Guest post by R. Yonatan Kaganoff
Rabbi Yonatan Kaganoff served for many years as a Rabbinic Coordinator in the OU’s Kashruth Division and was the founding Online Editor of the journal Tradition. He has semikhah from RIETS, studied Jewish philosophy at the Bernard Revel Graduate School and serves on the Board of Advisors of K’hal Adath Jeshurun in Washington Heights.
I would like to describe particular phenomena within Orthodox Jewish communities, not to be pessimistic or alarming but rather to bring a significant problem to the attention of those who have the necessary skills, talents and experience to address these concerns.
I have a friend with whom I studied in Yeshiva who, after years of struggle and study, concluded that he no longer believe in the fundamentals of Orthodox Judaism and decided to no longer keep its commandments. However, as tragic as this may be, most singles are unlike him. They do not wake up one morning or one month and decide to abandon their previous lifestyle and its values. Rather, they have a long slow slide into a sluggish desertion of their former way of life.
There are many causes for this trend. It can be partly attributed to the fact that no one is formulating a morally orienting Judaism for single people. What I mean by “moral” is not the conventional sense of moral as in moral vs. immoral or amoral. Rather, moral as in creating a viable personal framework by which one can live his life. All humans need a morally orienting framework in order to thrive. This framework or theology defines what are good and bad choices and creates significance to those choices as well as superimposing religious meaning to all aspects of their being and all parts of their daily life.
If one is living with a Judaism that is not personally compelling or theologically orienting to one’s life as lived, then continually, consistently maintaining one’s religion in the face of challenges, large and small, is not viable.
For many singles, the Judaism of their youth and yeshiva or seminary years, slowly no longer relates to their lives as lived and they become alienated from normative Judaism as it was presented by their former Rabbeim and Rabbanim. This may also be true with some of their contemporaries with families raising young children. However, marrieds experience this phenomenon to a much lesser extent. The Judaism which most animated them no longer relates to their lives as lived.
Of course, one might rightly claim that if Judaism is true, then people should observe its laws even if they do not and cannot relate to them or the discourse surrounding them. This may be true, but it’s hard to observe a strict lifestyle to which one does not relate on an emotional, psychological or spiritual level.
In theory someone, anyone, could formulate such a morally orienting vision of Judaism. I, for one, would welcome it gladly.
This is my basic suggestion. However, as my wife has noted, one needs to distinguish between the experience of men and women. There are a number of factors which distinguish men from women in this regard. Women with more traditional Jewish backgrounds were raised on the premise that their Judaism would be fully manifested as a mother and wife. Therefore, when they find themselves being neither wives nor mothers, they recognize a dissonance between their Judaism and their lives.
In theory it is easier for men to lead a traditional Jewish life while single than for frum women. Single men could work a 9-5 job or even a 9-8 job, still learn Torah, either in a shiur or with a chavrusah and volunteer for communal organizations. In contrast, single women often can only express traditional Jewish roles by doing chesed which often infantilizes them or encourages them to play a marginal role in someone else’s family. However, in practice, very few communities, other than a handful of “singles communities,” will give significant communal positions to single men or women.
However, as any sociologists of religion will attest, women on average tend to be more religious than men by most measures. Therefore, women generally hold on to levels of religiosity longer than men when the religion of their youth is no longer morally orienting. Additionally, with some notable exceptions, women psychologically connect more easily to their future selves as mothers and wives than men do to their future roles as husbands and fathers. Therefore, even while they are single, women can relate and draw strength from a religious role which they do not yet have.
This question deserves a much longer treatment than I am presenting here. I am raising this issue to foster a discussion which will hopefully more fully address the issue and generate possible solutions.
It sounds like you want a secular, cultural based Judaism for the OTD. We had this discussion previously in another post. It’s too nineteenth century. If they don’t care about Judaism anymore, it’s best to dump everything and jump into the morass of society and not into the halfling status of other strands of Judaism. This OTD doesn’t need the Jewish community anymore, or he would at least pretend to be religious in order to keep his network of friends. My suggestion: if it works for 99% of the people, then an OTD should try another branch of Orthodoxy and not some secular brand.
Gedalia Walls: it seems you’ve comprehensively misunderstood R Kaganoff.
R. Kaganoff: wow. This post articulated exactly what’s been on my mind for the past month or so without me being really able to do so, which is unusual. There’s nothing you said I can disagree with. Excellent post!
R’ Kaganoff, Excellent post! I know exactly what you are expressing here. I was married in my early 30’s and I experienced the early phases of the “long slow slide”. I am almost sure that had I still been single in my late 30’s, I likely would have chucked most if not all religion. There is no proper place in any Jewish community for older singles. That is, other than a few very dysfunctional places that are full of older singles (UWS, Moshava Germanit and surrounding area, etc).
In my opinion, holding off on the tallit until marriage for Ashkenazi men is a bad idea.
You still fail to distinguish between halachic Judaism and what is practiced in almost all major communities, which is white picket fence traditional marriage and family values rather than Judaism. Shiv’im panim l’torah. Nothing wrong with white picket fence traditional marriage, family and Affluenza, but there is a great deal wrong in representing it as the sole expression of halachic Judaism.
Many persons simply will not live that life; some by choice, most by life’s circumstance.
Presently, no communally acceptable alternative is permitted. It makes the decision process for these people very simple. The only question is the rapidity of their reaching the inevitable conclusion.
Present day Orthodoxy practices the Russian approach to nonconformity: leave or be shot. As was the case in Eastern Europe in the 19/20 century, and a dwindling Russian population today, there is no concern that tens of millions left; only that whomever remained be identical in their conformity to the party line and narrative. The end result of that political process is inevitable as well, I caution.
As always, Judaism is a magnificent religion. It remains the people who are problematic.
I think you’re very mistaken Gedalia. Rav Kaganoff isn’t arguing for cultural Judaism, he’s only talking about the sociology of the community. It’s in line with a great deal of writing going on in the contemporary modern orthodox community that I’ve read. In some ways I think it’s trying to create a more complete consciousness of how we function as a community.
On the other hand it also sidesteps the issue of the hashkafa and message of modern orthodoxy itself. I don’t think people become irreligious just because they’re less and less engaged by the community with chesed and shiurim; there’s a whole experience of their coming into adulthood with confusions and issues that were unaddressed by everything they’d learned in high school and yeshiva or seminary. All this augments the isolation, as they find it harder and harder to talk about what they’re going through with others Your response is to write them off as people who would have left the derech anyway. I have to say that sounds a lot more haughty and defeatist to my ears…
This is me.
What was learned in yeshiva and seminary demanded am existence in a marital, familial paradigm these people are unlikely ever to share. That is not Judaism or Halacha, that is pedagogic myopia and lack of religious leadership.
American orthodoxy, from the most liberal to Lakewood and beyond, struggles today with the same sea change to their three generation old paradigm of checkbook Judaism. Facing the first generation of downward financial mobility rather than increased discretionary income that can be spent on religion, there has been a total leadership failure in responding with new paradigm of commitment and inclusion that does not involve one’s checkbook.
These are failures of myopic leadership and Rabbinate, not of the religion or Halacha.
I’m confused. One the one hand, a fair amount of energy is expended by RW Orthodoxy to throw out Jews them deem to be heterodox, Orthoprax, Apikorsim, etc.; and, on the other, there is a dawning realization of the attrition that has been obvious from the demographics for some time.
Paraphrasing Dijkstra, you can either be exclusive or inclusive, but not both.
