Match Maker, Match maker….

Match Maker, Match maker….

Ann Bailey

Ever wondered what it would be like to have your marriage arranged by a “matchmaker.”  Sounds like something from centuries past or a song from a well-known Broadway play.  But, I’m informed, the practice of using a traditional matchmaker is alive and well today.  A school colleague from Israel spent the better part of an hour’s conversation telling me how, Israel’s ultra-orthodox Jewish community have used science to bring matchmaking into the 21st century.

Because of genetic diseases, this Jewish community has a self-imposed selection system for choosing a spouse.  As my friend explained, young people in their late teens to early twenties are voluntarily tested for recessive genes that can lead to bearing children with devastating hereditary conditions such as Tay-Sachs disease or cystic fibrosis.  Each individual tested is given a number that is also tied to the day (but not the year) of their birth.  The results of the genetic testing is kept confidential and even the people tested are not given the results; they are just assigned their number.

Here’s where the traditional matchmaker comes in.  The matchmaker does what she does best – match!  With input from the person(s) to be married and from the family, the matchmaker determines which couples are a good fit for one another.  Then the matchmaker takes the couple’s identifying numbers from the genetic test and runs them through the data base.  The matchmaker then is told whether the couple would be a good genetic match – meaning, are either of them carriers for the specific recessive genes that when combined together would create problems for their future children.  From that information the matchmaker continues on with “the match” or goes back and starts over.  The matchmaker is told nothing about the specific genetic markers; she is simply told whether or not the couple is genetically compatible – if it is a safe match.

The matchmaking component aside, there are ethical questions regarding the genetic testing itself.  How much should an individual be told about his/her genetic profile?   As a recent Wall Street Journal article points out:

How much to reveal to people remains a contentious issue in the gene-testing field. Some geneticists argue that scientists still have no grasp of most gene mutations’ relevance, and that sharing information whose meaning is uncertain is potentially harmful. In some cases, people might endlessly worry or alter their lives because of a mutation for which there is no effective treatment or that turns out to be benign; others may ignore medical advice because genes show they aren’t predisposed to a particular condition, even though screening can’t rule out the possibility a disease will develop.

In this supposed modern time, we see the acceptance of an ancient practice of deciding marriages combined with some challenging ethical questions surrounding genetic testing.  It is a fascinating merger.   As I think about it, many use dating websites and on-line dating services to provide criteria for compatibility and to narrow the field for potential marriage partners – a digital matchmaker.  Perhaps the next step will be to add a genetic analysis to the program.  Brave new world anyone?

To read more on this topic, go here.




  • Anastasia
    Posted at 21:08h, 13 August

    When I read/hear about these sort of issues, I’m so happy that I chose to be single in this life!

    Of course, I am discriminated against/harassed for my “singleness” at times. People often assume that I can travel more, work later hours, have tons of disposable income, and don’t mind being passed over for a raise in favor of a coworker who is married with children. (They need the additional money more than me).

    Luckily, the independence/self-reliance, and sense of freedom is still preferable!

  • Meagan
    Posted at 07:24h, 16 August

    I’m so sorry to hear that people treat you like that Anastasia–no one should be harrassed for being single. You’re absolutely right, life is not all party as a single, it’s takes work just like being married, just a different kind. I’m not questioning your decision, you’ve got to do what’s right for you, good to hear you’re happy, because many singles struggle–although I’m surprised that you are so passionate about the mission of United Families if you aren’t interested in forming your own, what brought you here?

    However I am cringing a little, not because of you or your single state, but because the whole ball-and-chain thing you’ve been told about is exaggerated–I’m not saying that you’re an exaggerator, just I hear this thing all the time from singles, some serious, some just saying it to keep from worrying about what they’re missing. Yeah I have to compromise on some decisions (but that’s far less likely if one picks someone exactly like them), but two heads are more self-reliant than one since we each have our own skills we bring to the table. If by being less self-reliant you mean we’re inter-dependent on each other, only because we choose to be because it takes a load off each of our backs–less responsibilities we have to stress about–but we could snap out of it and do a perfect 50/50 if we really wanted. Just because I’m married doesn’t mean I’ve lost my skills to run the whole show–I could pick up the moment he died, but I’ve gained so much with him that not having a single decision contested would do nothing to pacify losing the one I love.

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