Posts Tagged ‘Shidduch Crisis’

When Violent Criminals Are Orthodox

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We were all shocked by the horrific murder of an 8-year-old boy just a few weeks ago. Like everyone else, I’m sure you asked, “How could that man be Orthodox and kill another human being? Isn’t murder against the Torah?” Our best answers boil down to, “Yes, murder is against the Torah. Therefore, he must not be Orthodox.” So we put the word Orthodox into quotes when we describe the murderer, and it makes us all feel better.

However, there is something more here. This is not the first time we have seen violence from people who live an Orthodox or frum lifestyle. We were also shocked a few months ago when a young Skverer man threw a firebomb into the home of a neighbor who preferred to daven elsewhere, and not at the main synagogue in New Square. The victim was badly burned and narrowly escaped with his life. His family was also lucky. But we all asked, “Who DOES that? So they daven at a different shul—big deal. We would never try to burn down a man’s house—and certainly not with the people inside!”

But the violence doesn’t end. This past week, a disgruntled advice seeker in Israel came back to kill the rabbi who gave him advice. He showed up and just stabbed him to death. Why? He said the rabbi had failed to solve his marital problems. Let me tell you, if this guy had that kind of murderous rage in him, believe me, he had more problems than just marital problems.

Speaking of marriage, why was that rabbi and his wife holding that guy hostage in their Lakewood home, beating him and threatening him? Yes, the Torah suggests we should “beat” a man until he gives his wife a get, but who really does that? And well, last time I checked, assault was a crime in this country. And yes, that rabbi and his wife were arrested.

What is going on? It’s hard to say it, or even accept it, but it appears that we are seeing an upward trend in violent crime among those who live an Orthodox lifestyle.

Yes, there was always the isolated story here and there, but these stories just don’t sound that isolated any more. People are angrier, and they aren’t afraid to show it.

But, you may say, “Jews are the ‘People of the Book!’ We’re a gentle nation, we’re always the victims, and we wouldn’t hurt a fly!” Not so. We need to open our eyes to the violent among us. Leiby’s murder was a rude awakening. If we were naïve before, we are no longer naïve. We can no longer trust a person by virtue of the fact that they lead an Orthodox lifestyle.

So why this upward trend? What’s going on in the Orthodox world that wasn’t going on before?

My theory is that the pressure to “get married/stay married/have kids/marry them well,” has become way too strong in the Orthodox community. It has reached insanely high levels. It is a prescription that not everyone will, can, or should follow. For many individuals and families, the shidduch crisis, homosexuality, divorce, infertility, illness, and death are realities closer to life.

But the pressure stays on. Get married. Stay married. Have kids. Marry them well. And the mental health issues in the community keep growing. We’ve all heard about eating disorders in the Orthodox community, alcohol abuse in the Orthodox community, domestic violence in the Orthodox community, and kids “at risk” in the Orthodox community. This new trend of outright violence is only another piece of this bigger picture. It turns out that we are a complex group of people, and we unfortunately share many ills with the general society in which we live.

As our community’s mental health is frayed, so is our educational system. We put all our stock in Jewish Education, but it keeps failing us. There are the kids dealing drugs a block from the school, the ones texting on shabbos, and others always getting kicked out from one yeshiva or another. And we keep paying through the nose for it all, hoping, hope upon hope, that our kids make it out okay, and, well, marry well.

And though we can’t afford the lifestyle, we somehow scrounge around enough money to impress our neighbors. So now, we’re not just trying to keep up with the Joneses. We ARE the Joneses.

And to top it all off, we have the added pressure of learning Torah, supporting Torah, living a Torah-lifestyle, and making sure that people know we’re doing it. Because if we do it, but nobody knows, we don’t get credit for it.

Our lifestyles are way too twisted to make any sense.

If they don’t make sense to us, they certainly don’t make sense to our kids. We’ve put ourselves between a rock and a hard place and then we wonder why we can’t get out. We wonder why our community is failing, why our schools can’t improve with all the money we’re putting into them, and why our mental health is in a downward spiral.

