First Date 2.0: Groundbreaking ShidduchVision Project Aims to Ease Shidduch Crisis


shidduchimJTA reports: A new effort based in Baltimore represents the latest attempt to address what is often described as a crisis of frum singles unable to find suitable mates. The new service, known as ShidduchVision, will permit frum singles to go on first “dates” via video conference rather than travel to far-off locales to meet potential suitors. A local representative for the service will host participants while they conduct up to three meetings over a secure high-speed link, after which they will decide if they want to take the relationship further by meeting in person. At $18 per user per session — the costs likely will be borne by the men — the service aims not only to save the money of inter-city travel, but also to avoid the heartache of traveling a long distance for what ends up being a bad date.”This will allow many, many more options, especially for those who are termed ‘out-of-towners,’ ” said Jeff Cohn, the Baltimore businessman and founder of the Make a Shidduch Foundation who started ShidduchVision.

The new service, which is expected to go live within weeks, reflects the extraordinary lengths to which members of the Orthodox community are going to address the so-called shidduch, or matchmaking, crisis — a term which has been in circulation for years and refers to what is widely considered a glut of unmarried adults, most of them women.

Though the existence of such a crisis is broadly recognized, its source is widely in dispute. Some say the particulars of Orthodox dating are at fault, with its near-hermetic separation between the sexes. Others say that singles have become to picky, that they — but mostly men — approach dating with a laundry list of requirements and undertake intrusive background checks to determine if a potential partner meets them.

Still others say that Orthodox parents coddle their children too much, which inhibits the normal social development necessary to enter into a committed, mature adult relationship. And still others say it’s a function of simple mathematics: boys start dating at a slightly older age than girls, and given Orthodox demographics and dating patterns, that means there will always be more girls on the market at any given time.

“The crisis is that there are no real venues for young religious people to meet and to learn to socialize with one another,” says Michael Salomon, an Orthodox therapist from Long Island and the author of “The Shidduch Crisis,” one of a host of books on the topic. “Everything has become, I guess the word that’s used is ‘assur’ — not proper.”

Moshe Pogrow, a Queens-based rabbi, has become perhaps the leading exponent of the mathematical theory. Pogrow is the founder of the North American Shidduch Initiative, a program that provides financial incentives to marry off couples who are the same age or where the woman is older.

Pogrow declined to comment, saying he had no interest cooperating in an article addressing anything other than the “fact” that the age gap is at fault. In an article published in March, Pogrow asserted that the only plausible reason for the crisis is that there are more girls than boys in the dating pool at any given time.

“The solution is obvious, and it is the only solution,” Pogrow wrote. “We — parents of young men and women, friends, shadchanim, mentors, rabbonim — need to take the initiative to close the age gap between boys and girls who are dating. Either boys must get married earlier, or girls must get married later, or a combination of both.”

Other than Pogrow’s organization, however, most initiatives to address the crisis employ a strategy along the lines of ShidduchVision: help more singles meet each other. And the extent of these programs is staggering.

Agudath Israel of America, the fervently Orthodox umbrella group, started Invei Hagefen, an organization focusing on singles over 25 — past prime marrying age in the Orthodox world — which also provides mentoring services throughout the dating process.

In Baltimore, which many say is one of the communities hardest hit, an array of projects is under way:

* The Baltimore Shidduch Network is a 20-year-old organization that helps facilitate the exchange of information about prospective singles.

* A similar service, 1-800-Shadchan, is run by Cohn’s foundation, which also publishes a magazine with profiles of singles, The Shadchan. Last year, the community hired a full-time shadchan, or matchmaker, to help marry off its singles. The shadchan already is responsible for nine matches.

* Star-K, a local kosher supervision agency, offers cash incentives to anyone who arranges a marriage for a religious Baltimore woman aged 22 and over.

“I’m not in a position to say that the entire picture is improving,” said Fruma Schiffenbauer, the director of Invei Hagefen. “I only know that it would be radically worse if we weren’t in the picture.”

But to some singles, the efforts of well-intentioned crisis responders not only aren’t helping, but they are making the problem worse.

Chananya Weissman, founder of the 5-year-old Web site, says the problem is a corruption of Jewish values, and his site invites users to sign a covenant affirming basic principles to govern their dating lives. Weissman says that most matchmaking efforts are focused on the symptoms, not the disease.

The site includes a section called “Madness Watch,” where users share stories of Orthodox silliness. Weissman himself writes of what he portrays as the un-Jewish guidance given to singles, such as the discouragement from dating individuals who only recently have embraced Orthodoxy because that would subject offspring of the union to the influences of secular relatives. Or the belief that only married couples should be permitted to suggest matches.

