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Does the “Shidduch Crisis” Exist Beyond the Yeshiva World? (Part 1)

The “Shidduch Crisis”, a term coined initially to describe a specific situation in the Yeshiva world, has become one of the hottest topics of discussion in Orthodox Jewish homes and venues. Can the term be applied to the Modern Orthodox community as well?

Before discussing whether the “Shidduch Crisis” does actually exist beyond the Yeshiva world, let’s define exactly what the term represents.

A recent article in Mishpacha magezine, reprinted in the Yeshiva World, written by Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz, a major philanthropist, clearly articulated the “Shidduch Crisis” issues and offered a solution.

According to that article and other similar sources, the “Shidduch Crisis” is the prospect that thousands of Yeshivish women will never marry and have children. The cause of this is that women begin dating at age 19 while men begin dating at age 23 or 24. The delay for men is the result of spending several years studying Torah in yeshiva (in Israel and then Lakewood). When the men are ready for a shidduch they tend to favor the 19 or 20 year olds over the girls closer to their age or older (the reasons for this is beyond the scope of this little post).

As a result of this built in age imbalance, there’s clearly a group of women who get left out of the marriage cycle. If you add geographic challenges to the equation, as articulated by super shaddchan Yisrael ‘Fred’ Friedman the statistics get even worse (In fact a reliable source told me that Mr. Rechnitz, who lives in LA, pays the airfare for eligible bachelors to fly in for dates).

Based on the age gap theory, “Shidduch Crisis” doesn’t apply to the Modern Orthodox community since it’s perfectly normal or even preferred for men and women to marry after graduating from University or Graduate programs or simply whenever they feel ready to do so. (There is also no “Shidduch Crisis” in the chassidic community where men marry at the same young age as women.)

However, not everyone attributes the “Shidduch Crisis” to the age gap. According to the anonymous author of this post on Matzav.com since the male and female population has always been about equal, an age gap cannot be the primary source of the expanding “crisis”. The fixed number of “surplus” women unmarried would remain static going forward.

The real source of the problem according to the author is,
“a supply and demand cultural problem and that is the fact that hundreds more girls are taught to seek after the relatively few ben Torah boys, and by the time they turn around (at 24 which happens very quickly) and realize that there were only a few such boys around, it is late in the game, and their age becomes one more consideration against them (since most boys do in fact prefer younger girls).”

In other words, the girls have been trained to seek mates who are seriously involved in full time Torah study. Men who choose to enter the work force or or pursue higher secular education are therefore disqualified. So the real “shidduch crisis” is based on excessive demand and limited supply of desirable men. When many (if not all) of these women eventually decide to become open to dating “working” men, they are often faced with few options since most of the men in the community already married women who didn’t want the “learners”. There are very few eligible bachelors in the Yeshiva World above the age of 28.

Therefore, the cause of the “Shidduch Crisis” stems from an expectation gap rather than solely an age gap. This expectation gap does apply to the Modern Orthodox community, although the expectations are almost totally opposite.

In the Modern Orthodox world women are trained to value career success alongside religious observance. So the ideal mate for girls trained in traditional Modern Orthodox families and institutions would be an educated, successful professional who is religiously observant and knowledgable. Since not every Modern Orthodox man matches those expectation in one way or another, the result is a gap similar to the Yeshiva world one and yes….a “Shidduch Crisis”.

At the same time, a significant number of men and women choose to postpone getting married in order to build their careers or experience single life, but as they grow into their late 30’s and 40’s the men tend to want to date women in their 20’s and early 30’s. That leaves women in their late 30’s and 40’s in a challenging position.

According to this blog post written by An Alter Bocher (Yiddish for an old bachelor) at the Lakewood Yeshiva, there’s too much rigidity and and judging based on appearances in shidduch dating. He feels that the solution is: “Don’t say no. Go out. Meet. At least twice. You never know.” Sounds pretty similar to dating in any community.

So is there a “Shidduch Crisis” in the Modern Orthodox community. Based on the expectation gap, absolutely.

Regardless of the source of the “crisis” in either community, one fact remains the same: there are a significant number of women (and men in the Modern Orthodox world) who might never have the chance to marry or bear children. Whether it’s due to choice or circumstance, from a purely demographic point of view it is a “crisis” for the future growth of the Jewish community.

That’s the “crisis” discussion. Stay tuned for solutions in Part 2.

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