Op-Ed: The Time for our Bnos Yisroel is Now

Dear TLS,

The days of the year are winding down and coming to a conclusion. As we approach the new year, the final preparations enter its crescendo; the cooking, the shopping, our introspection, our davening, the last-minute cleaner runs, our sheitel appointments and seamstress visits. Shul gabbaim are fine tune the seating charts and creatively debate how they can fit just one more row of tables in the back. It’s a labor of solemnity and duty. A cacophony of people stitching together the Rosh Hashana tapestry of their respective homes and sites for the sacred yom tov.

Rosh Hashana. How those two words evoke feelings of gravity and trepidation, and more importantly: hope, renewal, opportunity.

At every site, in every shul, there will be one section in the Ezras Nashim that will enter the day with a year of pain, a year of rejection and dejection. A year of despair and angst. A year of phone calls and no phone calls. A year of begging, beseeching, and yearning. They won’t be looking for their tallis clad husband davening among the throngs, dressed in his freshly pressed suit and shirt. They also won’t be stuck at home tending to a crying baby and their growing family. No, they’ll be sitting behind a curtain, perhaps up in a balcony or at a neighbor’s house for the after-davening shofar blowing, alone.

These are the girls. Our girls. The single girls who have passed yet another year alone, bravely welcoming in the new year.

As we prepare for a new year I would like to thank The Lakewood Scoop for putting this on the “front burner”, and the many other individuals and askanim for all their dedicated efforts for bringing the plight of so many Bnos Yisrael to the forefront this last year. As we all know there have been positive changes this year. After an extensive survey was done throughout our Kehillah (which cost a few hundred thousand dollars to compile the actual data) the large number of single girls in Shidduchim was staggering and very painful.

The naysayers may repel the theory until the cows come home, but here are the facts: Based on the recent extensive and expensive research survey done throughout our kehillah of Lakewood, with the input of our top shadchanim and roshei mosdos – and as I write this – for every two girls in shidduchim there is only ONE boy in shidduchim. Yes, read it and weep. 2 to 1 ratio.

Over the last twenty years the incremental shift in dating age for boys has slowly but surely crept upwards and the ensuing gap in eligible suitors for girls has widened drastically.

What clearly happened to the Litvish American system is an indisputable fact. The Israeli Gedolim in their letter (below) make it clear that this problem is nonexistent by the Chassidim or in the Israeli Litvish system.

Boys in the 1990’s and prior used to begin dating at 21-22. Over the last twenty years the American Litvish system just slightly increased that start date and widened the gap, without deliberate intention of course. All of this while our population has exploded and grown exponentially. Thus, each delay compounds onto the next and in just a short period of time we have landed at a place where a boy is now beginning to date at 23-24 – an intolerable and unacceptable reality for an already overloaded and difficult system to begin with. Hence: The age gap crisis.

To me the most informative article that I read on TLS is titled “Real Changes Must Be Made“

In an unprecedented letter released 15 years ago by the Gedolei Hador, they commanded the American Roshei Yeshivos to act for the bnos yisroel and ensure boys begin shidduchim earlier. In so many words, they sharply wrote and have stated, “No tefillah or segulah in the world can create more bochurim. We need to act responsibly as a community to make changes to address and lower the age gap.”

But alas, American Roshei Yeshivos took the letter from the Israeli Gedolim seriously, VERY SERIOUSLY. They agreed to the Israeli Rosh Yeshivos and wrote a detailed Kol Korei which was signed by virtually every American Rosh Yeshivah which was countersigned by the Israeli Gedolim IMPLORING to do their best to deal with the PRIMARY CAUSE of the Shidduch Crises….. the AGE GAP!

Unfortunately as a community we did not heed the words of the Israeli Gedolim and our Senior Ameican Rosh Yeshivos. Boruch Hashem there is an exponential growth in our Kehillah. With that growth it is not sustainable to have 23-24 year old Bochurim marrying twenty year old girls. If this continues, it will continue to wreak havoc on the Litvish communities in the United States. As the Gedolim clearly wrote and have said, no Tefillah or Segulah in the world can create more Bochurim. We need to act responsibly as a Kehillah to make changes to lower the age gap PERIOD.

After the data was compiled, R’ Moshe Hillel Hirsch Shlita called for and hosted a summit in his home in Bnei Brak with leading American Roshei Yeshivah, as reported on TLS,

As was widely reported at the time and verified by sources, there are several potential actions that will be implemented over the coming months including the elimination of fourth year bais medrash in the United States, and the elimination of the freezer policy on all Bochurim in all Yeshivos, a policy which some American Yeshivos instituted less than 30 years ago.

