The Praxis of Matchmaking: Between Self-Devotion and Paternalism

Ya’arit Bokek-Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The family is considered a sacred institution in Jewish society, and establishing a family is a central objective in the life of every Jew. Many single Jewish people, of both genders, experience emotional and psychological stress because of their “problematic” marital status. The article examines the violation of humanistic therapeutic principles in the process of matchmaking among national religious Jews in Israel. Twenty-five matchmakers from this sector were interviewed, and the behaviors and practices that characterize the work of successful matchmakers were identified. Six major patterns were discerned: conducting a “therapeutic” interview with that person, accompanying the entire introduction process, offering direction and guidance, avoiding total compliance with the requirements of the applicant, sharing information and cooperating with additional agents, and holding face-to-face introductions with the potential candidates. These six behavioral patterns are compared to the accepted practices of helping professionals from the humanistic school. The findings show that much of the work that is done by the successful matchmakers contradicts basic humanistic therapeutic principles, and infringes the clients’ self-determination and autonomy. Sociological analysis sheds light on the allegedly paradoxical findings and explains how the matchmakers serve as lay therapists who help singles to achieve their goal of finding the right life partner, despite the violation of professional therapeutic principles and their paternalistic attitude. Therefore, it is also recommended that matchmakers be trained to adhere to an ethical code of conduct expected to ensure the respect for their clients’ human rights for self-determination and autonomy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-127
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Human Rights and Social Work
Issue number2
StatePublished - 15 Jun 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018, Springer Nature Switzerland AG.


  • Helping skills
  • Matchmaking
  • Mate choice
  • National religious Jews
  • Singlehood
  • Therapy


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