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MAILBAG: The Refusal To Fix Our Girls Chinuch Framework Is Dooming Countless Women

As a recent graduate of a mainstream Bais Yaakov school in Lakewood, I find myself in a unique position to address a specific aspect of the pressing issue of the shidduch crisis within our community. While I do not have any brilliant solutions to the crisis, I have two suggestions for changes in how we are being educated, which I believe would alleviate some of the pain of women who are unfortunately affected by this crisis.

Firstly, I have recently observed discussions by notable Torah figures and shadchanim questioning why many young women only want to marry a “forever learner,” when there are many less actual “forever learners” then women who desire that.

It is important to recognize that our educational upbringing instilled in us the value of this lifestyle as an ideal. We were taught that dedicating oneself to Torah study is a noble pursuit, and there are indeed many women who are committed to leading such a life. If it is indeed the reality that there are fewer men who want to learn for many years than there are women who want that, then something must change in the education system which does not even consider another option. The discussions seem to “blame” the women who want this as being picky, when this is exactly what we have been taught our entire lives!

Secondly, an important change that needs to occur within the chinuch system for girls is the reassessment of the narrative that our sole purpose in life is to be a wife and mother. While these roles are undoubtedly important and meaningful for many, the unfortunate reality is that not all women will fulfill them. For a woman who sadly does not meet a partner in life, it is important for them to know that they still have a purpose and can lead an impactful and meaningful life instead of feeling like they are stuck in a stage where they do not belong.

I would like to emphasize that I am speaking from personal experience as someone who has been to a mainstream Lakewood elementary school, high school, and Bais Yaakov seminary in Eretz Yisroel, and this is what I was personally taught throughout my entire Bais Yaakov education.

Again, while I cannot think of a way to solve the crisis, we need to look at the reality of the current situation and expand our chinuch system to include both the option of building a toradig home with a working husband, as well as that of living a meaningful life single.

NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of YWN.


(YWN World Headquarters – NYC)

26 Responses

  1. I agree with your first point in a big way. Solid working guys want to get married too. And so many “learning guys” are only sitting in yeshiva because they feel they won’t get a shidduch otherwise. Meanwhile, as single girls get older, like 25-26, they get jobs, they make money, buy themselves a car and nice things, and they’re overall wordly and sophisticated. When they do out with the “full time learning guy” who’s been sitting on the back bench in Lakewood for the past five years, not growing personally or professionally, with no money of his own, and little world experience, they have literally nothing in common.
    Schools need to stop pushing the full time learning/kollel life as the only way to get married. It’s not settling to marry a guy who works, even for a good, solid Bais yaakov eheliche girl. That’s what are foremothers have done for millennia
    Your second point will be less of an issue if we can solve your first point.

  2. What are we going to do when we run out of rich fathers in law? In every generation there are few Gedolim but many Baale Batim. A generation with all chiefs and no Indians is not possible. Kollel is not for everyone but marriage and building a bayis neeman b’Yisroel is. Yes, the Bais Yaakov approach must change.

  3. Someone who doesn’t learn for at least a year or two after marriage is a bum. It is for a reason that the American yeshivish community is so much more educated and that we have higher standards for Torah and hashkafah than other communities around the world (outside EY). It is because our working guys went through at least some kollel, which elevates their whole outlook on the world and makes them better Jews when they go into the business world. A working guy who even the years before marriage rarely comes into contact with learning except for maybe a 30 min daily online daf simply doesn’t compare to a guy who is in kollel for a year or two and then goes out to work

  4. Wow! Finally a girl with some common sense who’s not afraid to say what so many are thinking. I’m from a different generation and we married working boys who were koveah itim yet still earned a parnassah, so that we were able to stay home and raise our children. Sadly, by the time my girls went to school they too were brainwashed to believe that a “learning boy” was the only way. Those same daughters quickly became disillusioned when they were mothers, breadwinners, combined with pregnant and vomiting. We have created an unsustainable system precisely because this is what our girls have been inculcated with for 12-14 years. I won’t propose a solution, since I find that futile, but I do wish I had a son available for the writer since I’d love this outside the box, individualistic thinker for a daughter in law.

  5. The universality of kollel is a huge violation of Torah value. It is an agenda pushed by yeshivos and girls schools. and changing that message in our community is a huge undertaking. Even if our gedolim were to institute something, it would still mean a generation of haggling until a new value took hold. The author is correct in noting that this is not going to change easily, and the hope is not very strong.

    Every Yid wants to do their best at Avodas Hashem. Most people I know do not have a yetzer horah that pressures them to eat chazzer or chometz on Pesach. So the yetzer operates differently. It is much easier to sell something as a “mitzvah” than to convince a frum Yid to brazenly go against Ratzon Hashem. This can be done with the Kollel yungerman refusing to help his wife because he needs to learn. And it is not difficult to picture many such scenarios. Well, one of them is the myth that full time learning is for everyone. It was never true, and nothing changed – except that the myth is worshipped everywhere.

    It is time that we sang the praises of the working Bnei Torah instead of only doing so at fundraising dinners where they get honored. They should be respected for following the derech of Torah she’yesh imoh melocho, and being the nehene mi’yigeah kapoh.