What more can we expect the Israeli Gedolim or the American Roshei Yeshivos to do? We have to read their letters, hear their voices and have our own sons start Shidduchim earlier.

Rav Elya Ber Wachtfogel Shlita at a recent Agudah convention made it crystal clear that we cannot sit idly by on the sidelines and say, “Hashem has a bashert for each person and simply do nothing.” In his words: “What is going on in the litvish world with shidduchim is simply irresponsible!” He added “We are dealing with a most severe matter of pikuach nefesh and kedushas yisroel.”

Some naysayers have in the past expressed that these moves and changes are small and inconsequential. For example the “freezer” policy abolishment although the correct move, is only saving four months, so what does it do in the grand scheme of things?

This way of thinking is shortsighted and intellectually dishonest. Case in point: The leading cause of traffic on highways in the United States is ‘rubbernecking’. A car accident or a police pullover can be in the opposing lane or even completely on the highway shoulder, neither inhibiting nor blocking the flow of traffic. So why then, does traffic back up for miles and congestion ensue?

The answer is, that each driver slows down just slightly to see the action. That seemingly innocuous tapping of the brakes has a real-life chain reaction and 2 miles behind the lead vehicle results in traffic slowing down significantly.

We must galvanize as a collective or even individually to rock the foundations of this broken system. Broken and exacerbated by and large, by a series of independent decisions by a few over the last decade plus, and fixable with an attainable solution that can make real impact on the crisis. Every small change that can help this mess we created ourselves is a partial assistance.

Send them to learn in Israel earlier!

As R’ Chaim Kanievsky Zatsal would say about the American Shidduch situation “Aren’t the same fathers and mothers of these girls who are suffering so much, the same parents of the ones that are keeping their sons in Israel till they are 23-24?? How do they expect for there to be enough Bochurim for their daughters if they start their sons later”.

So instead of bemoaning and lamenting our generations lot in life, we did make meaningful changes this year with the soon to be elimination of the freezer policies in all American Yeshivos and the elimination of fourth year Bais Midrash in the United States. Yet we must continue to make incremental and permanent changes to the system so we have increased Doros Yisharim Mivorachim.

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  1. the numbers are basically equal per age year it is just that boys are being misdirected to avoid the subject for a few years and when their bashert is already a few years after seminary the boy won’t look at her just because she is as old as him

    if boys 20 would date girls 20 then all the numbers are basically paired up and everyone can come home happy

    • This is probably the biggest challenge in our generation. It is a man made disaster that has to be undone by man. As the writer quoted the Gedolim, it is not responsible to blame Hashem if we are starting the Bochurim at 24. With all the Nisyonos they have to start earlier and without the “freezer”.

  2. I agree with everything the writer wrote…….

    It’s easy to blame the Roshei Yeshivos. We are the ones that didn’t listen to them or the Israeli Gedolim. They are even doing away with the freezer after Pesach to assist (which causes the Yeshivah a LARGE tuition loss). If we don’t start the Bochurim the same age they did years ago which was 22. How can we expect there not to be a crises. As he articulated correctly. If we start the Bochurim when they are 24 years old, the situation we all have today is what you get

        • For the record. The freezer was not around when R’ Aharon and R’ Shnuer were alive. Not all BMG RY held of implementing it 27 years ago and those same 2 Roshei Yeshivah don’t hold of continuing it now

        • Actually it’s more than 30 years. Further, it takes a second to say “we are no longer having a freeze on new bachurim”. Wow, that took me a few seconds to write. If BMG wants to end the freezer, the R”Y just needs to stand up and say it’s over. Basically a few seconds. You’re saying stupidity.

    • Anyone who can save the tens of thousands of tears shed because of the spiraling out of control situation was promised by the Israeli Gedolim in their letter “they will merit the biggest Beracha.”

  3. Very positive article. But I dont think the writer stressed enough the need to make these changes quickly. The numbers of sigle girls came in much worse than anyone expected despite all of us knowing so many older single girls in our neighborhood, relatives etc.

    Changes are painful and must be made quickly

  4. As an older single in the “Parsha” I would like to thank you for publishing this article. I was feeling miserable going into Rosh Hashana. thanks for pointing out that there is light at the end of this VERY DARK tunnel.

  5. This article gets posted before Rosh Hashanah. By the time Sukkos is done the parents wont be bringing their 23-24 year old sons back from Israel. Also they did say the freezer would be elimanted. I”m pretty sure they said within the next 18 months

  6. You only need one boy for one girl. I know many older singles. They have dated plenty throughout the years, just nothing has worked out for them, may Hashem help them. With the theory written above, wouldn’t it be that older girls are not getting any dates because there are no boys to date?
    The fact is they ( I know older single boys and girls) are all dating and dating and there are no’s going both ways.
    We need to keep davening and doing things in their zechus.
    May Hashem help them find their bashert speedily!

