Sunday, November 18, 2007

How being Yeshivish affects Shidduchim

I have mentioned many times before that there is not one, unified frum Klal Yisroel; there are many subgroups that comprise it. These subgroups don't always make nice to each other. In point of fact, their aim seems to be to guarantee the existence of the subgroup rather than Klal as a whole. This is nothing new. I've actually gotten to read the work I recommended on the blog--Orthodox Judaism in America: A Biographical Dictionary and Sourcebook - by Moshe D. Sherman - 1996 --Greenwood Press--and the situation I just described is not a new one to the US; it existed in Europe as well. There was a Western/Eastern Europe divide, there was a divide within Eastern Europe, there was the Chasidus/Misnagdim divide, the ashkenazic/sefardic divide etc. The interest for each group was focused on keeping itself healthy rather than on keeping frum Klal Yisroel as a whole healthy. It would take a major catastrophe for the various groups to work in any sort of cooperation.

There was and is today also a divide within each of the major "frum" groupings. Let's look at what is commonly called the yeshivish group. The term "litvish" is also sometimes used as a synonym for this group. Chasidishe boys who sit and learn in yeshiva are not yeshivish. For the most part the boys in the YU programs are not called yeshivish. Boys who attend the Bnai Akiva yeshivot are not yeshivish, accept when they are. Actually, had the members of the famed Pressburg Yeshiva survived and come to America and reestablished the yeshiva here, they would not be yeshivish either--Pressburg was Western Europe. It is the yeshivas which owe their existence to the great yeshivot that began in Lithuania and that geographic area which have a yeshivish population according to common parlance.

But there is not one yeshivish group either. There are sub-groupings within the general yeshivish designation. There are boys who will never go to college. There are boys who will go to college. There are girls who will never go to college. There are girls who will go to college. There are boys who will never leave the yeshiva world, going on to be rebbes in the system. There are boys who will go out for their parnoseh into the secular world. There are boys who will start their own businesses, many of them catering to the needs of the frum community. There are boys who will not marry a woman who will work outside of the home after marriage. There are boys who will need a woman to work outside of the home after marriage. There are girls who do not want to work outside of their home after marriage. There are girls who are going to have to work outside of their home after marriage. There are girls who will be working at outside jobs but within their homes. There are girls whose parents will support a young couple for a number of years after marriage. There are girls whose parents can't/won't support a young couple for a number of years. Add in that the personality and "flavor" of each major and minor yeshiva is different, with adherents who want only that "flavor," and you may see why people talk about a shidduch problem within the yeshivish world.

The article by Dovid Wiener and Chaim Tropper deals specifically with the shidduch problem in the yeshivish sector. As I see it, part of the problem with the article is that it treats all members of this sector as one homogenous whole. Is the shidduch disparity the same for all cohorts in the sector? Is the disparity because of an actual deficit in the number of boys available or is it a disparity only among some of the groups that are known as yeshivish?

The article states that in the yeshivish sector for every 12 girls who get married, one will not. This works out to 8.33% of a Bais Yaakov graduating class that will not find shidduchim if the age preferences remain the same. This has been conveniently rounded up to 10%. Herein lies another problem. Wiener and Tropper mention that a number of studies were done among the populations of Israel, Canada and the US to arrive at the figures used. They looked at yeshiva populations, they looked at Bais Yaakov schools. They compared shadchanim lists. Huh? First rule of using studies and statistics: give the name of the sponsoring agency of the study, the researchers responsible for the data, the date of the study, the parameters of the study, the actual tabulations of the numbers in the study and where the study was printed or where it is available for viewing.

Which parts of the numbers that are available came from Israel? Which from Canada? Which from the US? Mixing Israeli numbers in with US numbers is mixing two different sub-groupings, with different conditions that apply to each. Comparing shadchanim lists? Surely someone is jesting. Let me answer that in brief: more girls go to shadchanim then boys do, because more boys are called directly by those who are acting in the shadchan role but aren't an "official" shadchan, paid or volunteer. Remember, it's boys who have lists. They do not, in general even go near a shadchan unless they are over 24 or have a home/personal situation that could be affecting their being red shidduchim by friends, families and acquaintances. Or perhaps they are from out of town with no other connections in New York. The disparity on shadchanim lists may owe nothing to a lack of boys and everything to social customs.

The figures on girls was taken from an unnamed study of some of the largest Bais Yaakov schools. How many? What are the actual figures? Where are these schools located? How many of these schools were from the US? In what year was the study done? How was the study done? The article states that the figures gotten from these studied schools will hold true for all the other Bais Yaakov schools. Will they? What constitutes a Bais Yaakov school? Does the name "Bais Yaakov" have to be in the school's name? So, what do you do with a Prospect Park Yeshiva? What about TAG in Far Rockaway? And they aren't the only ones.

