Leading Gedolim & Dozens Of Roshei Yesivah Sign Letter Encouraging Closing ‘Age-Gap’ In Shidduchim

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shteinmann.jpg[ACTUAL LETTERS IN EXTENDED ARTICLE] This week, a letter signed by over 65 roshei yeshivos in the United States, as well as Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman and Rav Chaim Pinchos Scheinberg, has been made public. The letter points out that the primary cause of the difficult shidduch situation is the fact that boys typically marry girls who are a few years younger than they are. Since every year the community grows, bli ayin harah, there are not enough boys for the more numerous younger girls. Those extra girls are left out, Rachmana litzlan. The only way to prevent this from continuing is to have boys marry girls who are close to their age. Then, everyone will have a chance, as the number of boys and girls would be equal. (It is interesting to note that in the Chassidishe world, there seems to be no such problem of hundreds of older single girls, because their shidduchim are usually close in age, so there are enough boys available.)

Thus, the roshei yeshivos are calling on all members of the community to give preference to shidduchim in which the ages are close to each other, i.e., the age of the girl should be within a year or two of the boy’s, or the girl can be even older. Similarly, they urge those who are considering shidduchim to give preference to a girl who is age twenty and above. The roshei yeshivos also ask of shadchanim, and all others involved in shidduchim, to see to it, as much as possible, that the ages of the boy and girl are close. The letter states that shadchanim should work primarily for girls who are age twenty and above, and that shadchanim who go further and assist older girls will merit double s’char.

THE BACKGROUND TO THE LETTER

Approximately five years ago, a handful of people came to the realization of the core issue that was causing the shidduch crisis, a concept now popularly referred to as “the age gap.” The problem was brought to the attention of Rav Shmuel Berenbaum zt”l, rosh yeshiva of the Mirrer Yeshiva, who immediately declared, “Mir tor nisht shveigin” (We cannot be silent). With the help of ybl”c Rav Meir Hershkowitz shlit”a, rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Bais Binyomin of Stamford, he assembled an emergency meeting of roshei yeshivos. On the 13th of Kislev 5766, an asifa of approximately 30 roshei yeshivos from the New York Metropolitan area, as well as Scranton and Baltimore, converged at the home of Rav Shmuel. Although the asifa yielded no consensus on how to solve the issue, a clear commitment was made to tackle it with the seriousness that it deserved.

2.jpg[CLICK ON IMAGE TO READ ENGLISH KOL KOREH] Approximately five years ago, a handful of people came to the realization of the core issue that was causing the shidduch crisis, a concept now popularly referred to as “the age gap.” The problem was brought to the attention of Maran Hagon Rav Shmuel Berenbaum ZATZAL, rosh yeshiva of the Mirrer Yeshiva, who immediately declared, “Mir tor nisht shveigin” (We cannot be silent). With the help of ybl”c Rav Meir Hershkowitz shlit”a, rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Bais Binyomin of Stamford, he assembled an emergency meeting of roshei yeshivos. On the 13th of Kislev 5766, an asifa of approximately 30 roshei yeshivos from the New York Metropolitan area, as well as Scranton and Baltimore, converged at the home of the leading Rosh Yeshiva of America, Rav Shmuel Berenbaum ZATZAL. Although the asifa yielded no consensus on how to solve the issue, a clear commitment was made to tackle it with the seriousness that it deserved.Fast forward two years to Erev Yom Kippur 5768. Rav Ephraim Wachsman shlit”a, in a teshuvah drasha that was broadcast to thousands of people, brought the issue to light and strongly encouraged bochurim to consider shidduchim with girls close to their own age. That Sukkos, the first ads promoting the NASI Project, a highly successful initiative which is committed to actively encouraging close-in-age shidduchim, were published in newspapers.

The present letter is a follow-up to a letter from rabbonim published in Kislev 5768 which encouraged shidduchim with older girls and shidduchim that are close in age. In that letter, Rav Aharon Feldman shlit”a, rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Ner Yisroel, reported the words of the posek hador, Maran Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv shlit”a, that someone who marries an older girl has the merit of “ruach chachomim noche heimenu.” Gedolim in America, including Maran Hagon Rav Shmuel Berenbaum ZATZAL, and HaRav Zelik Epstein ZATZAL, added to this encouragement for any shidduch that is close in age. This current letter is an effort to continue in this vein.

