While going to a matchmaker in 2018 might seem old-fashioned, for some Orthodox Jews, this is still a common practice. But what about Orthodox Jews who come from more unconventional backgrounds, like trying to remarry or marry later in life?
This is when you call Yocheved Lerner-Miller, who is a matchmaker for Orthodox Jews with unusual stories. The 55-year-old who lives in Kensington, Brooklyn told the New York Times about why she chose to work with this demographic — as opposed to the usual suspects:
Look, the perfect boy from the top yeshiva and the perfect girl from the best seminary probably don’t need me. I deal with divorced people. I deal with older singles who are already in their 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond. Sometimes they’re just people who somehow missed the boat, or they’re converts.
Lerner-Miller herself considers herself something of an outsider, so she feels especially attached to the people she works with. As someone who grew up in a non-practicing Jewish family in Brooklyn and became religious as an adult, she knows a thing or two about being different.
Her path was unusual, ranging from working as an E.M.T. to a pianist. Lerner-Miller even dabbled in Catholicism in her 20s. After a three-year struggle with infertility about 20 years ago, however, Lerner-Miller promised she would make her “house kosher” if she was able to have a child.
As it turned out, Lerner-Miller did become pregnant with her daughter, Chana Lerner, who is now 21. She raised her daughter as a single mother, but at the suggestion of her friend while in her late-40s, Lerner-Miller began looking for a husband. It proved to be an uneasy process with Jewish matchmakers, who often said she was too “old” or too “fat.” Eventually, she met her now-husband, 51-year-old Nechemia Miller, also Orthodox (but not Lubavitch like her).
This experience is, of course, what led Lerner-Miller to become a matchmaker for people like her — and encourages people to feel freedom while searching for a partner, saying, “I’m trying to encourage you to go with one person or the other. One of the things that’s a misconception about the matchmaking process is that you’re assigned a match. You have freedom to say no.”
So, how do you know when you’ve found real, lasting love? Lerner-Miller says it’s about intuition — and feeling like it’s just right:
There has to be something — a tugging of a heart. Something has to say, hey, you’re good for me and I’m good for you. It’s not just, I’m here to have a great old time, me, me, me, me. It’s you, you, us. And that’s the whole secret to it. It takes you out of yourself, it gives you the reason to feel and deal with the needs of another person.
Sometimes, you just have to go with your heart. We’re glad someone like Lerner-Miller is out there helping people find what so many of us dream about: love.