Opinion: Want To Solve The Shidduch Crisis? Start Here l Avi Gutfreund

Everybody wants to solve the shidduch crisis. That is, if you believe that there is a shidduch crisis (somehow that’s a point of contention nowadays). And everybody has their own belief on how to resolve the problem, and what is the best way to go about it. But there is very little talk about a very minor policy we can institute which would likely help, at least a little.

I have been off the “market” for a while. But there are many bochurim who I know personally that learn in BMG or other places, and I discuss shidduchim with them. Almost invariably, every single one is looking for ‘looks’. That’s not shocking, I know. But to start this conversation we must recognize that men, by nature, put tremendous emphasis on how a girl looks. And because men care so much about it, they will often be given pictures of girls they are being redt to. Over the past few years, it has become quite routine for a girl’s picture to be shared along with her resume. In fact, it is so common that many girls feel the need to get professional pictures taken to look as best as they can for when a prospective shidduch is checking her out, literally…

This is a terrible thing and should be stopped immediately. What has happened because of this is that boys aren’t necessarily dating the girl that is right for them, but rather the girl that seems most attractive to them. And any girl that doesn’t make the attractiveness cut, regardless of how wonderful she is as a person or how incredible her personality is, simply doesn’t get dates.

Now think about this for a moment. We have a massive shidduch crisis, but we also have a worsening divorce crisis. Could these two crises be directly related to one another? We live in a world that overemphasizes the importance of certain things, like the level of physical attractiveness between spouses. So we have boys who aren’t going out with girls who aren’t “pretty enough” for them, and couples who are divorcing because spouses become less attracted to each other as time wears on. If we are only getting married based on looks in the first place, marriage is bound to end in disaster.

So while I am advocating specifically to end the habit we have of sharing pictures of girls for shidduch purposes, my argument is really broader. I am saying that we need to teach our kids what marriage is all about. It’s not about looks, it’s not even about having fun. It is about finding someone who balances you out and makes you a better person, and then committing to that person through thick and thin. It is about seeing the good in someone else rather than their deficits.

So yes, let’s stop sharing pictures. But let us also start teaching what marriage is, and more importantly, what it isn’t.

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  1. Let’s not bury our heads in the sand. The real cause of this serious shidduch crisis is due to the fact that the bochrim are not dating and first year Bais medresh as dictated by the shulshan aruch.

  2. It used to be that the Shadchan would ask for a photo as a way of remembering each girl.
    Times changed and Mothers of boys started asking for pictures…
    and now…it’s the boy’s that are asking to see a picture..

  3. Yisroel is 100% correct. Yes people shouldn’t be sharing pics but there is only one cause of the crisis and that is the simple mismatch in numbers due to beginning to date too late by boys. If that would be corrected there would be no crisis at all irrespective of any and every other issue as the numbers would be even and everyone would equally be forced to compromise.

  4. Avi it seems that you heard the session about this at the convention last night. that’s good and this idea is excellent in fact it’s better than idea this is the way it’s supposed to be. However the only way to bring back the correct mehalech is if the shadchanim STOP ASKING AND LEGITIMIZING PICTURES!!! and they refuse to stop. That is a major problem. Why aren’t the rabanim & roshei yeshiva putting a stop to it?????? They can easily do so refusing to allow bachurim to deal with shadchanim doing this

    • I have to say that as one who always tries to make shidduchim, I many times request pictures for MYSELF because it gives me an idea of the type of girl (how she dresses, looks, etc…) and I can then tell the prospective MIL that I know what she looks like and that way she trusts me more. Because guys care about looks, this is important. I will NEVER pass a picture on unless given explicit permission, and even when given permission I’m against it.

  5. One Thousand % on target. Very well said. Unfortunately we are being influenced by the street culture. We need to be proactive. Otherwise what they are going through is an early warning what can happen if we don’t change, as our religious community leaders are telling us.

  6. When Chazal arranged for bochurim to meet the single girls in the field on Tu B’av they did not suggest the girls cover their faces, but that they trade clothing with someone else. Chazal appear to have been more concerned about the role of money than appearances. I wonder if that focus on money might be the bigger factor today too. That too is a superficial basis for a relationship that is even a weaker glue that a nice appearance.

  7. Think a little deeper:

    The bochurim need to know if the shidduch can make it to first base.
    You want bochurim who are makpid to completely waste their time, money and kochos going out with girls that aren’t for them? They won’t get past the first date anyways. What about the girl’s feelings? They should never have gone out in the first place.