1.jpg[CLICK ON IMAGE TO READ LASHON KODESH KOL KOREH] Boruch Hashem, the various efforts are yielding tremendous results and it is the hope of the roshei yeshivos that this letter will further the cause and continue to help each and every bas Yisroel find her appropriate zivug.

(Chaim Shimanovitz- YWN)


41 COMMENTS

  1. #1 if you noticed the date on the letter you’ll see that it was signed עשי”ת תש”ע. And it is not a Takana just a suggestion. And it says to give preference to older girls. I imagine the reason is because as shidduchim go, each case is different and its impossible to make a blanket one-size-fits-all rule. For the same reason I don’t think its so appropriate to judge like that.

  2. Exactly how many years apart is a problem?

    If I read this correctly, they would hold boys marrying girls 3 years younger is a problem to be corrected . . . and they believe this is the cause of the “shidduch crisis” Astonishing!

    Though secular science, and therefore by chareidi definition mere Antisemetic-Anti-Torah-Liberal-Pro-Obama-Shtuss, it needs to be pointed out more girls are born than males – for every 1000 children born 512 are girls, and the ratio of male births to female births is approximately 1.05.

    According to an article published under authority of San José State University in California, the explanation for this is simple. The X chromosome is longer and hence heavier than the Y chromosome. The male cell carrying X chromosomes, which conceive females, are struggling under a heavier burden than those carrying Y chromosomes, which conceive males.

  3. Unless there is a substantial movement (either “in” as in baale tseuvah, or “out” as in “off the derekh”) that affects only one gender, this is demographically ridiculous. Such gaps are normal and nothing to get excited over.

    The reality is that in most societies men tend to be older when they get married (probably since men gain the ability to take on adult roles more slowly then women, i.e., most 18 year old men are incapable of supporting a family, whereas most 18 year year old women are quite capable to start have babies).

  4. This letter is very important. The Gedoilm have spoken. Much Hakoras Hatov is due to the Askonim who worked to arrange this, they should be gebentched with much Hatzlocha!!!

  5. “Encouraging” wont make a dent in solving the problem, the boys dont want to marry a girl who transgressed “ben shmona esrei l’chupah” while they themselves wait till 22-23.
    The obvious solution is to get married earlier, why do we have to different the the heilige tanaim, the gemorah says ben shemonah esrie l’chupah. And most Litvish boys in EY get married around 19-20
    and still sit and learn so it proves that pou can still sit and learn after you get married young.

  6. You are correct that this cannot apply to all situations. But the concept is great and has been proven to be helpful in alleviating the shidduch crisis. Girls are being given a chance to date a whole new market of boys previously unavailable to them.
    Yasher Koach to the Nasi Organization for bringing the age gap issue to the forefront and for providing a viable solution.

  7. In all due respect to all the Rabanim and everyone else who thinks that the big shiduch problem is the age gap… that will help matters a bit but i (along with lots of other people)realize that the real cause of this crisis is that all the boys are asking for MONEY!! and most average families cannot commit to support for however many years these boys want… and the reason why there aren’t that many older girls in the chasidishe circles is because first of all, it’s much more accepted by them for the men to go out to work once they’re married so they don’t need support and secondly, if the guy does want to learn the support is split between both sides. if this would be done in all circles then i think this will help the problem a lot. i’m sure there would be plenty of boys who won’t ask for that much if their parents have to help out too.

  8. why dont we marry the boys off at 18 or 19 years old that would solve the problem. but telling boys to marry older girls is not going to work in my humble opinion

  9. The arithmetic is wrong. If every boy married a girl two years younger than he was then there would be exactly one girl for every boy anyway.

    And it cannot be that just ‘all of a sudden’ boys started marrying younger girls so there was one machzor of girls that got left out. They’ve always married younger girls.

    There’s something really wrong with this article. Not to mention the fact that anyone is entitled to marry anybody they want.

  10. To explain this issue in greater detail is very simple.

    If the orthodox population grows at a rate of 5% each year then with a 22 year old bochur and 20 year old girl – there will be 10% more females in the population who are two years younger than the males who go out with them. Thus 10% of the females will only get married, if they marry someone their age or younger or else there will be a problem.

  11. #3 False! there are actually slightly more male births born in the North American Causcasiona Comminity (based on hospital birth records. Not enought to compensate for a 3 year age gap but enough that if the average age gap would be one year the crisis would be alleviated.

