Breaking the Glass: Jewish wedding
Breaking the Glass: Jewish weddingiStock

Part Two in a series about the Shidduch Crisis in the American Yeshiva world

In response to my recent article "Thoughts about the 'Shidduch Crisis' in the American Yeshiva World" (July 31, 2023) I received a number of responses that shared some common concerns that I feel are noteworthy enough for this follow-up article. While my previous article dealt with younger singles, it's obviously not the full picture. There are varieties of different types or categories of singles in the American yeshiva world and each has its own set of unique challenges, responses and solutions.

By the age of about 23 most young yeshiva couples are married. This is an approximate age as there are those who marry a year or two earlier or a year or two later. In this scenario if by age 25 a young man or woman in the yeshiva world is not married, there is concern by the parents and usually by the singles as well. If this situation of singlehood persists to the age of 30 then in the yeshiva world, they then pass into the category of older singles. This appellation definitely applies to every single who is in their 30s or older and has not succeeded in finding their Bashert (predestined) soulmate and marriage partner in life.

Many males in the yeshiva world who remain single to the age of 30 can still remain as Talmudic students in most yeshivas that will accept them as part of their student body. They then go by the label of Elter Bochur (older single male). However, for females there is no such refuge and if they remain single after they spend a year in post high school seminary either in Israel or in the USA, they often go to colleges and universities to earn professional degrees and start to earn good salaries. Some young women seek out employment as teachers in religious girls schools or get jobs working as secretaries or clerical workers for businesses owned by religious people if they don't want to go to college and get a degree to become higher earning professionals.

There are thousands of young single religious women in the yeshiva world who for some reason or another, have not or are not able to find the kind of yeshiva-type husband they desired while they were getting degrees and starting good jobs and still keeping their desire to marry a top yeshiva Bochur (single male).They would love to support a young Kollel Talmud scholar but they haven't or can't make that magical connection (yet) and so they continue dating but still remain single, often still living at home with their parents and any other single siblings there are.

What can be done for these singles? The "older" males and females in the yeshiva communities, meaning those who are in their late 20s and into their 30s and some even into their 40s need different solutions.

The older single males and their "gatekeeper" mothers and fathers, who vet the Shidduch Resumes of the older single girls who are already working professionals, need to be more tolerant and accepting of the single females' accomplishments and not so protective of their older single sons. These sons need to be encouraged to make some independent manly decisions without the unhelpful interference of overly-concerned parents.

The older male yeshiva singles must realize that their female counterparts do not have the luxury of long-term learning in the yeshiva world but have had the common sense to do the right thing and not waste their lives with trivial pursuits, instead uilding professional and financial foundations for themselves and their future husbands and families, God willing, may it happen soon for all of them.

As for the older yeshiva world female singles they need to face the reality that they are not going to find the exact type of male equivalent who has undergone real world experiences of academic study and working in a profession. There is not that much of a gradient of difference between a 20 year old yeshiva Bochur and a 30 year old one. A yeshiva Bochur is a yeshiva Bochur and his world revolves around the yeshiva, its Roshei Yeshiva, and its core activity of studying Talmud and becoming a proficient Talmid Chochem (Torah scholar).

If a single older female in the yeshiva world who has either worked in a religious school as a teacher or as a secretary or an administrator or as a bookkeeper in a business owned by religious Jews or has succeeded in college and obtained a degree and became a professional, still wants to marry a Yeshiva Man, she must compromise in her perceptions and expectations and realize that he is not going to have the "umph" of a hard core professional who she meets out there in the so-called real world. A Yeshiva Bochur, be he in his 20s or 30s is a product of the Mussar (Jewish Ethics) World, his character has been, or should have been refined, by years of Torah and Ethical studies. He has worked on himself on becoming a Baal Middos Tovos (having good character traits), a true and genuine Yerei Shomayim (one who fears Heaven), an Anav (humble) and a true Ben Torah and Talmid Chochem (Torah scholar).

The frum older single girl has, through no fault of her own, been hardened and toughened by her life's circumstances, and is much more attuned to a world of being a go getter, while her older single male counterpart has metamorphosed into an Eidel Yid (refined Jew) who is attuned to higher order domain Torah spirituality to be found within the four walls of the yeshiva Beis Medrash where he learns Torah day and night, that is if he has managed to retain his high standards throughout his status as a single Bochur.

If the single older religious professional female is no longer able to appreciate or accommodate or desire that type of older single Talmid Chochem (Torah scholar) then she must be honest with herself and start looking elsewhere for a husband.

