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Wednesday, November 02, 2011

NASI Response to Those Who Question: Beg, Borrow, Cheat, or Steal,

For those looking forward to more bread and butter posts, please be patient. I'm a one trick pony this week and we are focusing on the train wreck at hand. See previous two NASI posts.

(Hat Tip: another fantastic reader) This letter is the response from the NASI director, Moshe Pogrow, that is being sent to those who have attempted to engage in conversation regarding their newest tactic and ad. NASI has moved from "proven" theories of an age gap to a recent advertisement and program that some believe threatens to inflate the market rate of "shadchanus."

This poorly written, mostly unintelligible, rambling letter is published below without comment. I will briefly state, however, that when I got to the line "beg, borrow, cheat, or steal" that just about summed up the entire farce for me. Sadly, the level of communication and clarity of thought leaves much commentary, little of it positive. Please be careful to keep comments civil and avoid:light-headedness". I simply have little to say except all who have bought into any of the "proven" theories and are acting accordingly should, after reading this, rethink all. Without further ado, the response in the original.

In the last few days feedback has been across the spectrum (as we knew it would be) and every single unhappy person one who has bothered to call and discuss it has left with a great appreciation and understanding as well as answers to all their questions and a 180 degree shift in the attitude towards the project. See the letter “before and after” for one just such example.

In addition, a key reason why the NASI Project has been so successful is because we know that no one has all the answers. Everything we have done has been based on myriads of insight from across the spectrum. At the same we cherish and value feedback from anyone and everyone. Every program is consistently, tweaked, adjusted and we attempt to constantly improve to accomplish maximum results. We appreciate look for everyone’s input.

That being said I realize that it isn’t realistic to speak to each and everyone on the phone, and thus I reluctantly will pen this letter. It is crucial theit be read in its entirety (although it is lengthy). In it we will deal will all the issue raised in this specific letter as well as all the issue others have raised as well.

In order to understand this program in particular we need to understand the big picture. We can then explain each and every detail of this program up to and including why (as it seems shortsighted) we have consistently decided to not put the names of the “Daas Torah” in writing.

1. Let’s being with a scientific definition of the shidduch crisis.

The number of non chassidishe orthodox young women who have been dating 5-10 years exceeds the number of non chassidishe orthodox young men who have been dating 5-10 years, BY HUNDREDS AND HUNDREDS IF NOT THOUSANDS. Allow that to sink in. In other words, after a certain number of dating years, the number of available young women exceeds the available pool of young men. If I need to spell it out further, unless a situation develops that 23 year old boys suddenly look to date 32 year old young women, there are simply not enough young men for the young women past a certain age.

This is a tragedy of epic proportions with colossal ramifications.

(Allow a disclaimer. Because the last thing I want to do is hurt any young woman. For each individual young woman there are some opportunities, but bderech hateva there are a staggering number of young women who will suffer the tragedy of not getting married. I wish it wasn’t so and I certainly don’t want to write this, but we can pretend all we want this is the tragic reality.)

2. What is the undeniable root cause of this travesty?

The short answer is Age Gap. This has been acknowledged by a historic letter from 70 Roshei Yeshiva.

Every single person in Klal Yisroel is collectively and individually responsible for allowing this terrible situation to develop. Hashem did NOT cause this, he simply allowed us as a community to be blind to the results of our actions and we have thus CREATED and are RESPONSIBLE for the tragic situation.

I would hope by now that this concept which has been explained in this very forum numerous times is understood by all. If we have a island and place 100 boys and 100 girls on the island. At the end of the year it is simply impossible for there to be more single girls than boys, IMPOSSIBLE. If on that island we place 150 young women and 100 young men, than there will undoubtedly be a minimum of 50 young women who don’t get married. Even if all 150 has everything “going for them” with all the silly things we give importance to in shidduchim, there will still be 50 who can’t get married. Even if all 100 young men had no interest other than getting married to a nice young woman without any other criteria, there are 50 young women who can’t get married.

In the non chassidshe community, instead of it being 100 to 100 is it the situation of 100 to 150 (this is illustrative only, it is closer to 2,000 young men, and 22,00 young women). Approximately 200 young women have no realistic marriage opportunity. Not at 19 and not at 35.

The reason is simply because we have a structure where the young women enter Shidduch Island at approximately 19 and the young men at approximately 22.5. Being that B”H our population is continuously growing rapidly the younger age groups (by both boys and girls) are consistently larger than the older age groups. Song as young women get their passport to the island and 19 and young men only get it at 22.5 we continue to have each and every a large number of more girls starting to date than boys. The next year

the same thing occurs, and the next year as well. Thus even if every single boys gets married to a girl, there will be 200 girls each year (or 300 from one year and 100 from the other year) who simply can’t get married. Fast forward 10 years and we have the tragedy we are experiencing.

3. The Solution:

B’direch Hateva, the only way to alleviate the problem going forward it to close the Age Gap. This has and continues to be the sole foucs of the NASI Project. To alleviate the shidduch crisis by closing the Age Gap. For the last four years no stone has been left unturned in trying to make this happen.

This is accomplished by

a. Educating the community as to the core problem because without this absolutely no significant progress or change could be accomplished.

(Great strides have been made)

b. Breaking the stigma that previously existed against doing a shidduch with a young woman the same age or even a bit older.

Wonderful progress has been made as attested to by shadchhanim, mothers of boys, mothers of girls and girls themselves)

c. Figuring out way to encourage boys to begin dating slightly younger.

See a bit later in the article where I will come back to this. Herein lays the real yeshua.

d. Encouraging shadchanim to keep ages in mind when redding shidduchim

e. Encouraging shadchanim to focus on the girls who didn’t just start dating instead of spending almost all the energies on 19/20 year olds.

If/when shadchanim focus on young women who didn’t just start dating inevitable more close in age shidduchim will take place. If a 23 your old boy is redd to fifteen different 19 year old and two different 22 year olds, in all likelihood he will end up marrying a 19 year old. If a

23 year old boy is redd to fifteen, 22 year olds and two 19 year olds in all likelihood he will end up marrying a 22 year old.

