Note: This article originally appeared in the Pesach issue of Heimish Family Magazine, March 2040, and is reprinted with permission. It is a wonderful synopsis of the state of the shidduch crisis and what is being done to solve it.
A Generation of Senior Singles: Lost, But Not Forgotten
by Raizy Frumovitz
I feel like I hit the lottery as world-renowned shadchanit (matchmaker) Miriam Blazer invites me into her office. This tastefully arranged, yet unassuming room, would not otherwise grab anyone’s attention, but it is within this modest space that the future of the Jewish people is being determined. The Stoliver Rebbe has said that the keys of parnassa (livelihood) and childbirth are in the hands of Hashem, but the keys of marriage are in the hands of shadchanim. Where would we be without them?
Miriam has graciously cleared an entire hour for our interview. To put this in perspective, she normally spends one minute meeting with singles who are lucky enough to book an appointment with her. To think that she could have met with 60 singles during this time is extremely humbling, and only underscores the seriousness of the issues we are going to discuss.
I notice the award she has prominently displayed on the wall, and she beams with pride. It’s the Distinguished Shadchan Award, handed out annually by the Council of Gedolei Da’as Torah to the shadchanim who fix up the greatest number of dates.
“They used to award this to shadchanim who could take credit for the greatest number of marriages,” Miriam notes. “But there were so many shadchanim who were making countless suggestions with hardly any leading to marriage, and there was concern that they would get frustrated and give up.”
“What a tragedy that would have been!” I can’t help but blurt out.
Miriam looks at me with a mixture of pity and scorn that I find endearing. “Exactly. If there are no shadchanim, there is no marriage! The Jewish people have no future without us! The rabbis recognized that we need to be appreciated and rewarded, even if our suggestions don’t lead to marriage. It is said that every shidduch suggestion comes from heaven. That means that we shadchanim have a certain level of ru’ach hakodesh (divine inspiration). If the singles fail to get married, that is their own fault, but shadchanim should still be recognized and compensated.”
“Not that I do it for the money,” says Miriam. “I only accept it because it’s a halachic obligation to pay for a successful shidduch, and our Gedolim have ruled that nowadays, due to the severity of the crisis, it’s an obligation to pay shadchanim every step of the way. If I didn’t take money, other shadchanim would feel pressure not to take money, and then fewer people would want to be shadchanim. We can’t let that happen! So I make sure to remind singles and their parents that they need to pay, and keep paying, no matter what, just to keep us in the game.”
I am awed by her selflessness.
She gestures to her file cabinets. Stacks and stacks of them. She opens one and shows me endless folders, binders, and notebooks. Many shadchanim use computers to store their information, but Miriam prefers to do it the old-fashioned way. We have a mesora (tradition) that this is the way Jews have married throughout our history (the Council of Gedolei Da’as Torah has condemned those who would suggest otherwise) and Miriam sticks to tradition as much as possible.
She lets me in on a secret. “I did make one small change to improve the efficiency of the system, but Da’as Torah approved it and it has since become very popular. We used to use profiles, which could take up an entire page and even include several lines about the actual single. I found this to be a terrible time-waster. Who has time to spend reading an entire page? We have our own lives too, you know. Children to take care of, dinner to prepare, homes to run, and so much more. I decided to do away with the profile and just use names.”
I can’t contain my shock. “Really?”
“Yes. There are just so many singles out there these days, it’s the only way to do it. You can fit so many more people in a notebook this way. I realized that ultimately that’s the main job of a shadchan anyway: to give people names. They have to do all the research anyway.”
“What about references?” I ask.
“That costs extra,” Miriam explains. “If they want me to spend precious time and space saving references, they have to sign up for the premium service. Most people prefer to just take the name and hunt for their own references. That allows me to do what I’m really here for, which is matching up names!”
“What has changed the most in the shidduch world in the last 20 years?”
Miriam doesn’t hesitate. “All the senior singles. Twenty years ago they were 30 and 40. Now they are 50 and 60. There are thousands of them!”
This is something many in our community have spoken about in hushed tones, but it is an issue that can no longer be ignored. That’s the main reason Heimish Family Magazine sent me to interview rabbonim, shadchanim, and askanim for this cover story. The time has come to officially recognize the latest crisis — the Senior Shidduch Crisis — and to address it.
Here are analyses and solutions from our leaders on the forefront of solving this crisis, in their own words.
HaRav Nosson Goldstroke, Executive Director, No-See Foundation
The problem is simply one of demographics. There are more single women in their 50s and 60s than single men. Just check the enrollment records at our yeshivas and seminaries from decades ago. Case closed. This leads to a natural problem of there not being enough men to marry all the women. Imagine an island with a thousand women and only 900 men. One-hundred women will be left without a husband! It’s basic math, and anyone who doesn’t understand this doesn’t understand basic math.
The only solution is for the men in their 50s to marry the women in their 60s, for the men in their 40s to marry the women in their 50s, and so on. Women in their 30s should be in a partial freezer — one of our recent innovations — and women in their 20s should be in a deep freezer. They would only be taken out of the freezer to be reserved for bochurim in their teens, to be officially married when the young men finish yeshiva.
