Confronting the Shidduch Crisis

Readers of Chananya Weissman’s piece “Shidduch crisis? What shidduch crisis?” (Jerusalem Post, October 21) will quickly discern that he does not think too highly of sixty American roshei yeshiva who recently published a public letter addressing the “shidduch crisis” in the Orthodox world. They are variously compared to Balaam’s donkey, accused of being “disconnected from logic and reality,” and described as attaching their names to “foolish words” comparable to declaring a chicken to be an ostrich.

As someone who runs an organization devoted to helping older Orthodox singles find a spouse, one might at least expect Weissman to express appreciation that the sixty roshei yeshiva publicly called attention to the fact that hundreds of girls from non-Chassidic haredi homes are failing to find a spouse. But no, they are castigated for having denied any such crisis until now, or for having said the phenomenon only existed in the Modern Orthodox world, or having claimed that it results exclusively from exposure to Internet or movies or television.

Each of these claims is false. True, any observer of the Manhattan Orthodox singles scene knows that the number of singles is greater in the Modern Orthodox world, but the problem of women going unmarried has long been on the chareidi communal agenda. The Novominsker Rebbe, the titular head of Agudath Israel of America, told me last year, that the growing number of those unable to find a spouse are our single greatest communal tragedy. Nearly twenty years ago, Agudath Israel of America, the largest haredi grassroots organization in America, devoted a session at its national convention to the problem of shidduchim and created a special volunteer organization, Invei Hagefen, to address it.

It is also true that exposure to images of romantic love predicated on an intimacy that is impossible for dating chareidi couples makes it more difficult for young chareidim to commit, but no one ever suggested the problem was purely one of external influences.

So what exactly raised Weismann’s ire? The roshei yeshiva’s attribution of the greater number of young women not finding spouses to certain demoraphic realities. And what are those realities? First, that the chareidi community is experiencing approximately a 4% annual growth. Second, yeshiva students tend to marry women between three and four years younger than themselves.

As a consequence, if we assume that roughly the same number of men and women are born each year (actually a slightly larger number of men are born each year), and that each age cohort is roughly 4% larger than the previous year, that means that there will be approximately 116 19-year-old girls for every 100 23-year-old boys.

The theory is borne out by a good deal of observational data. First, in the Chassidic world, where boys and girls marry younger and tend to be almost the same age, one hears much less about a generalized “shidduch crisis.” Second, within five years of returning from their studies in Israel to Lakewood Yeshiva (by far the largest American yeshiva), only 2% of the young men are still unmarried, whereas the number of Bais Yaakov graduates still unmarried ten years after graduating high school is estimated at over 10%.

The communal response urged by the roshei yeshiva’s letter is to take steps designed to encourage a reduction in the age gap in the couple’s being matched together. One such initiative, the North American Shidduch Initiative, paid over $100,000 in incentive bonuses to shadchanim (matchmakers) who successfully matched couples within two years or less of one another in age. (Shadchanim are only paid for successful “matches” and thus will naturally seek the low-hanging fruit without counter-incentives.) Even though NASI can no longer offer financial incentives, its efforts appear to have made some dent in communal norms: The organization has on file over 700 married couples within their parameters in recent years.

Weissman responds with howls of derision. According to him, the roshei yeshiva are under the illusion “that more boys are being born than girls,” and he accuses them of attempting to perpetuate a Madoff-inspired Ponzi scheme to marry off the oldest girls, in the hopes that in the meantime things will somehow even out.

These statements reveal that Weissman has entirely failed to understand the argument being made. The roshei yeshiva are well aware that approximately an equal number of boys and girls are born every year, and that is constant. They are not buying time so that basic demographic realities will “even out.” But rather seeking to change social norms so that those objective demographic realities exact less of a toll.

For his final coup de grace, Weissman seeks to one-up the roshei yeshiva as insufficiently pious. Their attempts at social engineering, he claims, fly in the face of an explicit Talmudic statement that forty days before birth a Heavenly voice declares for whom the in utero child is destined.

This too is sheer silliness. Since we are not privy to that Heavenly voice, it has no implications for our own efforts to match young couples. Does Weissman believe that the Heavenly voice has miraculously destined Chassidic girls for boys their own age and non-Chassidic ones for someone four years older? True, the primary desideratum in matching couples is compatibility, but what reason is there to believe that the most suitable match is less likely to be found among those close in age?

Social norms are notoriously resistant to change, and it remains to be seen whether the average age differential of 3.5 years between husbands and wives in the yeshiva world will be significantly reduced anytime in the near future. Even if it is, there will still be those young men and women who do not find their matches easily, for a host of individual reasons or perhaps none at all. But none of this detracts from the roshei yeshiva’s efforts to deal with the clearest objective cause of the tragedy of chareidi women going unmarried, and thus the one most easily subject to amelioration.

Jerusalem Post, November 3 2009

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57 Responses

  1. joel rich says:

    I haven’t yet been able to get past the statement

    “True, any observer of the Manhattan Orthodox singles scene knows that the number of singles is greater in the Modern Orthodox world,”

    It may well be true that the number of singles is greater in the Modern Orthodox world but I would urge R’ Rosenblum to consider the assertion is that “any observer knows”. It assumes that an observer would be able to quantify the number of MO singles there, calculate the number of MO adherents in the age brackets impacted, and compare that to similar statistics for the charedi adherents. I doubt that any observer could do this. Statements like this tend to undermine the credibility of those that make them.


  2. tzippi says:

    In the past, I’ve referred to some of the NASI proponents as “New Ageists,” particularly the ones who have not done their cause justice by their rhetoric. I will bow to the wisdom of the group of signatories and take this very seriously from now on.
    But I do have a question. Age is a primary cause of the shidduch crisis. However, it is not the only one, and addressing these causes may well help ameliorate the situation. Is there a way to identify these other causes, maintaining the proper respect for the sages and a level of reasoned discourse?

  3. JoelG says:

    Excellent article!

    After a number of years assisting some older single girls with finding their mates, I’d like to add my take on this crisis:

    Our educational institutions for girls have pragmatically taught their students that they must excel and function in both the Torah world and the secular world. There are exceptions, both in the U.S. and Israel, but for the most part it remains the case. As a result, despite the oft-quoted, “It’s easier to be a good girl than a good boy”, we have produced a generation of frum, educated, worldly and capable young women who are committed to a Torah life and can hold down a job in any field they choose.

    On the other hand, our educational institutions for boys unfortunately can’t make the same claims. They have produced a generation of young men who either excel in the Torah world, excel in the secular world, or too often, excel at nothing and are satisfied with mediocrity because that is all that was ever demanded of them.

    I’ve lost count of the number of times I inquired about a frum-looking, single boy in their upper 20’s, only to be told, “He’s still figuring things out and trying to find himself” after his years in Yeshiva. Such boys are hardly suitable matches for accomplished girls and even admit they find such girls “intimidating”. When these boys hit their 30’s without marrying they can start to become extremely picky and develop various idiosyncrasies.

    I don’t mean to make the crisis sound one-sided and to put all the blame on the boys. I think very often it is the girls who must be more open to meeting different types of boys and sometimes it’s their schools that put the blinders on them in this regard. However, as a Yeshiva graduate and a college graduate, it seems to me that our generation of single girls shines and excels in a way that the boys just don’t seem to measure up to.