    #8 Due to population growth the younger grades are much larger than the older grades. Therefore the pool of 19 yr olds is much larger than the pool of 22 yr olds. (boys and girls). Problem is that the 19yr old boys aren’t dating yet. (if boys dated at 19 there would be no crisis, see the chassidishe velt)

    #11 Money, Looks, etc. are a derivative of the problem NOT the cause. If there are 10 boys and 20 girls (slight exaggeration) certainly the girls with Money etc. may have a advantage. If the numbers were equal than Money etc. would play much less of a role. At the end of the day the boys want to get married and “take what they can get”. If the numbers are equal they have much less leverage.

  12. I think that the fact that so many single girls are not getting redt shidduchim are one of the biggest problems regarding the “Shidduch crisis-If you don’t have the right connections, lots of family, and are not wealthy people aren’t really interested in dating people like that.It is really sad the way shidduchim has turned out in our generation.If a girl or boy didn’t go to Yeshiva or Seminary x, or if they don’t have a known name out there people aren’t too keen on dating them!

  13. You know I re-read this article and there is indeed an ‘age gap’ causing some number of girls to be left out. It depends on exactly how many more children are born every year. Sorry for that previous post.

  14. i dont have a child of marriagable age and i am not a shadchan so you will excuse my ignorance however what i have seen in the few shidduchim cases that i have followed has nothing to do with the amount of boys/girls out there but in attitudes of people. since time immemorial there have been more girls than boys and there was always a shidduch crisis for many people as a matter of fact in europe it was a shidduch crisis for the boys because nobody wanted to be mishadaich with yeshiva boys. but while many years ago the prevelant attitudes by most people were “take what you can get”. today the attitude is to be very particular both as far as the hyphenating of social groups (hymish–) done by people and espoused by shadchanim, and as far as people just needing more and expecting more (remember the days when many homes had one wage earner–that ones gone). the dynamics are in our attitudes as a community. if that doesnt change the shidduch crisis won’t either. the number count are nice for actuaries but in real life there are plenty of boys and girls to go around.

  15. It’s the gap! And all this time I thought many girls are left single because bochurim are being instructed to marry RICH girls only to support their learning. Silly me!

  16. #21 How many boys do you know who are 28 because they are still looking for the rich girls??

    TRUE $$$ plays a factor as to WHICH girls get married, NOT how many…

    Perhaps the rich girls get married first, but there are only so many girls that fit that criteria; and yet (almost) all the boys seem to be getting married…..

  17. This is a very krummer cheshbun (lefee anee hesdarti) – the girls who are 18 have more guys to marry then the guys who are 20 – because a 18 year old can marry a 19 yr old, 20,21 and above – a 20 year old guy cant marry a 24 year old girl – very krum

  18. Hi All,

    At first read I was also confused about how this will help, but then I thought it out and will try to explain and share the logic the way I understand it now.

    As can clearly be understood the pool of singles gets smaller and smaller as the age rises. Meaning for example, let’s say the class of ’09 (who are all 18 years old) has 20,150 graduates (10,000 boys and 10,150 girls). All are single.

    At first, by age 20 there are more girls married then boys (let’s say 4,000 girls and only 1,000 boys). This leaves 9,000 boys and only 6,150 girls.

    By age 22 3,000 girls are now married and 2,500 boys. Now the total is 6,500 boys and 3,150 girls.

    By age 24 there is a real change occurring. Now 5,000 boys are married, but being that they want girls between the age of 18 – 20 the amount of girls married is now drastically low. Let say only 1,000 of these girls get married. The score is now 1,500 (boys) vs. 2,150 (girls).

    Age 25 – 27. Now things start to really go down hill! The boys age starting to be considered an older Bachor, but not yet a RED light, just Yellow. However, by the girls this age is a REAL RED LIGHT and many wont even consider going out with her. The tally is now 750 boys married vs a mere 250 girls. Thus we are left with 750 boys vs 1,900 girls. Did I mention that half these boys are marrying girls ages 20 – 22?

    Age 28 -30. Warning lights are going up on him, and she is now consider a meis mitzvah to marry; especially when you consider that her clock is running out! 350 boys are now married while only 150 girls. Tally now at 400 boys vs. 1,750 girls.