The No-See Foundation is disseminating a letter signed by three hundred Gedolim supporting this urgent takana (decree). Because of the prevalence of similar endorsements, you need more people to sign the letter for people to take notice. Our letter boasts the greatest number of rabbonim and roshei yeshiva to ever sign a letter, breaking the record of the letter endorsing the Miracles and Wonders Tzedaka Fund.
Even more impressively, this letter is the only statement our Gedolim have made to the Jewish people about the shidduch crisis. One of the greatest problems facing the Jewish people is the shidduch crisis, and the response of our rabbinic leadership has been to sign a letter that we wrote on their behalf. The message from our Gedolim is clear: just do whatever No-See tells you. I cannot thank our dedicated team of askanim enough for peddling the letter around and doing whatever it took to make sure they got the signatures we needed.
But we know that math lessons and proclamations from our Gedolim will not solve the problem. We all need to be involved. Therefore, we are raising enormous sums of money, which will be used to pay shadchanim bonuses for arranging dates between senior singles, especially when the girl is older than the boy. For example, if a shadchan sets up a date between a 50-year-old boy and a 60-year-old girl, she will get a bonus of $1,000.
Some people have asked why we should waste time and money setting up dates between senior boys and girls, since they won’t have children anyway. It’s a good point. However, we at the No-See Foundation understand that the only way to unclog the pipeline is to do it this way, otherwise the 50-year-old boys will go out with 20-year-old girls. We all know that this is a terrible problem, with older men dating girls 20 or 30 years their junior. I know of at least two such instances, and because of this phenomenon, the older single girls are stuck.
It’s really an easy problem to solve. We just have to give lots more money to shadchanim as an added incentive to follow our rules, and for everyone else to cooperate with our freezer system. If everyone dates only when we allow them to date, and only who we allow them to date, we will IY”H see many more simchas!
Rabbanit Leah Friedman, Distinguished Shadchanit
There are so many senior singles today! I can’t understand how this happened. Forty years ago when my fellow shadchaniot and I started making shidduchim, almost all the singles were in their 20s. Twenty years later, there were suddenly a lot of singles in their 40s. Now a mere 20 years after that and there are a lot of singles in their 60s. How did this happen? Where did all these senior singles come from? No one knows. All we can do is keep davening for Hashem to have mercy, while we keep trying to make shidduchim the same way we have always been making them.
As busy as we are working with the boys and girls just out of yeshiva and seminary, we can’t forget about those left behind. I suggest devoting five minutes every week to senior singles. Most shadchanim say that it’s a waste of precious time that could be spent on younger singles, and they are right, but we still have to do our part.
HaRav HaGaon Yosef Wilcowitz, shlita
I have been informed by trustworthy people that there are many senior singles. This is surely a decree from shamayim. It is a mitzvah to help them, and whoever does so should be blessed.
Mordecai Shtinkle, askan from Lakewood
The growing numbers of senior singles can no longer be denied. There is an effort being made to create a new organization to insure that these unfortunate people are not forgotten in their impending old age. We are calling it Supporting Old Singles (SOS). The organization will match up yeshiva bochurim to visit old single men and seminary girls to visit old single women for an hour a week, in lieu of visits from the children and grandchildren that they never had.
We are drafting a letter for the Gedolim to sign stating that this will be a segula for the youngsters to get married and not wind up like these unfortunate people. This will serve as an incentive for them to join. If necessary, we will ask the Gedolim to make a takana mandating that they must do this. The Gedolim have already ruled that you can spend maaser money to support this organization, and promise miraculous salvation for those who contribute. Our two-pronged approach is to raise money to throw at the problem, and then to legislate it out of existence. It works every time.
Moshe “Mo” Morris, askan, Bnei Brak
I am inspired by the holy work of the No-See Foundation and others, and we are doing our part as well. We have found that if you pay shadchanim for making a shidduch it doesn’t work, because they don’t make shidduchim often enough to stay interested. We tried paying them for making dates, but that stopped working after a while also. Our latest initiative is to raise massive sums of money to be distributed to shadchanim for thinking of singles, with bonuses for thinking of senior singles.
Various tools will be made available to shadchanim to demonstrate that they thought of a particular single on a given day. For each such instance they will receive a stipend. Some people have wondered why shadchanim should be paid only for thinking of people, but it’s really simple and brilliant. You cannot make a shidduch without first thinking of someone, and if you don’t pay shadchanim they will not think of most people at all — which means those people will never get married! So by paying shadchanim to think of singles, we increase the chances of those singles getting redt shidduchim. The Gedolim are encouraging people to donate generously to this cause, and we will hire young Torah scholars to daven for those who do. (Donations can be earmarked to subsidize the prayers as well.)
The senior singles crisis is a painful challenge for our community, but with such inspiring leadership and groundbreaking ideas, we can be confident that the future of the Jewish people is in good hands.
Rabbi Chananya Weissman is the founder of EndTheMadness and the author of seven books, including “How to Not Get Married: Break these rules and you have a chance” and “EndTheMadness Guide to the Shidduch World”. Many of his writings and videos are available at www.chananyaweissman.com. He is also the director and producer of a documentary on the shidduch world, Single Jewish Male, available at https://vimeo.com/ondemand/singlejewishmale, and The Shidduch Chronicles, available on YouTube.
He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.