Over the course of the past few days, feedback to the NASI game-changing shidduch project has covered the spectrum from extremely positive to extremely negative, to even nasty, (as we had expected). So far, almost every unhappy person who has made the effort to call has changed their attitude towards the project.
NASI recognizes that no one has all the answers and values everyone’s feedback. NASI’s programs are regularly tweaked to try to accomplish maximum results. That being said I realize that it isn’t realistic to speak to everyone on the phone, and hence this letter. In this letter we will deal will the goals of the project as well as the various objections that have been raised. As such it is crucial that it be read in its entirety.
In order to understand this program the overall framework in which the program was created must be understood. Once the overall framework is understood the details of the program as well as clear answers to all the questions will be presented.
1) Let’s begin with a technical 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 number of available 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.
This is a tragedy of epic proportions with colossal ramifications.
(Note: This does not mean any individual woman will not marry. There are many boys out there, however, 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 tragedy?
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 an island with 100 boys and 100 girls on it, 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 have 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 chassidishe 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 2,200 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 (of both boys and girls) are consistently larger than the older age groups. So long as young women get their passport to the island at 19 and young men only get it at 22.5 we will have a situation in which every year more young women than young men begin dating. Thus even if every single boy gets married to a young woman, there will be 200 young women 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’derech HaTeva, the only way to alleviate the problem going forward is to close the Age Gap. This has and continues to be the sole focus of the NASI Project: to alleviate the shidduch crisis by closing the age gap. During the past four years no stone has been left unturned in trying to make this happen.
The following steps have been taken to accomplish this goal:
Educating the community as to the core problem. Without this absolutely no significant progress or change can be accomplished.
(Great strides have been made)
Breaking the stigma that previously existed against marrying a young woman the same age or even a bit older.
Wonderful progress has been made, as attested to by shadchanim, mothers of boys, mothers of girls and girls themselves
Figuring out a 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.
Encouraging shadchanim to keep ages in mind when redding shidduchim.
Encouraging shadchanim to focus on the girls who didn’t just start dating instead of spending almost all their energies on 19/20 year olds.
If/when shadchanim focus on young women who didn’t just start dating, inevitably more close-in-age shidduchim will take place. If a 23 year old boy is redd to fifteen 19 year olds and two 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. This past March (2010) an extremely effective program was launched in Montreal. It has now spread to Toronto, Chicago, Kew Gardens, Prospect Park High School, Machon and 50 shuls in Flatbush/Five Towns and Far Rockaway. It will imy”h be coming to Monsey and Lakewood in the near future.
The concept is that Shadchanim don’t make shidduchim. Shadchanim set up dates.
The program is simple. A shadchan who sets up a young woman (above a certain age) on a date receives $100 in appreciation of the time and effort that is goes into redding that shidduch. If it’s a quality idea, (ie, the couple goes on a significant number of dates) the Shadchan receives $400. This money does not come from the parents, they don’t necessarily even know about the program.
When it was initially launched it met with great resistance. Though the initial resistance was huge, B”H the results of this ongoing program have, to date, been fantastic. The young women have received a tremendous amount of shidduch attention, as measured by: dates gone out, monies distributed to shadchanim, (and yes engagements as well, although that is a poor measuring stick because that is not in the shadchans hands). Quality attention is what we are after.
Let’s now discuss the present program.
Hypothetically suppose Eliyahu Hanvi told a 22 year old young woman that if she would give $5,000 to a particular cause he would guarantee she would be married in six months.
What would any young woman do?
Suppose he told a 30 year old young woman that if she donated $11,000 to to a particular cause she would be married by Chanuka.
What would the young woman do?
You know and I know that every single young woman would beg, borrow, or do whatever it takes but she would put the money together.
A). A young woman girl feels it’s worth that amount.
B). A young woman could come up with it.
NASI isn’t Eliyahu Hanavi. We don’t promise a wedding, 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.
What’s the risk–losing the .025% interest the money would accrue in a savings account?
A young woman can try it for a month. If nothing happens she can take it back. Every penny. The $500 management fee will be returned as well as the entire sum she put in. 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 the amount get higher each year? It’s degrading, insensitive, and thoughtless that for each additional year the program costs more.
Suppose the program was for young women 25+ and the shadchanus would be $5,000 regardless of age. Shadchanim will tell you that generally speaking the work involved in helping to bring a 35 year old young woman to the chuppah is significantly 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 as it is for a 35 year old, then very few shadchanim would opt to put their Kochos into the older woman.
Q: Why does it start at 22. It’s so insensitive to make the 22 year olds to feel like they are “older” or nebach cases.
It’s not because the 22 year olds are Nebach’s. The vast majority of shadchanim (probably well over 80% of both the full time/part time) barely spend any time on the young women 25 and up. This is because the larger pool of dating young men is 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 paid 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 focused only on those 25 and older, shadchanim would 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
Q: What about the girls who can’t afford.
