Last week, I addressed the cataclysmic problem of assimilation and intermarriage in the Jewish community. Not enough can be said about the devastating and insidious scourge that has decimated American Jewry.
This week I’ll try and tackle the next non-military crisis facing the Jewish people. Although assimilation is much more of a severe existential threat, the “Shidduch crisis” is a colossal problem and has to be dealt with much more vigorously and fervently. Major Jewish organizations and every synagogue should spend more time, money, and energy on the problem. It reminds me of the famous Chazal, that after Creation, the Almighty spends his time making Shidduchim. It is a lesson to all of us mere mortals. We have to devote time and efforts to matchmaking.
The pandemic has affected all aspects of life. It has contributed to the decline in marriages and children in the American population and in the Jewish community.
It is a blessing to get married and stay married. It is also a blessing to bring Jewish children into the world and marry them off. Most in the Orthodox world are fortunate to do so, but many are not so lucky. It is up to all to work together to make this happen. According to Jon Birger, who wrote a book in 2015 entitled Date-onomics: How Dating Became a Lopsided Numbers Game, there are 12% more available women in the Orthodox community than men. It is hard to get an exact figure on how many women and men remain unmarried in the Jewish world but I believe it is increasing at a high rate. On a positive note, the pandemic has fueled a surge in the internet-based shidduch. It has regained its popularity not only among the Orthodox but also among the non-religious.
In terms of the world at large, which the Jewish community often follows, Peggy Noonan wrote in the Wall Street Journal on November 27, “When the pandemic came, marriage and fertility rates in America had already been falling steadily. Last year the marriage rate fell to 33 per 1000 of the unmarried population and the lifetime fertility rate to 1.64 per woman – ‘levels never seen before in American history’ as per the study. (Fertility has been below the “replacement rate” of 2.1 for more than a decade.)”
Since the pandemic began, 17% of Americans 18-55 reported their desire to have children had decreased. Noonan concludes, “As the pandemic lifts, the nation is likely to see a deepening divide between the affluent and everybody else, between the religious and the secular, and between Republicans and Democrats in their propensity to marry and have children.” She had said earlier that “the rich, the religious and Republicans have a ‘relatively greater propensity’ to marry.”
The “Shidduch Crisis” is very real. We all have to do more to make it a thing of the past.
Dr. Joe Frager is Chairman of the Israel Advocacy Commission for the Rabbinical Alliance of America; Chairman of the Executive Committee of American Friends of Ateret Cohanim; Dean at Kollel Ayshel Avraham; Executive Vice President of the Israel Heritage Foundation; and a physician in practice for 41 years.