Let’s now focus on point E/F. A year ago March a extremely effective program was launched in Montreal. It has now spread to Toronto, Chicago, Kew Gardens, Prospect Park HS, Machon (for the graduating class of 2004, and 50 Shuls in Flatbush/Five Towns and Far Rockaway. It will imy”h be coming to Monsey and Lakewood in the near future.

When it was initially launched it met with great resistance. The concept is that Shadchanim don’t make shidduchim. That the Ribbono Shelo Olam does. Shadchanim set up dates. Enough quality dates for girls who didn’t just start dating and bderech hateva they’ll get married.

The program is simply, is a Shadchan set up a young woman (above a certain age) on date #1 then in appreciation of the time and effort that is required to and goes into redding shidduchim Shadchan receives S 100. If it’s a quality idea the Shadchan receives $400. This money does not come from the parents, they don’t even know about the program.

The initial resistance was huge, and yet B”H the results of the program has been fantastic. With a tremendous amount of shidduch attention as measured by dates gone out, date number $ gone out (and yes engagements as well although that is a poor measuring stick because that is out of the hands of a shadchan. Quality attention is what we are after.

Let’ now discuss the present program.

Let’s imagine that Eliyahu Hanavi came to town and told a 22-year-old young woman that you if you help this poor person pay his medical bills by giving 5,000k I GUARNATEE you will be married by chanuka.

What would the 22-year-old young woman do?

Suppose he said that any 30-year-old-girl who donates 11,000, would be married by Chanuka. What would a 30-year-old, young woman do?

You know and I know that every SINGLE young woman would beg, borrow, cheat or steal but she would give Eliyhu Hanavi the money...

NASI isn’t Eliyahu Hanavi. We don't promise a weeding, we don't promise a date, we don't even promise a phone call. All we say is that not a penny of your money will be spent until after you walk down the chuppah.

If you would give it to Eliyahu Hanavi then obviously

A). A young woman girl feels it’s worth that amount

B). A young woman could come up with it.

What is the risk a .025 percent interest on a savings account?

A girl could try it for a month. If nothing happens take it back. If she gets married we all agree it will be well worth it.

Now let’s deal with some specific FAQ about the program

Q: Why does it go higher each year? It’s degrading insensitive and thoughtless to let a young woman know each year she gets older it costs more.

Q: Why does it start at 22? It’s so insensitive to make the 22 years-olds to feel like they are “older” or nebach cases.

Let’s imaging the program was for all young women 25+ the shadchanus is 5,000. Nice idea. Shadchanim will tell you that generally speaking the work involved in helping to bring a 35 young woman to the chuppah is exponentially more difficult (for myriads of reasons, one significant reason is as we discussed earlier the continuously diminishing pool of boys). If the compensation was the same for a 25 year old young woman as it is for a 35 year old young woman, then many many people would choose to put their kochso into a 25 year old young woman. The exact people who are upset about part of the program, are precisely the ones who will helped by it, no one else.

Let’s explain why it absolutely must start at 22. It’s not because they are Nebach’s. The vast majority of shadchanim (both fully time/part time and everything in between) probably well over 80% barely spend any time on the young women 25 and up. This is because the the larger pool of dating young men

are 22-24. The shadchanim spend their time on compatible matches for boys in that age range. As a result of a program for 25 and up there will certainly be more attention piad to those young women, but the vast majority of attention will still be focused on the young men 22-24.

Are the shadchanim going to redd those boys to 19 year old young women or to 22 year olds. The answer to this question will determine whether today’s 22 year old young women get married or whether today’s 22 year old young women become tomorrow’s 32/42 single young women.

If this program started only at 25 then shadchanim will continue to redd the 19 and 20 year olds to the larger pool of dating boys. By starting the program at 22 there is NO doubt that the tremendous group of 22 year old young women will NOT become 42 and single

We MUST start at 22 precisely because we want to do everything in our power to make sure that today’s 22 year olds do NOT become tomorrow’s 32 year olds.

Q: What about the girls who can’t afford.

As I showed earlier, for Eliyahu Hanavi they would come up with the money. What’s the risk? However and far more important is that this is a opportunity for poor young women to get the attention that previously only the wealthier did. Now a young woman who is not from a wealthy family has the change to get quality attention from 150 shadchanim across the country with NO RISK to her.

Q: Why are the dollar amounts so high

If there is significant added shidduch attention for the young women on the list, could that have been achieved for 3k instead of 5k. Frankly that's a minor question in the big picture. Certainly something that maybe should be adjusted if necessary but not a deal breaker. Basically, if a young woman gets married and pays 5k and maybe she could've gotten married and paid 3k.... Nu nu.... If a 30 year old gets married and spends 13k and could've gotten the same attention for 10k.... Nu nu

If the program doesn't help in any significant way then it will disappear, go the way of the horse and buggy and be forgotten very quickly.

Q: The feeling people have is their being blacklisted if they don't participate and no one will help anyone not joining

If 50 girls join the list. Do you really think every other girl will be blacklisted? If 150 girls join the list do you really think other girls will be blacklisted. It would be awfully hard to redd shidduchim to the 2,000 dating young men, if only 150 girls get dates....

If 2,000 girls join the list will the other girls be blacklisted? Maybe.

Remember, the only way 2,000 young women join (and stay in the list) is if it's so wildly successful and young women are getting married left and right. In that case, I think it's kedai to beg borrow or steal (a phrase a mother used) to get your daughter married.

Only time will tell if it works or not. If it works (meaning girls join and girls get married) then it's all good. If it doesn't, meaning either girls don't join, or they join and don't get married, then no harm no foul. No one spent any money other than NASI on some ads.

Before I answer the final question regarding the names of the Rabbinic supporters, I word regarding shadhcanim is critical.

This whole article and perhaps the program itself has the potential to paint shadcahnim as heartless money hungry ruthless mercenaries. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Allow me to explain.

In speaking to people I’ve asked them how many shidduchim do they think a typical very very busy Shadchan make each year. Peoples response where very telling 50 a year. 300 shidduchim a year.

