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December 19, 2003 - Image 25

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-12-19

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Single Crisis

Orthodox tackle matchmaking emergency.

Jewish Telegraphic Agency

New York

avid Smith believes Orthodox
ewry is facing a crisis — and
a communal day of fasting
and prayer, like those held
occasionally about violence in Israel, is
needed to address it.
The crisis: Smith and thousands of
other Orthodox Jews still are not mar-
"Why don't they have a fast for people
who are single, to say tehillim or some-
thing?" Smith said, referring to psalms.
"The first mitzvah in Bereshit is prni
u'rvu," he said, specifying the command-
ment in Genesis to "be fruitful and mul-
'Among the singles themselves, there's
no direction of what to do. Something
has-to be done."
Smith, 50, was one of 300 singles,
parents and community professionals to
turn out for the third annual Shidduch
Emergency Conference in New York.
Organized by the National Council of
Young Israel, the conference addressed
what many community members say is
a growing problem.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that
Orthodox Jews are marrying later in life
than their parents did, alarming many in
a community that is preoccupied with
family and Jewish continuity.
Sociologists say single Jews are less
likely to be active in Jewish communal
life than family members, and commu-
nity leaders are worried that a later mar-
rying age will translate into fewer chil-
dren. At stake, some say, is nothing less
than the perpetuation of Orthodox
"It's a huge problem all around the
ountry," said the president of the
rthodox Union, Harvey Blitz. "The
'family is really the center of existence in
e Orthodox Jewish community. So
eople are obviously very pressured to
et married, and the intensity of the
pressure only increases when you get
Folder. >,
For singles, the inability to find a mate
can trigger depression, cause stress in
relationships with parents and significant
thers, and alienate them from the corn-
"The reason why it's a crisis is, for the

people who are impacted, it becomes the
single most dominant factor in their
life," Blitz said. "And there's inadequate
community structures for helping them
to meet people to marry. ),
The recent conference in New York
was part-networking event, part- sympo-
sium and part-workshop. Matchmakers
were on hand to interview prospective
mates, psychologists talked about over-
coming fears of commitment and rabbis
instructed attendees about what to look
for in a husband or wife.
Jacob Weinberger, a middle-aged
immigrant from Belgium, came to the
conference to help find an Orthodox
wife for his son, a U.S. soldier stationed
in Hawaii.
Sessions included a seminar on med-
ical and genetic issues to consider when
selecting a mate, a symposium on how
to package oneself to become an attrac-
tive marriage prospect and a workshop
on navigating Jewish dating Web sites.
Susan, a divorcee in her late 20s, said
she came for one simple reason. "Let's
cut to the chase," she said. "The desire
to get married." Susan has met with
matchmakers, gone to singles events and
tried speed-dating. Still single, she hoped
the one-day symposium would help her
"gain a new perspective."
The event was held Lincoln Square
Synagogue on Manhattan's Upper West
Side. Filled with young Orthodox Jews,
the Upper West Side has become some-
thing of a singles mecca, drawing thou-
sands of young Jews seeking mates.
Some say that's just the problem.
"It's become acceptable to be single at
an older age," said a woman named
Helen. Its too comfortable to be single
on some level."
Nearly everybody at the conference
seemed to agree that Orthodox Jews,
like Jews and Americans generally, are
marrying later in life. But opinions dif-
fered on why Orthodox Jews were stay-
ing single longer — and what could be
done about it. -
"Maybe they think there's somebody
better around the corner," said Bonnie
Keller, a mother who came to the con-
ference to help others in her community
meet mates or find mates for their chil-
dren. 'And if they're older, maybe they
say: I've been around for such a long
time, should I really settle for this?"
SINGLE, on page 26

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