Recently, I received several emails from (American) Jewish men in their twenties and early thirties, all asking the same question: "Where can I find a nice, decent Jewish woman who wouldn't be too career-minded and would simply want to get married?"
All these men expressed their frustration about the women they met being too pushy, too career oriented, too uncompromising, and too harsh. This got me thinking: is there such a thing as "Jewish feminism"? Or are we simply part of a feminism-driven world?
Then I came across this article about the demographic situation of American Jewish population.
Right now I don't plan to comment on the tragic issue of intermarriage, even though I know it reached catastrophic proportions in the United States. Obviously the young men who contacted me, even if not strictly Orthodox, were interested in a Jewish wife, and were introduced to women who also looked for a Jewish husband. I will focus on another aspect the article discusses:
"Jews marry later than other Americans, with the greatest disparities occurring in the age group between twenty-five and thirty-four. For Jewish women in particular, late marriage means lower rates of fertility compared with other Caucasian women."
"Jewish women in the United States are significantly less fertile than their white, Gentile counterparts. To explain this fact, the demographer Frank Mott has pointed to the extraordinary rates of educational achievement among Jewish women, who spend significantly more time than their Gentile peers in programs of higher learning. For many of them, still more childless years follow as they work to advance their careers."
This rang a bell. As a young, college-educated woman, I know this pull of "You must get your degree first! But that's not enough - continue learning. Get your PhD. Advance your career. And then maybe, just maybe, if you really think you've had enough years alone, get married and have a child. Or two. But definitely not more than two, if you don't want to really mess up your life!"
This attitude is true not only for Jewish women, of course. But Jews have always been known for high rates of excellent education and professionalism. I'm not saying there's a problem with education in itself; but for the vast majority of population today, "good education" is equaled with "investing ten years in a PhD". This usually means a higher marriage age, and fewer children. According to the quoted statistics, the average number of children per Jewish woman is 1.86, which can mean only one thing: dwindling of the American Jewish population.
Of course, the situation is better among Orthodox Jews:
"An informed estimate gives figures ranging upward from 3.3 children in "modern Orthodox" families to 6.6 in Haredi or "ultra-Orthodox" families to a whopping 7.9 in families of Hasidim." (emphasis mine)
"But what accounts for the high fertility rates of Orthodox Jews? It is certainly true that they marry much earlier than other Jews. Almost two-thirds of Orthodox women are wed by the age of twenty-five, and 90 percent by thirty-five."
From my experience, the average secular, college-educated 25-year-old woman either isn't thinking about marriage at all, or dreads it like a beast that will tie her down and prevent her from enjoying single, carefree life. It seems as though there is "a predisposition among the best-educated to regard family itself as a suspect category and child-rearing as a chore best left to others".
"Thirty- and forty-year-old singles speak freely of their loneliness, and their inability to meet eligible Jewish mates. Because of late marriages, huge numbers of Jewish couples are struggling with infertility or with the difficulties of finding babies to adopt."
"A small but growing number [of single Jewish women] have taken the extraordinary step of bearing children through artificial insemination, and reportedly some, in the name of Jewish continuity, have contemplated asking the organized community to support their choice financially."
So far, it seems to me that the "Jewish spin" of feminism suggested by the men who wrote to me could probably be found in any community with adult singles, especially women, spending many years in institutions of higher education. It all boils down to two points: there are so few eligible potential wives to choose from in the first place, and so many of them opt for delaying marriage until their mid-thirties.
My suggestion was simple: keep looking, and don't be ashamed to use online dating services if you live in a small community. Oh, and while in general it's less difficult if you have a similar observance level, if you meet someone "more Orthodox" than yourself, building a bridge over the religious gap is a much better option than "dropping out" entirely.