I’m in my early 20s and happy to be single. My community was full of older married couples and their children and grandchildren up until 5 years ago. Now there are lots of young families and the community is catering to them. The learning opportunities for women are concentrated on being a mother and wife, and up until recently were held at 9 am on a weekday when I was either in class or at work. I think my community believes a woman has no value at a certain age unless she has a family. On the other hand, Reform is very single-friendly, holding many social events, that aren’t for the sole purpose of creating families. Sure, that is a nice result if it happens, but they believe in social gatherings for the sake of being social and having fun. I’ve carved my own niche, as is the norm for singles, and I’m committed and happy to live a Torah life AND have a life.
What in the world is a “morally orienting framework”? Is there some clearer way of expressing this idea? Is it his own phrase for some more commonly used expression? Are we talking about mere relevance? or something else?
“However, as any sociologists of religion will attest, women on average tend to be more religious than men by most measures.”
If I recall correctly I once read that that statement is true in general for religions in America except for Orthodox Judaism.
35-50% of the new generation of orthodox Jews presently in school will never marry/divorce at some stage. Bet Din Rabbani & Tzohar Rabbis statistics from their superb Shabbat weekly dedicated to Divorce in the Dati Community two weeks ago.
Yet 100% of those students will complete their hashkafic and halachic educations without a single Rav giving a single shiur about observance, hashkafa and communal for those of you who will not be in the central marriage/family track.
“However, as tragic as this may be, most singles are unlike him. They do not wake up one morning or one month and decide to abandon their previous lifestyle and its values. Rather, they have a long slow slide into a sluggish desertion of their former way of life. ”
There may well be many marrieds who would have slid into desertion of their former way of life but due to not wanting to harm their kids they formally play along with the game eg some sort of Orthoprax while not believing in any conceivable Ikkar emunah. If they did not have family relationships to consider they might have given up on the whole thing. Singles don’t have that pressure.
“Israel Fathers Rights Advocacy Council on September 25, 2011 at 11:46 pm
35-50% of the new generation of orthodox Jews presently in school will never marry/divorce at some stage. Bet Din Rabbani & Tzohar Rabbis statistics from their superb Shabbat weekly dedicated to Divorce in the Dati Community two weeks ago”
Any sources that were posted on the web?
I am a mid-30’s single and do not get this article. Specifically, I do not understand what he is calling for with this “morally oriented Judaism,” i.e. a viable framework by which to live our life. Frankly, I am not even sure what he is identifying is the problem. And since this is my life he is supposed to be talking about, that is saying something.
How is this problem you are applying to us different then you are applying to homosexuals? And, with the hyperbole language of a “single’s crises” out there for, what, a decade or more (I say hyperbole not because being single is often anything better then miserable but because a crises implies it is a short term issue recently manifested) I wonder whether something would have already been put out there if there was an option. Indeed, most understand that older singles are unlikely to be shomer and either turn a silent eye and ear or silently approve despite the halacha (as opposed to the psychologically-damaging-to-most alternative). But, like I said, I actually have no idea where this article is going.
“Yet 100% of those students will complete their hashkafic and halachic educations without a single Rav giving a single shiur about observance, hashkafa and communal for those of you who will not be in the central marriage/family track”
100% of students will probably never had an honest shiur dealing with problem issues.
“Indeed, most understand that older singles are unlikely to be shomer ”
Other than they in general might not have settled as easily as one who fully accepted the marriage ideal-what do you mean?
This issue is doubly important for those who advocate homosexuals remaining single and celibate their whole lives. Certainly, if we advocate their staying single, we should help foster a framework in which they can be an active part of a Jewish community.
Other than they in general might not have settled as easily as one who fully accepted the marriage ideal-what do you mean?
What do you mean by a single versus “one who fully accepted the marriage ideal”? Do you mean they are pickier? Some maybe. And some may have had bad luck. I don’t believe there is one cause for older singles.
I mean bluntly people have a need to be sexual beings, at least to some degree. We are not Catholics who teach a value to chastity.
I mean that being shomer after a certain point for many has a trade-off in mental well being though of course that is different for different people.
And I mean most older singles (25+) are not shomer but that does not mean they are having sex. I wonder if a survey was ever done.
This is well known.
I direct your attention to Nice Jewish Girl who started posting at 34 as Never Been Kissed. http://shomernegiah.blogspot.com/2005/02/why-shomer-negiah.html I especially direct your attention to her post of February 11, 2011 as a 40 year old single though the entire blog is of great value about a Jewish soul.
She got kissed at 35, unmarried, and most cheered her on. Frankly, my emotional reaction was strongly on that side. At 40, she still is a virgin and unhappy.
I mean when you are 18 a lot of people have this romantic notion of their wife/husband being the first person they touch. When you are talking about a 32 year old woman or man, that becomes somewhat less romantic and, to many, feels pathetic. You may see it as ennobling. To the person experiencing it, it can be terrible.
Sources. Yes, both the Rabbanut report of July 2011 and page one of the Tzohar shabbat ( on their website) special edition on Divorce and the Dati Community. They also note that the claim that the Dati community has a significantly lower divorce rate is no longer valid. See articles in the publication by Rav Ronen Neuwirth of Raanana in particular.
Simply superb edition. American Orthodoxy is still a full generation behind in publishing such taboo but necessary discussions and statistics within the communal Rabbinic publications. Bad for business. Kol HaKavod to the Rabbanut and to the Tzohar rabbis for going where no RCA/YU/OU Rabbis dare go.
1) I fail to see how controlling one’s base urges for the sake of a higher ideal is psychologically damaging. I would think that living for a higher purpose and restraining oneself to that end is psychologically wonderful.
2) I agree with your other point. I too have no idea what Rabbi Kaganoff is saying. He wants to generate a discussion, but unless he identifies the specific problems that only singles supposedly have, how can a discussion take place?
1) I fail to see how controlling one’s base urges for the sake of a higher ideal is psychologically damaging. I would think that living for a higher purpose and restraining oneself to that end is psychologically wonderful.
Re #1: Your position makes me wonder whether you actually had to contend with the notion of long-term celibacy long past the teenage years. I am not talking about this as a religious ideal. I am talking about what it does to people in practice.
“I would like to describe particular phenomena within Orthodox Jewish communities,… Rather, they have a long slow slide into a sluggish desertion of their former way of life. There are many causes for this trend.”
How does R. Kaganoff know ANY of this? On what study does he base the alleged phenomena or supposed trend? What expertise does he have in working with singles? Certainly, nothing in the appended bio gives me any confidence that he has any particular expertise in this area or knows more about it than the two singles who have posted here who don’t seem to agree with his analysis. And, of course, if there is no phenomena or trend, then the discussion of “causes” is meaningless. I am extremely underwhelmed. I do, however, agree with “This question deserves a much longer treatment than I am presenting here.” And such a discussion should begin by a post that is supported by some facts or expertise.
One problem that we see in setting up shoddy him for our members (Back in the Saddle Again) is the significant discrepancy in halachic observance by divorced women relative to the men. For an eye popping percentage of our women, there really is no translation of Halachic Judaism outside the mother/home/community environment, abd upon divorce they go (at times) decidedly lax to the point of it being problematic. They all say in shidduch interviews that they would happily be fully Dati again if in a mainstream marriage, and sincerely mean it. For our male membership, however, those talit and tefilin every morning really do create a buffer zone to maintain observance. As a result, many of our men have qualms with lovely women who turn on and off their observance dependent upon whether they are admitted to the central lifestyle. They contend, in their defense, that their sole purpose in Judaism as presently practiced is wife and mother, and absent those roles have little motivation nor vehicles to cling. That dichotomy in observance has become a major stumbling block for us in divorced persons seeking to remarry after a few years time.
Of course, no one but Rav Rozen at Tzohar will discuss these types of issues in print.