Weissman also rails against the Orthodox practice of strict separation of the sexes.

“So the girls were supposed to go from interaction in any way with their male counterparts as the most forbidden of all forbiddens to establishing a successful marital relationship with one of these people with little delay,” Weissman writes, referring to the message communicated to Orthodox women. “Makes a whole lot of sense, if you’re insane.”

Weissman, who is 30 and unmarried, also believes the idea that more women than men are searching for spouses is based on a false perception, and finds Pogrow’s idea of providing financial incentives horribly misguided. The result, he says, is that matchmakers will be “bribed” to suggest pairings based on age rather than suitability.

Many involved in the issue will quietly admit that things indeed have gotten out of hand. But few will say so publicly, unwilling to make statements that might be construed as an attack on Orthodox practices. Others consider it pointless, as such practices are the product of longstanding behaviors and carry with them the imprimatur of rabbinic legitimacy that won’t be easily undone.

“We wish the issues would go away,” said Steve Graber, an accountant who was a driving force behind the hiring of the Baltimore community matchmaker. “However, right now I don’t believe that we have enough pull or power to fix the issues. It’s a little bit like you can’t fight city hall.”

Instead, most of those concerned have decided to seek city hall’s approval. Cohn proceeded with ShidduchVision only after securing the approval of respected rabbinic figures. The service’s literature promises that “precautions will be put in place to protect the kedusha [holiness] and tznius [modesty] of the process.”

“We have gone to great great lengths and taken great care ensuring the security of the studios so that there is no access to the World Wide Web,” Cohn said. “But even with all that, without approval from rabbonim, many people would not use it.”

{JTA/Noam Newscenter}


  1. 1-Chasidim- Do not have the few boys and too many girls problem, if anything its the othe way around. The time frame for getting it done puts them under tremendous pressure and stihma and honor and lineage is a big issue tehre.

    2- Modern orthodox community does not have this problem due to the looser dating patterns and the longer window of time to get it done. Girls in theyr 30s is not a big deal. College and career also take prioroty to marriage.

    3- Yeshiva , heimishe and Kolel and es yeshiva and bais yaakov comminity suffer the worst from this problem. Boys in shidduchim at age 23 and girls in shidduchim at age 18 makes that tehre is allways a larger number of girls. For those boys in the workforce ,we also face the issue of the girls being way more accomplished then the boys , due to the lack of training and vocation.

    The different venues and ideas for people meeting and networking will only help assist in bringing people to know of each other but will not change individual additudes prioritys and hang ups. It will also not assist in the age gap problem.

  2. The Nasi Project is NOT about offering financial incentives to encourage close in age shidduchim. In fact it doesn’t even offer it any more.

    The Project is about raising awareness of the need to encourage more close in age shidduchim.

    The Project has been involved in HUNDREDS AND HUNDREDS of shidduchim in the year and half since it began and as the letter from the gedolim that was posted last week shows, age gap is clearly the source of the problem.

    I stand by my assertion that without recognizing the age gap problem we will not touch upon the gorilla of the issue.

    TO Mr Solomon and Ms Weissman I have one simple question-do you agree or disagree that the boys seem to getting married and they don’t have a crisis?

    Assuming you agree- I have one question.

    Are they marrying monkeys?? They are marrying females and we have hundreds of xtra women left over.

    obviously the boys are somehow or another meeting and dating enough girls for the boys to by and large to get married.

    PLEASE EXPLAIN how we can have practically all the boys getting married (to girls) and yet hundreds and hundreds of girls left over.

    If not for the fact that we continuously have more girls in the shidduch pool than boys.

    I rest my case!

  3. of course its the age gap and if anyone cant understand that does not mean the word fact deserves quotations. anyone who cant understand is quite “smart”

  4. I may not be anybody special, but I think this article is dangerous and should be removed. It brings up topics and opinions that are not according to a frum outlook on life. Granted, some of the reasons mentioned may very well be a factor in the “crisis”, but girls and guys getting to know each other on thier own will solve problems? I think not.

  5. It sound like a very good idea, however, to say this in the most tzneius way possible;

    There is absolutely no one, not even the biggest ben-torah, who is not interested to know, and who does not look, even casually, at his date’s entire physical make. That is not a un-tznius act, it is rather a reality and mandated by the well known gemorah in Kiddushin.

    That issue is certainly a topic that should not be overlooked. On the other hand, to have a portrayed fuller scale view, certainly does not “past” for a bas melech.

