Sunday, August 10, 2014

Shidduchim VI - Change? Yes we Cam!


Many moons ago, I announced on this blog that I intend to write another post about the Shidduch crisis. Thus far, I have not delivered.

In truth, I did draft a partial post long ago but I have neglected to follow through and complete it. Many other topics have taken front page headlines of late. No need to drag out a dead horse.

Nevertheless, over the weekend I was inspired to make one more attempt to publish this evasive post in honor of two things:

1.      We are at the eve of Tu B’Av – the traditional day of Shidduchim in our culture.

2.      The most recent issue of Mishpacha magazine is running a feature about a devoted askan from California – one Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz – who is trying to lend a helping hand.

It seems from the article that R’ Shlomo Yehuda understands the crux of the problem: the natural age gap between when girls enter the shidduch market to when boys enter the shidduch market ensures that, on a yearly basis, more girls enter than do boys. As long as this trend continues, there will always be a shortfall of boys. In conjunction, for boys that linger a bit, with each passing year they have the option to check out the younger inventory and overlook the veterans from the girls’ side. Unfair, but such is life.

This is a vexing problem and there is no true solution for it. Nothing can fix this in the short term. I wrote about this at length in previous posts (see HERE).

Unfortunately, the best that R’ Shlomo Yehuda does to help out is to advocate a remedy that is neither original nor a true solution. Though it may reduce some of the symptoms, it won’t cure the disease. He proposes to narrow the gap by encouraging boys to enter the shidduch market close to the same age that girls do. This is prevalent in Chassidic circles and, to a lesser extent, even in “Litvish” circles in Eretz Yisroel.

The theory is that if boys enter the market at about the age of 20, there will be more boys around to capture the young girls and less unmarried girls will pass the “23” year mark. As an added bonus, it will reduce the market of younger girls for older boys who will then be more amenable toward more mature prospects. 

This is bound to be an uphill battle. And here is why:

·         First and foremost, as I said, this is not a short term solution. Even if it were to be implemented tomorrow it will only help מכאן ולהבא – from now on. It will do absolutely nothing to help the thousands of past due young women who are stranded in limbo. If it becomes a new trend, perhaps it will help the next generation after the current dor hamidbar passes on.

·         In terms of the age gap and what it causes, this plan – if successful – would only narrow it to some degree but not eliminate it entirely.

·         Moreover, I think that even R’ Shlomo Yehuda recognizes that the chances of this becoming a new norm are extremely daunting. The article discusses the great challenges to learning development that must be overcome. It totally makes no mention about the financial challenges that must be overcome. Every young family needs income to exist. More income than single people need. And young families quickly grow. The sooner they start out, the sooner they grow. This income must come either from the couple themselves or from their parents. My assumption is that neither one is going to be in a big hurry take on this financial responsibility. More so in this current beleaguered economy.

·         Further, as a trained Shalom Bayit counselor, I have enough insight to know encouraging boys to marry when they otherwise would not is playing with fire. Yes, the article very optimistically states that young people can mature quickly when they have to, but they don’t always do. And when they don’t, it’s a recipe for disaster.

·         Not to mention that most girls are not so comfortable with younger boys. While those unfortunates in the 24+ category may be flexible out of necessity, the younger 19-21 year olds who are not yet hard pressed will still seek out older fellows.

·         And my last point is that this plan would only work if the 20 year old boys actually marry – like the Chassidim do. If they only use it as an early starting point for dating but don’t “hit it off” quickly and linger around, there is nothing accomplished.

All told, IMHO, this plan has too many limitations to be truly effective although it may help reduce the extent of the catastrophe to some degree.  Of course, I think that any remedy, even if it only helps a little, is worth trying out for the sake of those that it may help.

That said, I want to expand on the idea of modifying current trends to help alleviate the Shidduch catastrophe (albeit not solving it) by implementing a new trend that I have been advocating for over 5 years. This is to make the shidduch process easier, faster and cheaper – and therefore more efficient – by encouraging young singles to start the dating process using web cams and online video such as Skype. I railed at length about the advantages of this idea in THIS POST.

Now, I wasn’t the only person to come up with such an idea. A fellow named R’ Jeff Cohn who started Make-a-Shidduch Foundation also saw the benefits of web cam dating. But since he didn’t think he would get adequate Rabbinic support for a cost efficient Internet based system, he invested a lot of time, money and energy in a very clumsy, costly, and inefficient Point-to-point cable system. I recognized up front that this PTP cable system cannot be workable and I wrote a post devoted to explaining why (see HERE). I knew it would bomb but I gave it a chance.

Sure enough - it bombed! Although there was a highly celebrated launch with the blessings of several American Gedolim and some prominent shadchanim including the renowned Rabbi Shlomo Lewenstein from Lakewood, it never took off. And all the time, energy, and money was lost.

Well, if the Rabbanim thought it was a good idea and the shadchanim thought it was a good idea, how about doing it right – so that it works? Sure, it won’t solve the Shidduch catastrophe but shouldn’t we do anything sensible that can alleviate it to some extent?

And now I want to get a bit more personal.

Currently, I have three children on the auction block (all available to the highest bidder), two of whom are of the male persuasion and one is female.