  4. DF says:

    I’m not so sure the shidduch crisis in bigger in the Modern Orthodox world than the Yeshivah-type world. It may give that impresion, simply because of the huge “scene” concentrated around OZ and the Upper West Side. The yeshivah-type singles, especially the girls, are more apt to stay at home, or in quiter settings. In other words,their single numbers may be equal or more, they are just not as visible.

    The proposal of the roshei yeshivah is worthwhile, simply because ANY efort to fix this terrible problem is worthwhile. In my opinion, though, they ought to be encouraging simple contact between single young men and women – ie, the way most of our parents got married. Yeshivah bachurim and beis yakkov girls are taught that it’s not tzenius to speak with members of the opposite sex, and that may well be right through high school. But they are not taught that AFTER high school there is nothing wrong with looking attractive, or meeting boys/girls at social events without a shadchan. Consequently you find shabbos tables where the boys speak only with the boys and vice versa, or “rules” where only one gender is invited at a time. You find separate seating, for singles! This is a total abberation in history, which has got to change.

  5. Jonathan Rosenblum says:

    Joel Rich’s comment is correct. The relative number of unmarrieds in the MO and Chareidi camps is so irrelevant to my argument that I should have just elided any reference to it. Certainly not an area in which anyone should be looking for bragging rights, and hopefully for all of us — regardless of which camp we may locate ourselves — feel that the growing number of unmarried, older singles in both camps is a tragedy. That does not mean that we are dealing with the same phenomenon in both groups, but I did not set out to solve all the problems of the world, or even all those relating to shidduchim, just to suggest that one young man should watch his tongue.

  6. Steve Brizel says:

    “True, any observer of the Manhattan Orthodox singles scene knows that the number of singles is greater in the Modern Orthodox world,”

    Proof please? If one reads the letters to the Yated on a weekly basis, there is no shortage of letters about the Shidduch crisis in the Charedi world. One need not resort to disparaging the MO’s extended single scene instead of engaging in discussion as to whether any of the remedies suggested to date, to paraphrase Rambam in Shemoneh Prakim, are merely palliative in nature, without providing any alleviation of the root causes-unrealistic expectations and demands without any basis for parental evaluation ,or accountability as to the future plans, ability to learn, and abilities of a young couple to translate all of the beautiful concepts in Sheva Brachos into the day to day realities of being husband and wife and supporting a family.

  7. dovid landesman says:

    One facet of the $hidduch cri$i$ that was ignored by the rabbonim and which I suspect might be behind the angry article by Mr. Weissman is the extortion practiced in the UO [ultra-Orthodox] yeshiva world. When the first question posed to a young woman’s father is “what are you prepared to do?”, is it no wonder that there are many young women who are simply not marketable? To my humble mind, the roshei yeshivah are directly responsible for this part of the cri$i$ – either by telling bachurim that years of support are a deal breaker or by at least condoning what is transpiring. I am more familiar with what happens in Eretz Yisrael and I am acquainted with tens of families where the father is a chashuvah talmid chacham with one or more daughters who simply do not come with a pot of gold. I have confronted a number of Israeli roshei yeshivah aas to what happened to the tnai kesubah of a husband supporting his wife, but have never been awarded with more than a sardonic smile. Perhaps Reb Yonatan might be willing to post his opinion on the lack of cents aspect of the crisis?

  8. L. Oberstein says:

    Many people think that the gedolim or the roshei yeshiva or whomever can change communal norms by issuing an edict. They are fooling themselves. The frum community choses the leaders it wants to follow and listens selectively to hear what it wants to hear. Sociologically , we are like everyone else. Maybe, in the chassidic world, the rebbe can issue an edict and have it followed,but ,even there, the rebbe can’t get too far in front of where his followers want to go. The almost daily halachic decisions that one sees on the internet in the name of senior rabbonim in Israel hasn’t changed the behavior of anyone I know. In fact, when the rabbis tell people to do what they don’t want to do, they lose even the patina of power.
    In Lakewood, the leaders said that it is a halachic imperative to support a certain candidate for Governor and they even got Rav Shteinmann to endorce this psak. Did anyone listen? I don’t think so.
    If these same gedolim told the bochurim not to ask for “long term support” and seek a poor but pious girl, would they abandon their desire for support and live a life of poverty,who are you kidding?
    The social pressure and the indoctrination of the Seminaries in Israel make it hard for a working boy to find a “good girl”. It works both ways. If the Roshei Yeshiva can find mates for our Jewish girls,kol hakovod. Shiduchim and paying tuition bills are the biggest problems we face.

  9. Nachum Lamm says:

    Can we all *please* stop calling grown men and women “boys” and “girls”?

  10. tzippi says:

    I appreciate what R. Oberstein’s saying. I don’t think there’s any way that some massive social engineering can be mandated but as a believing Jew I can’t discount what they say. How to act on it is a good question. I think NASI originally suggested that when young men start dating, the first few women they go out with should be within the age range. That was considered reasonable hishtadlus.

  11. Jewish Observer says:

    “Can we all *please* stop calling grown men and women “boys” and “girls”?”

    -I’m not sure if you are really not aware, but that is how heimisher society refers to them. Ever hear the experssion “old boys’ network”? Why not old men’s netwrk? (or elderly men’s network) This is not worse than that …

  12. Shira Halperin says:

    The “shidduch crisis” is not one problem, but many.
    There are Jewish men and women who can’t get married due to internal reasons that often have no solution – I personally know many singles with mental illness – bipolar etc. – that makes it hard for them to hold a job or have a positive relationship. Some people with mental illness can function very well, with or without medicine, others can’t, and SHOULD not be getting married.
    Then there are people with some minor or major social/religious/psychological/sexual identity issues, who may be “looking” for a shidduch officially, but are not really prepared to marry in any given year.
    Then there are people who are just looking, and have not yet found, a shidduch. This can be seen as tragic whether the person is 26 or 36; but if the person is 26 and ends up marrying a year later, was this a true crisis? LEt us say that some people need time to find someone, so we should only look at the over-30 unmarrieds as a big problem (which is not to say people shouldn’t help those under 30) and recognize that some people over 30 don’t want to or can’t get married.
    Chananya Weisman wants to blame the system, but his system has worked no better. What we need to do is try to do all the things we can as best we can – pray, matchmake, organize singles’ events – and any new ideas like encouraging guys to marry older gals.

  13. tzippi says:

    R’ Rosenblum, I just read your article in the most recent Yated continuing these thoughts. I was gratified to see the story of Rav Hirsch (who happily married an older woman as he needed a woman by his side for what he wanted to accomplish) referenced along with a rider that not all boys will be Rav Hirsch. Your new article mentioned what’s in it for the boys/young men/no, maybe boys who will marry young women within range or older.

    My question is, what’s in it for the girls? Great, the girls will be qualified to earn more than minimum wage. What are our boys prepared for? What can and should the girls hold out for? Are these boys not just good learners but serious mentschen who are resourceful and ready and willing to shoulder the responsibilities of this new stage in life?
    I want to see an articles from the girls’ (and their parents’) perspectives.

  14. Joe Hill says:

    Those advocating that boys and girls be allowed to meet on their own are simply mistaken. I won’t rehash all the pitfalls of that approach, but I will point out that in the MO community that is the current approach. And the MO community doesn’t have any less of a “shidduch crisis” than the hareidi community does, despite the MO community’s allowing of the boy meet girl approach.

  15. Joe Hill says:

    Another point I’d like to ask is why is Mr. Rosenblum taking Chananya Weissman seriously? That he was published in the JPost is not a valid reason for that, and indeed makes the question all that much greater.