We need to relax the pressure to get married/stay married/have kids/marry them well. We need to realign our values such that life is not a show of money and frumkeit. We need to show our kids authentic Jewish experiences that make sense to them. And we need to realize the message we send our kids when we’re confused ourselves.

We need to come together to address serious issues in the community’s mental health. The events organized by Chai Lifeline after Leiby’s passing were a great first start. But the issues run deep, are worldwide, and they require ongoing attention.

These terrible acts of violence are indicative of a community at a breaking point. We need to unite not just in shock and horror, but in proactive efforts to make Orthodoxy viable as a lifestyle in our generation and the next.

May the Torah be a comfort to us, may we seek peace among our neighbors, and may each of us sit under our date trees in tranquility.

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The Real Crisis: Shidduchim and the Generation of Choice

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Ever heard of a “segulah bed?” For those of you who haven’t, I’ll explain. When someone marries and vacates their bed in an apartment of friends, it is seen as a segulah that the next person to sleep there will get married as well. No joke, people say this.

Instead of segulahs, we need real-world solutions to resolve this shidduch crisis. And I don’t advocate relying on the old shidduch system either.

What’s wrong with the old shidduch system?

For the most part, girls just sit and wait for a shadchan to call. Just. Sit. And. Wait.

Guys, on the other hand, have lists and lists of girls. They randomly pick from those described as pretty. And sometimes, they go out with the one whose shadchan happened to call right after the last bad date.

I think guys just have so many options, they don’t bother to go out with a girl more than once.

This happens in more “modern” circles as well. When I was single and living on the Upper West Side, I used to call it the Head Turning Syndrome. A guy would come to OZ, see a girl he knew he liked, and chat with her for a few minutes. Then, while he’d be standing there, another girl would walk by who looked potentially more interesting. He’d drop the first for the second, and the second for a third, never settling on any one girl long enough to get to know her.

I am convinced there are more girls than guys available in the dating pool, but I also think guys are not willing to really commit.

Why can’t guys commit?

We are the generation of choice.

We were brought up on constant choices. Even our discipline offered choices everywhere we turned: Either you stop throwing your toys, or I will take them away. Either you stop yelling, or you will go to your room. Your choice. Then, as we grew up, we also had loads of every day choices that our parents actually listened to: Do you want a Nintendo game or a camera for Chanukah? Do you want pizza or Chinese tonight? Do you want to apply to this school or that school?

Previous generations had nowhere near as many choices as we had. Our grandparents grew up with the mentality that you listened, you followed, you did, because that’s all there was. And that was the only way.

Unfortunately, this “choice, choice, choice” culture has led us to a crisis in shiduchim. You can have this girl with the stellar academics, or you can have this girl, smart (not stellar), but she’s prettier. Or you can have this other girl, stellar academics AND a great job. But she’s not as pretty. Hm….how to choose?

I liken this decision to the experience of purchasing a cell phone. This one comes with anytime minutes, but has no keyboard. This one has a keyboard, but no touch screen. This one has a touch screen AND a keyboard, but requires a two year service agreement. How in the world is one supposed to compare these things and make any decision?

It’s like comparing apples and oranges.

In the end, guys just continue to turn their heads again and again (I’m sure by now they’re dizzy!) and they never get to the real experience of commitment—the real hard work of cultivating a relationship.

Here’s what I propose. We should create a new rule—a new choice, if you will:

You date twice or you don’t get dates.

That’s it. Shadchans won’t set up guys who don’t go out again. And friends won’t let friends go out with such guys. Let’s make it a social rule, as strong as the rules that the guy picks the girls up, and that he pays for dinner.

Let’s get these guys to really give girls a try. Then maybe our shidduch crisis won’t be such a crisis after all.

But for those of you who still like “segulahs,” here’s a story about another segulah:

A single friend of mine once went to a separate-seating wedding. As she sat down on the women’s side, someone came up and offered her “segulah bread,” bread from the chassan and kallah’s table. She explained to my friend that if she eats the bread, it is a segulah that she will find her shidduch. My friend looked at her and said, “You want a segulah that I should get married? It would have been more of a segulah had they seated me at that single men’s table over there!!”

I agree with my friend, and I think segulahs are silly, but what do you think?

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