There are various paths to follow. One path is for the older Jewish single young woman to broaden her horizon and welcome the prospect of marrying a widower or a divorced man from the same yeshiva world she comes from. Of course this would often mean accepting his children as well but it's worth the payoff. I personally know of many such cases, but the pity is that the older single women did not act early enough but instead waited to go into their late 30s or 40s beyond their child bearing ages and so are often unable to have children of their own with their new husbands for simple biological reasons.It would be far better if the single women would have realized in their late 20s or early 30s that one of the best options for them was to marry a widower or divorcee who are often very successful and established in their fields be it business or professions since they have most often left the confines of studying in yeshiva years ago.

Another option for single older religious women in the yeshiva world is to open themselves up to being introduced and dating professional single men from the Modern Orthodox world who are usually accomplished professionals themselves. I have known of young Frum Jewish single women from yeshiva type families who eventually were amenable to this idea and found wonderful spouses from the Modern Orthodox world and are very happy. One of the advantages of dating in the Modern Orthodox world is that it is more open to attending singles events as well as living in singles communities such as on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. They also make use of dating websites serving Orthodox Jewish singles and allow freer interaction between single men and women who are dating for the purpose of finding a suitable spouse.

Yet another option is for serious and sincere FFB (Frum From Birth) Yeshivish and even Modern Orthodox older singles to be open to dating people from other diverse Haredi and Orthodox communities, such as from Baal Teshuva communities and Sephardic communities, and if I may add, be open to other solutions to the singlehood problem such as dating and marrying top class single Geirei Tzedek (righteous converts) to Judaism.

At all times all concerned in this parsha (saga) of older or younger singles who are actively dating but are not succeeding in finding a suitable match should always be ready to reconsider their tactics and strategies and be willing to press the proverbial reset button looking for innovative and fresh ways to renew their approaches. For example, in many cases successful matches are made between a girl (a term used for young woman) who is a few years older than the boy (a term used for a young man) defying the conventional wisdom by thinking outside of the box and running with a winning formula that might not have seemed plausible from the get go but based on someone's creative hunch and a willingness by all the parties concerned to give it a go. Same goes with height discrepancies and geographic and cultural differences.

I would like to make a suggestion that does not receive any practical attention:

There should be more communication between Shadchanim (Jewish matchmakers) in America and Israel, as well as internationally, and even more specifically that attention be paid by those running seminaries in Israel for American girls and yeshivas in Israel for boys to conveying the message to be open to potentially finding a spouse in Israel or vice versa in America for Israeli yeshiva singles.

While I can imagine how afraid parents and students might be if suddenly their children in Israel begin to be influenced as to being open to marrying their single counterparts in Israel. However, when it comes to older singles who are desperate to find a partner in life, the bridges between American Shadchanim, no matter how "small' they may be, to have connections to be able to talk to Israeli Shadchanim about setting up Shidduchim between yeshiva type Americans and yeshiva type Israelis should be looked into because it is not as far fetched as it may sound with the use of technology and cheap air travel.

In particular, Shadchanim in America should be in active communication with Shadchanim that service the families of so-called Anglo yeshiva families living in Israel who have single children. These include the families of singles from America, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and South Africa who have made Aliyah or are living in Israel who have single children that have not been able to find a suitable and satisfactory match in Israel but might be matched up successfully with singles of a similar age from abroad.

The process of looking for one's Bashert (predestined partner) is a complex one. Everyone should pray that the process goes easy for them and it is never too early to start praying for one Bashert Zivug (preordained soulmate) starting from Bar and Bas Mitzvah age. After all when a girl turns 12 and a boy turns 13 they are only about seven or eight years away from starting to date and less than ten years away from standing under the Chuppah (wedding canopy) and they should be encouraged to Daven (pray) that Hashem send them the right spouse which will be happening before they know it, so keep praying.

If for some reason Hashem in his Infinite Divine Wisdom has seen fit to delay the process then a higher level of Hishtadlus (human effort) is required from prospective singles and their families and friends. Everyone should be encouraged to Redt Shidduchim (set up dates) because in actuality everyone and every situation has the potential to make a Shidduch.

If the older single is stuck, they should also seek professional help and therapy from the right therapist to find out why they are stuck and what is really holding them back. They must open their eyes, minds and hearts to all options if they see that, for example, by age 30 doing the same thing over and over again is not working. As Albert Einstein famously said: "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results!"

Rabbi Yitschak Rudomin was born to Holocaust survivor parents in Israel, grew up in South Africa, and lives in Brooklyn, NY. He is an alumnus of Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin and of Teachers CollegeColumbia University. He heads the Jewish Professionals Institute dedicated to Jewish Adult Education and Outreach Kiruv Rechokim. He was the Director of the Belzer Chasidim's Sinai Heritage Center of Manhattan 19881995, a Trustee of AJOP 19941997 and founder of American Friends of South African Jewish Education 19952015. He is also a docent and tour guide at The Museum of Jewish Heritage A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in Downtown Manhattan, New York.He is the author of The Second World War and Jewish Education in America: The Fall and Rise of Orthodoxy. Contact Rabbi Yitschak Rudomin at[email protected]