  16. Chananya Weissman says:

    [Editors’ Note: We are publishing this comment at the express request of Jonathan Rosenblum, despite the fact that it violates several of our stated rules on the tone and content of comment submissions.]

    It didn’t take you long to show your sloppiness, disregard for facts, intellectual dishonesty, and underhanded tactics:

    1) In the very first paragraph you accused me of comparing the rabbis to Bilam’s donkey. I did no such thing. The reference to Bilam’s donkey was with regard to evaluating the credibility of words and ideas independent of the source.

    2) You write that my organization is devoted to helping older singles. False. We are not a dating service. Our mission statement is: “ is an ambitious and unique effort to combat the angst and hardships associated with dating in the religious Jewish community.” Translation: we’re trying to bring sanity and Torah values back to the dating world — sanity and Torah values that you and your ilk have corrupted.

    3) You make an inappropriate personal reference to me as an “older single”. You don’t even know me, and my personal status is irrelevant to the discussion. Would it be appropriate for me to refer to you as an older married fool?

    4) You say I should “express appreciation” for the fact that rabbis who you consider to be Gedolim and many in your society believe to be all-knowing and infallible have finally woken up and drawn attention to a problem that everyone else has known about for years. Sorry, I don’t appreciate that. I expect more from “Gedolim” or even caricatures of Gedolim. Furthermore, your “evidence” that they have been well aware of this situation and taking serious measures to address it — a personal comment to you by one rabbi and a dating service from Agudah — is not very impressive. You must be counting on the readership to be incapable of critical thought.

    5) Your math is largely hypothetical “if we assume…” and you fail to demonstrate a real demographic problem in real life — certainly not one worthy of affirmative action.

    6) You laud using financial incentives (I call it a bribe) to manipulate matchmakers to push shidduchim based on age. So you think it’s a GOOD idea to pay people to suggest a match based on an artificial demographic consideration, a match that would not be their targeted first choice for this man and woman if we were looking out for their best interests? Tell me, dear Jonathan, how many of the sons and grandsons of these esteemed rabbis are married to older women?

    7) You insult my intelligence by stating that I do not understand the argument. Is it inconceivable to you that I understand it quite well and disagree with it?

    8) Finally, do you think it would be a good idea to address the height gap in shidduchim by paying shadchanim to push matches between tall women and short men? After all, there seems to be an increasing number of short single men, and they are disadvantaged in the shidduch world. How about further affirmative action to push matches for Ba’alei Teshuva (who are treated like garbage in the “Torah world”), converts, girls from families that can’t afford to buy an apartment for their zero-earning children and in-laws, boys who aren’t the “best learners”, and people with handicaps? And might I suggest these esteemed rabbis set the example by choosing such matches for their own kin?

  17. Esther Miriam says:

    I am married, and counsel many single friends, so I feel I have some awareness of some of what they are dealing with. I have come to the conclusion that the majority of the “singles scene” people are not truly looking to get married at the moment, and therefore I don’t see that as a “crisis”. In that portion of the community, I think the solution would be a sociological change where people could feel free to admit that they were not currently interested in getting married, so that the ones who are can date each other and not get frustrated wasting their time on an endless amount of dates.

    Whereas in the more “yeshivish” (for lack of a better word – I’d really prefer not to label) community, most people really are looking to get married, but are being pressured from several directions in ways that are not conducive to getting married. (This includes: shadchans who tell the person what they should be looking for instead of getting to know them as a person, shadchans who set up anyone male with anyone female, pressure regarding the learning vs. earning question, and some parents who are more concerned with what the community will think than finding an appropriate match.)

    In addition, when my husband was in yeshiva when we were first married, I was SHOCKED to find out that people in this community are often going on dates with over 100 people! It is a rare person in the secular world who dates this many people before getting married. A lot of these young men were being set up with the same type of girl over and over, and since clearly it wasn’t the right type of person for them, it was really inappropriate to continue sending them on these dates. They either needed to stop dating because they weren’t emotionally ready to get married, or be allowed to be honest about what type of person they are and what they are looking for, regardless of what their rebbeim or shadchan would like them to be looking for. (We’re talking frum men here, no one was looking for something inappropriate, just someone that was a better fit for their goals and personality.)

  18. Shira Halperin says:

    Wow, R’ Chananya Weisman’s really mad at you, R’Rosenblum. I admire you for printing his email, despite his need to be so sarcastic and disrespectful of those he disagrees with.
    R’ Weisman – I took four graduate courses in statistics. The math makes sense to me – if guys marry younger, and more boys go OTD (admit it, we all know far more teen boy than girl dropouts) and more females are BTs (again, anecdotes, but still seems to be a trend…) and more MEN than women have the following situations that often/generally keep them out of the dating pool (severe ADHD, autism (4:1 male to female), childhood cancer, schizophrenia, MR, same-gender attraction…)- maybe all this does point to a shortage of men if they are born in roughly equal numbers? And yes, I know women have more eating disorders, but still. More men are killed in dangerous activities, car wrecks, army duty…it would make total sense if the women are saying, Where are all the guys? Also, is every Torah scholar expected to be able to solve every issue for society? What is it you would like a “gadol” to do?

  19. Yehoshua Friedman says:

    I am really impressed with R. Yonasan for being willing to be the lightning rod for this barrage because his kavod is less important to him than trying to further discourse and progress toward solutions to this major problem. As I did on the Jerusalem Post, I recommend that the principals communicate and seek positive solutions together despite differing hashkafic positions and situations in life. Bucking social trends and avoiding band-aid solutions is a necessity. People’s lives are not just being ruined qualitatively, souls are not being born into the world by inaction or incorrect action, and we know that Chazal see the birthing of souls into the world as a prerequisite for the coming of Moshiach.

  20. Chananya Weissman says:

    I’d just like to clarify something that there are 2 issues at hand here:

    1) Whether or not there really is a demographic crisis, let alone one worthy of serious manipulation of the shidduch world.

    2) Whether the suggestion course of action is appropriate, or even ethical.

    Hence, even if one can prove #1 (which, in my opinion, has not been even remotely been accomplished), one still needs to prove #2. A course of action that is inappropriate may well lead to far greater problems than the one it is meant to address.

    My concerns with Jonathan Rosenblum’s methods in attempting to rebut my article are secondary to the above. It would be most worthwhile to focus on the actual issues, and the main issues at that, and not to get distracted in quibbling over hypothetical mathematical equations.

    I believe that the proposal in the letter is highly unethical and otherwise inappropriate because it suggests that something other than the best possible match for the individual be suggested.

    If you went to a doctor and he prescribed a medication for you, and you later found out that the drug company had given the doctor a financial incentive to prescribe that medication, how would you feel? How would you react? Surely we expect that the doctor make prescriptions without such external considerations influencing his judgment one iota.

    If you went to a real estate broker, or if you simply went to someone for advice, and you later found out that he made suggestions based in significant part on external considerations — especially a vested financial interest — you would feel violated.

    Rosenblum lauds the NASI foundation for setting up marriages using financial incentives to manipulate the judgment of shadchanim. This is a highly unethical practice that we should be outraged about. It is not proof of success of the method. Getting people to the chuppah is not the end of the game, and it is very shortsighted and misleading to simply tout a number of marriages. As everyone should know, the ends don’t justify the means, nor do we believe in a mitzva ha’ba’ah b’aveira.

    If the singles knew the shadchanim had a financial stake in suggesting person B instead of person A, they would be outraged, and rightfully so.

    I challenge those in favor of this idea to demonstrate how it is ethical, when similar tactics elsewhere are considered disingenuous and unethical.

