6/29/09

Trip to Binghamton

We had an absolutely fabulous trip to Upstate New York. We visited with my wife's elderly aunts, each in a different elder care facility. They were actually happy to see us, which was a surprise to all of us. We visited with my brother-in-law and his wife, and attended an unveiling for my father-in-law’s best friend. There is something to be said for a small town like that small town in Upstate New York. Everyone was there at the unveiling, one way or another...

The people in very small town like that that we visited have their own traditions. There were many immigrants to that town in Upstate New York in the early 20th century. The town had one very large factory, where most of the immigrants worked and made their living. It was Endicott Johnson‘s shoe factory. So, even if an immigrant did not know any English, all he needed to say was “Which way E. J.?” and he would have a job.



Everyone worked in the factory and everyone wore those shoes.

But if you were not from there, you had a choice of shoes. A shoe store in Baltimore, for example, would certainly carry EJs but would also offer shoes from other factories. Customers could have their pick, and of course, the customer was always right.



In last month’s Where What When, I was moved when I read the letter from “BESIDE MYSELF IN BALTIMORE”, in which a “native Baltimorean woman with a sister of marriageable age” is “distressed and disillusioned” by her perception that New York boys don’t want to date Baltimore girls. She questions whether it is a small town mentality or the travel involved.



First of all, let me explain that with the frum community in that small town of Upstate New York, just about every single girl from that town in Upstate New York married a boy from New York City or from New Jersey. Except for my wife, who married a boy from Connecticut. So I don’t think that “small town” has anything to do with it. As for the travel issue, same thing, these couples dated successfully with over 200 miles distance.



So why does this perception still exist, that NY boys might shun Baltimore girls?



I think that it might have something to do with the shoes. Not the shoes that the girls are wearing, nor the shoes that the boys work so hard to polish to shine and impress their dates. But it has to do with the shoes that everyone wore in that one town where they had one shoe factory where everyone worked. In that one town, if someone wore another brand of shoe, they would be “noticed” for that minor infraction. Because everyone knew that everyone wore EJ shoes. And anyone and everyone would notice, because everyone was an expert shoe maker.



So it is in Baltimore. Here, we have one large educational institution, where just about all of our shoine madelach are educated. And just about all come out with an excellent Yiddishe education, good midos, and so on. And, they are “well rounded” with talent and abilities in art, music and all kinds of good things.



But New York is a very large city, a Yiddishkeit central headquarters, and there must be dozens, if not hundreds of educational institutions for frum girls. And each institution is different from the other. So, boys in New York have a choice. And further, like there are many girls schools, there are many more boy’s schools, with even more individuality in each school.



With that much individuality, a boy who attended one school might date girls who attended only a certain other school. Why not? There might be good reasons for a boy to restrict his dating preferences. Perhaps his mother or older sister attended a certain school. Or perhaps he is descended from people who emigrated from a particular location in the old country and he is looking for that type. Or perhaps his father is of a certain minhag or such. There are many reasons, and some good reasons, why a boy might be picky that way. And of course, the customer is always right, or at least he thinks so.



If you asked a hundred New York boys (and their parents) what their preference was for a match, you might get three or five or seven say that they want a girl who attended an educational institution that is exactly like the one very large girl’s educational institution that is here in Baltimore. The other 93 or 95 would also give a similar response, that they are looking for a girl who attended a particular educational institution, just that the girl that they are looking for attended one of the 100 other educational institutions that there are in New York City. It is sort of like the shoes. If you have one large factory, then all the shoes end up rather alike. So, either you like that shoe or you don’t. And the customer is always right, at least he thinks so.



But then, the shoe can be on the other foot, to turn a phrase. Why is this big sister here in our great city of Baltimore crying about New York City boy preferences? Don’t we have many fine young men right here in our city? Or does our big sister and her eligible younger sister feel that Baltimore boys are not good enough? Or are they looking for only that certain type, of which we lack, and now it is the girls turn to be picky?



I know of a certain situation right in town. Two families live next door to each other. One father has two eligible boys, yeshiva educated, with jobs and a parnassa. The other father has two eligible daughters, Bais Yaakov educated, fine midos, and pretty too. These two men daven in the same shul, and cry on each other’s shoulders about how hard it is for their kids to find a shidduch.

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