Of late, there has been a lot of discussion in the Jewish media regarding shidduchim, and the growing number of people who are having difficulty finding a spouse in the Orthodox Jewish world.
There is much to be said on the topic, but I would like to make a simple observation that I do not recall being mentioned explicitly and that is the issue of population. A couple of point form comments to set the context.
- There are roughly 6.8 billion people in the world
- There are an estimated 13.4 million Jews in the world, that is 0.19% of the worlds population
- Out of these 13.4 million Jews, between 1.6m and 1.8m can be considered Orthodox so that is roughly 13% of the Jewish world population and 0.02% of the World Population.
- Orthodox Jews as a rule do not intermarry with Non-Orthodox Jews and therefore can only marry other Orthodox Jews.
Orthodox Judaism consists of multiple subgroups. You have the Chassidic world (Belz, Satmar, Ger, Lubavitch), the Yeshiva World, the Modern Orthodox/Dati Leumi worlds. These sub groups due to philosophical, cultural and social issues do not as a rule intermarry with each other (although there are always exceptions, usually at the border lines eg Right Wing Modern Orthodox Jews sometimes marry people from the Yeshiva world).
Now taking the Modern Orthodox community as an example, there are further divisions. The community is further polarised in terms of a wide range of halachic/philosophical issues, dividing the camp into Modern Orthodox Liberal and Modern Orthodox Machmir. The major dividing lines are around the issue of womans dress (hair covering following marriage and pants), interaction with popular culture (television, movies, internet, theatre, concerts, night life) and the observance of Shomer Negiah (the prohibition of touching members of the opposite gender). These issues in many cases preclude dating opportunities between the two camps.
Another factor to note is that in the Orthodox community marriage at a young age is encouraged and expected on a communal and social level (much earlier than the average age in America where it is 28.4 for men, 26.5 for women). As an implication, life in the Orthodox jewish world becomes more complicated the older you become, as the number of potential matches dwindles further.
So there you have it, even before you begin the search, the world is a very small place. On top of that you have to filter it to find someone who you are attracted to, have chemistry with, share common values, goals and interests and just simply enjoy each others company. If you have your own personal story (convert, baal teshuva, “older single”, race/ethnic minority, divorced, have children from a previous marriage or are a “foreigner”) things become even more complicated, exponentially so.
So there it is ladies and gentleman, the true cause of the shidduch crisis, shrinking the world from ~6.8billion people down to a couple of hundred, and thats even before you start shrinking it further with your own personal preferences…. Makes things complicated doesn’t it…
A couple of references