Almost every day in the past year, I have spoken to people across the country about the Singles Uniting Network (SUN) initiative, which brings single men and women together on a monthly basis to facilitate matches for themselves and their friends. The aim of SUN is to empower singles by helping them capitalize on their personal networks to propose potential matches for their single friends, people whom they’ve dated in the past but were not for them, and so on.
In my role with SUN, I have personally spoken to over 50 rabbis across the country in addition to dozens of non-professional shadchanim (matchmakers) and scores of singles. I am an operations research analyst by trade, and most of my analyses are typically based on quantitative results of surveys. There are many shidduch (matchmaking) issues currently facing the Orthodox community and an absence of wide-range survey data for use in analyzing these challenges and proposing solutions. Still, here are some observations and suggestions I can offer based on my own research.
For our purposes today, let’s focus solely on the subject of supply and demand in the Orthodox community. For a variety of reasons, it appears that there are many more eligible frum (religiously observant) single women than eligible frum single men. The reasons may include, but are not limited to, more single men “going off the derech” (becoming no longer observant) as they get older while more women are becoming baalei teshuva (newly observant) as they get older; and more men not prioritizing getting married or simply not being interested in marriage at all. The age-gap problem (single men opting to date only younger women) is a contributing factor as well, and only exacerbates the “shortages” that come with single men and women following the abovementioned divergent trends in hashkafah (religious outlook) as they age.
The majority of rabbis I have spoken with fully understand that shidduch issues are getting progressively worse with time, but most are unable or unwilling to make it a real priority in their community.
So where do we go from here? I believe that the following things need to occur in order to improve the current situation:
Shul rabbis should 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, JWed, and the like, plus a handful of local matchmakers, will do all of the work. I urge everyone to simply spend 10 minutes making a list of all the single men and women they know. Then, spend another 10 minutes every week reviewing the list to come up with potential matches.
Shuls in the same city need to work together to prioritize ongoing activities for their singles, such as co-ed chesed (community service) activities. Shuls should also encourage members to invite singles together for Shabbos meals and host Friday night onegs (festive social gatherings).
Singles have to fully understand the supply/demand issue and be open to going on dates with individuals who do not necessarily fit all of the criteria of their wish list. [Ed. Note: For insights into getting your priorities straight, no matter what your religious background, check out Kol HaBirah’s previous columns on the subject in the Dating section at www.kolhabirah.com.]
The frum community as a whole has moved to the right over the past 30 years. As a result, a number of social obstacles have arisen that make it difficult for singles to interact with each other. These obstacles need to be removed. For example, single men and women at weddings should be encouraged to sit together. Community members should be encouraged to invite single men and women together to their Shabbos table. Our leadership needs to find more ways to bring singles together in social settings instead of finding ways to keep them apart.
Yeshiva rebbeim and teachers, even at the high school level, should teach their students what kol yisrael arevim zeh bazeh (all Jews are responsible for each other) really means. It is our obligation as Jews to look out for each other, and this includes helping each other find their zivug (life partner). 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?
By David Katzoff