  7. If anyone can help with implementing changes in this would be the biggest Zechus. Ppl don’t realize the Yungerleit are hurting more than the lack of Shidduchim with their daughters than any other Tzaar

    • IYH just like this year there finally has been traction to deal with several issues which lead to the problem we are facing. By eliminating fourth year Bais Midrash and the freezer, parts of the issue are being addressed. The momentum will continue, we will recalibrate as a community and make more changes this coming year. A Gut Yor.

  8. I Just want to point out how you can be more successful with your age gap campaign.
    Instead of claiming the primary cause of the shidduch crisis is the age gap. You can agree with all the reasons why there is a shidduch crisis. It can be there are less good quality boys, girls are picky, R gershom Cherem etc.
    But all Will agree NO MATTER WHAT THE REASON IS closing the age gap will offset the shidduch crisis!
    Meaning the age gap DOES NOT have to be the reason at all for the shiduch crisis but if you were to close the age gap that can fix the problem regardless of the cause!

  9. Wow! Based on these numbers at least fifty percent of older single girls and 100 percent of older single boys will not be helped in the slightest by changing the age gap. Can someone please come up with a solution for them? Perhaps there is a larger issue that needs to be addressed.

  10. This article is well written and very on point with a very serious issue causing a silent holocaust (lost doros) in Klal yisroel. It needs to be published in MORE, and MORE places, not just TLS (which has a huge zchus for publicizing this) to make a loud thunderous clamor in the Litvishe world. In addition, every mother is responsible for what her son does and when he starts to date. According to R’ Elya Ber, if a boy’s mindset is to get married earlier, because that is what his parents/rabbeim tell him to do, in most cases, he will be ready to get married earlier because he is gearing up to that from a young age. Each individual can make a change. We are ALL responsible for this fix and for one another.

    • The Chassidim and Litvaks in Israel don’t have to is problem because they start the boys earlier. They aren’t more mature than the Litvak Bochurim in the States. There also isn’t as prevalent of a Kedusha problem by the Chassidim and Litvaks overseas. TAG isn’t as busy in those places because they start the Bochurim younger. They don’t wait till they are 24 and they don’t lock them up in a freezer for half a year. I’m sure Hashem will guide all those that can make changes to do so quickly L’Maan Kedushaso. I agree with some of the commentators above. The Freezer shouldn’t be eliminated after Pesach. It should be eliminated this Sukkos. If a bochur is older than 23 let him start dating.

  11. This comment is extremely distasteful and hurtful when you appear to be making light of a situation which is causing agony for thousands of single girls and their families. Please think a bit more about the effect your words will have before you post next time and I am sure you will realize that maybe not everything that may seem amusing to some will be amusing to all. Thank you and a gut yuhr.

  12. for many older singles it is too late to fix the whole system we can only hope and wish each one the best

    but as a whole if the system were to be overhauled now going forward then at least those who are now 18-20 will have a fair chance of getting married on time instead of following others down the slope to nowhere

    if today boys will start dating when they are truly ready which is at 20-21 factoring in a supportive family then there is a very real chance that in a few years this current crisis may become another thing of the past

  13. Suggestion: the Rabbanim should let a boy out of the freezer if he agrees to go out with a girl above 23. Only after the freezer he can go out with younger girls

  14. Although the letter writer is well meaning and well intentioned, I think we are heading in the wrong direction and it wont help all the single girls out there.
    What we need is a full Hatzlolah force with no nigius to go full time to work with theses boys and girsl and DO WHATEVER IT TAKES TO GET THEM MARRIED!!
    It cant be ,a system where right now , many girls get NO calls for any dates for many months at a time> This is the 911 of our generation and we need to wake up and care .

    All that research , data possible changes? Blah blah blah


    (enough meetings and asifas already!!)

  15. 1. These are not “Our BOYS” These are men who need to decide they are ready for marriage & are ready to maturely accept the many responsibilities that come with it.
    2. If this idea actually takes hold, Are we also willing to do an “extensive survey” of Shalom Bayis, Domestic/Child abuse, Divorce, Overall happiness, etc. compared to when boys get married when they do now? If the study shows a rise in serious problems will we be willing to make changes if needed (including going back to how it is now)?
    Or will these letters simply switch from “Shidduch crisis” to “Divorce crisis”?

