Many people within the Jewish community often require the services of a shadchan when it comes to finding that someone special. Kathryn Brown has been helping people make connections for many years. She first got into doing this quite by chance, but has always felt compelled to try and help people as much as possible, and considers it very much a mitzvah to help people in this way. Since retiring from her job in 2016, she has been able to devote much more of her time to helping singles to meet one another.
Being able to find a suitable partner for someone can often be tricky, as some can be what Kathryn calls ‘selective’ in what they may be looking for. She explains, “Women within this modern generation are much more independent and know their own mind much more, which means that their expectations are different when it comes to dating and finding an ideal partner. Many are not looking to settle down at such a young age and prefer to study, travel or even work, before they start thinking about marriage. For men, they often wait until they are more established before thinking about settling down, and may sometimes have fixed ideas about what they are looking for, or what they are attracted to, which can sometimes be unrealistic.”
Traditionally shadchans have been used mainly by the Orthodox community as a way to find a partner, but more and more less observant men and women have also begun to seek this kind of help in order to find a match. Kathryn is happy to help those from across the religious spectrum and will always try to help anyone who contacts her, however long it takes. Kathryn really wants to be able to help women, especially older women that may be looking for their perfect partner, and works to overcome the taboos that often surround the world of shadchans. She adds, “In today’s world there are so few places to meet people, I think that it is a terrible shame not to explore every avenue. I like to think of myself as a facilitator, or even as an extension of a person’s own family or friendship circle with the hope of being able to help them.”
Initial contact is often made by friends or relatives of the single person as that person may be reticent to take the first step themselves. If someone passes on details to her, Kathryn will initially contact them via What’s App to get more details including photographs, and a personal resume that gives a better idea of their background and what they are looking for. Kathryn will then arrange a face-to-face meeting if possible, although she is happy to have discussions over the phone or via Skype if more convenient. This helps her to create a profile of the person, and a better understanding of them, which helps when trying to make a match.
Kathryn keeps details of all the people that she has spoken to on record, and uses these to try to find suitable matches. She also may reach out to others in her network who may be able to share contacts and potential matches. There are also specific closed groups that connect with other shadchans from other areas. “I belong to four groups made up of wonderful people who give so much time to help singles. There are many shadchans within the community who work tirelessly to try and help those who are looking for a partner. Team work is very important to reach the wider singles community, and I feel that my involvement is just a small part of this.”
There is often quite a lot of work involved in creating these matches, but Kathryn does not take any kind of payment for the help that she gives, and considers it a positive way to help others to gain happiness. So far, Kathryn has been instrumental in arranging five shidduchim directly.
She adds, “It can sometimes be quite time-consuming, but I love being able to help people in this way. Interacting with people, and getting to know them and find out their ideas and thoughts.”
She has also previously volunteered for MIND, a mental health care organisation, and whilst there did some training which she found very interesting, and helped develop her interest in this field. She feels that her training has helped her to be able to connect and understand people and has also helped within her role as a shadchan to gain a better understanding of some single preferences. “The training showed me that everyone has something to offer someone else, and personal growth never ends. Therefore everyone has choices and that deserves respect, regardless of which place they are in at any given time. It also taught me that it is important to listen carefully to what people say and try to be true to them. That is actually a very difficult thing to do.”
Kathryn also helps those dealing with difficult situations who may need additional help or support. She does not consider herself a counsellor, but more of a friendly ear, or a shoulder to cry on when people need to just talk or a mentor to help them work out what their next step could be. She first started helping when someone that she knew was in distress and contacted her. Kathryn tried to keep her spirits up and helped her to cope with her situation so that she could work towards being in a better place. Other people then started to contact Kathryn, and she now helps 2 -3 people at a time on an individual basis. Kathryn explains, “I try to lead people to the point that they can identify that they do have choices, even though they may be struggling to recognise what they are.”
Along with her husband, Kathryn has also previously been involved in the Jewish Marriage Education Council (JMEC). They helped run courses locally for engaged couples to introduce them to the Jewish take on what helps to make a strong working Jewish marriage, and a strong home environment. It also introduced the opportunity for couples to talk to one another and other couples in order to debate their own thoughts and ideas, as well as creating a social environment.
It seems that throughout her career, Kathryn has been involved in helping people, whether at work, as a shadchan or volunteering, and that this is very important to her. As she explains, “I am a very people-orientated person, and some have said to me that helping people is almost instinctive to me, which I guess is true to some extent. I really enjoy being able to support others is central to everything I do.”
If you would like to contact Kathryn, please email her on firstname.lastname@example.org