It is totally out of touch with reality. The typical very very busy Shadchan makes 6 or 7 a year. To make 6/7 a year means that the Shadchan has forfeited their family life, they have zero menucha, can’t go to weddings without being bombarded, they can’t do homework with their children, they are called and besieged at all hours of the day and night and people are upset at them. Why they don’t call back etc. For a typical shidduch a shachan receives total from both sides together between 2,000 and 3,000 dollars. 6/7 shidduchim equals a whopping grand total of a whopping 12,000 to 21,000 a year. (and many many times the Shadchan receives far less. It is on RARE occasions that they receive more).

There are three kinds of full time shadchnim

1. Those who are so prolific that they actually make a parnassah sufficient to basically support their family with it. There are perhaps 4 such people in the country. They make 23 a year, they may be hired by cities, there may be some people who “hire them privately” and with everything together they put together a parnassah to pay their tuition (barely) grocery etc.

2. People (usually women) whose husbands make a good enough parnassah to enable to spend their time as they wish. Some women are good souls and instead of spending their time shopping etc, they have dedicated their lives to try their utmost to help make shidduchim. We can well understand the the number of woman who nowadays are not called on to help support the family is very very small. (and of those who could, what would motivate a regular person to chose for themselves the lives I’ve depicted.)

3. People who are either insane or simly saints. Their families really need their parnassha, they don’t earn a parnsaah from shidduchim. Yet they are cut from a different cloth then they rest of us and they do it anyway. It would be great if we could clone these people but realistically the nuber of people like this you can count on one hand. (subliminally we as a community expect everyone who redds a shidduch to be such a person. They are supposed to be available all times day and night etc. we think somehow by virtue of someone trying to redd shidduchim a little bit, they automatically become obligated to take on the role of a saint. Clearly this is simply unrealistic and unfair and simply a result of UNDERSTANDABLE pain and frustration on the part of the singles, but it won’t changes the reality.

Now we wonder: Why don’t we have more people redding shidduchim. Why don’t we have more people who are redding shidduchim they should redd shidduchim to the slightly older, young women.

Is the answer obvious now? Who can afford the time it takes to dedicate hour and hours to redd shidduchim in general. Bringing a 30 year old young woman to a chuppah it immeasurable more work than making a shidduch for a 20 year old. For the time and effort shadchanim are putting in the would like to at least she nachas. Forget the 2/3 thousand dollars. They would at least like to she a shidduch happen. Isn’t it clear why we have so few people who dedicated their time to this? Why the VAST MAJORITY of those who do try of course are severely limited in the amount of time they can spend as the need to work to help support their own families!

This program is an effective way of achieving two separate goals.

1. Going forward it can effectively continue to close the age gap and thus we will not be in the same devastating situation we ate today.

2. For the young women today who already past a certain age at which they are now in a precarious situation. This can give them the opportunity to get as much and as vast shidduch attention which will afford them the greatest possible opportunity of walking down the aisle.

Finally: Why aren’t the Rabbinic supporters named in the any of the NASI ads

The true and short answer is because I was specifically told not to. I will offer you a glimpse into part of the reasoning behind that directive, although as will be self is evident there is a risk in what I am writing.

Far greater than any of these programs that are in the public eye is the work behind the scenes that has the ability to practically totally solve the crisis going forward. There is a plan on the table that if/when implemented will bdirech hateva save/protect close to 1,000 girls over the next 8 years. This plan needs to be implemented by the Roshi Hayeshiva and Rabbonim only. Perhaps Askanim can get involved to help move it along. It calls for a minimal structural change with almost no downside that will bring with it many side benefits in addition to saving 1,000 girls. The “Daas Torah” if you may, feels they have a much greater chance of effecting that change if their involvement is behind the scenes.

Unfortunately, change is hard to come by and thus it is a process that is taking far to long and the victims of this inexcusable situation are the precious Bnos Yisroel

Rav Shmuel Kametzky Shlit”a and many many well respected and well known Roshei Yeshiva and Rabbonim know who is the guiding force of the program and under whose guidance everything takes place. Feel free to ask them. It isn’t only my fault that we as a community have utterly and totally failed these young women.

Over the last two years we as a community have collectively expended inordinate amount of time energy and resources on all kinds of wonderful and important issues. R’ Shalom Mordechai Rubashkin, the boys in Japan and others. There is no doubt that the lives of 1,000 of our precious bnos Yisroel, is far far more urgent than any of these programs.

In addition, WE CAUSED THE TRAGEDY, WE ARE RESPONSIBLE. Yet day after day they and their families continue to suffer in silence. Where is the kinus demanding that these changes be implemented? Where are the articles, WHERE IS THE COMMUNITY.

And therefore, if the best chance to hopefully/ maybe bring to fruition such change (and other ideas) and save 1,000 of our precious daughters and sisters requires that the NASI Project is accused of hiding behind the cloak of anonymity. It’s well worth it.

After 120 year we want to be able say yadeinu lo shafchu es hadam hazheh.

I hope that those who read this article in it’s entirety and take the time to understand it, will then have a better understanding and have answers to their questions. I wish I could explain it in person to every single person, but I realize it is simply not feasible.

Hachosem b’dema, but with hope and knowledge that the yeshua is very attainable.

Moshe Pogrow


NASI Project


Anonymous said...

"What is the risk a .025 percent interest on a savings account?"

Forgetting that if you shop around, you can easily get a better rate, by "begging, borrowing, and stealing" you are paying 10%+ on credit card interest or if you will literally steal, jail time and a chilul hashem.

Bob Miller said...

Lately, I see far too many highly emotional appeals to the naive. The world-famous wisdom of the Jewish people still exists, so all innovative plans need to be presented calmly and with all relevant details, as if to adults! When the details are lacking or contradictory or plain wrong, we have the duty to question.

G*3 said...

> BY HUNDREDS AND HUNDREDS IF NOT THOUSANDS… This is a tragedy of epic proportions with colossal ramifications.

There’s the problem. There are about a million Orthodox Jews in the US. Let’s assume that they’re evenly represented from 0-80. That gives us 125,000 women between the ages of 20 and 40. A thousand unmarried women in that age bracket means that the rate of women not getting married is 1:12,500. Even 10,000 unmarried women is 1:1,250. That’s a tragedy? Personally, sure, if the person in question feels that way, but as a community?