While we disagree with many of their conclusions, we cannot heap strong enough praise on Tzohar for jumping into the acid bath l’tzorchei tzibur b’emuna. Every American rabbi reading this blog should secure a copy of the Tzohar edition.
I am arguing that it all depends on the person’s attitude. The same goes for keeping Shabbos. It can be miserable if one thinks of all the restrictions, but Shabbos certainly does not have to be a miserable experience. I don’t think being celibate makes a person miserable unless he decides to let himself be miserable.
I believe the more religious a person is, the less he will wallow in self-pity and the less miserable he will be.
The only real and true answer to this phenomena is to make singles no longer single.
I don’t think being celibate makes a person miserable unless he decides to let himself be miserable.
I believe the more religious a person is, the less he will wallow in self-pity and the less miserable he will be.
Essentially, your argument is that it is irreligiousity or negativity that leads to mandated celibacy being a problem. Concerning the former now I will not deny that at the root of any sin there must be some level of lack of fear of G-d however you are going beyond that and saying even seeing celibacy as a problem is itself a problem. I think your basic argument is somewhat circular, i.e. if you don’t have a positive outlook to not engaging in basic human functions/pleasures then there must be something wrong with your religious outlook.
Personally, I would submit that it takes an exceptional religious outlook for it not to get to you personally if you are an older single. And social policy can not be built on exceptional religious outlooks.
I note that most people think that the success rate of making homosexuals engage in satisfying monogamous heterosexual relationships is in the single digits. Similarly, I would submit there will not be a large percentage of people, heterosexual or homosexual, who can be satisfied in celibate relationships. In fact, kal v’chomer.
But even accepting your argument, so what? Our community doesn’t allow Rumspringa. Doesn’t grant any exceptions for those with less faith. So, lets say its caused by lack of faith. Lets assume that it is not so simple to simply add more faith. So now what are you going to do? Your point doesn’t lead to a solution or lessen the problem.
I think you have missed the point entirely.
What does Judaism represent absent the presence of spouse and family? For most of you very little indeed. What philosophy do we espouse and believe absent upward mobility and white picket fence family? Is it all just a lifestyle as many divorced women claim or is it a moral or philosophical basis absent the central family? Of course there is; no one need be reminded that a significant plurality of our Rabbis and leaders have led less than cookie cutter personal lives. But that is for the men, where tefila, itim l’torah & 613 mitzvoth keep one well girdled within Halacha and hashkafa irrespective of whether there is a woman at home. For women, however, it really has distilled to nothing more than lifestyle. There are no Friday night dinner or seudot chagim. There are no children to care for, nor hashkafa to pass on to anyone. They are ignored and irrelevant both halachically and socially in Shul and community. There are no mitzvoth to fulfill. Do they wander away significantly, which only makes the reshidduch (if I may coin a new term) process all the more complicated. For the man Judaism is a philosophical and moral backbone. For the women, it deteriorates into nothing more than a lifestyle choice, and unless they are being offered the whole package deal they are no interested. There is far less discussion of maintaining hashkafa after losing one’s wealth, or home, or children. These are deep philosophical questions that were once the core of Judaism before our current (temporary) few generations of Judaism as a celebration of good fortune, freedom and wealth. The men have much more to cling to, despite a Rabbinate that is not only not helpful but literally at war with us. The women really do just say screw it, we are consumers and no longer like the terns of the proposed deal, and walk away.
But no one save for Tzohar rabbis will address this.
The feeling of lack of relevance of Judaism to personal and contemporary realities is indeed a huge problem. May I suggest that approaches such as those of Rabbi Nathan Cardozo and Rav David Bar-Hayim may do a lot to reach out to and to appeal to such people.
Well said but recognize how uncomfortable significant segments of mainstream Torah True Judaism are with those two important thinkers.
Even Cardozzo, however, openly sees no paradigm outside of white picket fence family structure.
That just isn’t going to play anymore, nor was it the sole paradigm until the luxury of very recent generations
“sees no paradigm outside of white picket fence family structure.”
And in NA there is no paradigm for MO at least outside of the at least upper middle class family with above average ability children attending day school.
I have to agree with mycroft here on the single vs. married issue. When Rabbi Kaganoff writes “I have a friend with whom I studied in Yeshiva who, after years of struggle and study, concluded that he no longer believe in the fundamentals of Orthodox Judaism and decided to no longer keep its commandments.”, one must pay attention to 2 aspects here – the loss of belief in the fundamentals and no longer keeping the commandments. I suspect that getting married only helps with the latter – not the former. I know people who have married and simply no longer believe in anything – they told me so. They haven’t told their wives or their parents. They are Orthodprax for all intents and purposes.
Well said and an important observation of reality in the community, taboo as it may be to voice publicly
“Of course there is; no one need be reminded that a significant plurality of our Rabbis and leaders have led less than cookie cutter personal lives”
No one can accuse me of being one who assumes that our Rabbis and leaders have necessarily led exemplary personal lives but “a significant plurality …have led less than cookie cutter personal lives” What evidence.
“For women, however, it really has distilled to nothing more than lifestyle. There are no Friday night dinner or seudot chagim. There are no children to care for, nor hashkafa to pass on to anyone. They are ignored and irrelevant both halachically and socially in Shul and community. There are no mitzvoth to fulfill.”
What!?! Single women, as opposed to single men don’t have Shabbat or yom tov meals?!? In which universe? And no mitzvot? Exactly how may mitzvot aseh shehazman gramah do you think there are? And of those, how many have women assumed on themselves (e.g., succah, shofar)?
Are you really this clueless?
IFRAC – where have you seen that Tzohar rabbis have addressed the issue of no-fault divorce? if anything their agenda only serves to strengthen the cause for no-fault divirce, rather than addressing the problems inherent in a no-fault divorce society.
I’m single, and I don’t understand the problem being raised by this post. Could someone explain?
“you can either be exclusive or inclusive, but not both.”
In real life, most human societies are exclusive of some and inclusive of others. Not everyone is obliged to subscribe to your idea that no-one is excluded, no matter what.
This is me.
Joseph Kaplan, Are you really this clueless?
Chaim, why don’t you make up your mind. About R’ Kaganoff’s piece that argues women are more spiritual and its the men who are more disenfranchised and walking away you wrote that you directly identified with it. Now, Joseph challenges “Israel Fathers Rights Advocacy Council” who argues that its divorced women who are more disenfranchised because women have no rules outside family rules, and you call him clueless.
Both comments you like focus on singles being disenfranchised, but other then that, carry contradictory messages. Why not set out your points because right now its coming out all jumbled up.
I don’t know about others, but I’m actually happy I had the time to search for myself vis-a-vis Judaism and come up with a (relatively) coherent world view without being burdened by marriage. It’s better than marrying early without having a clue and then being blindsided years later, when often most who have crises choose to simply stay frum “for the kids”…
No one will ever accuse IFRAC of cheerleading the Tzohar position on many, many topics relaying to divorce in the community. But they took a stab at dedicating an entire shabbat to the topic (of course, no paternal perspectives permitted, only two divorced mothers), which is miles more than anyone else has attempted. Ten Kavod.
aiwac -“… coherent world view without being burdened by marriage. ”
why view sharing your life with someone special as a burden. do you think you are the only one struggling to make sense of it all? would rather be alone or with someone special to you to share that experience. or are you the lonely man of faith? why view it as a better or worse situation?
You misunderstand me. I don’t think that being single is “great”, and I do hope to get married. I just think it has its advantages, ie figuring oneself out beforehand and not smack in the middle.
Am I missing something? Is there a reason why single women cannot work a 9-5 or 9-8 job, AND learn Torah either in a shiur or with a chavrutah AND volunteer for communal organizations?