  21. Miriam says:

    I remember a very simple and clear explanation of the math on this by Rabbi Paysach Krohn in a Tisha B’Av video FOUR YEARS AGO. (And yes Mr. Weissman, it has nothing to do with the way you explain it in your rant.)

    So I’m gathering all the fuss is that now the Israeli Rabbanim have decided to promote this idea?

    Well, if it wasn’t clear before, the purpose of Rabbi Rosenblum’s piece wasn’t to convince Mr. Weissman but rather to give the onlookers a better perspective.

    So let’s start by explaining that here in Israel, us Charedi-Israelis do things a bit differently. In order to get the public’s attention, we either hold kennis after kennis on the topic (very expensive) or we publish a letter in very strong terms with as many names at the bottom as possible (much more coverage at far less expense). It’s just our style – I can’t say I like it, but the Middle-Eastern mentality is swayed by strong evidence that people are very serious. If you’ve ever held a 25-day vigil in the principal’s office before they realized your children were just perfect for their school, you know what I’m talking about.

    So just because something is written in absolute terms doesn’t mean it’s the only idea – again it’s just a way to make sure people pay attention. (See even without TV it’s tough to keep track of good ideas nowadays….) Of course, Mr. Weissman, “All those other issues I’ve been writing about for seven years,” are not irrelevant. However, it’s time to add a new tool to the scene.

    But why are you so resistant? Surely you’ve written about what kinds of picky expectations are sincere and therefore should be kept, versus which kinds are extraneous. Which is why I don’t understand another assumption of yours: “Don’t suggest the most suitable shidduch for that man; suggest a somewhat reasonable shidduch within a narrow age range.” Since when is age an untouchable specification in dating? How many men do themselves a disservice by insisting on girls still in college when they’ve been living established lives for over 10 years?

    Besides, the Rabbinical letter isn’t against matches with a wider age gap. Rather it’s a campaign to open the public’s eyes to reconsider a fundamental expectation many have had in shidduchim. But given the choice between a more “sure” match with say a 4 year gap versus a maybe with no gap, the matchmaker will certainly try the more likely one first – after all some income is better than none!

    It’s a shame you didn’t hear Rabbi Krohn speak. It was so nicely done.

    Come to think of it – they really should make such a video for Israel. Maybe the kennis approach might be a more successful way to go after all.

  22. Jewish Observer says:

    “We are publishing this comment at the express request of Jonathan Rosenblum … ”

    – Based on the CW letter one ca nonly imagine what the JR response will be. Now you got my interest!!

  23. Shades of Gray says:

    “What can and should the girls hold out for? Are these boys not just good learners but serious mentschen who are resourceful and ready and willing to shoulder the responsibilities of this new stage in life?”

    R. Dovid Weinberger of Lawrence, New York, in an interview in this week’s Mishpacha, touches on the issue of girls being a little more mature. More importantly, he has provided support for intiatives to educate both boys and girls. Here are some excerpts from the article(available online):

    “You wouldn’t send an untrained doctor into surgery or an untrained lawyer into the courtroom; marriage is serious business, and even though our yeshivos are doing a wonderful job of creating talmidei chachamim and ehrliche Yidden, the boys starting shidduchim are often pitifully unaware of what lies ahead of them. The girls are a little more mature, but they too need basic training.”

    “Our singles are often going on dates without proper hadrachah. This is undoubtedly the most important decision that they will ever make, and we owe it to them to provide them with the guidance and time that they deserve. Already in twelfth grade, in both boys’ and girls’ high schools, and seminary and beis medrash, there are special programs
    to train young people about how to date and what to look for in a proper spouse.”

    “We have spoken with many of the leading Roshei Yeshivos and they greeted the idea with enthusiasm.” It is his hope that every young couple — black hat, chassidishe, modern Orthodox, whatever — would be encouraged to avail themselves of this program prior to building their own home.”

  24. L. Oberstein says:

    Chananya Weissman certainly has strong feelings. I went back and clicked the link to his original article in the Jerusalem Post. It is hard to find merit in his ideas because of the anger and unconcealed rage that he evinces. “Do not judge someone until you have been in his place” is a rule we try to follow.
    The shiduch crisis is real and deserves everyone’s efforts. I do not see how Chananya Weissman’s anger will make anything better. I wish him success in his endeavors but also urge him to be more respectful and appreciate that the rabbis are good people with the best of intentions. The system is pretty dysfunctional,but, we have to respect one another and each do what we can.

  25. YM says:

    In the chassidic world there seems to be no “shidduch crisis”. What is their approach?

  26. YM says:

    Oh, the chassidic world encourages their young men and women to marry roughly their own age. And I think also they encourage them to marry younger. Any other differences?

  27. HD says:

    Jonathan does well to give Chananya the rope he needs to hang himself;

  28. Bob Miller says:

    The comment by Chananya Weissman — November 8, 2009 @ 12:52 pm – sheds light on a general problem, the human inclination to ignore or even attack what is NIH (Not Invented Here).

    Anyone working for the community in kiruv, shidduchim, or other areas needs to understand that his personal approach, even if it has worked well for him, is not the only way. Once he no longer perceives a “need” to downgrade other approaches relative to his own, he can begin to have a proper dialogue and cooperation with co-workers in the field.

  29. Avi Lipman says:

    – 2) You write that my organization is devoted to helping older singles. False. We are not a dating service. Our mission statement is: “ is an ambitious and unique effort to combat the angst and hardships associated with dating in the religious Jewish community.” Translation: we’re trying to bring sanity and Torah values back to the dating world — sanity and Torah values that you and your ilk have corrupted.

    rabbi weissmans website is focussed on belittling anyone’s attempt to try to help singles get married that doesn’t fit rabbi weissmans view of the world. read any of his postings on the bulletin board and observe the anger. it does though, in the end, focus on helping older singles. unfortunately, rabbi weissman is so drenched in his hatred for the current problems with the shidduch world, that he uses his wit and writing abilities to mock and ridicule the entire frum world around him.

    thank you jonathan rosenblum for this well written accurate rebuttal of a recent rabbi weissman diatribe.

  30. Peri Garfinkel says:

    The Shidduch Crisis is very real and the math is very simple. It is so simple in fact that people can’t quite believe it. Growth in population plus a gap in age between men and women who marry (with men being a few years older)leads to many women who cannot find a mate.

    The Shidduch crisis is not only very real in our times. It has been very real for the last 150 years at least. There was a great spurt in the growth of the Jewish population from 1850 to 1939 and before World War 2 it was very accepted that a woman would marry a man more than 5 years older then her. Many young women could not get married and remained old maids. This was attributed to the fact that they did not have a dowery, but now when we understand the math ie growth in population plus an age gap between men and women equals many left over women we understand that it was not the lack of dowery that caused these women to become old maids, but the demographics. Since there was a shortage of men there was a sellers market and the men could hold out for larger doweries. In effect there was a bidding war for the few eligible men out there. We see the same effect when there is a housing shortage and there are bidding wars for houses. I am not just guessing that the shidduch crisis existed before WW 2, I spoke to relatives who were holocaust survivors. They spoke very bitterly about the many women who grew old and could not get married before the War. They said that the war turned the world around and many women who would never have been able to get married before the war got married because the world turned upside down.