Granted it is difficult for many to come up with that type of money. However the money will only be spent if the young woman marries as a direct outcome of this program. There are not many people who cannot put together that amount of money if that is what it will take for them to get married. In addition, this is an opportunity for any 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?
Contrary to what many people believe, making a shidduch is a lot of work. For every successful attempt there are far more failures. Based on our understanding of how many shidduchim a full time Shadchan can expect to make in a year we calculated how much it would take for it to be worth the shadchan’s time to focus on this population. Granted, this is a very rough estimate, however, under the circumstances this was the best we were able to do. If anyone has any concrete ideas as to what the real numbers should be we would love to hear them, and yes, the program may have to be tweaked. If the numbers are a bit off and a young woman gets married and it “cost” $6,000 and it could’ve happened for $4,500, that’s $1,500 that perhaps wasn’t necessary. On the other hand if it does “cost” $6,000 and the program only mandated $4,500 the consequences are considerable.
In addition, if this program doesn’t help in any significant way then it will disappear, go the way of New Coke, and be forgotten very quickly.
Q: The feeling people have is they are being blacklisted if they don’t participate and no one will help anyone not joining
In the event that 50 girls join the list would every other girl be blacklisted? If 150 girls join the list would other girls 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 wildly successful and young women are getting married left and right. In that case, I think it’s kedai to beg, borrow, or somehow get together that sum to get your daughter married.
Only time will tell if the program will work. If it works (meaning girls join and girls get married) then all is good. If it doesn’t, meaning either girls don’t join, or they join and don’t get married, then no harm. No one spent any money other than NASI on some ads.
Before I answer the final question regarding the names of the Rabbinic supporters, a word regarding shadchanim is critical.
This whole article, and perhaps the program itself, has the potential to paint shadchanim as heartless money hungry mercenaries. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
In speaking to people I’ve asked them how many shidduchim they think a typical very busy Shadchan makes in a typical year. The responses were very telling, most ranged from 50 to 300 a year.
These numbers are totally out of touch with reality. The typical very busy Shadchan makes six or seven shidduchim a year. A Shadchan that makes six or seven shidduchim a year has forfeited his/her family life, has no menucha, can’t go to weddings without being bombarded, and is called and besieged at all hours of the day and night. In addition people are often upset at them for not calling back or doing more. For a typical shidduch a shachan receives from both sides together between 2,000 and 3,000 dollars. For six or seven shidduchim a Shadchan is earning a total of a whopping $12,000 to $21,000 a year. On rare occasions a Shadchan will receive more for a shidduch and often he will receive far less than $2500.
There are three kinds of full-time shadchanim:
1) Those who are so prolific that they actually make a parnassah sufficient to support their family. There are perhaps 4 such people in the country. They make 20-25 shidduchim a year, and are often hired by cities. In addition there may be people who “hire them privately”. With everything together they put together a parnassah to pay their tuition (barely), grocery bill, etc.
2) Shadchanim (usually women) whose spouses make a good enough parnassah to enable them to spend their time as they wish. Some women are good souls and instead of spending any spare time shopping etc., have dedicated their lives to trying their utmost to help make shidduchim. However, there are not many women who are not called on to help support the family and are good at making shidduchim as well. Of those who could, what would motivate a regular person to choose for themselves the lives I’ve depicted?
3)People who are either insane or saints. Their families really need their parnassa, and they don’t earn a parnassa from shidduchim. Yet they are cut from a different cloth then the rest of us and they do it anyway. It would be great if we could clone these people but realistically the number of people like this can be counted on one hand. (unfortunately, many subconsciously expect everyone who redds a shidduch to be such a person).
Now we wonder: Why don’t we have more people redding shidduchim and why so few focus on slightly older, singles.
The answer should be obvious now. Who can afford the time it takes to dedicate hours and hours to redd shidduchim in general? Bringing a 30 year old young woman to a chuppah takes significantly more work than making a shidduch for a 20 year old. For the time and effort shadchanim are putting in they would like to at least shep nachas. Forget the two or three thousand dollars. They would at least like to see a shidduch happen. Isn’t it clear why we have so few people who dedicate their time to this? Why the VAST MAJORITY of those who do try are severely limited in the amount of time they can spend?
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 are today.
2)For the young women today who already are at an age at which they are now in a less than optimal shidduch situation, this can give them the opportunity to get as much shidduch attention as others, 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 the reasoning behind that directive.
Far greater than any of these programs that are in the public eye is the work behind the scenes, work that has the ability to practically completely 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 so many girls. The “Daas Torah,” if you may, behind the NASI Project 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 too long and the victims of this inexcusable situation are the precious Bnos Yisroel.
Rav Shmuel Kamenetzky Shlit”a and 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.
Over the last two years we as a community have collectively expended inordinate amounts 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 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 years we want to be able say yadeinu lo shafchu es hadam hazeh.
I hope that those who read this article in its 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 the hope and knowledge that the yeshua is very attainable.
NASI Project – [email protected]
NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of YWN. By publishing this article, YWN is not endorsing the NASI Project in anyway.