    Is that what the Torah wants? It’s very hard to get true information from references on these matters. What about the crisis of references not saying the truth?
    In some communities, (and in olden times for sure) someone from the family goes to have a look at the girl before they go out. But this is no longer commonplace.

    Pictures can solve these problems. Would have saved me a lot of troubles if it would have been routine in my day.

    Getting bochurim to not be overly makpid is a completely different issue, and won’t be solved by stopping to send pictures. This comes from deep rooted parts of their chinuch, development and upbringing. What can we change so they won’t be this way? This needs to be addressed by gedolim and mechanchim, not shadchanim or askanim.

  8. lamdan, pictures don’t solve that issue. Many girls appear much more attractive in person than on a 1-D picture anyway. A Bachur might find that he likes a girl who is pretty and has personality when he meets her…as opposed to a flat picture he sees that doesn’t show her to her best advantage.

    Did bachurim waste more time on first-dates that didn’t go anywhere 10 years ago, when pictures were not demanded for shidduchim? I think not.

  9. If a mother or a guy sees a picture that is very attractive, but lmaaseh is an artfully posed shot, going out with the girl will reveal disappointingly different looks. So pictures really cannot convey what the real person is.

  10. The author is correct.
    As an active shaddchan, the only to put an end to this, is for all shaddchanim to get together and decide to STOP sending out photos.

  11. We have told our children for years that the main thing is middos,and to be a mentch,a good and kind friend,and be a responsible mature person,not petty,shallow,and chasing their every t’aavah,but instead to work to rise over that,and try as best as they can to be better than that,” not to fool themsemves”( for all rhisecthatvarecready to jump on me for advocating an approach that is more in line with a quality mate).
    Then the girl and boy embark on the biggest decision of their life,and all the same people throw that out the window,and demand to know weight,skin condition,dress size,etc. etc. I am not naive,I am also living in 2019,but the level of hypocrisy is very very high.
    I will quote a line from Reb Elya Svei to a tablmid that told him why he was having a hard time finding a shidduch because of certain ” requirements” he needed,Reb Elya responded,I understand why you are having such a hard time,it’s because you are looking for a contradiction
    because based on your description,you are looking for,”A SHIKSA THAT IS MACHSHUV TORAH”,this was 25 years ago when this was considered a contradiction,that sadly is no longer an anomaly.

  12. Moderator,
    Thank you for editing the last part of my comments. I agree it was to much.And not refined.
    Reb Elya had no idea how much worse it would become,in such a short amount of time.

  13. The shidduch crisis is very simply an issue of numbers. There are more girls than boys in shidduchim at any given time.
    The solution it get more boys or less girls in the process. We can encourage boys to date younger and girls to wait until they are older. That’s it.

  14. Unpopular opinion, but I think the biggest way to solve the problem is to delay the girls until they are the same age as the boys. A girl at 22 is likely to have a better education/ job than a 19 year old. The minor delay will do wonders for the shidduch crisis, for future tuitions, etc.

  15. we must be totally mevater to what Daas Torah says on this subject as well as about when boys begin dating. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder so even girls that are size 14 and not the mamosh pretiest face have someone who is their bashert and will find them attractive, but that’s only IF they can go out. In Europe things were much simpler we should try to emulate what our Gedolim did in Grodno, Kletzk and Baranovitch and not emulate lehavdil Hollywood. lemaseh we need a kol korol telling shadnachim that under no circumstances should pictures be shared with learning bochurim.

    • Correct and if you recall the gedolim signed many kol korahs about this. Recall when r shmuel birnbaum called a meeting in his house to deal with this issue. But people are not yet listening as much as is needed.