    We were not as aware of a shidduch crisis in the years right after the war because the frum population was not that large and so the amount of singles was not that large. The single scene was basically beneath the radar. In the past decades the frum population has grown tremendously B”H and therefore the amount of singles grew as well to the point that we now have a real crisis. The crisis is real in the Litwish world, in the Chabad world, in the Modern Orthodox world and the Sephardic world. The only groups that don’t have this problem are the Chasidim. This is because their men and women marry at the same age (in fact they have a slight problem with boys who can’t find a Zivug (this is because it is quite common for girls of 19 to marry boys of 18). I would go out on a limb and say that this problem exists in the Secular Jewish and non Jewish world but not to the extent of our problem because the secular growth rate is much smaller.

    As for those who are against social engineering. There is always social engineering one way or another. There are social norms that become accepted for various reasons and they effect society greatly. There is nothing wrong with encouraging our children to date at a closer age. There is nothing wrong with encouraging a Lakewood boy who comes back from Israel to date a 22 or 23 year old girl instead of one who is 19. It is unbelievable that in our circles a 23 or 24 year old girls is considered old. That is a mindset that can be changed and should be changed.

    One reason that social engineering can be successful in the Yeshivish world is that in that world the mothers are for the most part the “Gate keepers” for who their sons date. Thank G-d those same mothers have daughters as well as sons and if they don’t have daughters, they have sisters or nieces. It is in their self interest to have their sons date closer in age because this will help their own daughters, sisters or nieces.

    It is imperative that we all spread the word to close the age gap. The wound has been unconsciously self-inflicted and can be fixed by us if we act.

  31. asher says:

    I challenge those in favor of this idea to demonstrate how it is ethical, when similar tactics elsewhere are considered disingenuous and unethical.

    Comment by Chananya Weissman

    It’s ethical because shadchanim were previously devoting too much attention to setting up the younger women, and now they will give the older single ladies the attention they originally deserved

  32. Joe Hill says:

    Why is CW being referred to as Rabbi by a few commenter’s?

  33. Chananya Weissman says:

    There are lots of people calling me “mister” and insulting me in various general ways, but not ONE person is actually responding to any of points. The only people ranting, writing diatribes, and using anger in favor of reason are those who are writing against me. There’s quite an angry mob on here, but no one who seems interested in an intelligent discussion.

    I’ve asked some strong questions. Can anyone answer them?

  34. dr. bill says:

    as a casual observer, it appears that both protaganists might want to reexamine their positions. The mathematical problem is real; denying it is not productive. However, criticizing the system and acknowledging problems well beyond the mathematics, appears to be equated to an attack on the yeshivish way of life. It often is, but, nonetheless, the system needs major overhaul. Rabbis oberstein and landesman above, raise valid issues from inside the tent.

  35. tzippi says:

    Re Shades of Gray (23): we are giving our kids mixed messages. The girls (I will call them girls and boys for convenience)are being told that it’s in their interests to mature a little more (“life’s not a fairy tale” “get your degree”) while at the same time being told to consider a younger boy (“maturity is overrated”). I thought chazal recommended that a woman be able to look up to her husband. (Might this be why men are often older than their wives…)

    Make no mistake, I have tremendous compassion for the boys. They are under pressure to fit an extreme mold (leading to acting out in “kosher” ways – because they don’t waste time in the short term, just shorten life expectancy? – such as drinking and smoking) that is contraindicated by the greatest of the sages, who said, Educate a youth according to his path.

    I join Rabbi Oberstein and others in regret over Chananya Weissman’s meltdown. There are so many other issues to raise and discuss and it would be great if all the people who are so dedicated and concerned could work together. As far as I can tell the signatories aren’t directing us to focus on the age gap with blinders; we can definitely focus our energies to the rest of the issues exacerbating the shidduch situation.

    Of greatest concern to Rabbi Rosenblum might be the indiscriminate use of his name, Rabbi Krohn’s, and the signatories’ by newsblog hotheads to back up their rhetoric. And it would be nice if every letter and ad coming out of NASI had very specific names on it. I want to know exactly who is standing behind and vetting every official statement. My emunas chachamim may need honing; I can’t believe that all the people invoked have given blanket approbation.

  36. Joe Hill says:

    Mr. Weissman, Your questions have been answered by multiple writers. Your angry ranting diatribes do you no justice.

  37. Mr. Cohen says:

    I have been reading the articles and blogs of Chananya Weissman for about five years, so I probably understand him much better than most people here.

    The point Chananya Weissman was trying to make is:

    The Shidduch Crisis is about much, much more than a mathematical formula that requires men to marry older women.

    This is also the source of his anger, because anyone who claims that the mathematical formula is the only solution to the Shidduch Crisis is essentially ignoring everything that Chananya Weissman said since he founded End The Madness about seven years ago.

    For example: the obsessions with: money, yichus, dress size, color of kippah

    For example: incompetent shadchanim, too much interference from parents, and spending too much money on dates.

    For example: discrimination against: Baalei Teshuvah and their children, gerim, Sephardim, orphans, etc, etc, etc…

  38. Chananya Weissman says:

    Reply to Yaakov Menken, et al:

    I was not angry when I wrote my article, I’m not angry now, and I stand by every word I wrote. But it really doesn’t matter if I’m an angry person, or a miserable person, or a horrible human being, or a real rabbi. This isn’t about me. It’s about whether this letter has an accurate assessment of The Problem and whether The Solution is appropriate or ethical.

    I am still waiting for ONE PERSON to explain how this solution is appropriate and ethical in light of standards of ethics we apply in general. Dozens of people have responded with all manner of insults against me (quite hypocritical), and the editors of this forum as well have only taken issue with the tone and content of my message (which was really rather benign compared to most of the posts here that are short on content and long on personal attacks against me that are assur on or off this forum).

    Personally, I feel confident in stating that I have done more to help singles over the last 7 years than all 60 of those rabbis put together, and I have no vested financial or other interest in so doing — and, clearly, I’m not doing it for the kavod, either. So perhaps some of you people should pause, look yourselves in the mirror, and consider your own motivations.

    It is hard to respect a community that tries to destroy anyone who criticizes it, does not adhere to basic Mitzvos Bein Adam La’chavero, and seems both incapable of and unwilling to respond to a clear, legitimate intellectual argument.

    Again: why aren’t the sons and grandsons of these rabbis marrying older women?

    Why is there no affirmative action to help other disadvantaged populations (short men, bald men, ba’alei teshuva, people from poor families, etc.)?

    Who is behind this letter and what is his vested interest? Is it a scheme by the NASI foundation to get more money? Isn’t this something we should know?

    How is it ethical to manipulate shadchanim to propose anything other than the best match for the individual?

    I challenge all you rabid supporters of the letter to provide intelligent answers to these questions. Save your personal attacks. I’m a bad guy, I admit it, and that’s now out of the way. Now either make a reasoned argument or my points stand.

  39. Bob Miller says:

    Since no one can really be certain which strategy will work best, everyone concerned should try out his own ideas and not waste breath or pixels debunking someone else’s.

  40. Yaakov Menken says:

    Unfortunately, the Jerusalem Post is but one of many media outlets where the level of negativity towards the Orthodox community and/or its leaders seems to be as relevant as the credentials of the author and the cogency of the arguments when it comes to likelihood of an article getting published.

    I don’t know whether C Weissman is a “Mr.” or a “Rabbi,” but what we are all seeing is that his anger at the community is clouding his own judgment. CW now writes that no one is responding to his points, but it is he himself who said that there are only two real issues, and his various concerns with Rabbi Rosenblum’s article are secondary to those (comment 20). On those two issues, his claim that no one is responding only tells us that he’s not listening.

