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Posts Tagged ‘shidduch crisis’

Myths and Realities of the ‘Shidduch Crisis’

Monday, February 11th, 2013

There are few topics in Jewish society which can simultaneously evoke rage, empathy, and unsolicited opinions and advice as Jewish dating. There are numerous books on the world of Jewish dating including “Shidduch Crisis: Causes and Cures,” which ironically can be added to your wedding registry.

To be sure, I’ve done my share of personal reflections as a single – after all it’s great blog fodder. I’ve written my own share of articles on the subject, including a “Guide to Jewish Dating.” But fast forward several years, countless women, forgettable dates, even more encouragement, criticism, and unsolicited advice, I am still single.

However in the past few years serving as a Rabbi I’ve also gained a much better perspective. While my community attracts young Jews, it is by no means a “scene” which means there is significantly less communal pressure for single’s to get married. Furthermore, I have personally adopted a “no dating congregants” policy, meaning my religious communal experience of synagogue attendance is uncharacteristically devoid of any pretense of trying to impress women.

Thus I write from the relatively unique perspective of being a single rabbi – aware of the struggles of others while experiencing the same challenges first hand. Consider it unintentional participant observation if you will. And with this dual perspective I have come to the following conclusion: the so-called “shidduch crisis” is a collection of myths which only exacerbate the social pressures and anxieties at the core of the Jewish single’s community, specifically the denial of individuation.

Let’s start with just one example of the alarmist rhetoric regarding Jewish singles. Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld writes on the Orthodox Union’s website:

Shidduchim – Singles 12. Treat the topic of singles like the crisis it is. This is a plague affecting all segments of Orthodoxy and threatens our very continuity. Synagogues and organizations must put this on the front burner. Singles themselves must change attitudes. Women must put marriage before career. Men must consider the woman as a valued helpmate not just as a means of advancing their own life goals, be it career or learning. There is more to a human beings worth other than their money or looks.

There are several assumptions embedded in this paragraph which I hope to dispell one at a time.

Myth: Marriage is a Communal Issue

One would think that getting married is merely a union between two individuals who make a lifelong commitment to each other – i.e. it is a personal decision. But for R. Schonfeld, the “plague” of the shidduch crisis “threatens our very continuity.” From a demographic perspective R. Schonfeld has a point; the later in life Jewish couples get married the fewer Jewish children will be born.

Procreation is certainly important in Judaism as evidenced by the rabbinic dictum, “the world was not created except for procreation” (M. Gittin 4:5. Though notably this statement is not particular to Jew). But there is no indication that the intent is simply to produce more biological Jews, and I would suspect R. Schonfeld and others would not promote premarital sex with the intent of producing babies.

Yes, there are demographic concerns when the average marriage age rises, but the implication is that people should get married “for the sake of the children” or alternatively, singles should “take one for the team” regardless of the implications for their own well-being.

The reality is that no one should get married to meet the approval of others and certainly not out of a sense of communal responsibility (see T. Sotah 5:1).

Myth: Getting Married is a Goal

Related to the previous point is the sentiment that getting married is an goal in and of itself. One example from an Aish column states, “Admitting that you’d like to get married does not signal an affliction; it’s merely a defensible life goal.”

Getting married may be a strong desire for many people, but by no means should marriage be treated as a goal. The dictionary definition of “goal” is, “the result or achievement toward which effort is directed; aim; end.” Following this definition, the “goal” of getting married can be accomplished simply by getting married disregarding any concern as to the quality of said marriage. If marriage is a goal then people should just marry the first consenting person who comes their way and as soon as the ring is taken mission accomplished.

Selling Snake Oil for Charity

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

If this doesn’t make an Apikores out of you, I don’t know what will. Whenever I see one of these Segula ads, I begin to wonder what is happening to my Judaism. No matter how many times I write about them, and no matter how many respected rabbis rail against them.

What are rabbis saying about Segulos? Here is what one of them said. The Mezhbuzher Rav, R’ Avraham Yehoshua Heshel Bick is a quoted by Dr. Yitzchak Levine in the Aishdas archives:

[Segulos ] are nothing more than bubbe maasos, eitzas yetzer hara that give people a license to spend money way beyond their means and then ask for a yeshuah. All these formulae ­ saying Shir Hashirim forty times, Tehillim HaChida, etc. ­ are methods used by the yetzer hara to take from us the little [spirituality] we have left.

And yet Segulos seem to be on the increase. I just received an ad for one from the Jewish Press.Why are they on the increase?

There are probably two reasons for that. One is that desperate people will take desperate measures. The other is that it must be a very effective fundraiser.

The first time I saw an ad like this was for Kupat Ha’Ir. This is a legitimate charity that helps the poor in Bnei Brak, Israel. These Charedim are mostly people that do not make a living because they have been indoctrinated to stay in Kollel for as long as possible and have had no training whatsoever for the job market.

Even with working wives they often do not make enough money to make ends meet. Mostly because of their large families. Kollel stipends are a joke. The solution rabbinic leaders have come up with is a charity fund called Kupat Ha’Ir. This type of fund has been duplicated in other cities in Israel under different names.

While one can dispute (which I strongly do…) the philosophy that discourages every male from working in favor of staying in Kollel – the fact is that these people are poor and need the money. This charity helps.

There is of course never enough money to go around and these charities themselves take desperate measures to make money.

Some “genius” a while back figured out that they can make money by taking advantage of desperate people. Noting the problems of the day, they have searched for ancient ‘ solutions’ in the form of Segulos. These are ritualistic acts involving donations to their cause. So if for example a young couple is having fertility issues, this organization has found some sort of ancient formula that they promise to carry out on your behalf - IF – you send them a donation. Usually a fixed amount of money. Usually having to do with supporting a Talmid Chacham.

This time it is Yad L’Achim – a Kiruv organization that, if I recall correctly – deals mostly with Russian immigrants. I obviously have no problem with reaching out to Russian immigrants. But I do have a problem with this way of funding it. The vulnerable people they are targeting are single women looking to get married.

In the Charedi world the prime age for a young woman to get married is about 18 to 22. (That is an educated guess. The range might be even narrower – with the top limit of 19 or 20.) Once past that age, these women begin having problems getting dates. To those of us who have been paying attention, this is one of the hottest topics being discussed in that world. All kinds of remedies have been proposed to solve this problem. Including a radical suggestion by some to consider plastic surgery to improve their appearance.

The point being that Yad L’Achim did not let the ‘Shiddach crisis’ go unnoticed. They noticed. And they are taking full advantage of it right now to raise money.

By donating to their cause they promise you that 10 Talmidei Chachamim (a Minyan) will go to the city of Meron to pray for you specifically – by name at the grave site of the sage, R’ Shimon Bar Yochai in Meron and the nearby grave-site of the sage, R’ Yonason Ben Uziel in something called Amuka. This is mostly a Sephardi custom and it is believed to help people in need if prayers are said at those grave-sites.

And for some reason which is unclear to me, Tu B’Shevat ( the new year for trees)– which is tomorrow on the Hebrew calendar is supposed to be an auspicious day for that.

And just to make sure they will raise as much money as possible – they have added other major problems of our day, Parnassa, Refuos, Shalom Bayis, children… all will be prayed for by name in Meron and at Amuka.

And you can also buy raffle tickets.

This is not my Judaism. Taking advantage of desperate people by getting them to part with their money is not what I believe God intended for us as a holy nation. Even when it is done for a good cause. It is just plain wrong.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/haemtza/selling-snake-oil-for-charity/2013/01/27/

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