I am writing today about the SUN initiative which is about single men and women meeting together on a monthly basis with the intention of trying to set each other up and each other’s friends. The goal is to empower singles to capitalize on their own network to help their single friends and those they have dated.
While reaching out to people to further this initiative, my objective has also been to better understand the shidduch issues and persuade as many people as I can to get involved in addressing them. I am an operations research analyst by trade and most of my analyses are typically based on quantitative results of surveys. Given that there has not been a wide range survey conducted on the shidduch issues, the following conclusions are solely based on my observations and conversations.
There are many reasons why I believe shidduch issues are so prevalent in the frum world, but I mainly want to focus on a few of them. I believe one of the bigger reasons is due to supply and demand. For a variety of reasons, there appears to be many more eligible frum single women than eligible frum single men. The reasons may include; more single men leave the derech as they get older, there are more female Baalos Teshuva, and there are more men who don’t prioritize getting married or simply don’t have interest in getting married at all. The age gap problem, in which single men typically only date younger women, contributes to the problem. The issue becomes more pronounced as singles get older, because single men appear to move to the ‘left’ faster than single women, creating an even greater imbalance of single men and women of the same hashkafa.
Another major contributing factor is that the majority of frum singles are clustered in very few areas around the country. Most live in New York City with the majority of those living in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Many single men are not willing to travel an hour to go on a date with a girl who lives in the next city. In addition, many singles seem to have an attitude of ‘I can do better’ when dating someone, as if there is some ranking system of the quality of singles that people are trying climb. There is also sense that many of the single men there do not seem to prioritize getting married, leading to increased frustration for single women. For those singles who live in places outside of New York such as Toronto, Chicago, Baltimore, Boston, etc., the singles complain (with good reason) that the local singles mostly know one another and have either already dated or know that they don’t want to date each other.
Another possible contributing factor to the shidduch issues is that many singles (especially single men) do not trust that the matchmakers who suggest ideas to them have their best interest at heart. I have heard a number of single men express feeling that matchmakers have a few women that they really want to help, and are suggesting these women to almost every guy that comes their way. At the same time, the singles, especially the men, appear to be trying to find reasons why they do not think the idea presented to them is a good idea. Many prefer to meet a potential date in a more natural setting such as a singles Shabbos meal, but this often leads to singles being stuck in the ‘friends zone’ with each other.
The majority of rabbeim I have spoken to fully understand that the shidduch issues are getting progressively worse with time, but most are not able or willing to make it a real priority in their community. I have met some amazing people across the country who are doing what they can to help, but most are too busy to do more than what they’re already doing, and there are simply not enough of them.
So where do we go from here? I believe that the following needs to occur to improve the current situation:
- Community members need to pressure their shul leadership to work with other shuls in their city to prioritize doing ongoing activities such as bringing singles together for Shabbos meals, co-ed chesed activities, and implementing an initiative of singles getting together on a monthly basis with the main purpose of setting up each other and each other’s friends.
- Shul Rabbis need to emphasize to their community members several times a year that EVERYONE needs to help out. We can’t simply pass the buck and expect that people connected to SawYouAtSinai / YU Connects, and the like, as well as a handful of local matchmakers will do all of the work.
- Single women have to fully understand the supply/demand issue and therefore be open to going on dates with men who do not necessarily fit all of the criteria of their wish list.
- The frum community as a whole has moved to the right over the past 30 years. As a result, there has been a number of social obstacles put in place that have limited singles from interacting with each other. These obstacles need to be removed. For example, single men and women at weddings should be encouraged to sit together. Our frum leadership needs to find more ways to bring singles together in social settings instead of finding ways of keeping them apart.
- Yeshiva rabbeim and teachers even at the high school level should teach their students what kol yisrael areyvim zeh bazeh really means. It is our obligation as Jews to look out for each other and this includes helping each other find their zivug. By simply suggesting a shidduch idea, you can do a tremendous mitzvah and potentially change someone’s life forever.
We all know wonderful single men and women who are frustrated with what is occurring. The question is what are YOU going to do about it?
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.