Sunday, December 18, 2005

Two: A Jewish mother looks at the Shidduch Crisis from “Both Sides, Now”

I promised myself that I wouldn’t blog anymore on the “shidduch” (marriage, or rather, lack of same) crisis in the Orthodox community. For one thing, as my husband ever so delicately pointed out to me some time ago, I’ll lose readers due to boredom if I keep blogging about the same topics. For another thing, I’m not Orthodox.

So why am I back here again? Well, for one thing, the Renegade Rebbitzen sent me here. Between Orthomom and her commenters and RenReb and her commenters, there’s been quite a conversation going on. What’s the cause of the fact that so many Orthodox Jews who want to get married don’t seem to be able to find suitable marriage partners? Is it the increasing tendency of the right-wing Orthodox community to forbid most interaction between the sexes? Is it that there are more women than men? Is it that men tend to marry younger women, thus depriving women who’ve “passed their expiration date” of most possible partners? Is it that men tend to marry younger women in the first place because women tend to mature at a younger age? Is is that the influence of modern western civilization's romantic ideals has made potential partners pickier? Is it that singles, their parents, and/or their shadchanim/shadchanot (matchmakers) are now being pickier about such picayune matters as whether a man wears a kippah or a black hat or whether a woman will cover her hair with a scarf or a sheitel (wig) after she's married? Is there any solution to the problem?

Perhaps more important—and I should have realized this months ago—is that I’m working for an Orthodox organization, and, consequently, I see the shidduch crisis up close and with my own eyes. On my floor alone, there are at least three Orthodox women who work at least part-time who are over 26 and still unmarried against their will. It gets worse, folks. One of them has a sister in her early thirties who’s also unmarried.

So I’m seeing the problem "from both sides now," to quote singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell. I’m seeing it as a woman who didn’t marry until she was 28. And I’m seeing it as the mother of a 22-year-old unmarried son and the colleague of several unmarried women in their late twenties, and wondering whether any of them—including my son—will ever luck out in the marriage department. (Mind you, my son still has grad school to go, so I’m in no hurry. But still . . . )

Two. What’s it like to be the parent of two unmarried daughters over the age of 26 in the Orthodox community? Is one the subject of pity? Of condescension? Of mockery? Does one look at one’s daughters and ask oneself, “Where did I/we go wrong?”

How does it feel to have an unmarried daughter—or more than one unmarried daughter—in the Orthodox community who’s old enough to be “past her expiration date?” How does it feel to know that the odds are very good that your daughter will never marry, no matter what she, you, or anyone else does or doesn’t do? Nobody ever talks about that, do they?


By way of full disclosure, I'm seven years younger than my husband. At the time that we were dating, there was a woman in our synagogue who was much closer to my husband's age. It bothers me to this day that she never married.

Here's a further thought that I've been trying to avoid for years: How do my own parents feel about the fact that two of their four children never married (one voluntarily, the other, well, we've never discussed whether that was by choice)?


Blogger PsychoToddler said...

I've never been a fan of the shidduch scene (prefering that girls and boys get to know each other a little earlier and find suitable matches on their own) but neither system is perfect. I'm surprised it's such a problem in a Jew-infested area like NY. I have friends here in the midwest who are unmarried into their 30's and beyond--but primarily because all the available mates are gone. I tell them to go to NY or J-Dates or something.

But the shidduch system is supposed to provide a spouse for each eligible person. Isn't that the purpose of it? I've ranted on other blogs about the ridiculous criteria some parents and shadchonim have, and maybe that's the real problem. They need to spend some time in the Midwest, where the vast majority of Jewish marriages contain only one jewish partner, and then maybe they'll get their heads screwed on straight.

Tue Dec 20, 11:04:00 AM 2005  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

I'm all in favor of young woman and men getting to know each other a little earlier and finding suitable matches on their own. But it's also true that neither system is perfect. As one of my girlfriends said recently, if she had known that her ex suffered from a hereditary disability, she would never have married him.

Standards, whether romantic or a matter of minhag/custom, should be reasonable. It's important to know whether your future spouse is a well person, or is likely to pass on a genetic illness to your child. It's not important to know whether or not the bride's mother wears a size 8, or whether the groom's father went to a specific yeshivah.

Tue Dec 20, 12:17:00 PM 2005  
Blogger Ezzie said...


Tue Dec 20, 11:10:00 PM 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How sad! Men and women exempting themselves from the natural human processes that lead to life partnership because of sectarianism, fear and suspicion. Those of you who impose this guilt-driven sectarianism on your children should hang your heads in shame.

Fri Aug 08, 12:23:00 AM 2008  

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