    Getting the picture yet?

    The point being is that as girls get older they become less desirable quicker than guys and now with guys demanding girls that are far under their age it is exacerbating their plight.

    This is only one angle. I will show another angle in my next post.

    Look below.

  19. The oilam just isn’t getting it….

    If we accept that the younger grades are larger than the older grades

    that =

    every more girls entering the shidduch pool than boys……

    How is it that the boys after 3 yrs (25 yrs old) almost all boys are married and yet the girls after 3 yrs (22 yrs old) many many are still single….

    Its NOT rocket science…

  20. Assuming my first post made it, here’s another angle.

    The typical marriageable age for girls today is 18-20. Although the average age for boys today may be 21-23, the problem becomes that the 24 – 27 year old guys are vying from the same pool of girls (18 – 20 year old) that the 21 -23 year old guys are picking from. This leaves out many of the girls 20 -24 years of age and as they get older there delima exasterbate.

    Thus, if the older bachurim will be more realistic and be willing to marry girls closer to their age in time the problem will hopefully rectify itself.

    I hope this helps others understand.

    As far as the complaint about money, that is definitely a valid point, but I assume the Gedolim are working to change things step by step. Right now the age gap is causing more harm than money. Bottom line, the guys usually wake up at one point and realize that not everybody has money, but a 20 year old is a 20 year old and a 24 year old is 24 YEARS OLD!

    May Hashem have Rachamim on these girls and help them get married.

  21. All the other factors mentioned above are true. They contribute to the cause of the crisis. But, they only serve to accelerate the main problem – namely the numbers problem – the age gap. If we focus on closing the gap, that will help solve the crisis. The other factors should also be dealt with – but the main problem is the age gap & we need to heed the words of our Gedolim & try to close it!!

  22. Here’s another angle to explain the numbers:
    We all know that our community is growing quickly due to large families, ble”h, and the righward “shift” which is well known. If you break that down it must mean that the is some significant growth from year to year (this can be seen by looking around at number of classes in our chinuch system -kein yirbu). Let’s say it’s 4% annualy.
    Now if every single bochur would marry someone three years younger than him then at least 12% would have to be left out. Because there are 12% more girls than available boys(4% annual growth times 3 years). e.g. 100 boys at 22 and 112 girls at 19 if all the boys marry those 19 yr old girls then 12 will be left. Next year those girls will be only two years younger than the new 22 year olds and they won’t be considered (bc all the new boys will marry the 19 year olds of next year not these girls who would be twenty.)
    Now, of course some boys get married later age 23+ and some marry close in age or even older, but what is important is the overall average. this can be demonstrated by the following: consider splitting everyone into two groups 1 with 3 year gap (with 12% remainder) and one with 2 year gaps (with 8% remainder) the total will be a remainder of 10% which is the average gap (2.5) times the annual growth (4%) the same follows if you split into a hundred groups with all sorts of different age gaps.
    So, since we all know that the overwhelming majority of our shidduchim have big gaps and we don’t have hundreds of boys marrying 3+ years older than them to balance things out it should be plain that we have to encourage shidduchim close in age which is what all these gdolim are saying.

  23. #4 for you the posuk says “hanistaros laheshem elokeinu vaniglos lanu elvaneinu”. We have to do what the torah tells us to and whatever results is what’s bashert.
    The Rambam says explicitly that part of chesed is to help people get married we all know that and thats why b”h there are so manny org. trying to help yesomim and yesomos get married. We also all know how much effort was put into helping agunos like Maran Rav Leib wrote. No one ever said “it’s all min hashomayim” cf. bava basra 7a similar question about helping poeple who hashem made poor by turunusrufus harasha; Rav Akiva’s answer there applies to us – Hashem created this situation to give us a zchus of working to fix it in order to gain olom habba!

  24. BBI, You explained it very well.

    To all those who think that boys looking for money is the reason for the problem. Those boys are looking for money because they can afford to look for money. Because of the age gap there are much fewer boys than girls in the marriage pool. It therefore becomes a sellers market. The boys are the big Metziah and the girls families will pay so that their daughters can get married and not remain single. It’s like when there are very few homes for sale and many buyers. A bidding war takes place and those that can give the most money get the house. I always wondered why with the Chasidim they never demand 100% support and instead almost always go fifty/fifty. Now we know. They don’t have an age gap (it is very common for 18 year old boys to marry 19 year old
    girls) and therefore there is no bidding war and families can go 50/50 which is fair and just.

