I just got the following e-mail. Scroll down for my musings.
“Silend Tragedy – Shidduch Initiative.
Much has been written about the frum schidduch scene and specifically a seemingly unfair advantage boys have. It would appear that boys have all sorts of options while girls are starving for shidduchim. It seems like there are so many wonderful older girls who just haven’t gotten married. Many members of the frum community have been scratching their heads wondering why this is so.
As it stands now, statistically, without a neis from HashemYisbarach, approximately one out of every 10 frum Jewish girls will neer get married. This phenomenon is a result of two factors: One, our population, bli ayin harahm is growing rapidly, at a birth rate of about four percent a year. Second, in the average marriage in our circles, the male is older than the female by about three and a half years. The result of these two factors is that for every 1,000 boys starting the shidduch process, there are approximately 1,125 girls starting – with at least 125 more girls than boys seeking shidduchim. This gap is only widening every year.
It is imperative that we close the age gap between couples. One obvious way of achiving this would be for boys to marry girls within two years of their own age, and vice versa. If this were to become the norm, the problem would be alleviated in large part. But to make this happen, strong encourageent is needed from friends, parents, shadchannim, and rebbeim for boys to consider girls who are within two years of their own age.
The NASI (North American Shidduch Initiative) Fund has been launched to address this conundrum. The Fund’s goal is to encourage shidduchim with a smaller age difference by providing an incentive of $750 to shadchanim of couples who are within two years of age of eachother. Shadchanim of couples in which the chosson and kallah are less than one year apart would receive $1250. A shadchan of a couple in which the girl is at least three months older than the boy would receive $2000.
A similar program was initiated by the Star K in Baltimore two years ago. It is clear that since its inception, shadcahnim have been payng closer attention to the issues tere, and the girls for whom the program was created have been helped greatly.
If this situation is not remedied, the problem will likely get worse. As the number of older unmarried girls steadily increases, girls and their families might be compelled to behin the shidduch process at an even earlier age, only further widening the age gap, thus intensifying the crisis.
Now is an “Eis Laasos.” If you would liem to be part of the solution please contact:
e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org”
When I first read this article, or whatever you feel compelled to call it, I was sort of left scratching MY head. Maybe I was too tired to work out the math and see how what these people were saying makes sense, if it does. Any genious mathematicians or people with more patience than the amount I have in my tired state are invited to please explain their equation in idiot terms for me.
The term “crisis,” which, though I don’t think was used in this article specifically, is generally used to describe the situation at hand, implies a sort of urgency, alluding to a situation that has suddenly emerged and which MUST be dealt with immediately. This hardly applies in that the situation for singles in the frum community has been creeping in for years. I don’t know when people decided it was time to take action on behalf of all those “Older Singles” as its not something that entered my radar until I entered the shidduch world (and, it seems, simultaniously entered the ranks of the “older singles” despite the fact that I was a spring chicken with nothing old about me except a beloved t-shirt that I have worn as part of my PJ ensemble/wardrobe for around a decade. ) But truly, what they propose here seems to be a band-aid or an advil, something to alleviate the symptoms of the problem instead of getting to the roots of the issue. Yes, roots. Nothing is simple.
Sure, there is the demographic issue. I’ve heard, though this doesn’t necessarily have any basis in scientific fact and could be all heresay, that due to the rabinically imposed halachic laws regarding the physical relationship between husband and wife, combined with the nature of female fertility cycles, more girls are being born than boys. I also seem to remember something about the genetic material provided by the man and the fact that, in potential form, males are faster swimmers that die quickly and women are slower and more resilient, though I don’t actually recall what practical application this had as I am getting more tired by the minute.
So there are more girls than boys being born into the frum community. 51% and 49% from what I’ve heard. But even without that, it doesn’t take a genious to figure out that the situation is exacerbated by a combination of cultural factors. Secular culture has always seeped into the Jewish world, although the culture threatening invasion is more damaging now than it has ever been, and it is reaching even the innermost recesses of the sheltered jewish community. Or maybe we’ve just been in galut for too long and we’ve all just forgotten the point of what it is we’re supposed to be doing here. Have we all lost our minds?