> If on that island we place 150 young women and 100 young men, than there will undoubtedly be a minimum of 50 young women who don’t get married.… it is closer to 2,000 young men, and 22,00 young women

1:2 women not getting married, and certainly 20:2 might qualify as “a tragedy of epic proportions,” but this is not the case.

Miami Al said...


There aren't close to 1M Orthodox Jews in America. There are approximately 600,000 people (10% of America Jews) that affiliate "Orthodox." This goes from the Rosh Yeshiva or Chassidic Rebbe on one extreme, to a secular guy who joined Chabad for his son's Bar Mitzvah, all are demographically "Orthodox."

If you look at "Frum Yidden," with however broad a term you want (let's say, publicly Shomer Shabbat/Kashrut, people that are socially Orthodox at least), you probably drop down to 300,000 - 400,000. Once you take their target, non-Chassidic RW Jews, you are probably down to a target population of 150,000 - 200,000 people. It's NOT a random distribution, because there are fewer people the older you get because of drop off rates and a growing youth population, but let's assume that 12.5% - 17.5% are women between 20 and 40. The target group is now 18,750 people to 35,000. That means that if there are 1500 people in that group, it means that the Shidduch system is failing 4% - 8% of women.

That's not a catastrophe, not really a crisis per se, but definitely a problem. A group with mediocre retention rates but pretty good birth rates can only grow by maintaining a large child:woman ratio... You lower your birth rate by leaving 5% of the women childless.

The cynic would point out that the real solution that this will do is help men who want out of their family @ 40. They know that they can get divorced and marry someone ages 30-35 with some money and no social stigma and start over. That's terribly for family stability, but great for birth rates, and biologically makes sense, as the first wife is ending her reproductive years.

I remember reading that someone hypothesized (and was finding SOME support) that the midlife crisis in men was caused by hormonal shifts in their wife, menopausal/pre-menopausal shifts, and that their wife's ending of her reproductive years might be having an evolutionary effect on him, causing his desire to appear younger and seek a younger mate. Perhaps this is the Frumkeit equivalent? :)

Anonymous said...

Oy vay, I feel for Miami Al's starter wife!

Anonymous said...

I could not even get through this drivel in its entirety. What happened to the beautiful logic and analysis applied by our learned ancestors in the talmud and passed through the generations. Nearly every specious assertion in this rambling mess crumbles under the slightest scrutiny. It is a fools errand to even begin to challenge this BS. While I am glad I am not of the mindset that would use a shadchan (my wife and I met in college), I fear for the future of our Orthodoxy in this country.

Anon1 said...

Even in this generation, learned Jews use impeccable logic and analysis in Talmudic study. That same mindset should also be used in addressing community issues and in explaining planned initiatives to the Jewish public.

JoelC said...

Leaving aside the substantive problems with this program (which are significant), I would never send $5,000 to an organization run by someone whose writing betrays incoherent thinking, disorganization and lack of professionalism.

Anonymous said...

The whole thing reminds me of this classic quote from the end of Billy Madison:

"Mr. Madison, what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul. "

shmichelfoofer said...

i think that this explains things a little more. but I dont know that i am ready to put down money...
and maybe still a big downside - that of raising the 'going rate' of shadchanim

tesyaa said...

In the real world where men and women meet naturally in the workplace, at shul and at the homes of mutual friends, the age gap is almost irrelevant. It's unusual to see a couple where the wife is 10 years older than the husband, but not unheard of. And anything less than 5 years is not worth mentioning, for the most part.

That NASI comes with a cure for the age gap is ironic. The "disease" of setting up men with younger women was created where no disease existed before. Now NASI has the cure for a disease that never needed to exist! I'd say it was a scam from the very beginning, except I don't think the people who "hold" this way are smart enough to think it up.

Anonymous said...

Pogrow's style of writing is familiar to me - it is the yeshiva style of emoting/writing. I know many people who express themselves with emotion first, then a little specious reasoning thrown in, just a dash. I would not recommend dealing with him, not because of his writing style, but because he has offered no one to recommend him. No name, no one to step forward and say, I know this man and he is financially trustworthy. I don't know Pogrow from Adam, and who in their right mind would give thousands of dollars to a complete stranger who comes with a sob story, preying on the desperation of young women and their parents? I hope he gets absolutely no response to his "offer" and his meaningless "money back guarantee". Who is he to guarantee himself? A chutzpah gmurah.

JS said...

I don't even understand the shidduch problem let alone this bizarre solution. If there is an "age gap" problem, which I truly find difficult to believe, then it's entirely self-created. In the secular world and even in the more LW Orthodox communities the vast majority of marriages are between men who are older than their spouses. In the US average age for 1st marriage for men is 28.4 and for women is 26.5 - about 2 years. Yet, you don't see articles about some crisis in the US about unmarried single women or whatever. And it's not because marriage isn't as important in the secular US as it is in the frum community. If there was a real problem it would be reported. Compare, for example, to China which has a REAL problem. They genuinely have too few marriable women due to restrictions on number of children and a preference (unfortunately often through abortion or worse) for male children.

The current problem, if it even exists, is entirely man-made and doesn't require any absurd solution other than simply stopping whatever led to this supposed problem. Top of the list would be letting men and women actually meet and decide their own fates (as opposed to mommy and daddy deciding for their boys and girls).

I suspect a lot of "older" singles are either too picky or keep relying on a system that sets them up with complete losers because the system has deemed them to be nebach cases. Either way, the problem is their fault. Either become more realistic or "do for yourself".

Anonymous said...


Stop pretending you invented the brilliant new idea of having guys not marry babies...I got married 11 years ago and I am older than my husband (and he was learning in a black hat yeshiva and was 23), my brother got married 16 years ago to a woman older than him and he was a black hat guy...OK, not typical, but not unheard of. And P.S., nobody knew or cared.

Anonymous said...

I have mixed feelings about this plan. However, I do give Rabbi Pogrow (who I do not know) credit for at least trying to solve what is a real issue in the community. You can argue that the NASI plan raises shaduchunes, discriminates against poor girls, and has no apparent rabbinic support or financial over site, however does anyone have a better plan?

Anonymous said...

Pogrow's style of writing is familiar to me - it is the yeshiva style of emoting/writing. I know many people who express themselves with emotion first, then a little specious reasoning thrown in, just a dash.