    Regarding the reality of the demographic crisis, the data is unimpeachable, as explained by Miriam (comment 21) and Peri (comment 30) — as if the original article were not enough. If “each age cohort is roughly 4% larger than the previous year, that means that there will be approximately 116 19-year-old girls for every 100 23-year-old boys.” To that one must add the factors mentioned by Shira Halperin (comment 18). CW’s dismissal of the proposed effort as “nothing more than a Ponzi scheme” objectively demonstrates his lack of understanding of the problem and solution, his claims to the contrary notwithstanding.

    As to the second “real issue,” whether it is appropriate or ethical to encourage boys to marry girls their own age, Peri (comment 30) and Asher (comment 31) addressed this as well. CW’s argument requires that we dismiss the inherent conflict between emunah and hishtadlus (trust in G-d vs. our own efforts) that is a constant in Jewish life. It is also a well-known truth that the amount of money a person will earn is set on Rosh Hashanah. Shall we, therefore, abandon all efforts to permit that to happen “b’derech haTeva” (in accordance with the natural world, rather than an open miracle)? It is obvious that despite the fact that HaShem is “mezaveg zivugim” (pairs people with their mates), it is incumbent upon us to do what is naturally appropriate to maximize the number of successful Jewish marriages.

    On his own website, CW says that on two separate occasions he publicly called for mere expressions of interest from the community, and both times “received a grand total of one response” (emphasis his). Even considering the large number of contemporaneous efforts to increase the number of successful shidduchim, it does not occur to him that the lack of enthusiasm might be particular to his efforts, rather than overall.

    When I was in Shidduchim myself, I observed that it’s a terrible system whose primary merit is that all the alternatives are much worse. That remains my opinion. It is never easy to be “in the parsha,” but that’s unavoidable, and inherent to the process of seeking a partner for life.

    As an aside, previous comments back and forth have alluded to the fact that there are more Modern Orthodox singles, but this is due to the fact that they are more career-oriented and thus likely to marry further into adulthood than the charedi norm. RJR may have passed over that fact, but I don’t think Joel Rich should question whether the obvious is true. RJR’s error lies in the question of whether the percentage of those truly seeking a mate, and having trouble, is greater among MO than Charedim — I agree with Joel that we don’t know the answer to that question, and with RJ Rosenblum that it isn’t relevant to his point, anyway.

    We need serious and thoughtful approaches, and the encouragement of Gedolim for boys to seek girls their own age addresses the demographic reality in a realistic fashion. May their efforts meet with much success.

  41. Yaakov Menken says:

    Footnotes: I think it reflects haste motivated by anger that CW replied to me based upon an accidental ‘submit’ pressed after the first 1.5 paragraphs of my previous comment (which I didn’t notice until after submitting the final).

    I don’t know where he’s getting data from, but out here in the real world, the rhetorical questions he asks are based upon assumptions that just happen not to be true. For example, “why aren’t the sons and grandsons of these rabbis marrying older women?” In the one recent case of which I am personally aware, the granddaughter of one of the Gedolei Yerushalayim just got engaged to a boy barely a year older than her — a gap much smaller than the typical four years.

    Why is there no affirmative action to help other disadvantaged populations (like baalei teshuvah)? That, too, would be a good question if it were even remotely true — but as a BT myself, I know that the underlying assumption is entirely false in this case as well.

    Mr. Cohen, nowhere in this discussion has anyone said that people are not guilty of focusing too much upon the superficial. It is a running joke in our household that things like putting soda bottles on the Shabbos table will affect our children’s prospects. One of the leading English-language manhigim (guides) for yeshiva students in Jerusalem spoke a generation ago of the importance of not looking at the parents’ bank account before dating a girl, and he is no less influential today than he was then.

    The common thread is that what CW insists is being ignored, is not, and yet there are additional issues here, and a real crisis that cannot be ignored. We are fortunate that our Gedolim care to address the real issues.

  42. Shira Halperin says:

    Here are the answers to Chananya’s questions:
    1. Why aren’t the sons and grandsons of these rabbis marrying older women?
    Answer: Maybe some of them are, and if they are not, perhaps they hope to change the general society by first encouraging this idea, then getting some people it appeals to to follow it, and then seeing more and more people for whom it would have been unthinkable do it, including their own families. I promise these same guys might have supported kosher college programs like Touro in theory, though they ddin’t send their own sons, but then some of their own sons ended up there when they fell off the learning track. Same idea.

    2. Why is there no affirmative action to help other disadvantaged populations (short men, bald men, ba’alei teshuva, people from poor families, etc.)?
    Answer to this excellent question: Affirmative action suggests that a certain group is less worthy than others and needs more consideration. A call to help bald guys, or short men, or hey – how about tall women? – suggests very rudely that these groups are less worthy or less valued – which may be true, but…by targeting age, it is an equal-opportunity thing: BTs, FFBs, bald men, short men, tall men, we can help everyone this way. Maybe there will be follow-up with a program encouraging men to marry taller women, good idea.

    3. Who is behind this letter and what is his vested interest? Is it a scheme by the NASI foundation to get more money? Isn’t this something we should know?
    Answer: I think it is a bunch of well-meaning people who are trying to help, but I don’t know more details. Yes, let’s find out who is behind it, they should have no reason to hide.

    4. How is it ethical to manipulate shadchanim to propose anything other than the best match for the individual?
    Answer: Chananya, you could only ask this question if you don’t believe in hashgacha pratis. I know from your other writing that you believe that a shadchan needs to know an individual and put great thought into their happiness and why another person would be a match for them. Nice idea, but int he real world, people set up their neighbor’s daughter who they barely know with their friend’s nephew they have never met — and then the couple lives happily ever after! I can personally tell you 100 stories like this, and after years of dating (and yes, people tried to set me up with people they thought would be good matches) – a friend of mine met a guy, and he happened to mention that he had an older brother. She didn’t know ANYTHING about him, except that he was from Toronto and learned in Torah V’Daas. She didn’t know his age, height, weight, plans in life, not even his first name. We were engaged a few weeks later. So, for many people out there who devote their time to helping make matches out of the goodness of their hearts, what is the harm in suggesting that they set up these random matches without worrying too much about the female being a bit older than the male? (I happen to be older than my husband). OK, the paying them to do it is a bit cheesy, I agree, but by talking about this, the hope is that this silly idea that a woman must be younger than a male might get eradicated. I don’t think the choice is, guy A is great for B, but I’ll set A up with C instead because C is a year older than A while B is three years younger. I think the idea is, here is guy A, my cousin’s neighbor’s son who I don’t know, and I can set him up with one of two sisters, one who happens to be a year older than him and one who is two years younger. Perhaps I can suggest the match to the older sister. Chananya, does that sound so unethical to you? Or do you refuse to accept the reality that these random matching sometimes result in lovely, happily married people (want to come visit?)

    P.S. You don’t need to be angry at people who are trying to help, even if you are frustrated with their limited views of the world.

    P.P.S. Please respond to my answers, I am curious what you think, as I read your articles and am considering setting you up with a lovely person I know – I think she’s even older than you!!!

  43. tzippi says:

    Shira, this is re points 1 and 4:
    We have no idea if the gedolim are walking the walk or not. Perhaps their grandchildren (ok, let’s say the grandsons, let the girls go out with whoever’s offered who sounds possible) are dating within the range but not FINDING their intendeds, so after a while they entertain ideas outside the range as well, and find them there.