    • You’re pretty imbecilic. There wasn’t a major shalom bayis crisis when people listened to chazal, so why would there be one now. Abuses aren’t bought about by age but by mental issues. Again, why would age be a factor.

      • Because these are AMERICAN-Yeshiva men (not boys) almost all whose spoken language is English making them much more aware of the outside world than say, an American-Chasid.
        We can pride ourselves on our isolation & rejection of the outside world but if you think American culture hasn’t permeated our world then I have a bridge to sell you.
        I believe if you did an “Anonymous extensive survey” you’d find most 20 & 21 year old American Yeshiva Buchrim have no interest in getting married or taking on that responsibility at that age.
        You want to hassle them or “Daas Torah” them to do it? Go ahead! But be ready for the very serious fallout that may (most probably will) ensue.
        BTW, We learn about Chanukah how we rejected Greek culture & didn’t allow it to “Enter our camp” The problem is it used to be in (virtually) all cultures (& in some even still today) that the larger a woman the better to take as a wife (stronger to help, able to bear more children, had enough to eat so is healthier, etc.). It was the GREEKS that changed it to “Thinner is more attractive” yet I don’t see our Frum girls purposely overeating to gain weight to attract a better husband. In fact, we have a mostly ignored huge eating disorder problem in the Frum world (& the same Greeks from Chanukah are partly responsible for it).

  16. If the roshei yeshivas of the beis medreshs would send boys to Israel after 2nd yr that would solve the problem.
    But guess what. They don’t want them going till 4th yr.
    Don’t blame it on parents.
    We teach our boys to take hadracha from their rebbeim, then we need to allow them to follow the hadracha.

    • Spot on, if boys only go to EY toward 4h year, how do we expect any changes? Will yeshivas start sending after 2nd or better yet 1st year? Otherwise, doesn’t seem like they are serious about addressing the problem

  17. I think the only logical argument to make here is to allow men to have more than one wife.

    It’s not assur d’oraysa and isn’t even banned amongst Sephardim!

    • I believe you may have some minor legal issues to address there.
      I don’t think anyone sits trial for polygamy nowadays, but there are a variety of issues that will inevitably creep up, such as fatherhood on the birth certificate, inheritance related issues, custodial issues etc,

  18. I’m somewhat confused because this isn’t anything that people are doing deliberately. Most boys feel unprepared and don’t want to go out at 21. Force them? Secondly, the younger usually means they’re less mature and we’ll be complaining down the road at why there’s such a high divorce rate. I also feel that a big part of the problem has alot more to do with the girls system in schools. They’re making them into Roshei yeshiva with the ridiculous amount of material and the boys aren’t holding anywhere near many of these extra frumer girls. Most girls come out looking for only the biggest Masmid and would rarely settle for less, whereas boy have been more flexible. I’d say that’s getting to more of the root of the problem instead of pushing boys out before they feel ready

    • those are manifestations of the problem but the root is the fact that boys are way way overwait it’s like going to the airport and your friends are all just hanging around for half a day and then getting on the flight when really there were flights all day long and then you say it was because you were too scared to fly you just needed more time to get ready or you say the snacks at the airport were so healthy but when you finally do fly and then land you are hit with the realization that you and your friends have been taken for a ride

  19. I’m approximately 40 years old and I’m unfortunately divorced about 15 years, I haven’t had almost any shidduchim redt to me, the Shadchanim tell me they don’t work with my type of people and so on yes I have a beard yes I’m yeshivish yes I Don’t have a job but I’m a good. And so I think the problem is a shadchanim crisis a good negotiate to know when and how to negotiate also the girls have to be flexible on accepting older or previous married boys. A great year to all. E. S.

  20. Sorry some of the wordings on my previous comment didn’t come out right, with auto spell. I’m a good boy I meant,and if you don’t believe me you can ask me.

  21. 1) “An extensive survey”, hundreds of thousands of $$$… where is the survey? Source?
    2) 2 girls for every boy. Read and weep. Why? Are all those boys taken? If there are 100 available boys and 200 girls, then AFTER those 100 boys become engaged to 100 of the girls, THEN we have a problem, cause there are girls but no boys. If there are hundreds of available boys – and there are – then stop the hysteria and whining and trying to get boys to stop this year beis medrash or take a few short months to get acclimated to yeshiva before getting busy with dating. There are HUNDREDS of available boys. When they are all taken, get back to me. With all the hysteria, it has not happened yet. For years people are going on about the age gap, but so far we have still not run out of hundreds of available boys.
    3) “R’ Chaim Kanievsky zt”l would say…” Any source for that? Yeah, I know, it’s been repeated over and over. But no one heard him say it.

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