I know PLENTY of single, Orthodox women who do. I’m not sure I understand this concept of single women only being able to do “chesed” and nothing else.
chaim – “Are you really this clueless?”
you need to explain your comment. i see as many as single women attending shiurim/lectures as men. also, i see them activity involved in jewish institutions especially shuls that they attend. so what do you speak of – the non mo world?
aiwac – “I just think it has its advantages, ie figuring oneself out beforehand and not smack in the middle.”
i think the opposite. everyone at some time in their life goes through doubt – assuming that they have an active mind and not naive. i would think it would be better to go through it with a partner as oppose to alone. but then again i married young – unintentionally.
I know of stories where those who go through a crisis go it alone anyway because they don’t want to hurt their wife (or get hurt by them). So while it can help, it can also be (ironically) more isolating.
aiwac – i understand that. but that is not a reason for it being better imho. people grow through marriage .
I didn’t say it was better. I said it has its advantages for some people. Some of us benefit from extended singlehood prior to marriage.
r’ kaganoff – “In theory it is easier for men to lead a traditional Jewish life while single than for frum women. Single men could work a 9-5 job or even a 9-8 job, still learn Torah, either in a shiur or with a chavrusah and volunteer for communal organizations. In contrast, single women often can only express traditional Jewish roles by doing chesed which often infantilizes them or encourages them to play a marginal role in someone else’s family.”
obviously, you are speaking about the charedei world not the mo world that most of us live in on this blog (my assumption that the majority here are closer to the mo community than the charedei). the data of single women’s limited role of sitting at home waiting for her bershert is what percentage of the single community? maybe being taught by their educators from an early age that their chief value to the jewish community is to pop out 9-11 children during their lifetime needs to change. but maybe that is their judaism’s role for women.
Kudos to Rabbi Kaganoff for raising this problem, although the presentation could have been clearer.
To make clearer, the problem is that older singles feel like they don’t belong anywhere, they aren’t part of anything. They no longer have the framework of yeshiva or seminary or college in which to be frum. They’re on their own, but without a Jewish home to call their own, they do not yet feel accepted as part of any community because of their single status.
The problem is heightened in women, because a guy can go to a beis medrash at night, and married or single, everyone is learning and everyone is the same. A guy will go to davening and married or single, everyone will be there. Single women do not have those same forums to feel like part of a community. They don’t have the batei medrash, and there is no critical mass of women attending minyanim thrice daily.
My wife and I were both 30 when we got married, so we’re intimately familiar with this issue. We still have many single friends and we have discussed this problem numerous times. Check out badforshidduchim’s blog, she often bemoans this problem. There is of course room to distinguish between Charedi and MO circles as far as the severity of the problem, but it definitely exists in both.
And Joseph Kaplan, just because there hasn’t been a study and there are no hard numbers do back this up yet, that doesn’t mean that the problem doesn’t exist and that we should ignore it. I agree with chaim’s characterization of clueless.
Nothing could be as lonely as marriage.
“The problem is heightened in women, because a guy can go to a beis medrash at night, and married or single, everyone is learning and everyone is the same. A guy will go to davening and married or single, everyone will be there. Single women do not have those same forums to feel like part of a community. They don’t have the batei medrash, and there is no critical mass of women attending minyanim thrice daily.”
Perhaps you have identified part of the solution. (RW) Orthodox instititions have not kept pace with — and, indeed resist — the sociological change in the role of women and, are therefore losing those who don’t meet their outdated assumptions (e.g. professional single women whose primary goal is to live a meaningful life independent of marriage and procreation).
Of course, one answer is to exclude them because they do not satisfy the communal modality; but, then this post would be extraneous.
“Nothing could be as lonely as marriage.
A closeted homosexual? I’ll bet.
Why do I get the feeling that you personally went through a very ugly divorce?
“(RW) Orthodox instititions have not kept pace with — and, indeed resist — the sociological change in the role of women and, are therefore losing those who don’t meet their outdated assumptions (e.g. professional single women whose primary goal is to live a meaningful life independent of marriage and procreation”
I think you’re totally missing the point. The assumption is not outdated and the goals have not changed; no one is saying that the professional single woman’s primary goal is to live a meaningful life independent of marriage and procreation. On the contrary, these women do seek a meaningful life which includes marriage and procreation. The question is how they will find meaning until they get to that point.
Nice posting. I largely agree but only to the extent that for many older singles, the religion that they were taught in yeshiva may no longer be relevant to them.
I think the issue you raise is mostly sociological. As singles get older they are more willing to experiment with their beliefs and practices, and have a willingness to question their long held beliefs.
I don’t think that married Jews remain observant because there is a better “moral framework” for them whereas singles don’t have the same opportunities. Singles absolutely have the same or similar opportunities as do their married contemporaries.
But married Jews are more likely to remain observant because they do not have the opportunity to experiment as do their single counterparts. Married Jews have to worry about their children’s education and socialization, they have to worry about their spouses observances. Young marrieds simply don’t have the freedom that singles do, because they have more responsibilities. Plus the risks of changed observances are greater for married Jews.
Singles, by contrast, are better able to experiment — and find out if they prefer to live a more observant, less observant, or non-observant lifestyle. They can experiment with different communities. They can find out what feels right to them and there are few consequences.
Education and age has a lot to do with this as well – as we get older, people feel freer to question the long held beliefs that they were taught as children. I think this is completely natural.
I also doubt that there is any one “moral framework” that could alter the trend you have identified. Some people are very intellectually motivated, others are socially motivated, some like spirituality, others find their religion is culinary. Basically, I think it is completely natural for older singles to experiment with their religion and observances, and I wonder if the phenomenon you have identified is truly a problem, or just the natural course of life.
And some of us benefit from extended singlehood after marriage.
Respect that fact. We are Jewish, not Calvanist Catholics.
לא טוב היות האדם לבדו
In my opinion there aren’t enough knowledgeable accessible Rabbis who are willing to sit and discusses issues and questions with singles.
Is it possible that “orthodoxy” is aware of the issue but has determined that the cost of granting “full recogniton” to a singles track is too great?
I agree with the commenters who say that married people might backslide too, were it not for their spouses and children, particularly children, who give them reason to walk the line. Although this article makes an important point, I think the other question–is it good for parents to stick around in an Orthodox milieu whose values they don’t share?–is just as important.
Look, I’m not anti-marriage. Far from. But I think it behooves us to talk about singlehood’s opportunities for growth and development and not just how it’s a “disaster”.
Rabbi Kaganoff’s solution to the issue he points out is circuitous and it infantilizes the very people he seeks to help. The reason, according to Rabbi Kaganoff, for the dissatisfaction and disassociation with Judaism among some older singles is that their current lives do not fit into the rubric of Judaism that they were taught by others as they were growing up. So, the solution is to come up with a new “moral” philosophy of Judaism to teach these people now, so that they can feel more fulfilled? This can never work. There will never be a philosophy that fits everyone. There can never be a philosophy imposed on others that that gives them fulfillment in all changing circumstances. The reason Yeshiva and Day School philosophies wear off is because they are impersonal and false to begin with. The solution is not a new philosophy for those who fall through the cracks, but a dramatic change in the way that Judaism is conveyed to Jews by their educations throughout their lives. Children and adults should be encouraged, from the start, to find a Judaism meaningful to them, independent of any possible spouse or children. Only when the Judaism and personal and fulfilling in and of itself can we escape the problem of disenchantment with life’s circumstances.
IMO, the author neglected to consider one obvious option-early marriage, even while one is in graduate school, should be emphasized, as opposed to being the exclusive realm of the Charedi world. Once you are involved in a career, etc, the difficulties in dating, ect, can only escalate.