    There is talk of manipulating and social engineering but frankly, outside a takana of the sort we haven’t seen in a few millenia (like the times of the early prophets) we may not see the numbers shift. And I’m not to worried about such a takana. If we can get EVERY rav necessary on board, and get universal compliance, Moshiach will be here, so our problems will be solved 😉

  44. observer says:

    I’m curious about the assumption that everyone here seems to accept:

    “the chareidi community is experiencing approximately a 4% annual growth”

    Is there any source for this? Is it meant to cover just Eretz Yisrael or America too?
    It is truly a remarkable number as it means that the Chareidi population will *double* every twenty years or so (statisticians in the audience may well correct me, but I’m guessing that the growth is compounded as these 4% extra children will soon produce children of their own at that 4% growth rate). I just don’t see that happening.

  45. Chananya Weissman says:

    Reply to Shira Halperin:

    Congratulations on being the very first person to systematically respond to something I wrote and focus strictly on the content. It’s refreshing to come across someone who is clearly interested in an actual discussion of the issues. I will respond to your points as well in turn.

    1) Actions speak far louder than words. It is not the place of rabbis to experiment with society. If they really believe in this idea as strongly as the letter suggests, they should be at the forefront of implementing the idea. Lehavdil, what would you think of rabbis banning the Internet and walking around with a laptop? How can anyone expect a rabbinic edict to be taken seriously if the authors themselves act differently?

    Your mashal to Tourl doesn’t line up. Everyone understands that different schools are better fits for different individuals. The letter urges giving preference to shidduchim in which there is a narrow age gap or in which the woman is older — REGARDLESS of whether or not this is the absolute best shidduch for the individuals. Hence, for the rabbis to choose their most preferred shidduch for their own kin while ignoring this demographic issue that they believe is such a crisis is hypocritical and sets a poor example.

    If they really believe in what they signed, we should expect the vast majority of their sons and grandsons to marry older women. That’s not going to happen.

    2) Affirmative action is simply giving preferential treatment to a class of people that is disadvantaged, rightly or wrongly. Again, if the letter simply stated that people should be more willing to consider someone outside their immediate comfort zone, I would be all for it.

    That is not what the letter states. The letter defines the main problem as being an age gap and urges preference for shidduchim based on this criteria, which is unnatural and unethical. Furthermore, as I noted in my article, it does a disservice to the community by distracting people from the many serious issues in the shidduch world. By distilling there many and complex issues into this one “problem” — which remains dubious — they are essentially dismissing the issues.

    Their heroic response to the “shidduch crisis” is neither comprehensive nor illumination, and hardly befitting people who are considered by many to be Gedolim. This is harsh criticism, but I stand by it.

    3) Considering the shadiness behind the origins of the letter and how it came to be, I am not ready to take for granted that those behind it have nothing but pure intentions.

    4) I believe very strongly in hashgacha pratis, but I understand it differently. According to your understanding of it, which favors haphazard attempts to set people up, there should be not attempt to manipulate the way things are being done — the letter should never have been written! They should simply encourage people to set one another up completely at random and let hashgacha pratis do the rest. After all, we know stories like this where it worked out swell.

    Most of the people writing here believe nothing of the sort. They engage in FBI-like investigations. Why? Why don’t they just accept any shidduch suggestion and leave the rest to hashgacha pratis, if what you’re saying is correct.

    The proper approach is to act in a sensible, reasonable fashion and only then to leave the success of one’s endeavors to Hashem. Yes, sometimes people will act in a senseless fashion and still be successful, because God makes it happen. And sometimes people will do all the right things and it still won’t work out, because for whatever reason God didn’t make it happen.

    The lesson from this is not to abandon sensible, reasonable efforts because it’s up to Hashem anyway. The lesson is that there are a great many spiritual and natural factors at work, and every individual person and situation is different. Our obligation is still to try our best and put our trust in Hashem.

    So yes, shadchanim who set people up randomly like monkeys throwing darts at index cards will be “successful” some of the time, because sometimes Hashem will intervene and make it work out no matter what. And sometimes people will put lots of thought and effort into it and it just won’t work out. However, we have a crisis in our generation, however you wish to define it, because the hishtadlus that people are doing on a micro level and the community is doing on a macro level is WAY OFF.

    We don’t need more shadchanim, more dating services, or more segulos. We need to rectify the corrupt values that have overtaken much of our society, educate people properly regarding dating and marriage, and provide more and better opportunities for people to meet. Only then will the situation really improve, and only then will we have the RIGHT to rely on hashgacha pratis.

    We are demanding far greater a level of divine intervention to bail us out for wayward beliefs and methods than we have a right to expect.

  46. dr. bill says:

    Chananya, your core arguments make sense, but you do yourself a disservice in two of your assertions. One: the demographic issue is very real; use it as a reason to argue for more than just one attempt at a solution. Two: experience tells me when 5 things, for example, all contribute to a problem, spending time ranking them is of limited value. I do not care whether you or Rabbi Rosenblum or Rabbi Landesman or others commenting are on the number one issue. All must be addressed.

    As to the demograhpics, it is different in israel than in the US peimarily because chareidi communities in Israel are experiencing higher growth and are more insular and less likely to marry outside their group. While the problem is real in both the US and Israel, it is not identical. As to the “observer’s” question about doubling, absent changes it would; other constraints will cause changes.

  47. Shira Halperin says:

    Thank you for your response.
    I await Jonathan Rosenblum’s response on who wrote this letter – names please! And yes, by all means, let’s check out what their families are doing, fair’s fair.
    YOu may mock it, but setting people up without knowing them personally, just based on their family or knowing basic facts about them, but not details, is something that has been done in Jewish families for generations upon generations, and it has sometimes resulted in happy marriages (my own included).
    The thinking is not to randomly throw darts, but to say, I know of a man — and what you know of him is usually some basics like ballpark hashkafot, job, where he went to school/yeshiva, age, height — and I know of a woman — again, basic outline — so I suggest the match, leaving it up to the individuals to then seek out some information (hopefully not asking stupid questions, but meaningful ones about personality, values, goals) to see if it sounds like it is worth meeting the other person — and IF both people hear things that make this sound like it would be a good idea, then they go out.
    And the success is not random, just like the suggestion was not random, despite your portrayal – it was based on something (usually as a starting point, he/she comes from a lovely family, followed by, she went to Stern and he went to YU, or she is 5″9 and he is 6″2) and then followed up by some checking.
    You may not like this kind of dating, but for many people, it is a way to get some nice dates, and many people do get married this way. I bet if we did a study, by the way, on how well people hit it off on a first date, or how many people get married, the dates organized by people who knew both parties would fare no better than dates organized by people who didn’t know the individuals. In the ideal world, yes, people would be set up by some caring person who knows both parties – but that limits singles to dating only acquaintances of acquaintances. In my case, I have yet to meet a single person who knew both me and my husband before we met and married. So who was supposed to set us up exactly, if it wasn’t someone who knew of us but didn’t know us? Are you saying that singles should be limited to those people they personally meet and those people the people they know happen to know? Of all my friends, only one met her husband (in camp), and one was set up by someone who really knew both her and her husband. The rest were suggestions by people who had a connection to the people (my neighbor suggests her cousin’s daughter who she doesn’t know personally, but she knows the girl is in med school, or my friend has a nephew who is in Lakewood).
    But whether you like this system or not, a lot of people are set up this way, and under those circumstances, where the suggestions are not based on matching personalities or deeply held values anyway, why not try to match people without adhering to the silly social convention that the male must be older than the female? You haven’t answered that question. If I am setting people up this way, why shouldn’t I try to set up guy A with a female who is a year older than him, as opposed to two years younger, if anyway my suggestion is not based on personal knowledge of the people involved? Why is it unethical to try to raise social awareness? Please address this point. (Another time, I’d be curious to know why you are so anti the people who try to set people up. As long as they don’t lie, and you check out the potential date yourself, how can you blame them for trying? I have tried this method and I have made a shidduch this way (The wife happens to be a year older than the husband).