  6. I have been saying this all along. I don’t think it is the age gap or freezer crisis. There ARE boys out there, but not enough learning boys to equal the amount of girls that want “only learning boys.” So this is where I disagree with Nasi on. Instead of getting rid of the “freezer” Maybe it is time to change the mindset of the typical Bais Yaacov girl, that, working boys are okay, or maybe even try to bring the OTD boys back, or make sure they don’t become OTD in the first place!!
    My proof is 35 years ago, there was no such thing as a “kollel lifestyle” or it was a rarity back then. When I was dating I was looking for a Shomer Torah U’Mitzvos mentch. My friends all got married. I cannot think of anyone who is still single to this day from my class. While the kollel lifestyle is admirable, it should not be the only option for Women to look for in a man. If he gets up and davens, has a set time for learning and has a job, it shows he is a responbile human being. Maybe the girl should look for that in a boy.

  7. If we can all be honest and admit that most of us would not be here today if our grandmothers were only looking for a learning boy. Just two generations ago post holocaust it was more important to get married to a shomer Shabbos girl and provide for a family. Now the girl has to be gorgeous, skinny, have a masters degree and be willing to work full time while having babies every two years. Those who just want to be a homemaker and a good wife will just have to wait around 10+ years until someone is willing to “settle” on her. Too many children are in therapy today because parents are too busy fulfilling their careers than giving time to their children. They are being raised by overflowing day cares B”H but left to cry alone. This is not how our grandparents raised their children.

  8. Your first point has some merit. There are some quality working guys, who are only different than the learning guys in the fact that they are working. However, today when the “style” is to sit and learn, it is fair to ask why a boy is working – and if it has anything to do with an underlying lack of appreciation for תורה values. You second point I have brought up only to be shouted down with “How could you so that…..”. Our Torah leaders – Roshei Yeshiva and Rabbonim (if they really care) need to become trend setters by marrying off their sons to “older” girls. It drives me nuts when I see all of these people grabbing 18/19 year old girls off the plane when it is clear to everyone what churban (literally) this is causing.

  9. Writer has hit the nail on the head. Also, 90% of the workers I know are learning 4 hours a day, none of it spent wasting time in the coffee room. A significant portion of the people I know who learn all the time are complete amei aratzot.

  10. I also believe this system is being bought by shadchanim. Tell them you are a playgroup Morah (before marriage) and they won’t suggest you a name. Many, many girls get their degrees in order to get a Shidduch. Many girls end up becoming babysitters, playgroup Morahs or stay at home mothers when life hits them and their husband end up leaving Kollel and getting a job after a quick Amazon or Real Estate course. Yes Kollel 1-2 years is good but I guess shadchanim don’t know those guys…

  11. Kudos to the writer for this important letter, in which important and valuable points are made.

    Torah is #1, of course, however, what does that mean exactly? Fulfilling Torah? Learning Torah? Quality? Quantity? גדולי עולם have taught us that there is an inyan of ביטול תורה באיכות, meaning that if someone can learn Torah on a high level, and, instead, they suffice with something lower, that is bittul Torah. There are people who learn less hours (such as people who work for a living as well as learn), less quantity, but their learning is on a much higher level than some people who supposedly are only learning. Their having less time for learning makes them much more serious about it, and they cherish it even more. Basically quality trumps quantity.

    This writer and the נשים צדקניות that are with her on this should know that they are going on the true path of Beis Yankev! When Sarah Schenirer started her movement, they didn’t teach the kollel for all forever philosophy. Now it is true that the world since then has deteriorated further in ways, and we therefore need to take additional steps to strengthen Torah and Yiddishkeit. However, that doesn’t mean that everyone must be in the exact same mode, pushed into a straitjacket of Kollel for all forever. The main thing is to be an ehrliche Yid. Some people can do things somewhat different, but if we are all on the same page basically, אי”ה we will be okay.

    Let this writer and those like her go in the way of אסתר המלכה, Soroh Schenirer, and other נשים צדקניות, and save כלל ישראל from getting פארבלאנדזהעט.

    Time to go back to the old Beis Yankev way.

    והקב”ה יצליח דרכך

  12. Wrong on both points. The shidduch crisis doesn’t change the main purpose of the creation of Chava & all women since. This was to be an eizer knegdo & be the aim kol chai. The shidduch crisis is a numbers problem not an idealogical problem. There’s only a small number of working boys who are bnei Torah & yorei shomayim. The shidduch crisis won’t be solved in the least by changing the chinuch ideology.

  13. The Shidduch crisis is a numbers issue not an ideology issue and can not be changed by changing ideologies. That being said the author is correct that adding additional levels of requirements only exacerbates it further.

  14. I don’t know much about the Chasidishe system, but from what I know, it proves the writer’s point. My impression is that long term kolel is more rare by the chasidim, and they have the opposite problem with too many single guys.

    The big question is how to make a change. I would guess the only way is to get some big name Roshei Yeshiva on board and give speeches in Bais Yaakovs. It would certainly shake up the hanhala and the teachers would have a hard time calling the Rosh Yeshiva an oisvorf. The honest Roshei Yeshiva know the score that a small minority of their talmidim are cut out for long-term. learning and many are in it for the ride.

