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September 22, 2014 / 27 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘shidduch crisis’

The Shidduch “Catastrophe”: A letter to the Editor of Mishpacha Magazine

Monday, August 25th, 2014

Reprinted with permission from author’s blog “Libi BaMizrach

To the Editor of Mishpacha Magazine:

Dear Sir or Madam,

I read the article by Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz entitled “There IS no Shidduch Crisis” in your August 6 edition with great interest. I want to thank him, and you, for devoting so much attention to this very serious issue. Upon reflection, I would like to make the following observations, some of which differ with Mr. Rechnitz. I base myself on my experience of having been, ב”ה, “in the Parsha” and married three children in the past two years, and from what I hear as a Rav and a member of the community.

To begin with, let me summarize what I feel are the main points of Rechnitz’ presentation:

Too few of the young women are married by age 21. It is not a crisis, but a “catastrophe” that, for example in Los Angeles, only 13 of 72 girls of a high school graduating class were engaged or married by age 21-22. Furthermore, “Any change should not have to come from the girls”, as the risk to the current group of girls is too high if they will wait until they are older to begin dating”. This is not “a problem among Chassidim and Chareidim in Eretz Yisroel, and other populations. It is only “our oilam – the American Yeshiva World – that is dealing with a self-created problem”. This is a problem to which too many have become “deaf, blind, and desensitized. We speak about it and then push it aside as we digest our dessert.” The problem has nothing to do with money, as “money cannot and will not solve this catastrophe.” The core of the proposed solution is that bochurim should begin shidduchim when they are about 20 or 21, and an elaborate description of how the yeshivos would adapt to this is laid out. Even though the bochurim may be insufficiently mature at this age for marriage, (or even at 23), they can be expected to rise to the occasion and “quickly become men” when they need to, much as young men do in the army, or during times of crisis — you “grow into the role”.

I would like to examine these points, in the order noted above.

The notion that if young women are not married by age 21 or 22, it is a catastrophe in the making.

In short, I believe that this type of thinking is, in itself, one of the main causes of the problem.

Apparently there is an unwritten rule that as soon as a young woman in our community finishes the year after high school, or even earlier, she must immediately enter the shidduch process. If a year goes by, and it is two whole years, Heaven forfend, after High School, and the big Two Oh looms, it is time to begin panicking and to enter crisis mode. Why? Why do we already begin to consider this a crisis and misfortune, and 21 year old girls begin worrying about becoming spinsters?

Here are some possible factors that ought to be examined in the light of this problem: There is an ethic that it is undesirable, or even dangerous, for a young woman to have finished High School and Seminary, and not be interested in getting married quite yet. That somehow it will be harmful if she finds employment or goes on for higher education for a year or two while having some degree of independence.

While many young women do want to marry younger, I know of many others who would prefer to have a year or two as a young adult without having the responsibilities, and yes, the burdens, of being a wife and mother by age twenty. To be free to work, explore, travel, see something of the world outside of school and seminary and figure out for themselves who they are and where they fit in to the community. They resent greatly the pressure of having to immediately put all their efforts into getting married, for fear of being “left out” while “all the good bochurim will already be taken”.

Tips for Singles: How to Maximize your Shidduchim and More Easily Find Your Bashert

Sunday, August 10th, 2014

Once upon a time, the grandmother of a boy would see a girl at shul and say, “I have the best boy for you!” She’d give a few details, and the young people would agree to go out and see for themselves if the shidduch was shayach (suitable).

Today, “resumes” are crucial to our shidduchim, and yet they have their drawbacks. It very often happens that a shidduch is stopped in its tracks even before the couple gets to meet. Yes, there is a great deal of information on paper, but could it be that that is the problem? A piece of paper should never replace going out on a first date and seeing where it goes. But, unfortunately, when “everything” about a person is in front of you on that resume, it can lead singles to forget the “big picture” of who a person is. Rather, singles tend to revert to the “perfect picture” that exists only in their minds. Feeling that nothing can be compromised on, they say it doesn’t seem ideal, so “why give it a date?” This happens even when the girl and boy are in the same town.

I have seen many examples of such situations, which can serve as a learning experience for others. For instance, one boy said no to meeting a wonderful, beautiful girl, living in the same town. This was because, after inquiring how outgoing the girl was, on a scale of one to ten, he heard she was a seven – and said, “I need more of an eight, personality-wise.” I heard from the parent of a kollel boy that he would like a girl who shops at high-end stores like Anthropologie, rather than Macy’s-type stores, yet she should also be open to supporting him in learning for the first five years. (These are real stories!)

It’s not just the boys, though. Many girls will not give a wonderful guy a chance because something on his resume is not perfectly in line with her ideal picture. For instance, I have seen girls nix shidduchim with wonderfully shtark (religiously strong) and learned boys, because they were looking for someone in full-time learning, but the boy on paper had plans to go to work. I have also often heard girls say no because a boy seemed “too quiet” on paper.

There is nothing wrong with having a general picture of what you are looking for, but even if you have everything planned out, and you see something different on a resume, don’t make the mistake of not meeting the boy. A resume should never replace a date.

As long as the important basics are there – basics such as middos (character), how the person treats others, chesed, and other qualities that are crucial to a happy marriage, please do yourselves a favor and give it a date to see if things go well in person.

See for Yourself

I know a girl who called a relative in the same yeshiva as a boy she had heard of. This relative made it seem as though the boy was extremely introverted and quiet. The girl knew that this was not what she wanted in a personality and did not pursue the shidduch. A year later, she saw a boy at a simcha – a lively, leibedik boy who really made an impression on her. She went out of her way to find out who he was, and sure enough, it was the same boy whose name had been mentioned a year before! Seeing him in person, she was shocked that he had been described as very quiet. In reality he was quite lively, and always had been! It turns out her relative did not know the boy well at all and had the wrong perception.

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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