As Washington Heights is becoming the newest venue for frum singles and young couples, thanks in no small part to YU’s Schenck Community Synagogue, young rabbanim who are RIETS musmachim ( R M Orlian and R E Schwartz)in both Schenck and MT Sinai as well as eruvim on the YU and Breuers’ side of the Heights, I suspect that R Kaganoff, a KAJ Board of Advisors member, knows the turf about which he is writing. A much needed article on a subject that needs more discussion, as opposed to denying that the same exists.
I think you’ve got it backwards. Emphasizing early marriage does nothing to solve this problem. This problem is the worst among Charedim who push early marriage, but those who, for whatever reason, have not yet found their spouse are the ones dealing with an emptiness lives because they’ve been told their entire lives that they need to get married early.
I suspect that R Kaganoff, a KAJ Board of Advisors member, knows the turf about which he is writing.
That is a terrible basis for suspicion. It is Mt. Sinai that, for the last 7-8 years has been the main singles shul in Washington Heights. Before that it was the Bridge Shul. While KAJ no doubt has single attendees (as it is in the heart of the singles area) it is not known for catering to the singles and is not known for being a draw for the singles. And indeed, the singles it attracts are likely to only reflect a small portion of the average single in Washington Heights, let alone frum US singles over all.
Second, it is based on the false assumption that attendance at a shul or living in a community that has singles makes one an expert in singles. Maybe relative to the person utterly unexposed but not relative to anything else.
one obvious option-early marriage, even while one is in graduate school, should be emphasized, as opposed to being the exclusive realm of the Charedi world.
I assume, based on prior conversations, you mean undergrad. I was raised MO. By the time graduate school was over, I was already among the last of my grade school classmates that was single.
HAGTBG: I think Steve meant that living in Washington Heights, R. Kaganoff knows plenty of singles. He is married with kids, by the way.
HAGTBG: I think Steve meant that living in Washington Heights, R. Kaganoff knows plenty of singles. He is married with kids, by the way.
Anyone who knows singles is an expert? Isn’t that basically what you are saying? I only made my point because it seemed Steve was responding to Joseph Kaplan’s earlier post about the basis for R’ Kaganoff’s assumptions not being available from his bio. But it sounds to me like the relevant portion of his bio, in this version, is “I know singles.”
I actually don’t care whether the person is an expert or not, so long as the idea isn’t one that can be rejected off hand. However, I still don’t think R’ Kaganoff is being clear what he is calling for or the issue he is stating is the problem (or, again, I am seeing this as the same conversation as being had about homosexuals).
“That is a terrible basis for suspicion. It is Mt. Sinai that, for the last 7-8 years has been the main singles shul in Washington Heights. Before that it was the Bridge Shul.”
This last part of that statement is incorrect and a common repeated fallacy. People did go to the bridge shul, but it wasn’t the exclusive place they went on shabbos. Ex: The biggest single scene in washington heights 10 years ago were kumsitzy shalosh seudos in different people’s apartments which were always arranged by those who were davening at Mt Sinai for shabbos mincha.
In fact, per my memory, the majority of the singles that went to shul (back in the day that HAGTBG is referncing) would daven friday night at Breuers, Shabbos morning at the bridge shul and shabbos afternoon/evening at Mt Sinai. From my recollection, Breuers was never really thrilled with the single social scene that took place at the bottom of their steps on Bennett after shul friday night (though they still have their own version of it, just not co-ed single heavy).
I thinbk part of the problem is R. Kaganoff’s use of the term “morally oriented” which I dont think clarifies his intent.
Gil has started recently to have guest posts which has, I think, improved Hirhurim by having different voices set a framework for and start the discussion. But those guest posts that have been most successful are the ones where the poster takes part in the discussion; posts by Rabbis Broyde and Clark come readily to mind, although there have been others as well. Unfortunately, this post does not (yet??) fit into that positive category.
“these women do seek a meaningful life which includes marriage and procreation. The question is how they will find meaning until they get to that point.”
Sass — I will be more explicit: perhaps some of these women are missing meeting their beshert explicitly because they are not learning together because the Batei Midrash aren’t interested in their participaton. And vice-versa, some single men are missing their beshert explicitly because they are not learning together.
I have a hard time imagining some of the male singles posting here not wanting a mate with whom they can have the same discussions about ideas and texts.
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I agree with you here. Mixed Batei Midrash is an idea whose time has come.
you raised a good point that (thinking) people can have doubts any time in their life, but i would wager that the most intensive doubts (in either direction) occur when one is younger rather than older. maybe i’m wrong, but i think people are more likely to be relatively the same from 25/30 to 120, than from 18 to 25/30. to me this makes sense. people jump all over the place during the teens and early 20s as they figure themselves out generally for the first time without external coercion. a wife and family restore that coercion.
“would rather be alone or with someone special to you to share that experience.”
this sounds nice, but some (many?) have to hide it from their families, neighbors and spouses.
agree. i was also wondering if he would return to repsond to his critics.
I think that R Kaganoff as a member of the Board of Advisors of KAJ, is aware of the singles scene in WH. I think that R Kaganoff’s post was simply his reflections as a married resident in KAJ based upon what he perceives are the issues facing singles who live in WH, but who , for both hashkafic and sociological reasons, wouldn’t consider davening in KAJ. FWIW, I clearly wrote graduate school, as opposed to younger couples where a son or SIL is learning full time and the tendency is for couples to get married at a markedly earlier age than their contemporaries who are in college and seeking a professional degree. FWIW, most of my contemporaries ( YU classmates) got married during grad school.
FWIW, I clearly wrote graduate school, as opposed to younger couples
So you are calling for what was already being done and just renaming it “early marriage”?! Thats a great suggestion. Maybe we should all spend time discussing it.
I have no doubt that R Kaganoff “is aware of the single scene in WH.” So what? You say the post is his reflections? What reflections? That in a community like WH, which is maintained by the singles, they need to incorporate the singles in some leadership roles? The West Side – and Mount Sinai – figured that out a while ago.
And none of that seems to actually go to his point about people creating a “personally viable framework”.
” have no doubt that R Kaganoff “is aware of the single scene in WH.” So what? You say the post is his reflections? What reflections? That in a community like WH, which is maintained by the singles, they need to incorporate the singles in some leadership roles? The West Side – and Mount Sinai – figured that out a while ago”
HAGTBG-your proposal has a lot of merit-but can you see KAJ adopting the same? Wouldn’t you agree that there are huge differences between KAJ and the membership of Mt Sinai or YU’s own Shenk Synagogue? As far as early marriage is concerned, I think that in all seriousness as a community, the MO world should be discussing it, including more venues for facilitating the meeting of singles, as opposed to engaging in denial of the problem or viewing the same as a uniquely Charedi idea and phenomenon.
Steve, I didn’t think that was so much my idea as where I thought R’ Kaganoff was going. To take the 2nd class status out of being single so to speak.
We already established you are not actually talking about early marriage. You are talking about what is going on already. You should actually be quite satisfied with the status quo. By the time a person finishes grad school they are usually married.
Not everyone is emotionally and psychologically ready for marriage at an early age. I know many people who married early and divorced early. I also know many who married late who are well-grounded and content.
Marriage is certainly a very important principle in religious Judaism. The insistence on early marriage (or what is often derisively called “נישואי בוסר”) is not as kodosh. Some people mature better through early marriage. Some (myself included) need a period of individual searching and maturation before settling down.
Let me offer one other comment to R Kaganoff’s point re chesed and infantilization of adult women-in KGH, I can vouch for the fact that single post seminary age women give shiurim at various shuls in the community. Perhaps, more communities need to have shiurim given by post seminary age single women as a means of signalling that the year in seminary is not a year spent to solely place on one’s resume for shidduchim.
