The Silent Revolution of the Modern Era

By Liaura Zacharie, Eden 2000, Israel

Over the past 30 years, sociological and technological changes have significantly impacted on the manner in which men and women view themselves, dating and marriage. In a society where material comfort, personal freedom and self-actualization have become a priority, marriage seems to have lost its supremacy. True, it is a worldwide trend, considered by European sociologists as “the silent revolution of the modern era”. Some countries like Italy already have a negative population growth; others are headed down the same road. Can we really afford to go along with this modern trend?

According to the National Jewish Population Survey 2000-2001, published by the UJC:

  • Proportionally fewer Jews than Americans have ever been married
  • Jews tend to marry later than Americans
  • Proportionally more Jewish women than US women remain childless in every age group
  • Fertility is lower among Jewish women than among US women
  • 42% of the Jewish adult population are single
  • 30% of Jewish households are single-dwellings
  • Rates of intermarriage have increased from 13% in 1970 to 47% in 2001.

The uncircumventable conclusion is that Jewish continuity depends first and foremost on … ROMANCE! It is hard to understand how for decades we’ve missed this point. However, I believe that the crisis the world is going through is for the better as this will compel us to develop new resources that will upgrade the quality of human relations.

For many years the world Jewish leadership has attempted to counteract assimilation by enhancing Jewish education. But doesn’t assimilation find its concrete expression primarily through intermarriage? If so, why isn’t there a large scale, comprehensive, professional initiative facilitating Jewish marriages?

Some Jews do not care about marrying Jewish, but many find it very painful to marry outside of their faith. They may feel like they are cutting themselves off from their roots, their People, their heritage, their very identity. It is quite a heavy choice, especially when it happens by lack of choice.

Some singles enjoy being single, though many clearly would rather be married. They have a choice to make: they can feel miserable and cry over their fate. Or they can understand that they have a wonderful opportunity to gain greater personal awareness and grow into individuals who will be able to build more fulfilling relationships. Instead of feeling threatened by the disturbance that these “happy singles” bring to the order of traditional society, the married among us can change our often condescending look for a concretely helpful hand: become an informal matchmaker.

We ALL know people who aren’t married. Aren’t we commanded to follow in the footsteps of the Master of the World? According to the Talmud (Masechet Kiddushin), after He created the world, G-od Himself chose to make a match! What could be more uplifting and rewarding than having the merit to bring happiness to Jews who want to build a family, while at the same time strengthening the Jewish People?

So what is the origin of this growing pool of singles?

  1. It is a reflection of the relational discomfort of modern society. Individualism, egoism, alienation, culture of “instant”, superficiality, lack of authenticity, lack of fulfillment, etc. find their most acute expression in intimate relationships.
  2. Because marriages are no longer arranged, singles are the ones who make the choices. These new circumstances necessitate a strong sense of identity and a high level of self- awareness, which singles have not always achieved by the time they are ready to marry.
  3. Today’s singles aspire to a higher quality of relationship including love, intimacy and growth. Functional partnership is not enough anymore. How do you achieve that quality?

Our goal must be to:

  1. Find suitable partners in a way that is easily accessible, efficient, economical and enjoyable.
  2. Acquire the knowledge, tools and skills to make informed choices and maintain a healthy, fulfilling and long-lasting relationship.

We can accomplish these goals through:

1. Education
  1. Public education to elicit national public cooperation to facilitate Jewish marriages.
  2. Singles’ education to provide them with the knowledge and tools to create and build long lasting relationships.
  3. Parents’ education to maintain strong marriages and raise emotionally healthy children.

2. Creating opportunities for singles to meet through new and existing quality frameworks.

3. Information & Professional counseling and coaching
Making relevant information available to singles, enhancing dating skills and providing guidance in the dating process.

4. Professional training and supervision Raising standards, training and efficiencies for the professional matchmaking field.

5. Creative programming: Developing new methods and programs to suit the needs of today’s singles.
Our community tends to function best only in an “emergency mode”. But it is harder to properly address issues after damage has been done and solve situations that are difficult to reverse. We must take care of things at an earlier stage: act on the “prevention mode”.

Many Jewish singles feel bewildered and hurt by the failure of the community and its leadership to recognize their issues and by the absence of official initiatives to deal with them. By ignoring the painful situation of such a large part of our people we neglect our tradition of compassion, concern for others and for the next generations- key values in our ethical and cultural heritage. Let this be the end of the silent revolution, the end of our silence, and the beginning of our future.

Special thanks to the Orthodox Caucus for allowing us to publish this article

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