  16. It’s great reading week after week the same thing, mainly from the same author.
    What no-one wants to acknowledge (though “Menstch” beautifully touched upon it) is that these kids have not been raised to be Orthodox Jews. They have been raised to be Orthoprax Jews.
    Orthodox uses a strict set of beliefs, creeds, and strict adherence to ritual law.
    Orthoprax is focused on family, cultural integrity, transmission of tradition, purity, and an ethical system.
    When, 7-8 years ago the whole issue of texting on Shabbos and “Half Shabbos” arose many wrote about it.
    Something very important was said but ignored. Forget the modern-orthodox they have their own challenges. A Rabbi that speaks to graduating Bais Yakov girls from an insular community where most parents work in Jewish education and they don’t have internet or secular papers in the house. Think what kind of girls these are, farfrumpt?
    Yet, their 3rd most common question was, “Isn’t Yiddishkeit something that many people do because everyone does it? Does anyone really believe it’s true?”
    Think about it. Are these very frum Bais Yakov girls Orthodox or Orthoprax?
    As Mentch mentioned, Reb Elya had it right, back then A Bachur, one here or there, a few, were looking for a Shiksa thats Machshiv Torah.
    In other words this Bachur wasn’t looking for someone that truly believed in Torah, they wanted a girl that would follow the rules because it’s what they’re used too, it provides benefits, and makes them feel good.
    Lets be honest. Aren’t many
    if not most of the kids like that today?
    These kids don’t live in Grodno or Kletzk. They live in Lakewood, NJ, USA. In “Der Shtetl” women were weak, submissive, and treated like second class citizens, they were poorly educated, and pretty much the only way to survive was to find “A man”
    They left it up to their fathers because they trusted he would find the best man to help them survive. The girl didn’t care very much about level of learning, looks, or an OTD cousin. They were focused on survival. Harsh but true.
    Lakewood is not Der Shtetel, it’s America. These girls have equal rights and the ability to do whatever they want. They can survive on their own. They can demand a higher standard than “At least I won’t starve” and so they are demanding more.
    The kids of today don’t have the Emunah you have, they probably don’t have 25% of it. So they will only stay if it’s worthwhile and makes them feel good. The benefits need to outweigh the hassle of keeping all these silly rules.
    What’s required today to keep these kids in the fold? (Pretty much everything this author has railed against)
    Lavish camps with awesome trips.
    Lavish weddings with expensive jewelry, cool music and dancing, a big nicely furnished apartment, a nice car, vacations, and Tatty’s credit card. This is on top of social services like Bikur Cholim, Chaverim, Hatzolah, etc. It’s not like 30 years ago. Kids today won’t stay for cold gefilte fish in a dingy shul basement. Today they require 8 kinds of sushi in a fancy banquet hall.
    These things aren’t the outcome of Taavos, the Yetzer Hara and Gashmius. They’re the outcome of raising Orthoprax kids that will only stay if it’s better than an alternative. As the alternatives keep getting better, so does the demands of the kids. They’re not being evil when they do this, or trying to extort anyone. It’s simply how they were raised.
    What’s the constant reaction of this author and others? BAN EVERYTHING!
    Do you not understand that without these luxuries they won’t stay? It’s the exact opposite of what so many think. They don’t wear long sheitels to be untznius. They wear them because they want to be normal people like everyone else. However, if they can have beautiful hair while still staying in the community, they’ll do it because the positives outweigh the negatives.
    At your level of Emunah, internal beauty and edelkeit are what are important in a spouse. It’s not to them.
    If a Yeshiva guy can’t have a pretty wife, nice house, nice car, and vacations, there’s no reason to stick around because so many better options are available.
    Everyone needs to realize whats going on. What’s the solution? Thats complicated. But its important to first identify the problem. One things for sure, the solution for right now is NOT to ban everything thats keeping them around. Unless you want them to leave and be left with a core group of true believers. Thats a decision the community has to make.
    This week the topic is pictures. Telling them how to think or feel only works if they have the same level of emunah as you. Why should he not ask for a picture? He wants a beautiful wife that will impress his friends, he wants someone he wants to be with and his parents, siblings, cousins, friends, and community, stress through acts, deeds, and respect given that a beautiful wife puts you higher on the social pecking scale.

    • so in other words he wants a trophy wife!!! is this what bas melachim have come to? people want the gashmius life and being frum has more not less of it, apparently. In Europe there were people that too wanted the better life and knew better than Daas Torah and they were the Reform? They too said we will be good Germans and Jews, they had an organ in their “synagogue” or “temple” on Shabbos and their “rabbis” wore Prostetant clothing. Those who stuck to the mesora of Grodno and Kletzk are the ones who eineklach populate our holy yeshivas. We must ban pictures as this is the way of Hollywood and glossy magazines.

  17. I completely agree that it isn’t helpful for Bochurim to be comparing pictures, but I think its essential for someone on the Bochurs side – mother/sister should see a picture before.. I feel that anyone who dated more then a couple of girls and hasn’t found their basheret would agree.. There is a tremendous amount of time, effort & especially emotional energy that goes into research and then actually going out on a first date which sometimes could “be over” 5 seconds after he meets her. It becomes very frustrating especially when you know a simple picture could cleared it up instantly.. if you have found your zivug on your first or second try you should be very thankful but please try to appreciate what others are going through. Thank you

  18. I just find it very humourous as this author goes from lecturing shadchonim and boys in the parsha about the bad practices of sharing pictures and how this is one of the reasons of the shidduch crisis. And then lecturing couples specifically boys how ‘looks’ and money and fun has no place in a marriage. This all coming from someone who’s married but a few years. (As you say ‘there are many bochurim in BMG and elsewhere that you know personally..’ that would suggest that you are married just a few years..)
    I feel that your grasp on this wide ranging topic is way off…

