Several Shabbosim ago, I found myself intrigued by something my brother’s rav said during his drasha. Rabbi Yehoshua Weber mentioned that he had hosted several young men for the Friday night meal and as typical when there are eligible bochrim in their upper twenties, the subject of marriage came up. The obvious question was why they were still single. Across the board, the answer was because they were afraid to get married.
Days later, I happened to bump into the rav as I was paying a shiva call and he was on his way out. I asked him to clarify what their fear was based upon, and what their background was. Were they perhaps baalei teshuva and uncomfortable with the shidduch process, were they just a bunch of shy guys, did they have commitment issues or were they full of themselves and too picky?
He told me that his guests were raised in frum homes and very aware that getting married and building a bayit ne’eman b’Yisrael is the ultimate goal.
Apparently, their reluctance to get married was fueled by the fact that several of their friends who had plunged into the matrimonial waters were floundering and even “drowning.” Some had gotten divorced or were on the verge. Others were just as miserable but had small children and ending the union would be very complicated and costly – emotionally, financially and socially. They were going to stay married.
I know of older girls who also are terrified of being in toxic marriages – and toxic divorces – and are very reluctant to date.
Both in New York and Toronto and perhaps elsewhere, support groups have sprung up for young men and women who are divorced. Obviously there is a need. Where once divorce in heimische communities was relatively uncommon, nowadays every family has a son, daughter, sibling cousin who is divorced – sometimes twice or even three times!
Shortly after my conversation with Rabbi Weber, I attended a gathering that focused on what is popularly referred to as the “shidduch crisis.” It was convened by Torah in Motion, an organization launched by Rabbi Jay Kelman with a mandate to “learn, study, teach, discuss and debate the key issues facing the Jewish world.”
They screened “Dating and Marriage” a film produced by YUConnects (a project of Yeshiva University) followed by a panel discussion that featured Aliza Abrams, Director, Dept. of Jewish Service, Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future (who would be viewed as an “older” single and was interviewed in the film); Rabbi Simcha Feuerman, a Jewish Press columnist, president of Nefesh International and Director of Operations for OHEL Children’s home and Family Services; Rabbi Chananya Weissman, founder of EndtheMadness and HotKiddush.com and Rabbi Daniel Korobkin, senior rabbi of Beth Avraham Yosef Congregation of Toronto. The panel was moderated by Dr. Elliot Malamet.
While not everyone was comfortable describing the situation as a crisis (Rabbi Weissman pointed out the kidnapping of hundreds of Nigerian school girls was a crisis), all the panelists offered various insights as to why getting married has become more stressful and complicated than it used to be.
The great majority of the baby boomers, now in their 50’s and 60’s, managed to get married and stay that way and are bewildered by having single sons and daughters in their late 20’s and early 30’s with weeks and months passing by between the date suggestions and their actualization.
There were several reasons offered for the “state of the un-union.”
One that drew a lot of discussion was the seeming lack of effort in maximizing one’s physical assets.
One panelist pointed out that several of the singles interviewed in the film could have made themselves appear more presentable by wearing clothes that flattered their figures or washing their hair and wearing it in a flattering style.