in his Jerusalem apartment, stops happening to him. He wants the madness to end.
“Why it’s taking so long is really a mystery,” he muses. “I’ve certainly gone out on a lot of dates and met enough people that it could have worked.”
View “Mid Season Pickup”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mo56bsc4Nb8 and “The Graduation”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ks4RbpYlZho.
EndTheMadness and Kehilat Nitzanim will be hosting a viewing and discussion of “The Shidduch Chronicles” on February 9 at 7 p.m. at Kehilat Nitzanim, 3 Asher Street, Jerusalem. NIS 30 in advance; NIS 40 at the door. Pizza will be served. Contact: admin@endthemadness.org