There is a HUGE double standard, both within the frum community and outside of it, in terms of how people react to, shall we say, pre-marital physical relationships. Even going under the assumption that the seriousness of transgressing in this area (for lack of a better term) is equally serious for males and females from a Torah point of view – which is not likely the case, there seems to be an attitude of “boys will be boys”. That is, boys can do as they please and it may be frowned upon, but people will often look the other way, and smile and accept it when a given fellow says he is keeping halacha. Even if it’s not QUITE true. For boys, its good enough. There’s much more wiggle room for boys in terms of social convention (except in the area of gender roles, but that is for another time.) Because boys can, in a socially acceptible fashion, approach and/or walk the edge of society in a way that girls cannot, they are far more likly to fall off the edge completely. And when talking about the area of the relationships between men and women, walking that line is more dangerous for boys due to their biological makeup. If girls who fool around are labled as sluts almost forever, but boys can be players and still have the world convinced that they are frum, no one is going to prod these boys back into their place, or lovingly guide them. Or smack them upside the head. Or better educate them. People just look the other way. So its easier for boys to be led astray, and also less stigmatizing for them. But we the ladies know better. We will not settle for shlocky boys. We want quality men with whom we will build stable torah homes. YEAH FOR STANDARDS! (Along the same lines, boys know that girls cannot afford to be as picky as they can, thus they can afford to lower their expectations of themselves. )
Aside from the fact that its easier for boys to go off the derech, being that women are more naturally spiritually attuned, women are more likely to choose a frum lifestyle over a secular one that they were raised in. I know that if I hadn’t grown up frum, and I never had the opportunity to see the frum world for what it was, I would just be in a general state of disallusionment and decide never to marry, because it’s far better to be single than to be in a VERY MESSED UP RELATIONSHIP. Which is pretty much 99.999% of all relationships between young people in the secular world these days. (Yes, I DO still consider myself young. Imagine! 25! Young!? YES, YOUNG!!!! EVEN in the frum world.)
[I have a feeling that people are going to come and smack me with things and totally tear apart everything I have been saying, and will continue to say here. Fine, I’m open to other theories. Let’s have it.]
The other component is that women are, as a rule, more introspective and intuitive in relationships. This includes their relationships with Hashem. If something is amiss, they sense it, and if they have any brains at all they will do SOMETHING to try and fix the problem. Even if it’s not the right something. When you combine this with a culture of internally focused blame that has pervaed the feminine experience in modern times (“I must be doing something wrong if this is how things are”) then they will invest energy in trying to repair the person they are bringing to the table in the relationship (with Hashem.) SO whether it comes from a pure place or not (after all, there is something to be said about our taking responsibility for our actions within our lifes’ situations,) the fact remains that women are more likely to turn to self improvement in a state of singledom, while men are more likely to get set in their ways. (Again, based on personal experience.) As Rabbi Yaakov Marcus says, “Women feel the pain of being single more, but men are more damaged by it.) So…big generalization here, but women tend to use their singleness as a conduit for self improvement, wheras single men tend to move closer to the stereotypical bachelor selfish jerk. This polarization of quality of becoming then causes women to have standards that, while entirely appropriate, are unrealistic.
Maybe instead of focusing on those with more years marrying similarly, we should place an emphasis on being a higher caliber individual. Hold people to appropriate standards of being good people, focused on true values instead of the idiocy of faces and figures, of money and tablecloths and eye and hair color, as none of these things makes a lasting contribution of value to a solid and strong relationship. Faces wrinkle, figures expand, money gets spent or lost, tablecloths stain, eyes grow dim and hair falls out. But passion, integrity, loyalty and love all endure, and hopefully grow under the right conditions. People who are concerned with being their best selves will then focus on finding others who are doing the same. For sure attraction is necessary, but it doesn’t build a lasting relationship. This entails changing how we educate our children from a young age. Babysteps.
Has anyone ever read The Paper Bag Princess?
SPOILER ALERT!!! (Stop reading if you think you’d like to keep the suspense and thrill of the book, assuming you’ll read it one day.)
Basically, Princess Elizabeth and Prince Ronald are engaged to be married when a dragon comes and ruines the castle and kidnaps Prince Ronald. Elizabeth outsmarts the dragon and rescues Ronald, expecting that they will then continue on with their life plans. Instead of offering his thanks, however, Ronald expresses that he is less than pleased with her disheveled appearance, and tells her to fix herself up and then return to him. Elizabeth replies that although he may look like a prince, he’s a jerk. And she heads off into the sunset on her own.
A far better message to send to kids than the junk society pours into their minds these days.
I must admit that I’m tired and got kind of lazy on my point near the end here. Thoughts, questions and comments are all welcome. That is, if you’ve read this far, which would be impressive.