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Shalom Bayit Classes for Engaged Couples

Wedding season is upon us and for engaged couples hemming and hawing over flower and band decisions, here’s a (possibly) more productive use of your time — the S.H.A.L.O.M. workshop.Approved by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski and other “prominent Orthodox Rabbanim,” the S.H.A.L.O.M. workshop guarantees a successful marriage, or the get [Jewish divorce] is free.

No…not really.

Though the workshop does claim that a survey of S.H.A.L.O.M Workshop participants, conducted by the Shalom Task Force, found that “96% resolve their differences more effectively.”

Nothing like quoting your own study for good publicity, but hey, I’m sure it’s true. And anything that gives a leg up on building a healthy relationship is a-okay, as long as they don’t teach things like “Wives, do what your husband tells you.”

Fortunately, it doesn’t seem like they do. Here’s the blurb:

The goal of the Shalom Workshop is to teach engaged couples practical tools to achieve a healthy marriage. The ability to easily and effectively meet each other’s emotional needs helps build a strong foundation for a true Bayis Ne’eman B’Yisrael [faithful house in Israel, observant Jewish home].
In just one or two sessions the Chassan [groom] and Kallah [bride] will cover important issues such as:

–Increased understanding and sensitivity to each other’s feelings
–Communicating effectively through a sense of mutual respect
–Promoting self confidence in each other
–Financial Management

The S.H.A.L.O.M. Workshop teaches specific, easily learned methods for successful communication and effective problem-solving. Participants emerge with a deeper self-knowledge and the tools to build a happy, successful and long-lasting marriage.
This workshop is an important addition to traditional Chassan/ Kallah classes

Workshop dates and locations in the NY Metro area are listed on the workshop’s website.

If I seem a little ambivalent about the S.H.A.L.O.M. workshop, it’s because, well, I guess I am. It’s not that I don’t respect its mission or think that helping couples foster good communication is a good thing. I most certainly do. But something rubs me the wrong way about the how it’s being marketed, as I suppose is obvious from my sarcastic comments above.

It bothers me that one needs to have rabbinic approval to take part in something like this.

It bothers me that, with all the pressure that exists on engaged couples, this seems like another added pressure and task to accomplish. If it catches on, will this be one more thing that one needs to do, and spend money on, in order to be considered appropriately ready for marriage?

But mostly it bothers me that things like showing “sensitivity to each other’s feelings” and “mutual respect” need to be taught to couples who are about to get married. Shouldn’t one have already learned these things by the time one reaches the decision to marry?

All of which I guess is to say that certain things about the way the workshop’s target demographic — the frum community – approaches marriage bothers me. I don’t think a couple needs to live together for three years before getting married, but I think a certain level of intimacy, mutual respect, independence and — dare I say it — love, should be reached before taking the plunge into a life-long commitment.

Perhaps that makes me a naïve romantic, but there it is.

Now pardon me while I go finish reading Wuthering Heights.

–Rebecca Honig Friedman