By Simon Lichtenstein
Recently there have been some requests to lay out the hard facts of the shidduch crisis. Here they are.
The problem. The number of non-chassidishe Orthodox young women that have been dating five years or longer and are still single is greater—by the thousands—than the number of non-chassidishe Orthodox young men that have been dating five years or longer. That single statement defines the shidduch crisis.
It is difficult, if not impossible, to perform an accurate head count, for numerous reasons, and there might be some people who could thus choose to be in denial. However, conversations with people involved in shidduchim, ranging from shadchanim and roshei yeshiva to principals and those running frum dating sites, indicate that the above statement is painfully and tragically true.
Perhaps there is a community of a few thousand young men who have been dating more than five years and are still single. Perhaps they are hiding in a mountain or cave or on a different planet where no shadchanim or dating website can locate them. Maybe they’ll suddenly appear out of hiding.
Unfortunately, it is painfully obvious that they simply don’t exist in mass numbers. Of course, there are some young men who have been dating for more than five years and are still single, but the number of such young men is minuscule when compared to the number of young women in that category.
So those are facts. We can pretend it isn’t so. We can, and should, wish it isn’t so. But it tragically is. Is there anyone out there who denies this reality?
Having established clearly that in our communities we find the sad situation that the number of young women who have dated 5+ years and are still single outnumbers the young men who have dated 5+ years and are single by the thousands, the question that begs to be asked is:
How could this possibly be? Are there hundreds more girls born every year than boys? Do hundreds of boys die before they reach shidduch age? Do hundreds more boys than girls go off the derech never to return and marry within the community?
The answer is no, no, and no.
So how could it be? The answer is as follows.
Step one: Let’s imagine that we have an island (let’s call it Shidduch Island) with 100 frum boys and 100 frum girls on it, and they have gone onto the island for the purpose of trying to get married. At the end of one year, is it possible for there to be more single girls than single boys?
At this point you will know whether the person you are speaking to will “get it” or not. Any response other than an immediate and unequivocal “no” means they will not fully understand the concept. This is tried and tested, and it is quite amazing how many smart people hem, haw, and aren’t sure of the answer to this question. They start thinking it depends on the boys, on the mothers . . .
Obviously, it is impossible to have more single girls than guys at the end of one year (so long as cherem d’Rabbeinu Gershom is adhered to). Even if every girl is poor, not pretty, etc., there is simply no way for more boys on the island to get married than girls.
Step two: If on that island at the beginning of the year, instead of 100 girls and 100 boys, we place 150 girls and 100 boys, how many girls will for sure be unmarried at the end of the year? Obviously, 50.
If some of the guys choose not to get married, then for every unmarried guy, there will be another unmarried girl. If 20 guys are still single, then 70 girls will be single. But no matter what, 50 girls will not get married. Even if every girl is rich, pretty, with personality, and every other silly thing that is perhaps valued in shidduchim, a minimum of 50 are not getting married.
Step 3: What’s left to explain is why in the non-chassidishe Orthodox community, instead of having 100/100 we have 150/100, and thus every year there are hundreds of girls with no chance of getting married, and next year a few more hundred girls with no chance of getting married:
Which grade is larger, counting both boys and girls—kindergarten or third grade? The answer is kindergarten, simply because, b’H, the population is growing, and each year more children are born than the year before, and thus the younger grade is larger than the older grade. This point, which is self-evident, has been proven based on widespread studies of school enrollment across the country.
Which grade is larger, 5th grade or 9th grade? 5th, for the same reason as above.
Which is larger, 9th grade or 12th grade?
This way you establish that younger is larger, but where you are going with this? What does 9th grade have to do with the shidduch crisis?
We have now established that the younger grades of both boys and girls are far larger than the older grades. But how does that create the shidduch tragedy?
Step 4: At what age do girls start shidduchim? 18–19.
At what age do non-chassidishe boys in the U.S. start shidduchim? 22–23.
So suppose in the year 2012 every girl on her 19th birthday gets a passport to Shidduch Island and every boy in 2012 on his 23rd birthday gets a passport to Shidduch Island. In 2012, are the number of girl and boys who come onto Shidduch Island the same, or are there more of one gender?
Hopefully by now every reader understands that there are more young women entering Shidduch Island. Many more!
Bingo! There’s your problem.
So you say, “What’s the big deal? The girls who didn’t get married this year can wait till next year.”
Well, next year a whole new shipload of boys come to Shidduch Island, but a whole new shipload of girls come as well, and once again the new girls outnumber the new boys by a few hundred each new year.
Side note: In the chassidishe community, where boys begin dating close to the same age as the girls or even younger, there is no shidduch crisis for the girls, because on their Shidduch Island it really is around 100/100, whereas by us it’s closer to 150/100.
Disclaimer: The numbers 100 young men/150 young women were illustrative only. In reality, it is approximately 2,200 young women entering Shidduch Island each year and 2,000 young men.
This is what has been going on in our community, year after year after year, for way too long, with somewhere in the vicinity of 200 girls per year returning from seminary condemned to never getting married.
But this is only the beginning.
We have now demonstrated that 200 young women per year can’t get married. Now comes the cruel part. In the first few years on Shidduch Island, the problem doesn’t seem so acute, as each of the 2,200 young women has potentially plenty of opportunities. After all, there are 2,000 young men on the island. As a few years pass and large numbers of the original 2,000 young men get married to their counterparts, we find that in place of the 2,000 young men we now have 200 young men and 400 young women. What started out as 200 young women out of 2,200 has now become 200 young women out of the remaining 400 young women. And a few years later we have 50 young men and 250 young women. What started out as 200 out of 2,200 not getting married is now 200 out of 250.
Can you even begin to imagine the sheer terror of a young woman and her family when she realizes her current situation in life?
But this problem didn’t start 8 or 12 years after they entered Shidduch Island. This problem was there the day they stepped foot onto the island.
Which girls will be the unlucky 200 from 2012? No one knows. Certainly many silly factors play into which girls perhaps have a better chance to be from the lucky 2,000 instead of the tragic 200. But all those factors simply determine which girls will be sacrificed. They don’t change at all how many. We could potentially solve all those “other issues” (money, silly priorities, etc.) and we will still be left with 10 percent of every grade never getting married.
Like a sad game of musical chairs. The young men are the chairs and the young women run around trying to “chap” a chair. Some young women may have an advantage. We may try to play the music faster (i.e., have more shadchanim, change dating style, etc.), but as long as there are far more young women than available chairs, we should not be surprised that at the end of the day we continue to have large numbers of young women unmarried.
I think now we can agree that it is high time our community took this issue seriously—very seriously.
The good news is that there is a viable, implementable solution to this problem. It has the capability to greatly eradicate the problem going forward so that no young women coming home from seminary should suffer what their older sisters, neighbors, or relatives have and continue to. In addition, it will afford many new shidduch opportunities to large numbers of the young women who have been dating for quite a few years and are still single.
All that is needed to make it happen is an ironclad commitment on the part of the community to get it done. We need a sense of urgency to insist that we will no longer allow our daughters to suffer.
Baruch Hashem, recently there has been an awakening in the community as more people have begun to give this issue the importance that it demands. Yes, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Unfortunately, we haven’t reached the point that the hamon am is on board and determined to change the current situation.
When we do, we will save thousands of girls. v
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