Religion is largely an emotional experience, with a little specious reasoning thrown in. So it's not surprising that the religious community specializes in this style of communication.

Anonymous said...

Not "the religious community". The yeshiva community Lakewood-style, and certain other similar communities such as Monsey.

Also, as far as credibility of the response as a whole, if you can't convince me in a couple of succinct paragraphs, you can't convince me. Realistic truth is brief. Emotional truth goes on and on and on..... Also, no character references is fatal to credibility.

anon1 said...

One alternative to accepting a bad plan is "wait for a good plan".

Anonymous said...

Okay, this letter explained everything! It was a clear demonstration of why there is a shidduch crisis. You take yehsivish guys who can't write English and won't even bother to ask a friend to edit a letter for them, and try to pair them with a young woman who is actually educated to some degree, and she just can't bring herself to take the guy on for life...and then people accuse her of being picky (you want it all, a black hat and an ability to write an English sentence? Oh well, you'll be 40 and single!)

Anon1 said...

Who says none (or few) can write in clear English? Evidence, please.

rosie said...

Most older women could find a BT or a FFB who has been previously married but many women at 30 still expect the same "boy" that she did at 20. In previous generations, it was not uncommon for single women to marry widowers and raise the children but today no one wants a man's baggage (children).
As to marrying off boys younger or marrying them off to older girls, it is a well known fact that girls mature well before boys do and many boys at 22 are too young for marriage. Most girls do not want younger brother types for husbands.
I do agree that everyone should widen their scope of possibilities, not for the sake of solving the shidduch crisis but because sometimes the best shidduchim are the one's that we never thought of. After a certain age, if a boy and girl are both mature adults, it does not really matter who is older.
There have always been women, and men, who remained unmarried throughout their lives. In some cases they lived in small Jewish communities where there were not enough singles to pick from.

JS said...


Whether you realize it or not, you've squarely identified a big problem that exists in these communities.

1) A woman at 30 is ancient and so unattractive as a mate to a "normal" guy that the only realistic way she can find a man who will have her is by marrying a divorced or widowed guy with kids.

2) For a woman of 30 to expect anything better is unrealistic and these girls need a heavy dose of reality.

3) Women today are too modern and liberated and should settle the same way women have always settled in the past.

4) At 22, frum males are still infantile little boys who are too immature for marriage. They're more like annoying, needy little brothers than husbands.

5) Becoming a mature adult in the frum world happens for men sometimes after 22 and for women hopefully before they hit 30.

6) Even though we don't live in little shtetlach with the next shtetle over a 2 day voyage, we just have t0 accept there's a real shortage of singles and some people won't get married.

JS said...

I'll just add that among the myriad and vast problems with this "solution" (and I use the term very loosely), is that the director acknowledges that shadchanim make very few matches that end in marriage. He says a full-time shadchan is lucky to get 7 marriages a year. The best of the best are lucky to make 23 a year. That leaves 2 possibilities: 1) There are literally hundreds and hundreds of shadchanim to marry off the thousands of frum youth that get married every year or 2) very few people who marry (regardless of age) are actually successful with shadchanim.

If there were hundreds of shadchanim you'd think the obvious solution would be to set aside some of them as catering to an "older" crowd. If the latter, then what the heck is the point of this? Even young kids aren't finding success with shadchanim.

I'll just end by saying that just because a problem hasn't been solved (assuming there's even a problem) doesn't mean you should try any dumb solution that comes down the pike.

Here's my solutions to the tuition crisis:
Everyone gives me $20,000 when they have a child and I'll hold the money till the child is ready for kindergarten and pay their tuition in full every year through high school. You don't have $20,000? Wouldn't you lie, cheat and steal if eliyahu hanavi told you to come up with $20,000 to have your child get a guaranteed Jewish education? This is our children's neshomas! Is $20,000 too much to pay for your child's neshama? Trust me, it will work. Big rabbonim say so. Which? They asked I not say. But, trust me.

rosie said...

many girls don't attract shidduchim because their fathers can't support a kollel lifestyle. Can Moshe Pogrow do something about that?

Yitzchak and Rivka said...

Here's what my family has been saying ever since the whole "age gap" theory has become so popular:

According to the Midrash, when Yitzchak married Rivka, he was forty years old, and she was only three. Therefore, Yitzchak started the age gap, and we've been heading downhill ever since!

(Hey, I can use dumb "logic" too, if I want!)

*25, single, and okay with it!*

sethg-prime said...

Over the last two years we as a community have collectively expended inordinate amount of time energy and resources on all kinds of wonderful and important issues. R’ Shalom Mordechai Rubashkin, the boys in Japan and others.

Apparently the author believes that single women would not only beg, borrow, cheat, or steal to pay for a guaranteed shidduch, but they would also exploit illegal immigrant labor or smuggle drugs.

Anonymous said...

For those who say "women are ready to be married at 18 but men aren't until 24":
Why? What are we doing wrong with our educational system and social environment so that these men are merely boys with beards? We need to look into this phenomenon and figure out why.

Why? Why are mere children, girls of 18/19, "ready to be married"? Are they really mature enough? Are they able to raise a family or will there be a cycle of grandma/bubbe taking care of the eldest grandchildren? Will that be healthy for the grandchildren? Are these children ready emotionally to have children on their own?

Why? Why are are forcing such young girls into "adulthood" before they are ready? Why are we telling them that they are "nothing without a husband" and their goal in life is to be married with kids. Is our educational/BY system failing the girls too? What about growing personally and individually before marriage? No, I don't mean trips to India. But what about discovering who you are before trying to raise other kids? A brain isn't fully formed until they are 21 or so. Do they really have a sense of logic and reasoning when they are still children?

ps. I am involved in the family psychology field... hence my focus.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the modern orthodox are immature. In a yeshivishe family I know, two young girls of 19 were ready for marriage and were married at 19 and had their first baby the next year. They also studied for occupations with baby and now hold down full time jobs as kollel wives. How do they do it? Ich vais nisht! But they were certainly mature enough to take all this on at 19. In chassidishe circles marriage at 18 or 19 is the NORM for girls, to a boy one year older. As one chassidishe girl told me, "By 12th grade you got to get your act together." [meaning you can't remain a kid, because you're going to be evaluated for marriage in the next year]." A knowledge that responsibility is expected of you is a great motivator to "get your act together".

