I have written extensively both in articles and in my book The Shidduch Crisis, about how the shift from a relaxed dating atmosphere common in the past to virtually all young people except perhaps the most rigidly Hasidic, to one where options to choose a mate and opportunities to even meet members of the opposite sex are restricted and controlled in all layers of Orthodox religious groups in the last 20 years by well intentioned but poorly trained and economically driven self-appointed specialists, has led to significant increases in the rates of divorce, eating disorders, depression and domestic violence. Twenty five years ago it was not simply acceptable for a young couple to meet at a singles gathering, a singles weekend or even at school or a library it was the norm and the expectation. Now people who meet like that are forced to go through ridiculous contortions to find someone to officially introduce them so that, at least outwardly, they appear to adhere to the new dating rituals. The attempts to control are increasingly radical and intrusive.
I recently experienced just one such example when a young man asked for a psychotherapy session to determine why he is having a difficult time with dating. We explored his technique and evaluated his social skills all of which seemed in order. After some additional discussion it turned out that the young women he was being introduced to are all followers of the same Rebbetzin. He was being pigeon holed by the shadchan he was in contact with. Because he learned in a certain Yeshiva for a certain amount of time he could date only certain young women. Worse though was that after a bit more investigation it did not take long to find out that the Rebbetzin that these young women all consulted with regarding their dating experiences and whom they may marry, dislikes the young man’s father. It is unclear why but apparently all the young women who feel compelled to call her for advice about dating are given the same instruction – not to date him because he is his father’s son. This type of radical meddling which we are increasingly seeing, even allowing and in some cases encouraging, empowers people to control others to the point of life and even death decisions.
On Saturday March 3rd The New York Daily News reported that a two week old infant boy died at Maimonides Hospital in Brooklyn New York in September from a case of herpes contacted at his bris from the mohel who used the technique of metzitzah b’peh, the oral to genital suction done by haredim during the circumcision ritual. Apparently the Mohel is a carrier of Herpes. While this is the first case leaked to the press of infant death it is quite likely that there have been others not reported. In 2005 when the New York State Department of Health attempted to ban the metzitzah b’peh approach for a more sanitary one using a tube rather than the actual placement of the mohels mouth directly on the site there was a tremendous hue and cry from two sources the Agudath Yisroel and Satmar camps. Rabbi Dr. Moshe Tendler an advocate for the more sanitary approach was publicly berated for his willingness to consider the consequences to the infant and change the ritual ever so slightly.. Similarly, Dr. Jonathen Zenilmen an infectious disease specialist and Chief of the Department at Johns Hopkins Hospital, himself a member of the Community, pointed out that the arguments to maintain metzitzah b’peh indicate that those arguing for this unsanitary method simply have no understanding of the disease process.
And then there is the issue of abuse. Yes progress has been made in accepting the fact that abusers exist and operate in all communities. But we still have the delusional suggestion being promulgated that it is significantly less common in the most religious communities. All of the available data indicates otherwise.
So here we are with emotional abuse, domestic violence, eating disorders, depression, physical and sexual abuse even the death of infants occurring and we have empirical evidence that indicates why and even how we can reduce these ills and yet we are stuck with a rejection of the principals that would allow us to do so. We are in an increasingly radicalized world and are often blindly following and allowing the proponents to continue their ways. We must educate ourselves to the consequences of this radicalization and confront the follies that are being foisted on us to protect ourselves, our children and the future. I still maintain that these radical behaviors will ultimately dissipate but we cannot wait around for that while they continue to take their toll.