“Marriage is certainly a very important principle in religious Judaism. The insistence on early marriage (or what is often derisively called “נישואי בוסר”) is not as kodosh. Some people mature better through early marriage. Some (myself included) need a period of individual searching and maturation before settling down”
WADR, if one looks at the relevant sources, there is a definite view that marriage, and early marriage, however one defines the term, is a desirable communal policy. I once heard that one of the reasons we are so lebeidik at a chasunagh is that we know that the Chasan and Kallah have grave aprehensions about their abilities to be as happy together as on the day of their chasunah , to raise a family, etc, and that exuberant celebration is Klal Yisrael’s way of providing assurance by their mentors, family and friends, to what is truly the most important committment of their lives by two young people who really haven’t known each other for an awful long period of time.
The question remains how one defines “early marriage.” IMO, aside from Chasidishe communities, the post seminary years define what many view as “early marriage” from a purely sociological sense. Nachum Lamm ( Mazel Tov-hope you are enjoying your Shanah Rishonah!) and I have discussed this previously, but if you want to understand why a person is considered Shalem when he or she gets married, see R B Simon’s Imrei Baruch and his remarks at his Aufruf, and Sheva Brachos. My reading between the lines of R Simon’s eloquent and heartfelt remarks was that being an older single is not optimal for anyone in our communities, and prevents one from maximizing his or her potential as a Ben or Bas Torah-even for a wonderful Talmid Chacham.
WADR to IH, Hashkafic compatibility is obviously important, but I would add that most spouses once they are married simply are far more involved in the daily routines of school, jobs, shopping, car pools, raising a family and constructively using their spare time in their communities, learning and performing acts of Chesed than in discussing the great ideas of our time.
I do think that we need more venues for singles to meet, whether by the Shabbos table for both genders , by Skype, or by whatever halachically acceptable means such as mixed tables at chasunahs. I would certainly second R Sobolofsky’s comments that young men who base their possible shidduchim on a resume are looking at a Cheftza and not considering the Gavra in thinking about who they are lining up or rejecting as possible dates.
abba’s ranting – “maybe i’m wrong, but i think people are more likely to be relatively the same from 25/30 to 120, than from 18 to 25/30. to me this makes sense. ”
not sure if that is true but can only speak from my perspective now that i am older (53). i am sure teenagers and young adults question everything including religion when young. but life is funny and allows you to revisit those issues especially when you get to middle age – i know to many have. i am curious what others think and if there is any data out there.
“Not everyone is emotionally and psychologically ready for marriage at an early age. I know many people who married early and divorced early. I also know many who married late who are well-grounded and content”
From an anecdotal perspective, the above is correct. There is no hidddur mitzvah, or even a mitzvah at all, to be the first person married and divorced or the last person married among one’s friends.Yet, marriage involves taking a chance, upon a person who you don’t really know but instinctively think is right for you and with whom you are ready to share the ups and downs of life-regardless of the age. Given that scenario, I think that the better likelihood of you finding that person is when you are younger, and not involved in a career.
on aiwac’s point….and this seems to be ignored by most here.
why are frum jews encouraged to get married so young?!?!? its for this reason exactly, keep the chain going. its too risky once people have lived amongst the outside for too long.
get ’em married, bang out a few kids – now they are stuck, regardless of the doubt some may go through (ruvie) – and many suffer through that alone, in marriage….
steve b – “Given that scenario, I think that the better likelihood of you finding that person is when you are younger, and not involved in a career.”
when you are younger there are many more fish in the sea – what does that have to being “involved in a career.” are you talking abou the man or woman or both. no matter how busy people are with a career there is plenty of time to date and meet people at various events, functions, shiurim etc.
“when you are younger there are many more fish in the sea – what does that have to being “involved in a career.” are you talking abou the man or woman or both. no matter how busy people are with a career there is plenty of time to date and meet people at various events, functions, shiurim etc”
Ruvie-allocation of time is a critical factor. The introductory steps today are far more complicated in arranging for a date than the actual date itself-especially in those sectors that view dating and meeting a possible Zivug as facilitated by a third party. When you are in the working world, your time for “checking” and the actual date are quite reduced, compared to when you are in school. Today, unless you intend to meet your Zivug entirely without a go between, events, shiurim, and functions are merely where the date can take place as opposed to where you actually meet someone.
Kail-please define young-just off the plane from yeshiva and seminary or a few years down the road or in graduate school?
I would like to think that many of us who have been married for a while have had our share of ups and downs , but that we never regretted getting married at a relatively young age, while we were still in graduate school. Here is an interesting Torah Musings poll-how many posters are married and for how long?
Look at it this way-I recall ( and I think that so would Joseph Kaplan as well) would recall that R S Riskin was not happy with the fact that LSS became the setting for what we call older singles, “Tefilin dates”, and halachic inquiries about singles using the mikvah. These factors cannot be rationalized away under the guise of finding places for singles within the community. I think that there is a world of difference between older singles who are actively searching for their Zivug and those who are “Msmeach Bchelko”, and who view extended or long term singlehood as fulfilling an emotional destiny as being married. Contrary to Kaili’s observations, good marriages begin after the music has ended and continue because both spouses are willing to work together through the thick and thin. Marriage , especially in our communities, should not be viewed as the equivalent of keeping up with the Jones. At least today, we see Vaadim for chasanim, kalos, young couples, and shiurim for middle aged couples in dealing with Shalom Bayis, childhood and other issues. I don’t recall that the same existed when we got married except in the very limited context of chasan and kallah classes, but the development of all of the same are very welcome developments.
steve b – “These factors cannot be rationalized away under the guise of finding places for singles within the community.”
what does this have to do with our discussion? the issue is our community insistance that unless married you are a second or third class citizen with a badge of shame. instead we should welcome them as equal members of our community.
Elanit raised a good point-in our community, many single women have their own apartments, make Shabbos meals for each other and their married friends, and attend shiurim.
Ruvie-take a look at the discussion of these issues in one of the more recent TuM Journals. The issues of extended singlehood and “Tefilin dates” IMO cannot be dismissed in our sense that singles should be viewed as “equal members of our community”. Discussion of one phenomenon should not IMO preclude discussion of the factors leading to another related phenomenon-unless one views the same as unrelated-which IMO, one cannot. FWIW, at least one shul in our community has officers who are singles.
“when you are younger there are many more fish in the sea – what does that have to being “involved in a career.” are you talking abou the man or woman or both. no matter how busy people are with a career there is plenty of time to date and meet people at various events, functions, shiurim et”
Let’s assume that you are a young man or woman and happens to see someone of the opposite gender who has perked your interest at a event, function or shiur? Would you walk across the room and introduce yourself, ask for a phone number or a third party to introduce you?
steve b – “Would you walk across the room and introduce yourself, ask for a phone number or a third party to introduce you?”
all of the above if you are interested. if you are too shy you ask a mutual friend etc to introduce you. what ‘s the big deal. maybe if men and women are not segregated from birth (or youth) they will know how to communicate in public. again, the single issue has nothing to do with tefilin dates and the two issues should not be commingled and why would that stop them from being equal members of the community?
For an interesting Evangelical take on this issue see http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2008/september/20.47.html
To answer Moshe Shoshan’s & HAGTBG’s question, I am looking for aan Orthodox Jewish theology and narrative that can be used to tell singles that the decisions they make daily (e.g. showing up to maariv instead of watching Glee; not fooling around with their boyfriend, even they were previously “over negi’ah”; having a daily-ish seder even if they know that they will never be more than mediocre lamdan at best) has (cosmicO) religious significance, even they cannot perceive it.