Psychological generalizations fly in the face of real experience with this population, yeshivishe and chassidishe.

Another actuary said...

NASI has been a rotten apple from the start. They developed their statistics based on flawed data, and when confronted they finally admitted to it, but continued business as usual.

The problem is, that while the educated and analytical segment of Orthodox Jewry sees through them, the naive and trusting segment sees them as the Messiah. And the latter segment is the vast majority of RWOJ, which is the "target market".

Resistance is futile. We can argue logically and point out flaws and shortsighted thinking until we're blue in the face, but we are just labeled detractors. I've emailed Pogrow extensively, but his attitude is either agree with him and you're one who "gets it", or disagree with him and you're "missing the point". As if.

The only tactic that works with him is to throw straw man arguments and confuse the issue. Accuse NASI of making everything up to raise the marriageable age of women in order to cut the OJ birth rate, and he starts to rant like Donald Duck. Unfortunately, I don't believe in stooping to use such tactics.

What I do believe is that someone close to NASI has decided to capitalize on the reputation they have built. While everyone is still doing everything NASI says, ask for tons of money and then disappear.

Superintendant Chalmers said...

Can you please elaborate on the flaws in NASI's data, who confronted them, when they admitted it etc. Is this written/published anywhere?

What are the flaws in their data? Also, are you saying that the age gap is not a main cause of the "shidduch crisis?"

JS said...

"Maybe the modern orthodox are immature. In a yeshivishe family I know, two young girls of 19 were ready for marriage and were married at 19 and had their first baby the next year. They also studied for occupations with baby and now hold down full time jobs as kollel wives."

I'm sorry, but I have to step in here. Not because I'm particularly offended as a MO person, but I feel compelled to point out that if the tables were turned and the first sentence was "Maybe the [RWMO or Yeshivish or Chassidish or Chareidi] are immature" people would fly into a frenzy and accuse the commenters of bias and prejudice and complain to SepherdiLady that her blog is becoming a haven of hatred and anti-frumkeit and anti-religiosity. Just think about that, please.

To my main point: this depends on your definition of maturity. In my personal opinion it doesn't take an awful lot of maturity to agree to marry someone that is hand-picked for you after a handful of dates that barely let you know the person's favorite food let alone how they think and behave and react. It doesn't take an awful lot of maturity to participate in a wedding and dance with your friends. Nor does it to not use birth control and get pregnant right away just like everyone else you know. Nor does it take a lot of maturity to get the same education and job skills as everyone else and enter one of the 3-4 "approved" professions every other girl does. And not an awful lot of maturity to become a kollel wife like everyone else and continue to live your life just like everyone else.

Just my opinion.

I think a Modern Orthodox girl who has the freedom to explore the world, date how she chooses, live where she chooses, go to university if she chooses, study whatever profession she wishes, not have to sacrifice for the sake of conformity and no having to do whatever everyone else does takes a lot more maturity. Going to university and working to help pay tuition, taking on student loan debt, going to graduate school to become a professional, going on dates and having a relationship, paying bills and living on your own, discovering what you want out of life...etc. That takes a lot more maturity in my opinion.

psychobabbler said...

Well said J.S.
I am part of that "yeshivish" circle (and am the anonymous of 10 AM.). I see many in my circle get married at 18/19 who are quite immature. Unable to hold down a real job, don't know what being "employed" means, don't having a budget entails ect. Students from my class in high school who were completely inept at doing anything on time, handing in assignments (the ones you hated being as part of your mandatory group)ect. Yes, school is not life. But it is a stage of life to pass through and grow from. These girls didn't and now they have children. I would hate to be these 3 year old's teachers...
These 18/19 year olds still rely on their parents to pay the bills. They live in a fantasy-land type of marriage where Mommy and Daddy pay for them to live in Yerushalayim for 2 years and then to Lakewood for 6/10 years. Mommy and Daddy budget for them, pay their bills, bring them home for every y't, and don't make these kids take responsibility!
How is that mature?

Nephew of Frum Actuary said...

Another actuary:

I'm also interested and would like to see the numbers. I agree this proposal is not a good one, but the age gap is a real issue (and my uncle the Actuary says this as a Davar Pashut).

JS said...

How exactly is it a "davar pashut" (simple/obvious matter)? I have yet to see an adequate explanation of this. As I pointed out earlier, the norm in society in general is men around 2 years older than their wives. I don't see an "age gap" in general society. The only time I've ever heard of population dynamics causing issues for marriage is in China where through population control and selective abortions there are genuinely too few women for men to marry (which many believe will lead to social unrest, but that's another story).

The basic premise seems to be that there are fewer males born in year X than there are females born in year X+2 (assuming all men marry girls 2 years younger than them) so some portion of girls born in year X+2 will never ever get married. There are so many assumptions here that need to be proved, but instead you just keep getting the words "age gap" thrown in your face as if that answers all questions.

tesyaa said...

JS - the premise is that the frum community is multiplying so rapidly that there are many more children being born each year. I don't know if the effect is that pronounced. The frum community is proud of its birthrate, so it is almost seen as a point of pride that the age gap would occur in the frum world, but not in the rest of the population.

It's not so clear to me. There are so many other dynamics and the frum world is not large enough that the statistics can be credible. If every single male married a female exactly 2 years younger, and no one was removed from the dating pool for other reasons, it might hold water.

Maybe the whole thing is a plan to cover up for the possibility that boys go OTD more than girls? I have no idea, but it seems as reasonable as the "age gap" explanation.

Mark said...

JS - Yet, you don't see articles about some crisis in the US about unmarried single women or whatever.

Of course you do!!! Plenty of them, and not only as a general statement across society, but also within various niches. Here are some examples -

Are New York's Savviest Single Women In Crisis? -

The Solution to the Single Black Woman Crisis (satirical, but this particular crisis may be talked about even more than the OJ shidduch crisis) -

Crisis facing single black women -
There are 1.8 million more African American women than black men ...

