Monday, October 25, 2010

Why are young Charedim not getting married?

Last week I wrote about some frightening demands of the shidduch system - and Israel's housing boom. Now let's tie them both together.

According to Marty Bluke, the latest Hebrew edition of Mishpacha magazine (which doesn't go online) claims that as a result of Israel's spiralling house prices and the economic crisis*, less shidduchim are being made amongst Israeli Charedim. Why?
[F]ewer and fewer parents of girls can afford to buy an apartment for the couple. Many/most of the boys are still holding out for an apartment and there are very few parents of girls who can afford it.

The article says that the dormitories in the Yeshivas are full because the older boys who should be getting married aren't. One Rosh Yeshiva said that usually around 30 boys a year get married, this year only 10 got married. The head of a post high school seminary said that in the past half the girls were engaged or married by the end of the year, last year it was only 10%. The reason is very simple, the boys are holding out for an apartment and the girl's parents simply can't afford it.
Nor, I'm afraid, will they ever be able to afford it - first, because house prices show no sign of dropping, and second, because even if house prices fully collapse, most normal people simply cannot afford to pay for apartments for 3-4 daughters any more. And most Israeli Charedim earn less than the average wage; a very large number of them don't "earn" at all.

So if it really exists, this marriage impasse may turn out to have big implications. Right now, Israel's Charedi society is in real denial about its inability to afford its own lifestyle. Its rabbis are battling to prevent young Charedi boys from studying any secular subjects, effectively preventing them from being able to participate in a meaningful way in the workforce. But where, long-term, do they expect all this money for apartments to come from?

Either some of these young men are going to end up having to compromise, and decide they need to marry women who cannot actually offer them a housing solution - in which case they will be pushed into work in order to fund their flats (or, alternatively, into deeper poverty); or Charedi society, suffering from a glut of angry young unmarried men, is simply going to implode under the burden of its own economic mess.

Either way, it will be a big blow for a system in which marriage is treated, to a large extent, as a business transaction; and in which work is perceived as a dirty word. Good.

*Because Israel is doing relatively well economically, I'm assuming he means the dollar's exchange rate problem, which has dramatically impacted Israel's Charedi institutions and some individuals, who rely on donations from abroad

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