    The organization NASI deserves a big Yaasher Koach for publicizing this issue and bringing it to the forefront in our community.

  25. The age is one issue. The other is the reluctance of FFB families to take in a BT or Ger as an chosson or kallah for their son or daughter.
    I know of many gerim and they are having a hard time- even though in many ways they are much stronger in their yiddishkeit than their FFB counterparts.

  26. There is one factor that no one is addressing. Is a 19 or 20 year old boy mature enough, responsible enough, and emotionally stable to get married. It is one thing to get them married; it is another for them to stay married in a healthy marriage.

  27. #37 Is there any study that 23 yr old boys who marry 22 yr old girls have more shalom bayis issues than 23 yr old boys who married a 19 yr old girls?

    THAT is what the letter is asking for. NOT for boys to start shidduchim at 19/20.

  28. i have recently seen 3-4 “poorer” lakewood girls get engagaged while the one’s that are supposedly “well off” are still sitting. maybe its not money hungry boys that are to blame, but rather the girls expecting too much for that $$$.
    & are too picky- until they become old maids r”l
    i think the chasidim have less of a problem, becuase traditinally they split all the costs 50%

    but we are commaneded to listen to our gedolim!

  29. could it be that the girls 2-3 years out of seminary become too “oifgeklert” & dont want the same learning boy they wanted 2-3 years ago, while the boys in a yeshiva, still shtieging are not loosing track.
    I believe married couples have to work on this too, the men go to kollel,shiurim, speeches & shtieg, but come home to hear a diffrent story….
    women need to shtieg too!

  30. I recommend Wednesday night, age appropriate, bowling for shidduch bound men and women. (A mechitza should be installed between the lanes). The person distributing the shoes will be the de facto shadchan. This way there will be no embarrassment to any of the participants. Any participant who agrees to a shidduch will get a free game with the other person (with no mechitza).

  31. Once again YWN has let comments be added to a topic that it shouldn’t have. First of all nobody other than Gedolim have a right to argue with the Kol Koreh and even to those who agree with it, they don’t need your haskamah. As a matter of fact one is not permitted to say “right” or “I agree” with a parent or Rebbi for the same reason. They don’t need your approval.
    I would hope that YWN would take down the comment section on this topic because you are being oiver Lifnei Ivair.

  32. just a suggestion. I AM NOT A COACH>> i think the community needs to organize and possibly subsidize shidduchim coaches that can help people (that is parents, boys and girls) understand where they need to focus their realistic expectations, and where their thinking is skewed as they have the ability to uncover where people are fooling themselves or just misdirected and then this nasi project should arrange a network of coaching professionals who meet to match potentials…

  33. If as a rule, a boy who wanted to learn would only go out with a girl who could support him (because she already finished college or some other trade school), most of this problem would simply disappear.
    It is unconscionable that parents of girls have to commit themselves to at least $1200 a month in order to get their children married.
    My husband learned for more than 10 years and we didn’t take a penny from anybody – including the U.S. Govt!
    I did not get married at 18 – I got computer training and was working for over 3 years by the time I got married – during which I was able to save up some money to help my parents out with wedding expenses and to have some startup money for my new life.
    I was 22 and my husband was 24.
    I can’t say it was easy working full time (not a half day teaching) with only 3 weeks a year vacation – but we did it – and it meant a lot to us.
    If boys who want to seriously learn would be looking for a partner (wife) who could hold them out in a bakovodik manner – the girls in that category would be around 22.
    This would alleviate the shiduch crisis, eliminate the tremendous stress on the parents and also eliminate the temptation to steal from the govt and others Chas V’Sholom in order to survive.

  34. I think the problem is exaggerated by the fact that we overprotect our girls. There is a misconception among people who read shidduchim that girls are too weak and fragile to take rejection well. Therefore, they always approach the guy first so the girl will never know he said no. This makes it seem as if there is an over abundance of girls for the guy to choose from while the girl has to wait around for a yes before the guy is mentioned to her. If girls would be approached first, they would also have more guys to choose from and can pick who she wants to go out with. Once a boy hears that he got a yes, he might be more willing to go out with her even though he would have been inclined to say no if he would have been approached first.