Japan has a different kind of problem. Over the past generation, it has become acceptable for women to have high-powered careers (as opposed to being mostly subservient to men as their tradition dictates). And most of those women are choosing not to get married, and as they age they more and more intend to never get married. Here's an old article that mentions it - Some excerpts:

Fifty-four percent of Japanese women in their late 20s are single, up from 30.6% in 1985. About half of single Japanese women ages 35 to 54 have no intention to marry, according to a survey in January by the Japan Institute of Life Insurance.

The author of Kekkon Shimasen (I Won't Get Married!), Haruka abandoned her own plans for marriage a decade ago when she realized her fiancé wanted her to give up her career and lead the traditional life of a Japanese housewife.

Sakai says Japanese society still thinks there's something wrong with unmarried women over the age of, say, 30. She calls spinsters like herself "losing dogs." But fewer and fewer women care about tradition. "I know I'm a losing dog," Sakai says, "but I'm quite satisfied with my life."

In Italy, for example, there is a specific description for sons who return to their parents home after serving in the army and/or attending university. And more and more sons are doing just that, and remaining in their parents homes into their 30's and even 40's in many cases!

Superintendant Chalmers said...

There are many factors which distinguish the frum community from the community at large, and which negate any proof brought from the community at large.

For one, the world community doesn't place as much importance on women getting married. So maybe there would be an age gap crisis in theory, but many single women in the world at large are just not interested in getting married as much as their frum counterparts are. IOW, such a crisis can only occur in a world/community where EVERYONE must get married. (And I'm not just referring to the attention people pay it, but the dynamic itself of an age gap causing such a crisis.)

Bottom Line- it's extremely silly to say "but there's no age gap problem in the real world..."

Anonymous said...

*OTD men
*gay men in the closet
*men with neurological impairments

Yes there are OTD women, lesbians in the closet, and females with neurological impairments, but I'd be willing to bet that the rates are higher among men than among women (and for neurological impairments population studies bear this out)

Another actuary said...

@Superintendant Chalmers and Nephew of Frum Actuary

First of all, I regret that I cannot substantiate what I said about NASI retracting. I have a firm memory of reading online somewhere early on (most likely on YWN, where Pogrow haunts) a discussion in which the flaws in the data were questioned. The conclusion of the discussion was that Pogrow admitted that the statistics were not developed in a reliable manner but that it doesn't matter because "the conclusion is obvious even based on mere anecdotal observations". The latter sentiment is one I hear all the time now. Perhaps I can spend some time searching and post a link.

I will be happy to elaborate on the flaws themselves. This is all off the top of my head, so please excuse any minor errors (but point out any major ones you see).

The core of the "age-gap" data is a comparison of two Avi Chai surveys of Jewish day schools (K-12). The first survey was in 2002 and the second was in 2005. The observation was made that there were significantly more 1st graders in the 2005 study than in the 2002 study. Mutatis mutandis for most (or all?) other grades. From this, NASI concocted a "population growth factor" of roughly 3% per annum. Assuming the 3% is a valid assumption, the age-gap theory is indeed a "davar pashut". I'd be a fool to disagree.

However, the comparison of the studies is only valid if it is a closed study, i.e. the group surveyed in 2005 must be the same group as the one surveyed in 2002. This is not the case, as is clearly stated in the document accompanying the 2005 study. Firstly, there were additional schools added to the 2005 study (and I believe one school that dropped out). I was able to remove the data from the new schools though, so that I was looking at more or less the same group. However, this is when the major flaw appeared:

Although there were definitely more 1st graders (for example) in 2005 than in 2002, there were also more 4th graders in 2005 than there were 1st graders in 2002 (and mutatis mutandis for other grade pairs)! By all logic the 4th grade in 2005 should be the same as the 1st grade in 2002, just a bit older. I remember speaking to Marvin Schick about this (I made his acquaintance many years earlier), and his explanation was that the studies were not done with the type of controls you would need for a true scientific statistical analysis. There was also no accounting for influx and outflux of students within the collective school system itself, i.e. public school children who switched to day school, immigrants and emigrants, skipped grades or held-backs, and the like. Essentially what NASI did was take a set of data without understanding it and use it for a purpose that it was not intended, nor suited.

Since I do not have any data to prove what the population growth is, I can only offer my thoughts and feelings on how significant the age gap is. I will not falsify statistics to reinforce my position. I think that a 3% CAGR is an aggressive assumption for population growth. Yes, we are building more and more schools and expanding communities, but not at the rate of doubling every 24 years (rule of 72). While Lakewood grows, Flatbush thins out. I think that it is true that our community is growing, but if I had to guess at a rate I would say it is 0.5% to 1.0%. We are not bacteria. I repeat, we are NOT bacteria.

Nephew, the numbers are readily available on the internet. Please have a look (and show you uncle, if he hasn't already seen them) and get back to us. I'm sure it's possible for us to have differing opinions, but let's make sure we have the same information first.

Thanks, and sorry for being so long-winded.

JS said...


Sure. The difference is those people are either single by choice (and aren't blaming some "age gap" or other theory) or there's a genuine and very large gender population disparity as in China.

rosie said...

Let's send 100 boys and 100 girls all born the same year to Shidduch Island. Let's leave them there for a year and have single's gatherings nightly and full time shadchanom on hand to assist in the formalities. Who would want to bet that at the end of the year, there would not be more than 25 marriages occurring from this stint on the Island? This means that each boy or girl has 100 to pick from, at the same time that everyone else has 100 to pick from. Some will be very popular and some will be very unpopular. The top boy may be sought after by at least 50 of the girls while the guy least likely to succeed might not be getting offers.
There are folks out there who have dated upwards of 100 people so lack of opportunity was not the reason for their remaining single.

JS said...


So what's the takeaway? It's hopeless? Not sure what I'm supposed to understand from your post. Are you saying it's inevitable that some people will never marry so there's nothing that can be done?

The problem I see from what you wrote is this notion of a "top boy". If everyone is taught to look for the EXACT same qualities in a mate then yes you're going to have plenty of problems as very few will fit that mold. So, if that's what's going on here, that should be rectified. Whether "top" for a boy is ability to learn non-stop for 15 hours straight or "top" for a girl is being a size 0 and cooking and cleaning and taking care of a family while never complaining. People come in all shapes and sizes and with all sorts of likes and dislikes - vive le difference.