The article states that the disparity in number between boys and girls has resulted in some terrible behavior problems among yeshivish boys. I agree, at least in part. Because they know themselves to be "michusim" they are able to hold up a girl's parents for a "shidduch ransome": support me or your daughter isn't getting married. The point is also made that boys today are far more focused on looks, due to their adopting gashmius ideas from the media. Gentlemen, boys have always had a thing about looks; this isn't about media influence. Read Tanach and tell me why we seem always to have the words "beauty" or "beautiful" tagged on to any description of our female ancestors. I know, I know, we should read such words as meaning inner beauty only. Right. Esther HaMalka spent a year annointing herself after the beauty regimens of women because her inner beauty was going to do it for her with the King. The problem is not with a girl's looks, but the out of proportion emphasis that a number of yeshivish boys place on looks. "Es kimpt tzei."

The comment is made that part of the "looks" problem is that mothers of boys are the ones pushing for the looks and their sons just go along. Sure, let's shoot the messenger. The boy is still the final "judge" and the mother is only the shaliach. Yes, some mothers want "the best" for their sons, but it is still the son who goes on the date and says yes or no.

Among the solutions offered are a few that I actually found quite ironically funny. The shidduch problem does not seem to exist in the chassidishe communities; in fact, there are more boys then girls in those communities in the same age cohort. By the chasidim, boys get married at a very early age, starting from about 19, and they marry girls their own age or older. The suggestion was made that yeshivish boys and girls ought to emulate the chasidim, getting married at a very young age. Be careful of what you wish for gentlemen. Relatively few chassidishe boys sit and learn for years after marriage, if at all. Chassidishe boys go out to work and support their family. Chassidishe girls mostly stay home and raise the children. They aren't out working to support their husbands. Offer one part of the chasidic lifestyle and you just might find people opting for other parts as well.

I was quite amused also at the idea that yeshivish girls should marry very young and marry very young boys, because they would be a "good influence" on the boys, and would be able to help the boys mature, and would be able to offer the good advice necessary. " When boys are in yeshivos, especially in Eretz Yisroel, they are very much on their own with no supervision or accountability for putting in their learning hours. There is a lot of hefkeiurs out there, even amount the yeshiva boys. Parents just hope that that the learning’s ok. The boys themselves can be unsure if that will they have the stamina to stick to their sedorim without any mashgiach or parent on top of them. It is natural to have ups and downs – but it’s harder when it’s unsupervised and unsupported. Getting married earlier would give the boy added accountability to his wife, added respect from her for each day’s learning, and moreover added encouragement to apply oneself as best one can." Sure sounds like raising children to me, not marriage.

Also in the article was this, which I quote verbatim: "An additional proposal is as follows: Girls can marry boys who are in circles that might not be traditionally Yeshivishe, but boys that consider themselves close to being yeshivishe.This is called “looking outside the box”. For instance there are many boys who grew up in Chassidish circles. Some of these are more have gravitated toward the Yeshivishe Hashkofoh. (This is not meant to criticize one group or another. It’s just that we have to recognize that every group has those who gravitate toward the right and left ends of the spectrum of that group. There is always a small – and sometimes not so small - amount of interface and movement between any two circles). These are boys from these other circles who might make very good husbands for some of these girls. (Note that as mentioned above, the Chassidish circles do not have an age mismatch problem to begin with, so any boy of theirs who marries into our circles, does not create any lack of boys for Chassidic girls to marry. – just the opposite – they have a bit too may boys). These non-Yeshivishe groups may also be the Israeli, Sefardic, European, Young Israel, or Ba’al Teshuva Boys. Boys from those groups who become Yeshivishe oriented often make very fine shidduchim for girls who grew up Yeshivishe. Of course any family would have to approach this with added care and guidance, but this does work and has been done even among Chashiv families."

I have to admire the authors' way with words. Just what is an Israeli group? How about a European group? How about a Young Israel group? And if they were going about naming new groups, how about an Out of Town group? And I have to love the "has been done even among Chashiv families." As opposed to what? The rest of us? The non-chashiv families? There is also the assumption that the boys who marry yeshivish girls will themselves become yeshivish. Isn't there something about a woman following her husband's minhagim when she gets married? Tossing that marriage coin could--gasp!--result in yeshivish girls who join their husband's frum demographic group.

Let me end with this. I think that what is bothering me most about the article and about other comments made within the yeshivishe world is that those commenting seem to be far less worried about good, lasting marriages being made then with the continued growth and existence of their yeshivishe world. They seem to be starting from the point that says "the boys must sit and learn for X amount of time and all shidduchim have to be made so that this can be facilitated. The girl doesn't matter; her "getting with the program" does."

