Monday, July 14, 2008

Ugly In Print...

...isn't it? Yet, as best as I can tell, everything contained in The Wall Street Journal article below is true.

Then again, would expect anything less on this topic from an Old Gray Lady?**rimshot** - thank you, thank you...I'll be here all week...


Single Jewish Female Seeks Stress Relief
July 11, 2008; Page W11

People often compare dating to interviewing for a job. In the Orthodox Jewish world, this notion is taken almost literally.

Upon returning from post-high-school studies in Israel, young Orthodox women (such as myself) meet with recruiters, commonly known as shadchanim (matchmakers). After determining whether the young woman wishes to marry a "learner" (a man studying full time in yeshiva), an "earner" (a professional) or a combination of the two, the shadchan collects the prospective bride's "shidduch résumé," detailing everything from education and career plans to dress size, height, parents' occupations and synagogue memberships. The shadchan then approaches a suitable single man or, most likely, his parents -- who add the woman to their son's typically lengthy "list."

Before agreeing to a noncommittal first date, the man's parents begin a thorough background check that puts government security clearance to shame. Phoning references isn't enough -- of course they'll say good things -- so they cold-call other acquaintances of the potential bride, from camp counselors to college roommates. The questions they ask often border on the superficial: "Does she own a Netflix account?"; "Does she wear open-toed shoes?" (The correct response may vary depending on how Orthodox a woman the man is looking for.)

Just as the economy is headed to recession, the shidduch system is in crisis mode. Or so the rabbis moan, noting the surplus of women eager to marry and the corresponding shortfall in the quality and quantity of available Jewish men. It's not that there are more Orthodox women than men out there; experts instead attribute the shortage to the broader sociological trend of postponing marriage, which works to the disadvantage of women looking for spouses their own age or just a few years older. Men who are 30 will date women as young as 18 and may turn their noses up at dating any woman past the age of 25. The 20% or 30% of women who don't get hitched right away begin to worry they'll be left out in the cold for good.

Sensing this shift of power, mothers of sons who remain in the matchmaking system increase their demands: Any prospective daughter-in-law must be a size two, or a "learner" son must be supported indefinitely by the girl's parents. For men, "it's a buyer's market," says Michael Salamon, a psychologist and author of "The Shidduch Crisis: Causes and Cures" (2008). "And the pressures of dating are creating all kinds of social problems, such as eating disorders and anxiety disorders. It's frightening."

I used to shrug off this talk. Genocide in Darfur is a crisis; being single at 23 is not. But the communal pressure is hard to ignore. Orthodox Judaism, like most traditional faiths, is geared to families; singles lack a definitive role.

Then there's what social worker Shaya Ostrov calls the "popcorn effect." During the first two to three years following high-school graduation, 70% to 80% of Orthodox women get married; weddings then peter off.
"The system works for a very limited period of time," says Mr. Ostrov, the author of "The Inner Circle: Seven Gates to Marriage." Friends of mine compare dating to musical chairs; nobody wants to end up an "old maid," and so they get engaged, hoping doubts will prove unfounded. "Young women," notes Sylvia Barack Fishman, professor of contemporary Jewish life at Brandeis University, "are often made to feel that they are damaged goods if they have not married -- and married well -- by their early 20s."

Part of the problem is the increased number of "serial daters" who, as Ms. Fishman says, are "shopping for perfection." When Mr. Ostrov runs workshops, he asks male participants in their early 30s how many girls they have dated. "One hundred seventy-five is not an unusual number," he says. "Dating" in these cases usually ends after just one or two meetings with each girl.

Many men admit that their refusal to commit themselves to a woman stems from fear of making a mistake. The only thing worse than being an "older single" male, it seems, is being a 25-year-old divorcé with two children. It is women, though, who are usually more stigmatized by a split. Indeed, one big problem in the Orthodox community is the "Post-Shidduch Crisis."

"We're seeing more and more recently married, young Orthodox Jews getting divorced," says Mr. Salamon, who estimates that the divorce rate among the Orthodox has risen to an alarming 30% in the past five to 10 years. (Hard data are difficult to come by, Mr. Salamon says, because the Orthodox shun research studies for fear of harming their own or their children's shidduchim.)

The core of the problem is that young marrieds don't know how to accommodate each other, says Mr. Salamon. And singles need to start asking the right questions. "Family history has nothing to do with whether you'll make a good husband or wife," he says. The rigid, interview-style questioning is only wreaking havoc: "They're looking for some sort of guarantee. But who can guarantee happiness?"

As I have said before, much of this should be attributed more to how people have been using The System recently than to The System itself.
The more and more that I hear of what goes on frequently in this process I fear that, as a group, we are becoming that most horrible of all things...we are becoming (in my humble, unwarranted, flawed and most probably self defining opinion) a nation of hypocrites.
A phalanx of "do as we say but not as we do" soldiers. Who keep to the Godly ideals when it suits us but as soon as the stakes are raised begin playing the odds better than the most accomplished Vegas card-sharp and working the angles with the tenacity and unapologetic passions of a polished Washington politician.

This is what we (those who live in the shadow of The System) have turned into, facts are only wonders what we will become going forward.


  1. What often goes ignored, lulei demistafina, by critics of the "system" is that no system or lack of system seems to "solve" the problem. There is a singles "crisis" in the MO world and in the non-Jewish world (witness, "Sex and the City").

  2. Bravo G! The only point where we might have a difference of opinion is "much of this should be attributed more to how people have been using The System recently than to The System itself." The system itself has changed as well as how people use the system.It has become far more bogged down in "ritual" and nit picking "requirements" that have become part of the system's rules.

  3. As the time period allowed for dating becomes shorter and shorter, the amount of questions asked before agreeing to the date goes up. It's as simple as that. Information that would normally be discovered during the course of dating is now discovered before the couple goes out.

  4. LWY -
    While that may be true, I think that very fact also makes people eliminate potential dates for things that they wouldn't or shouldn't necessarily had they already gone out a few times and developed an interest in a whole person rather than disjointed facts and figures on paper.

  5. One quesi\tion I ask is- why in the world do people with any brains go by it? (but wait, we discussed it before)

    Or at least, if they don't want boy/girl interaction, take it to the ridiculous edge it is at now?