  48. observer says:

    “As to the “observer’s” question about doubling, absent changes it would; other constraints will cause changes.”

    So if there are “changes” in the demographics (causing a real growth that’s smaller than 4%) why, then, would there be a 4% disparity between shidduch-ready boys and girls – especially taking into account a previous commenter’s observation that many “disqualifications” (like OTDs and Downs Syndrome) will more heavily affect boys?

  49. YM says:

    I had heard that one of the people who heard Rabbi Peysach Krohn speak about this idea ended up setting up the great granddaughter of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, who was older than her chasson. Rabbi Krohn told this story last year.

  50. Chananya Weissman says:


    “You may mock it, but setting people up without knowing them personally, just based on their family or knowing basic facts about them, but not details, is something that has been done in Jewish families for generations upon generations, and it has sometimes resulted in happy marriages (my own included).”

    Jews have been doing lots of things for generations that they shouldn’t be doing.

    The fact that a guy went to YU and a girl went to Stern means nothing. You can find a vast array of people at these institutions. If you want a starting point, you can choose a meaningful starting point at no extra charge. Ideas can be found on ETM.

    “I bet if we did a study, by the way, on how well people hit it off on a first date, or how many people get married, the dates organized by people who knew both parties would fare no better than dates organized by people who didn’t know the individuals.”

    Are you kidding me? You think there’s no practical benefit to being set up by people who actually know both people personally? Do you think people who rent an apartment without looking at it first are just as successful as those who look at it first? Would you suggest parents who send their child to a school without visiting the school make the right choice the same percentage of the time as parents who check out the school first?

    How much are you willing to bet? I’ll bet the house.

    Never did I suggest that the woman shouldn’t under any circumstances be older than the man. What I am against is trying to legislate, bribe, or otherwise manipulate things so that dates are arranged based on this criteria.

    Let the rabbis work to make sure that people behave honestly and ethically. Let them educate the community regarding authentic Torah values. That’s why we need rabbis.

  51. Ori says:

    observer, it’s because “shidduch ready” means different things. For a man, it means age 23 and up. For a woman, age 19 and up. The men in the 19-23 age group are not considered shidduch ready from what I understand.

  52. dr. bill says:

    observer, sorry you misunderstood my point. Let us assume that the population in question has been growing at 4% a year, a number broadly acknowledged.. The Shidduch problem results from births that occured PREVIOUSLY 18 to 30 years ago. There is no question about the relative number of babies born in say 1988 versus 1992; ~ 15% more babies were born in 1992. No predictions – just observe and count. Hence the problem R. Rosenblum and the RY are addressing. Your comment about OTD, Downs, etc. only make the numeric disparities yet more problematic for girls, by FURTHER reducing an already smaller population of boys born a few years earlier.

    My comment was that extrapolating FORWARD to then conclude that the chareidi population will double over the next 20 (actually 18) years is more tentative. It assumes there are no other factors that might occur going forward. History teaches us that changes should not be assumed away. I can imagine many that would impact the growth rate.

    Just an anecdote, and I have heard numerous similar ones. In my daughter’s class graduated elementary school 18 years ago, no boys in that class have not been married at least once. ~20% of the girls in the class are unmarried.

    We can argue about the relative importance of various solutions, but the facts are not debatable.

  53. Dina says:

    An observable reason why the initiative will probably not have a broad following is that naturally, until they are about 30, males are less mature than females of their own age; and, our yeshiva/bais yaacov system reinforces this maturity gap. As an earlier poster pointed out, the girls in the system are prepared with life skills, academic skills, given real responsibilities and opportunities to do chessed which matures them, all in the course of high school, seminary and college, while the boys are only given the opportunity to learn. They are not given real responsibility for anyone other than themselves, not even to help another boy in his learning at the expense of their own growth. Then, while in yeshiva they are deluded into thinking that a good life is one in which he is supported, not realizing the burdens of being dependent. Thus the immaturity and irresponsibility is reinforced. Therefore it is more “natural” for this 24 year old bochur to marry a 19 year old girl, since his maturity level is about equal to hers and she can still look up to him.

    Sorry to be so cynical.

  54. observer says:

    Dr. Bill wrote:
    “Let us assume that the population in question has been growing at 4% a year, a number broadly acknowledged.. The Shidduch problem results from births that occured PREVIOUSLY 18 to 30 years ago. There is no question about the relative number of babies born in say 1988 versus 1992; ~ 15% more babies were born in 1992. No predictions – just observe and count.”

    That’s exactly my point. Just where did this 4% number come from? I don’t necessarily disagree with anything you’ve said, but I am simply unaware of any serious demographic studies performed on the chareidi population at any time over the past decades. From my unscientific observations, 4% annual growth over the *past* 20 years doesn’t strike me as realistic. Are there really twice as many students in Brooklyn Bais Yakov schools now than there were in, say, 1986?
    The way it’s been presented here, this whole boy/girl demographic disparity theory seems to require a real-life 4% annual growth rate. If that’s nothing more than an urban legend, then we’d better stop peddling it.
    Hence the problem R. Rosenblum and the RY are addressing. Your comment about OTD, Downs, etc. only make the numeric disparities yet more problematic for girls, by FURTHER reducing an already smaller population of boys born a few years earlier.

  55. Julie says:

    From what I hear, the problem of older singles cuts across all segments of the frum world including the chassidish community–this may not be recognized, but a friend of mine has chassidish relatives and she says it is a problem there, as well.

    I don’t think the age-gap issue is THE conclusive reason there are so many older singles.

    I think a huge factor is the “at risk” population of boys. I know so of so many (my brothers’ peers) who came from very religious homes who are either no longer religious/ have trouble holding down a job and being stable/married girls who are not religious. These men are in their late 20’s/early 30’s–if they had married a girl from a similar background at the age they would have been expected to marry (early 20’s) there wouldn’t be so many unmarried women in their late 20’s-30’s. And I have heard of boys from chassidish homes going of the derech as well, so that would explain why there is starting to be a shidduch problem there as well. But there is no solution to this factor, so I don’t expect too many people too agree with me. It’s there, though.

  56. tzippi says:

    Dina, I think that many boys benefit from a few good years post high school of uninterrupted Torah study before thinking about parnasa. For centuries that was the lot of only the privileged few but thank G-d we are living in historic times, where education is incredibly widely accessible. Of course, there are many growth opportunities that the boys can and should avail themselves of during these years, chesed such as nursing home visits, for example, summer and bein hasedorim (lit. between classes,i.e. during the school year) jobs, but that would bring them up to 20-22, still nowhere near a girl who’s finished her degree and been working for a year or two. There still may well be some gap that will make a 24 year old young man more appealing to some 22 year old young women.

  57. Bob Miller says:

    Let’s consider the derech the off-derech boys are off. In what ways is this the traditional Jewish derech (chassidish or yeshivish or whatever), and in what ways is it a special, ad-hoc derech that was necessary in the aftermath of the Shoah but might need reconsideration now? Our spiritual leadership needs to evaluate how best to advance both Torah and Jewish family life under current circumstances.

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