An anonymous ultra-Orthodox group called the NASI Project has introduced a “game changing Shidduch program” that provides financial incentives for Shadchanim (matchmakers) in order to solve the so-called “Shidduch crisis.” Claiming that the age gap between eligible male and female Orthodox singles has created a large population of older, single women, this ominously-named group has quite boldly suggested that the way to solve the “Shidduch crisis” is by enticing Shadchanim to spend more time finding matches for this neglected group of older singles. Of course, it’s important to point out, that according to NASI, “older” means women over the age of 22. Here’s an excerpt describing the program from Lakewood Local:
“Under the program NASI will create a list of girls 22 and older to be distributed to shadchanim across the United States. If shadchanim are to make a shidduch for any girl on the list they are guaranteed a large sum of money for their work.
For girls aged 22 they will receive $5,000; 23-$6,000; 24-$7,000; 26-$9,000; 28-$11,000; and for any girl 30 and older $13,000.
Girls on the list will be given contact information of all shadchanim participating in the program.
To get on the list a girl or her family sends in the exact amount of shadchanus money correlating to her age plus $500 to cover the costs of the program. All money is guaranteed and is available for return upon request at any time.
When a young woman gets married the money will be given to the shadchan immediately after the wedding.”
Not surprisingly, the announcement was received poorly by NASI’s target audience, and the group has already submitted a muddled explanation of its intentions on Yeshiva World News. None of NASI’s excuses provide an adequate justification for a program that blatantly establishes a caste system that prices women according to their biological ages. This action legitimizes the (false) idea that young girls are inherently more desirable than adult women. NASI would be better off disciplining Shadchanim that perpetuate this myth, and devoting resources to educating Shadchanim and socializing bachelors instead of paying them off. Publicly articulating ideas that many shortsighted Shadchanim already believe sets a dangerous precedent, one that could result in all single women over 22 in search of a Shidduch having to pay the exorbitant prices set forth by NASI.
How long does it take until the “older” women NASI so desperately hopes to save internalize the idea that they are somehow less valuable than other women? The project’s good intentions are all but erased when considering its social and economical implications. There is no doubt that NASI’s solution to the Shidduch crisis goes against the teachings so beloved by Klal Yisroel.
Even worse, NASI’s anonymity deprives potential customers (participants?) the ability to confirm the safety of their payments. There is no talk of accounting; instead, there is simply a quick promise that all money will be refunded if the woman fails to find a match. How can a woman’s family trust an anonymous organization that claims to be righteous, yet says outright that “Hashem did not cause” the Shidduch crisis. Shouldn’t a Chassidishe organization understand that Torah Judaism dictates that everything is caused by Hashem? And that if Hashem is making something happen, even something horrible, that it is being done for a reason? Without names and facts to back up this plan, NASI is coming off like a ponzi scheme in the making, not the solution to every single girl’s problems.
Is it a scam? Is it the end of the Jewish spinster? Only time will tell, but until then, I can only hope that the community NASI hopes to win over will decide that a few good matches aren’t worth devaluing hundreds, if not thousands, of perfectly wonderful Jewish women.