Yup, shidduch making has some problems. Yes, there may be a number disparity in certain sub-groups with certain requirements in any given year. And yes, the "number game" has itself caused some problems. And being so insular and isolated and focused on "what's in it for me" on the part of some of those who "run" the yeshivish world has also contributed to the problem.

A note: in his letter Chaim Tropper says that he does not agree with everything in the article, an article that bears his name as co-author. Yet, he does not tell us which parts of the article he is refuting. It's a strange comment for the author of something to be making, and surely needed some explanation. If he didn't agree with what he was saying, why did he publish it?

There is an old saying: "Man tracht und Gott lacht." Man works at things and G-d laughs. I can just see the Ribboneh Shel Olam looking at the mess we have made in some areas of shidduchim and shaking his head and wondering why he ever allowed us access to mathematics. You see, one plus one still equals two. And that is all it takes, just one boy and one girl. Looking at yourself as some percentage that may or may not get married is damaging to self esteem, adds negativity in when it should be excluded, causes obsessive worry over numbers, not people, and may or may not apply. One plus one equals two. I believe "b'emunah sh'laimoh" that the Ribboneh Shel Olam IS mezaveg zevugim and that He did prepare for each of us the "richtigen zivug." Our job is to know that and to have bitochon and to work on the premise that someone is out there for us, whoever that someone may be.

Any "solution" to the shidduch problems today which does not take into consideration that what we are looking for is not just "any marriage" but the right marriage, a solid, lasting marriage made for the right reasons is only adding to the problem.


justlooking said...

And I thought I was finished with math classes. But I think I am seeing some sense in this. If you treat me like a number like some percent then you don't have to see me as a breathing human being. That 1 out of 12 is not a number. She is me and every other girl who isn't married yet and wants to be. I'm not a sudoku puzzle where you just have to fit in the right numbers and everything works out.

I'm yeshivishe and my parents can't afford to support and I went to college and if my husband wants one year after marriage to learn I'm willing to work for that but no more then that. Don't tell me how mature I am and able to cope when what you want is for me to be a wife and a mother and earn all the parnoseh and keep a wonderful home and be cheerful and untired while I am doing it and send my husband off for a five year vacation from what is supposed to be our life.

NYmaidle said...

I think you hit on something when you talked about girls in college and boys who don't want that or who want that but still want a 19 year old girl. That is also a problem in shidduchim. The same guys who want me to support them so they can learn, many don't want me because I have college. They want up and down at the same time. I don't know the numbers and please no more numbers, but I can guess that college girls make more money then those who didn't go. The boys don't want to starve to death but let's pretend that I don't have the degree.

chaya said...

I really hate to say it but yeshivish out of town is so much more normal then it is in New York. My husband and I are only temporarily in New York because we really cannot take the atmosphere and when the time comes I don't want my kids exposed to what I am seeing.It really is like you are not really a person here, just some game piece to be moved around a board.

anonymously said...

No insult meant, but having bitochon is sometimes not enough. Even if all the extra girls were married off to boys outside of the yeshivishe world there is no guarantee that the others left would all marry each other, something you also said. So there is worry about more then the numbers matching up. I agree that we should be looking at something more then the numbers to be able to fix the shidduch making problems.

Anonymous said...

Almost missed it in the long post but you are right that it is strange for the author to say he disagrees with what he wrote. Why write it then? I guess we'll have to wait and see if he really posts an answer.

nowaynever said...

You forgot to mention one of those other chumras that divide up the yeshivishe olam. Whether a girl has a drivers licence or not. A shidduch was red for me where the shadchan told my parents that the boy and his parents know that I can drive and they are willing to overlook this if I agree that I will not drive when I am married. You should have seen my fathers face. He told my mother that if this shadchan didn't tell the boys family that asking this was not acceptable that she should never deal with this shadchan again. After I found out that there are more then just this boy and his family that consider girls who drive as hashkaficly deficient.

readywhenyouare said...

You know this whole discussion, here and out in the real world, makes me awfully happy that I am not limiting myself to only the yeshivish boys. I'm looking to get married not keep someone's numbers looking good. If you only shop in one store you may or may not find what you are looking for. Buyt if you shop in a lot of stores your chances of finding what you are looking for improve tremendously.

Anonymous said...

How come except for R'Jungreis you aren't seeing teh articles written by women about how to solve the problems with shidduchim? You see them in the blog world but not in the Yated. Yeah sometimes there is an article by a woman psychologist but those articles are basically saying the women have to do better in becoming what the men want. Leaving all the rules up to the men is what caused the problems to begin with and now we should trust that they can fix the problems they caused?