One could use Chassidus to formulate such a theology, but that opens up it’s own issues.
I am looking for aan Orthodox Jewish theology and narrative that can be used to tell singles that the decisions they make daily (e.g. showing up to maariv instead of watching Glee; not fooling around with their boyfriend, even they were previously “over negi’ah”; having a daily-ish seder even if they know that they will never be more than mediocre lamdan at best) has (cosmicO) religious significance, even they cannot perceive it.
What makes you think people are not telling them that now?
I appreciate you responding but your response makes it sound like, at best, you are just trying to repackage the same old same old.
sort of a twist on your premise — a married woman who is observant, while her husband is not observant — might work (i know of some cases). but a non observant (i.e., never was, or OTD) wife and observant husband cannot work. if the couple wants to make it works despite the observance issue.
perhaps worth a post / article of its own.
“but a non observant (i.e., never was, or OTD) wife and observant husband cannot work”
” What philosophy do we espouse and believe absent upward mobility and white picket fence family?”
Study various hashkafic works and maybe you’ll get some info on your question.
Your comment offers no solace at all. You seem insistent upon being evaluated on the basis of theoretical hashkafic texts rather than the practice of the community and it’s present day Rabbinate. The values of the present leadership are those of white picket fence family upward financial mobility, and manifest a near complete disconnect from the hashkafic texts we all treasure.
And therein lies the tragedy of our generation, and failure of our leadership.
The rest is commentary.
We are not familiar with your good work nor your community over in Bavel, so please excuse our ignorance.
We deal at the forefront of assisting a client base/kehilla growing exponentially in size where the wheels have simply fallen off all prior basis of hashkafic and religious belief, and where entirely new paradigms for halachic observance need be created.
We have discovered, however, that Torah True Judaism over the centuries is far more familiar with our experiences of loss than the present generation’s (temporary) experience of good fortune. There is little necessity for recreating the wheel, and certainly among the divorced fathers little need to justify halachic observance. There is simply no place for these men in the mainstream community ever again — in a best case scenario. Generally, the Rabbinate and community are openly engaged in the vilification and lynching of our constituency. It makes halachic continuity a tad difficult to justify at times. Most of the time. Nearly all of the time. That was the history of the Tzohar shabbat — that as damaging as divorce may be, there is no doubt that the ignorance and prejudices of the Dati community are significantly compounding the problems, and under a misguided misinterpretation of halachic imperative.
And that is the community’s significant loss.
r’ kaganoff – “I am looking for aan Orthodox Jewish theology and narrative that can be used to tell singles …”
sounds like you are preaching (or talking down to) … there seems little understanding or analysis of the underlying causes. what you are looking for is mussar for moderns with some chanting (like the good old days) – not that it worked after a while. people choose what they want to observe and where they will be lenient. why are singles different than marrieds?
much more difficult to work around taharas mishpacha issues if it’s the wife who is not observant.
a non observant husband has to be willing to forgo sex every month
a non observant wife must be willing in addition to visit the mikva and perform related rituals.
“For the man Judaism is a philosophical and moral backbone”
Sadly for how many men is that true?
IH, you are correct as always. But one quick question, you implied that there are serious after work uber intellectual coed institutions of learning, can you please list the after work coed halls of learning you are referring to and the texts used.
IH, unless I misunderstood your “(RW) instititutions have not kept pace with and indeed resist” ….. @ comment bate stamp September 26, 2011 at 10:10 am and your coed batei midrashim clarification @ comment bate stamp September 26, 2011 at 2:48 pm. Which institutions have they not kept pace with and where would one find serious after work coed batei midrashim run by the more advanced institutions. (I’ve actually tried researching this and came up with nothing I’ve obviously been looking for serious coed after work batei midrashim in all the wrong places ).
To the OP:
two areas perhaps worthy of exploration:
1. teach history as limude kodesh. i don’t want to get into a discussion of who’s history, etc etc – i mean primary texts and analysis – nothing builds the cosmic significance of the jewish narrative better than history. we want young jews to read themselves into the story: if i understand you correctly, you feel that this is what is lacking, there is an alienation from the narrative. we are a people who (again, excuse the language) use history to tell ourstory (or His-story) better than probably any other culture in the world. we see – to steal from EF – Hashem’s hand in history. The fact that we do not see history as limude kodesh has always mystified me. Y.H.Yerushalmi’s book (Zachor) was an admirable attempt to understand this.
2. To “steal” again, this time from Rav C. Soloveitchik’s 1994 article (Rupture and Reconstruction, maybe), we are trying to replace the mimetic community of past times with a judaism of (mostly) individual meaning and understanding. We have done an abominable job of it, educating as though the mimetic community still exists and as if we were separate (ethnically and culturally) from Americans when in fact, as you hint, the differences are smaller and smaller. And, to be honest, though we pride ourselves on being an intellectual people, we are, mostly, just people, and the rarefied air of philosophy and hashkafa just doesn’t float the balloons of most jews – what we might try to do is to provide an artificial mimetic community. yes. reinvent the shtetl on american soil. it’s not as hard as you might imagine, although probably not as easy as i imagine.
you continue to cling to the luxuries of being the Acher in Galut, which has served orthodoxy most conveniently for centuries. What you propose, however, makes no sense here in a living, breathing Jewish state, save to admit that you have no viable alternative absent cloistering in the ghetto of antisemitism and the diaspora. That does not even work in Western democracies anymore, let alone as a living breathing hashkafa in a modern Jewish state.
“all of the above if you are interested. if you are too shy you ask a mutual friend etc to introduce you. what ‘s the big deal. maybe if men and women are not segregated from birth (or youth) they will know how to communicate in public. again, the single issue has nothing to do with tefilin dates and the two issues should not be commingled and why would that stop them from being equal members of the community?”
Ruvie-you aren’t that much younger than me, and when I was single in what RHS calls the “Frierdiche doros”, I would certainly have not been bashful in using any of the above options. I think that many young men and women who have spent a year or more in yeshiva and seminary would simply look aghast at the same. WADR, we disagree on whether extended singlehood, and Tefilin dates, and the like are a related phenomenon. IMO, it begs the issue to discuss only part of the phenomenon because ultimately your suggestion means that we give up all hope on a significant number of men and women ever finding their Zivug, which IMO, we have no license to do.
minyan lover — “kept pace with … the sociological change in the role of women”.
That you can’t find such Orthodox Batei Midrash is, umm, my point.
I’m reminded of what RDJJS once told my wife and me about women’s participation (at the JC): ~”if they don’t ask for more, there’s a limit to what I can volunteer”~.
So, those of you looking for this in a safe Orthodox environment, need to vocally demand it. Of course, there are options if you don’t insist on an Orthodox affiliation and you live in the right locale (e.g. Manhattan or Jerusalem).
R Kaganoff posted the following comment:
“To answer Moshe Shoshan’s & HAGTBG’s question, I am looking for aan Orthodox Jewish theology and narrative that can be used to tell singles that the decisions they make daily (e.g. showing up to maariv instead of watching Glee; not fooling around with their boyfriend, even they were previously “over negi’ah”; having a daily-ish seder even if they know that they will never be more than mediocre lamdan at best) has (cosmicO) religious significance, even they cannot perceive it”
I agree that Chasidus without its external trappings is a far more positive route than that offered by the Baalei Musar. How about the fact that every person, according to Rambam, has the potential in his or her own way to be as great as Moshe Rabbeinu in his or her own life, or to be as low as Yeravam?