  19. Very good point cool masmid!
    Isn’t it as if this never has to do with frumkeit and always revolves around bitterness and frustration?
    It seems most of these people, whether through bad choices or communal pressure find themsleves in miserable situations.
    They feel the need to lash out so they hide it under “Frum”
    It goes something like this: I can only afford a $100 Esrog and feel bad about it. So I write a letter how anyone that spends over $120 is a Baal Gaavah that wastes money on “Shtus Chumras” While anyone that spent $70 is not frum and doesn’t understand which Chumros are important.
    I feel bad a can’t send my kid to a nice camp, so I write a letter complaining how we’re spoiling our kids with all these fancy trips.
    A new silver store opens that I can’t afford. Write a comment how the new level of Gashmius is destroying klal yirael.
    Aren’t these what 90% of these letters are about?
    It’s both sad and ironic, that in an attempt to hide frustration behind frumkeit, they push every chumra possible. Yet the tenth commandment “Do not covet anything of your neighbor” gets thrown out the window like yesterdays trash.

  20. Enough Enough Enough!!!!

    every other day there is another urgent call for a kol koreh about some critical issue which can be easily addressed by people thinking for themselves instead of following what everyone else does. it is my responsibility to raise my children in the proper way and to daven that out there is another family that has done the right thing. people should not wait for “everyone” to do the right thing before they can also do the right thing.

    Also to the people that think it is important for the mother or someone from the boys family to see a picture… why don’t you arrange to meet the girl? I’m sure girls would be far more willing to meet in person with a prospective MIL rather than send a picture.

    Finally – all hysteria about the “shidduch crisis” seems to have worsened the shidduch crisis. now boys feel even more entitled to make demands making it only harder to redt shidduchim and convince boys to date a girl because she is a quality girl even if she does not have all the money in the world and the right family connections…

  21. Very simple way to solve the shidduch crisis. Allow boys & girls to meet at a Kiddush, weddings etc. Skip the resumes and instead put nature back into “the picture.”

    • Two Q’s:

      1. So everything is about looks? (i guess u could say the same for speed dating unless a shadchan is somehow involved).

      2. A resume is necessary to figure out compatibility vis-à-vis working vs. learning. Meaning, in our learn-till-your -forced-to-work culture, both sides need to know what’s expected from them, which could seriously derail a shidduch after the first or second date if both parties are on different pages.

      Said simply – All else being equal your idea could work.

  22. If it’s all about finding the right person instead of judging from pictures, then perhaps we need a new strategy. Instead of submitting resumes to your shadchan, exchange them with other people.

    Perhaps 20 bochurim type up a resume and left them at a girl’s function. Then the young ladies read through, decide what they thought were a good match and contact the shadchan to put them in touch with the Bochur.

    No pictures, no worrying about whether your son finds someone good enough for you.

  23. Rimantisizing europe will not fix anything. Evryone wants perfection while they themselves are not. We need a societal change which should start with reforming all our frum publications that idolize the haute “besser mentchin” lifestyle. Show me all the articles that praise a simple lifestyle. Chazal do, so why don’t we

  24. BillyW
    Very hard to read your advocacy for a form of Yidishkiet that is mostly “feel good” superficial…just so the youth will stay. But of course, you are misguided. A neshama recognizes the genuine. In fact, the trend in secular society is rejection of convenience and luxury and a movement towards some sort of a moral compass (however misguided it may be). Just think global warming…social justice…the youth are driving these movements.
    Orthpraxy is worthless if it doesn’t help produce Orthodoxy. Build a house of cards, steeped in materialism and other false promises, and it will surely collapse in the face of any real challenge.

  25. Could be others are too, but off the the bat, Moish, Stop With the Kol Koreh, and No are nailing it. (Just feel the need to point out the truth when I see it. As No says, the neshama recognizes the genuine.) You guys restore my faith in humanity, thank you!

  26. So many people are getting stuck on numbers, ages, and statistics. Why can’t we just say that if a person is having a hard time with shidduchim, it’s a test from Hashem. Stop blaming the numbers and rules of the community. HASHEM IS TESTING THAT PERSON WITH THIS CHALLENGE FOR HIM/HER TO LEARN FROM IT. I think the crisis is that people are getting caught up in logistics and forgetting that Hashem is in charge and what can we do to better ourselves as a community instead of pointing fingers at people. Ye, do hishtadlus but also remember that in every situation in life, a lesson can be learned.

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