The first of the three is my oldest boy Yaakov who has made a few appearances in my posts. Yaakov turned 25 in March. He is pursuing a Masters degree at Bar Ilan U. As you can surmise, he is more of a Torah Im Derech Eretz advocate(chareidi-lite) and he is searching for his barshert in those circles.

The third of the 3 is my 21 year old daughter – the only female in this bunch. She is now 3 years post high school and is facing the same trials and tribulations as everyone else. On the plus side (for us, at least), it does not seem to me that this crisis is as acute in Eretz Yisroel as it is in America. Perhaps we have a bit of an advantage because American born FFB girls who are proficient in English are at a premium here. So we get many suggestions. On the flip-side, there is a dearth of American born FFB guys who are proficient in English, so many of the suggestions are non-starters.

The one I want to focus on in this post is my 23 year old full blown hard core black and white Yeshiva bochur who I will call “Yossi”. He’s a serious, down-to-earth, genuine article type of guy (tall, slim, dark blond and blue-eyed, too, in case that means anything to anyone…) As you can imagine, we get a ton of suggestions for him. Never a dry moment. He probably would have been long gone except that he’s a bit fussy on three things: Location, location, location.

“Yossi” was born in the US of A and was about 6.5 years old when we moved to the Holy land.  Although he attended mainstream Israeli Yeshivas in his formative years, he hasn’t been interested in dropping the “Red’ from the Red, white and blue. Incidentally, in his mainstream “Israeli” cheder, there were so many Anglo parents at every parents meeting that I thought the Hebrew speaking parents must feel like foreigners. After he completed his “Brisker” Yeshiva ketana, he immediately set out for the Anglo Yeshiva gedolahs. And so, he spent 5 years in Yeshivas Birkas Mordechai (under R’ Yaakov Friedman son-in-law of R’ Yosef Tendler Z”L of Baltimore) and then Yeshivas Yagdil Torah (R’ Avrohom Teichman from Long Beach), and, finally, he pitched his tent (almost literally) in the almighty Mir of Jerusalem by R’ Nissan Kaplan, Shlita. For the summer, he is a learning rebbe at Camp Adirim.

He walks American, talks American, learns and socializes with the Americans, and…he wants an American girl.

To be sure, there are numerous American families just like ours living here in EY. Accordingly, we’ve gotten many suggestions from the progeny of these families and, some of which developed into actual shidduch “parshas”. So far nothing clicked for him and in some cases, despite the young lady’s RW&B pedigree, he still felt that they were “too Israeli”. Call it a mishugoss (I do), but his first preference is a girl who actually currently resides in the USA.

The problem is: we live here. And these kinds of girls are very scarce on this side of the ocean (because they live there). Most American seminary girls are not dating (rightly so). The exceptions are the second-year sem girls or those that just happen to be visiting. Not a very large pool.

So if the most suitable prospects for my “Yossi” are oceans away how do we bridge this gap?

One obvious solution is simply to send him to learn in the US. A plausible solution, but rather a bit too costly for my meager finances. We need “the next best thing to being there”.

Enter Skype. Yep, for the cost of a doughnut hole, my Yossi could date any prospect anywhere in the US or Canada without missing a shiur. Of course, if something really looks promising, we may need to dip into the meager finances and ship him overseas but the foundation will already be dug out.

Interestingly enough, my Yossi has personally met the renowned Shlomo Lewenstein (yes, the one mentioned on page 69 of the Mishpacha issue) and, upon my instruction, told him point blank that he prefers a true American girl and is willing to Skype for it. I believe he mentioned it to some others as well. Among other pluses, this would be a great opportunity to pioneer an unused method and open up a new frontier for North American girls who are open to living in Eretz Yisroel.

Yet, to date, we have gotten no response from the American officials. Not a nibble. Can it be that the seminary graduates of today are so overwhelmed with Shidduch proposals cramming their email boxes that they have no forbearance for a long distance b’show a la Skype?

Not from what I just read in Mishpacha magazine.

I don’t know if the resistance to a new method is due to ignorance or apathy (I don’t know and I don’t care), but if currently available low cost web cam dating is something people won’t want to experiment with, how would we expect a more monumental change like getting serious boys to want to marry en masse at substantially younger ages?

Kol haKavod and hatzlacha rabba to R’ Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz but I don’t see this Shidduch crisis catastrophe getting better any time soon.
 
Post script – Although it may not look this way, the purpose of this post is NOT to market “Yossi”. It is to market web cam dating. My “Yossi” does not need marketing and currently we are blessed with numerous prospects from the local talent, B”H. That said, if any reader is seriously interested in Yossi or in our other two children who are currently in the Parsha, feel free to email me at: 1a7b.author@gmail.com
 

Related posts:

Original Achas L'Maala post describing the severity of the Shidduch crisis catastrophe in mathematical terms (Oct.1, 2009):

http://www.achaslmaala.blogspot.co.il/2009/10/good-news-more-it-gets-better-more-it.html
 
Original Achas L'Maala post promoting Web Cam dating (Nov. 26, 2008):
 
Original Achas L'Maala post examining ShidduchVision (Jan. 28, 2009): 

 

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