A new shidduch initiative has created an ear-deafening buzz in frum communities across North America and beyond. How it works and what it requires from its clients has been the hot topic of discussion at dinner tables, in shul, online chat rooms, at Simchas – just about everywhere two or more heimishe Jews have congregated.
Called the NASI Project, it has generated a storm of opinion as to its merits, its integrity and its potential in solving what has been universally viewed as a shidduch crisis. Basically, it has been presented as a possible “cure” to the growing “epidemic” of unmarried frum women who are in their mid twenties and beyond. From what I have gleaned, its success in resolving the issue of older single women (22+) is based on the premise that if shadchanim have a greater financial incentive to set up these girls; if they receive monetary compensation that takes into consideration the more “strenuous” effort they must make in getting dates for these “over the hill” women, then they will be more motivated to take on these challenging cases, instead of focusing on the younger, more in demand “just back from seminary” girls. To that end, older girls will be charged a considerably higher rate than their younger counterparts for shidduchim. Hence it would cost thousands of dollars more for example, for a 29-year-old female to be set up than for a 20-year-old – since getting a date for the former is considered much more time and labor intensive.
There has been an avalanche of opinions as to the merit, effectiveness and affordability of this project; like every idea or system, there are pros and cons to what its designers have come up with and people will perceive it either as a solution to a vexing problem or something to avoid. The purpose of this column is not to lambaste the idea or praise it – everyone needs to examine it for themselves and come to their own conclusion.
However, one fact of life that the project brings to the fore, and that no one in the yeshivish/modern Orthodox community can dispute – is that with each passing year, the number of never married girls over the age of 25 is escalating, and there is much palpable despair, hopelessness, distress, resentment and anger besetting this population and their families.
We are taught that all Jews are responsible for each other – that we have a moral obligation to help one another. If we see someone floundering, it is incumbent on all in a position to do so to extend a helping hand, be it financially, emotionally or spiritually.
To this end, I feel that every adult in the community needs to get involved to prevent what to some degree should be viewed as an existential threat to our community’s viability – the huge numbers of singles who may never build batei ne’eman b’Yisrael, nor launch future generations. We cannot afford to have a reduced birthrate due to women staying unmarried well into their child-bearing years. The Jewish people lost too many millions to a deranged but tragically efficient Nazi genocide. We must replenish what we lost to the best of our ability. Each unmarried daughter of Israel represents a lost opportunity to do so.
At the end of the day, Hashem determines every outcome. Some women and men may never marry and create families. But we must make the effort to help them do so.
And we do so by becoming, to the best of our abilities – shadchanim – (matchmakers)!
A daunting idea since there are no shadchan schools where we can get a PhS (a Doctor of Shidduchim) – so how do we go about doing so?