IH, I did not limit my inquiry to orthodox.
my galut happens to be in the middle of the shomron, thank you. and your i-live-in-israel-pppphhhhhhhtttttttttt!!!!!!! triumphalism conveniently ignores israeli society and its problems, which mirror in many ways the issues facing OP – except, of course, that something of the mimetic community does still exist here, in some places, some families, sometimes. speaking of the ghetto, ifrac, i found that in order to raise my family with the values i cherished, i pretty much had to move to the middle of nowhere to find a community which reflected those values. glad i did and no regrets, but you’d be hard pressed to find a ghetto this segregated from secular society any place in galut. is the state of israel the guaranteed answer to the social and existential challenges of am yisrael? could be, but the jury is still out on that one. so let’s hold off on the triumphalism til we see what HKBA has in store for am yisrael. and appreciate the challenges that our brothers and sisters living in the galut face – until we all merit geula.
The solution is rather simple:
Get them married.
kol hakavod, but recognize that the sort of fundamentalism you advocate is anathema to the vast majority of us in the mainstream. Lots of luck, but a Judaism that requires that sort of ghettoization and fundamentalism is a functional failure. That is not what RSRHirsch had in mind.
Judaism needs to provide solace and function in a modern society as its fundamental raison d’être. Cloisters in the Shomron are no more functional than monasteries in the south of France.
As in football, shanking wide right is as much as failure as shanking wide left. The objective is to slice right between the goal posts.
steve b. – “because ultimately your suggestion means that we give up all hope on a significant number of men and women ever finding their Zivug, which IMO, we have no license to do.”
why? i would not give up on that. i know too many singles who were first married in the late 30s or early 40s who were active members of their community (but i do live on the uws where in general simgles are included). why does giving them kavod and community participation – equal members of the society- inhibit them to eventually finding their mate?
IH, Which non orthodox options in the right locale are you referring to for after work co ed uber serious batei midrashot. Are any a co ed version of volozhin.
ifrac – i know it’s difficult, but one should not start with assumptions about the unknown. what did I say or indicate which was fundamentalist? right? messianic? violent? crazy? insular? (ok, maybe insular, but i work in the shfelah with american high school students. that is not insular, believe me) isn’t this the type of prejudging we detest when non-jews do to jews? seculars to religious? it’s natural perhaps to see one’s self as the inevitable and logical end of the process of Jewish evolution, but such tunnel vision does not lead to ahavat hinam.
The underlying problem, as many have identified, is lack of having a community in which the meaning you seek to imbue in religious observance is maintained. So the problem is not lack of a moral framework or orientation (I assume you mean this in the sense of a lifeworld) it is the community. And that lack of community, I think is the result of an inability, particularly for men as they age to form deep friendships imbued with fraternal love. (Interestingly this has been identified as a malaise of modern society both by psychologists and screenwriters of recent comedies targeted at men – the latter term this kind of relationship a “bromance”). Once the chevra from yeshiva or college has gotten married it is hard to form relationships to replace what was lost and men end up socially adrift.
If I’m correct, then there is no easy fix – but if you want people to stay frum, then laughable as it may sound, encouraging male social bonding is your best bet. So instead of only having singles event upon singles event, having a balanced mix of events in which men can form deep friendships, is very important.
Indeed, (I mention this not for your benefit, because you and your wife know much more about the subject than me) we see that Safed pietism (and likely much of the Zohar) was established through the efforts of intimate groups of male havurot, and that model ideally should be encouraged from an early age.
Best regards, shana tova, and keep writing.
Your old roommate.
1. regarding thegeneral tone of the article and comments, a distinction must be made between “suburban” living, and “city” living, as well the west side exception. israel, of course, is an exception, too (or perhaps more properly, more divided — americans, charedim, diff forms of charedim, etc).
2. r abba — you are on the point regarding source’s question.
add also the woman is — usually — in charge of the kitchen, i.e., kashrut.
also early childhood and elementary education. (let alone, later)
all / most other issues are really workable.
my (distant) cousin makes shabat meal and atmosphere with the children, while her husband goes in the next room and watches tv. not too practical if it were the other way around. the children, interestingly, turned out ok.
” If they don’t care about Judaism anymore, it’s best to dump everything and jump into the morass of society and not into the halfling status of other strands of Judaism”
dEFINITION QUESTION OF WHAT IS jUDAISM.
“would not give up on that. i know too many singles who were first married in the late 30s or early 40s who were active members of their community ”
I know singles who married for the first time in the 50s-I believe there was a mechanech who married for the first time in his 60s lived to close to 80 to see 2 kids close to bar mitzvah.
“so let’s hold off on the triumphalism til we see what HKBA has in store for am yisrael.”
A very prudent idea-nevuah was taken from neviim and given to ktanim and shotim.
No disrespect intended at all. I refer to any sense of fundamentalism, Islamic Christian or Jewish, that rejects complete engagement in society on favor of cloistered monastic segregation for purposes of maintaining ideological purity. That is the textbook definition of fundamentalism. If it works for you, kol HaKavod, but that offers most of us no more theological value than walking around in a bekesheh or being a nun. As most contributors here have noted, there seems to have been a real collapse of theological benefit for those who view Halacha and Judaism specifically as roadmaps in which to fully engage Western society professionally and personally in a Hirschian manner.
May you enjoy a year of blessings, of osher v’osher. Come visit Sodom – sorry, Tel Aviv – sometime. The Dati community is booming. R Kook would be pleased.
Your comment is sincere and appreciated, but of limited value. The vast majority of our membership will not remarry, not of volition but statistical reality. One of IFRAC’s main tasks, albeit hardly stated in Federation grant proposals, has evolved into offering any sense of a halachic, hashkafic foundation for professional adults, fathers of the children in your communities, under the statistical recognition that the life stage of marriage and nuclear family has ended permanently for them.
Volozjin was a particularly poor role model of a failed Rabbinic environment destroyed by its own sinat chinom and ending with Avreichim throwing rocks through the Rosh Yeshiva’s kitchen window at the Rebbetzin and destroying their own Bet Midrash in protest of salary supplements neither earned or merited.
Oh my goodness gracious I’m not familiar with this minhag. Which volozhin rebbetzin was in the kitchen ? I meant volozhin if and when it was governed by the non hasidic halacha of r chaim volozhin when he taught the gra’s torah .
Synopsis: Community, as defined by psychologists David McMillan and David Chavis, include four critical elements: membership, influence, shared emotional connection and fulfillment of needs. IFRAC’s mandate is to provide these four criteria for our Dati membership, because all four are lost by fathers during divorce in the present community. We represent, however, only one significant plurality of the singles in orthodoxy. I am certain any NGO or organization dedicated to the needs of other single constituencies will share common observation — ALL four elements are presently lacking in the community’s interaction with our members.
The obligation of the community is to create avenues in which our exponentially growing percentage of the population can secure these four criteria within the Dati communal framework.
Alternatively, continue a policy of contemptuous attrition of all who are not exactly like you, and bet you can reproduce enough children to compensate for losing us en masse.
i would say that the difference, ifrac, between what you offer your kahal and what a jewish community wants to offer its members is a context of meaning. sometimes the meaning is found in learning, which in a community context creates a critical mass of connectedness (it’s not the content, but the presence) and sometimes in the fabric of the community life itself. but what keeps people inside the community, and has them contributing time and energy and $$$, that which is the mode of continuity, the the presumption of the ultimate meaning of the community (i.e. brit). this is what’s missing in many places nowadays, which is why i suggested the artificial re-creation of the shtetl in america – not as a permanent community, but as a garin to encourage the creation of community elsewhere. a seed crystal, as it were.
Ktiva vechatima to all
והשיב לב אבות על בנים
ובנים על אבותם
on a funnier note – see the punk rock group – the groggers and their upper westside video:
shana tova lekulam
Ksivah CVhasimah Tovah to all.