I'm not sure what to make of someone who literally dates 100 people and doesn't think a single one is marriage material. Either they didn't get to know them very well, they're too picky, or these 100 really are the bottom of the barrel.

The fundamental problem is condensing the entire process of deciding whether you want to marry someone down to 1-2 dates (not that you're married after 1-2 dates, but that you have to make the critical decision to go on another date which requires thinking "do I want to marry this person?"). Firstly, it takes a long time to really get to know someone (as opposed to their "date persona" for example). Secondly, people change and grow together (for example, someone who now thinks I'm making aliyah and will only date someone who has a similar goal may end up really liking someone who doesn't want to make aliyah and decide this really isn't that important after all).

To the last point, I know several people who really liked the person they went on a date with and the attraction was mutual, but the other person had a "rule" that they won't go on a second date with anyone who doesn't also want X - X being aliyah, living in a big/small community, living tri-state area/out of town, full-time learner/part-time learner, etc. In my opinion this is just foolish. It's amazing how quickly people compromise and change their opinions on certain matters when they really want to be with someone. But, these people never even open themselves up to that chance. "Compromise" - the heart and soul of marriage - is a dirty word in the dating game.

rosie said...

JS, the takeaway is like this; it may not be at all about statistics. The "good" girls come home from sem at 19 and start looking for shidduchim at around 20 or 21. At that point, the boys who are 22 or 23 are still a bit wet behind the ears but they are put out there anyway. By age 24, at least 75% of the boys are married, ready or not. The girls are looking for maturity and they often won't find it with the boys. The boy's parents know that their son is not exactly a breadwinner yet and want to make life easy so they want a girl whose parents have money. If they have a "top" boy, they will get the girl with the money. "Top" usually means looks, brains, personality, and possibly also money. Frumkeit also fits in there somewhere but some girls may have to put up with something that the seminary didn't prepare them for.
Then, you have your humble folk at the bottom who see themselves as nothing special and they settle for someone like themselves and live happily ever after while their "top" counterparts chase after something that everyone else is chasing, giving the illusion that there are no decent boys.
By age 25, maybe 15% of the boys are still single and by 30 maybe it is about half of that, let's say 7%. Maybe some of those older ones have issues that have held them back and some people should probably never get married because they are drunks, abusers, women who would cheat on their husbands, etc.
Maybe the solution is to let everyone wait until their mid-twenties, learn, get some job training, get a job, know what they want out of life, etc. Maybe parents should try to figure out what is really best for their kids rather than just do what everyone else does for the sake of looking good for the neighbors.

Another actuary said...

Or maybe the solution is trial marriages, like some indigenous South American cultures have. The "too young" boys and girls can marry initially for the learning experience and get their foolishness out. Learn something about the opposite sex and about which things in life actually matter. Then a few years later they can marry for real, based on real values instead of superficial ones.

Nephew of Frum Actuary said...

"Since I do not have any data to prove what the population growth is, I can only offer my thoughts and feelings on how significant the age gap is."

As usual, differing assumptions change the output of the model. I believe ASB 23 (3.7) might apply.

In addition, if one assumes that the increase due to "external factors" is multiplicative (or maybe even additive, when you think of the causes!), then the age gap still stands.

Also, I don't know how the Avi Chai survey broke the data down by sector. MO families have fewer children than Yeshivish (I think we can take as a given, without a study :-), so the rate of increase for "shidduch only" children is higher than the total increase.

I would agree that the data may not be as complete as possible, but the trend is there, and you see it in the consistent school size increases (especially in the Yeshiva World).

Disclosure: I have not seen the Avi Chai data myself.

tesyaa said...

In addition, if one assumes that the increase due to "external factors" is multiplicative (or maybe even additive, when you think of the causes!), then the age gap still stands.

The age gap due to external factors is difficult to quantify. What assumption do you use for the age difference at which outsiders "join" the community? Do males and females join in equal numbers? Are more people joining each year?

The external factor is irrelevant for one reason: very few FFBs, especially from the Yeshiva World, as you refer to it, are willing to consider marrying a baal tshuva.

rosie said...

marrying a BT may be the only way that a 30 something woman will find a match.

aaron from L.A. said...

maybe the answer is removing the ban on mixed dancing....

tesyaa said...

Rosie, there are thirty year old women who would rather die lonely spinsters than marry a BT or a ger. You and I both know that.

Ariella said...

Actually, I don't think most are like that, tesyaa. One of my relatives married a BT that she probably would never have gone out with when she was single the first time around. But after returning home after her divorce just a month or so after marrying an FFB, she had to be open to other dating options. They've been together many year now. I imagine happily

rosie said...

I have seen both: the lonely spinsters who would not marry "down" and those who married BTs, gerim, and previously married men. It is sad when women make those choices but we can't blame a shrinking male population for that.
Some women wasted years waiting for older sisters to married and they were basically "agunot" to older sisters who would not agree to let them marry ahead. In some cases they found shidduchim soon after they were "freed" (either the sister married, or agreed to let the younger one go, or other things occurred)and in other cases, they took a long (relative term) time to find shidduchim.
What I am basically trying to say is that numbers don't tell the whole story because many women had lots of choices and it is hard to tell if more choices would have made a difference. Years ago people were limited to what was available geographically but today if a boy lives in the North Pole and the girl lives in the South Pole, they could still meet. They all feel entitled to the same few boys though and won't consider anyone else.

Another actuary said...

@Nephew of Frum Actuary

Do you mean ASOP 23? I think I addressed that when I described how I made enhancements to the data but still found it unusable.

Since you haven't looked at the data yourself, you haven't really offered an alternate viewpoint. Your argument is based entirely on anecdotal evidence, of the same kind the average layperson believes is a validation of NASI. Mere word on the street. I encourage you to use your specialized skills to develop an opinion of your own.

I do not deny the growth trend - I explicitly stated that - my issue is with the factor being overblown. Give me your actuarial opinion on the validity of NASI's assumption, and see if you still disagree - I won't make you sign a PSAO :)

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