    I strongly recommend the letter writer make an appointment either with big name Roshei Yeshiva or the donors to these yeshivos

  15. ת”ר ללמוד תורה ולישא אשה ילמוד תורה ואח”כ ישא אשה ואם א”א לו בלא אשה ישא אשה ואח”כ ילמוד תורה אמר רב יהודה אמר שמואל הלכה נושא אשה ואח”כ ילמוד תורה ר’ יוחנן אמר ריחיים בצוארו ויעסוק בתורה
    Honestly, I don’t understand the argument they’re making. It seems like it’s about getting married relatively younger but carrying the financial burden or, rather, getting married later on and being able to do so without any financial distraction. But it does seem that there’s a barometer that they both agree to, that being married is inseparable from carrying the financial burden which is incumbent on the man.
    But wait, if what we consider a “forever learner” is someone who is not affiliated with the business world at all, then what’s the argument here?!? We would say just get married and never get yourself a job or carry the financial burden?!? Just let your wife do it for you! You just sit and learn all day!
    Are we more Frum than the Tanuim?
    Even for them, this idea was straightforward: part of being married and having a family is being responsible for all the family’s needs!
    If you ever read through your כתובה, which I hope you did… part of what you commit to is to support the family with all their needs. Food, clothing, Etc… “ואנא אפלח ואזון ואפרנס יתיכי”
    So why is a man who will get any type of job to be able to fulfill his commitment and responsibility considered inferior and second-class?!?
    Think again…

  16. A thin ray of light shines through the thick cloud of brainwashing that the charedi world has been using to envelop the poor young women. This combined with how we infantalize our little boys (yeshiva “learners” who don’t understand productivity). Never in the history of planet earth has this been going on before to this extent.

  17. About your second point,
    Your avodah at any given moment is to serve Hashem in whatever role Hashem put you into.
    I am not convinced that it’s entirely the school’s fault when a woman believes that her only purpose in life is actualized through being a wife and a mother. Part of that belief is reflected off of society that seems to largely believe that. Also, many women have that belief because it is the nature of most women to want to be nurturers, mothers and to want to have a husband. Obviously, there are always outliers, but I don’t think you can blame the school for an innate understanding that so many women seem to have naturally.

  18. Couldn’t agree more. I think the vast majority of girls are coming out of BY schools more frum than the boys and not even willing to go out with a boy not on her level. Which may include expectations for full time learning and flip phone and yeshiva mentality. As opposed to the boys who I would hazard a guess of maybe 50% interested in full time learning, many just because they think that’s expected from them and it’s certainly easier than getting a *gasp JOB. Single learning boys in my community get dozens of names a month. Fabulous Girls? Maybe 1-2 names a year. I think there’s a huge huge discrepancy in the schooling system where many boys are getting turned off of religion and girls are turning into female rabbis.
    In my opinion this is exactly causing the crisis of older single girls. We can’t turn back the clock but I would love to see schools emphasize marrying a man who is Machshiv Torah and maybe actually try to take proper care of the kids instead of working 9-5 and leaving all her kids with sitters. I think the system is broken entirely. It went too far and now we are at the point where we are hurting kids and ending up with a single crisis.

  19. “A significant portion of the people I know who learn all the time are complete amei aratzot….”

    Perhaps hang out with a better class of yungerleit….recent studies have proven conclusively that ignorance is transferrable

  20. Yanky 1998. The writer is complaining about “forever Kollel boys”. It is OK with her if he wants to learn for 2 years before going out to earn a living. But not for his entire life.

  21. Please keep in mind that these ‘forever learners’ happen to be learning Torah and their zchuyos are protecting us and the soldiers fighting in E”Y. Many of these “forever learners” are learning lishma with great mesirus nefesh day in and day out.
    Even if your points may be true, please don’t devalue the great things these people are doing- especially now with all the garbage we’ve been hearing about them due to the new draft law coming up.

  22. The problem is that when the bot learns enough to understand that ehrliche work is also Torah, he is only capable of doing amazon businesses. Responsible Parents, after reading this, should make sure that their sons know math and the local language like Rambam did
    If the school is not helping, change the school or do whatever it takes yourself

  23. At every Chassunah the Chassan gives a Kesuvah to the kallah. That is the document where the “Chassan” obligates himself to support etc. Even in the circles where the girl and boy exchange wedding bands, the Kesuvah is written – a Kesuvah which obligates the husband to support. I’ve never seen any wedding where the Kallah gives the Chassan a Kesuvah and obligates herself to support him. The system is broken! We’ve come to view a working boy as a second class where in fact he is a first class follower of Toras Moshe as it was given on Sinai.

  24. This past summer, there were 40 incidents where Working/Learning Bochurim whom were Kohanim were encouraged to date גרושות; they were told that these were the only single women open to dating non-Full Time Learners.
    As we all know, it is an issur d’oraisa for a Kohen to marry a גרושה.
    How low have we sunk??

  25. The author of this opinion piece clearly has a head on her shoulders. she is 100% correct on both points (to the best of my knowledge).

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