The Shidduch Fog
March 25, 2021
A Roundtable Discussion
Shidduchim. It’s a topic that is fittingly the backdrop to almost every conversation about communal issues—it all comes back to shidduchim. Here, the Voice presents a candid conversation with two of Lakewood’s most experienced and insightful shadchanim, Rabbi Meir Levi and Rabbi Shloimy Lewenstein.
Do you find that within the older-single population there are more girls than boys?
Rabbi Shloimy Lewenstein: There are definitely more older single girls than boys, but each demographic is affected differently.
Rabbi Meir Levi: That is a very tricky question. For sure there are more Bais Yaakov-type girls than there are yeshivah bachurim. As the girls get older, the number of boys who are still learning gets smaller and smaller. It’s easier for a girl to remain a Bais Yaakov type than for a boy to maintain his level.
Do you see the discrepancy from the beginning, when they begin shidduchim?
Rabbi Shloimy Lewenstein: Yes, definitely. Right now in BMG there are around 1,000 single boys, probably more. Add the number of bachurim in other yeshivos, which is approximately 500–600, and you get around 1,600 boys. There are many, many more girls.
Rabbi Meir Levi: Yes, I do see a difference in the number of boys and the number of girls starting shidduchim.
What do you consider to be the cause of the difference in numbers?
Rabbi Shloimy Lewenstein: I never studied it, but there are people who did and they think it’s because of the age gap between when boys start shidduchim and when girls start. Boys are starting at 22 or 23, and girls are starting at 19. Every year the number of children born grows, baruch Hashem. Therefore, the number of boys in shidduchim is significantly less than the number of girls.
Rabbi Meir Levi: I definitely think that the age gap plays a significant role. But in addition, there are many more boys who go to work, either because they can’t learn, or the yeshivos are not teaching them because they haven’t developed a love for learning, or perhaps because the beis midrash schedule is just too intense for them. Therefore, we have many more girls looking for “learning boys” and less boys actually learning.
How serious do you think this problem is? Have you seen it get worse over the years? If it is not addressed, do you think it will continue to get worse?
Rabbi Shloimy Lewenstein: If even one girl were single it would be bad, but we’re dealing with many girls, and that’s really not a good situation. I don’t know the facts, but it does seem like it’s getting worse. There are girls who are getting older, while the pool of girls keeps getting bigger and bigger. Unless something changes, it’s not going to get better by itself.
Rabbi Meir Levi: It’s a big problem which definitely seems like it’s getting worse with time.
Do you have any ideas for a solution?
Rabbi Shloimy Lewenstein: I think the idea that boys should start younger, which would thereby increase the number of boys on the market and even out the gap, makes a lot of sense.
Rabbi Meir Levi: I’m thinking out loud here, but maybe there should be a 13th grade for girls. (Laughs.)
Do you think that more shadchanim would help or resolve the issue?
Rabbi Shloimy Lewenstein: It would be helpful to have more shadchanim so that every girl would be able to be given the proper attention. But at the end of the day, it wouldn’t actually help, because if there are not enough boys, it doesn’t matter how many shadchanim there are.
Rabbi Meir Levi: I do think that adding more shadchanim would help parents feel a lot better throughout the process. While it may not resolve the core problems, it’s still very important. In order to get more shadchanim involved, I think the way people compensate shadchanim needs to be changed. Being a shadchan means putting in hours and hours of work without knowing if you are even going to get paid for your time. We work tirelessly at the expense of our spouse and children, and maybe at the end we get a “Thank you so much; we hope you keep us in mind in the future.” Just like there’s Bonei Olam for babies, there should be a similar concept for shidduchim too.
Actually, we are coming out with something huge after Pesach. A few askanim and balebatim realized that this is a big problem, that shadchanim should be a profession that is enjoyable and rewarding for those who get involved. What people don’t realize is that shadchanim should be paid based their effort since they can never guarantee the results. Therefore, they have undertaken to create an organization that will reimburse shadchanim based on the time and effort that they invest.
Another part of this groundbreaking initiative is that shadchanim who have been doing this for years will be training in new shadchanim. There’s going to be a central office, and part of the goal is that every girl will be focused on.
At the end of the day, though, shidduchim is not regular business—it’s all Hashem’s work, and whenever a shidduch happens it’s a nes. So this can’t resolve the issue, but it will definitely be a big help.
Do you find that girls hesitate to date a boy who has not gone to yeshivah in Eretz Yisrael? Do you feel that bachurim lose out in any other way from not going?
Rabbi Shloimy Lewenstein: There are certain families that are exclusively looking for a boy who went to Brisk, because Brisk gives them a certain chashivus,if you want to call it that. But besides that, I don’t think learning in Eretz Yisrael makes a difference. I think it’s the other way: if a girl doesn’t go to seminary in Eretz Yisrael, she might have a harder time.
About boys losing out, that’s a question for a rosh yeshivah. But I don’t personally see the benefit of learning in Eretz Yisrael. There is a beauty to being in Eretz Yisrael. It’s geshmak and it’s an experience. But I don’t know that the learning, the actual yeshivos in Eretz Yisrael, are benefitting the bachurim. If you were to move one of the yeshivos from Eretz Yisrael to America, I don’t know that it would be such a big hit.
Rabbi Meir Levi: A girl shouldn’t hesitate, just like a boy shouldn’t hesitate to date a girl who didn’t go to Eretz Yisrael. It shouldn’t be more than just a simple question that probably has a very simple answer. If one would like to go to Eretz Yisrael, they can go and shteig just as much after they’re married without having to walk 6.2 miles to get their Shabbos meal.
Rabbi Shloimy Lewenstein: I think it makes a lot of sense. I got married young—I was only 21—and I think I was mature enough. I would say in general, boys should consider getting married younger.
Rabbi Meir Levi: Everybody is different; there is no general rule. I agree that boys getting married younger is smart and beneficial. But it depends on a boy’s maturity. If a boy’s rebbi and parents think he is mature enough, then he should definitely start!