    I guess for that general information, one will have to rely on the shaddchin – for starts.

  6. Rabbi Pogrow is basically right. Math is math. (Having studied statistics I know a little bit about math – and the math here is just simple addition and subtraction. Not “rocket science” by any means.)

    That said – and the crisis won’t be fixed until the issue is solved – there are lots of other factors aggravating the situation, not the least of which is the “silliness” mentioned in the article. We have been so machmir on not letting in the “velt” on visible types of influence that we have let the invisible ones – the market economy outlook and the feeling of entitlement encouraged by the advertising industry – take over our mindsets.

    It’s “past nisht” to consider other neshamos as commodities to be bargained for on the market like a new car or iPod. Socializing or not socializing, video conferences or not – the real problem is in those influences from the velt that we are hardly aware of but undermine all our Torah hashkafos.

  7. It is seemes to me that the more “NEW” ideas that come up the more of a problem this becomes. JUST STICK TO THE “OLD” WAY OF DOING THINGS AND EVERYTHING WILL BE ALLRIGHT.

  8. moshe: everything will be alright????? have you looked around? are the hundreds of single girls who will never NEVER get married if we stick to the old way “ALLRIGHT”? i would say you are being over on lo saamod al dam rayecha!

  9. um a video conference does not compare to meeting a person, seeing them, reading their body language; this will lead to more bad dates and wrong impressions, has anyone here seen someone on a screen and than in person the look is completely different. Camera angles lighting and other factors can do more harm than good. sorry this is a terrible idea.


  11. i have handsome boy with good job and slim pretty girl……yet can not find the right shadchans: by this i mean that they describe accurately (they have seen and talked to their people and the shadchan tells it like it is…really is!….tells accurate truthful info so that a girl is slim and pretty and a guy is a mentsch not IN THE EYES of THE BEHOLDER baloney! but rather in FACT )…and i need a shadchan with access to the top 10% OF THE PE0PLE: SMART, ATTRACTIVE, SLIM, GOOD JOBS, SWEET,KIND, WONDERFUL PEOPLE TYPES….WITH NO PROBLEMS, IN EXCELLENT HEALTH

  12. Oy vey. What is becoming of our society. Can the fools starting this thing please go home and stop starting such ridiculousities? Like this is supposed to solve things?!? How is this different then a telephone? Because they can see a face? How stupid can our generation become?!? A phone call will convey the same information as a webcam. My children have done just fine the regular old way and continue to do just fine the regular old way. Crisis, crisis, crisis. Blah blah blah. Get a life people

  13. The siddush crisis is a real issue. For those who are trying to minimize it, I would suggest that you talk to a person who is struggling to find their bashert, after many years of trying, and then see if you feel the same way. Sometimes the “old way” is not the best way and needs to be rethought, through a Torah view of course. Morevoer, looking at the person you are talking to, rather than speaking to them on the phone, does offer a better idea of the person. Of course, they will have to meet if they both think it would be worthwhile.
    May we see many more shidduchim, be’ezras Hashem!

  14. Let’s not forget that the screen usually adds a few pounds. Hope this won’t put more insane pressure on the girls.

  15. The whole shidduch crisis would be solved if males were allowed to mary more than one wife at a time just like in good old bible times. The cherem is technically off and the idea may not sit well with the girls but it does solve the shidduch problem as well as the decreasing jewish population problem and it would probably do away with a lot of divorces.

  16. Right on, let’s brainstorm within the parameters of dina dimalchusa dina, and that cherem or not, women AND men have been conditioned otherwise, and unless you’re old time sefardim, haven’t seen it work in practice.

  17. Yaakov, whereas I can understand the immediate skepticism on the concept of a video conference system to help the Shidduch situation, it would probably be prudent to learn more about all the technical details that have gone into it and to see why, after many hours of testing, the final product is nothing at all like you think.

    I have been a member of the ShidduchVision focus group for the last couple of years, where, in order to create a “more than acceptable” program that benefits each and every single, skepticism was a prerequisite. We were all told to think as negatively as possible about why this will not work, why it will not be acceptable and then work within those as guidelines. I would like to point out a few details that, hopefully, will allow you to see the vision of this project in a more positive light:

    1. The technology being used for this endeavor is professional, high quality, crystal clear, and will be in real time. It is not a web cam nor is it Skype. No doubt, the first time singles try this method may feel a little different than an actual date. However, it will definitely qualify as a great method with which to ‘meet’ the other single for the first/second or up to third time. Each single will be able to see and hear each other clearly. The body language will certainly not replicate an in-person date; it’s not meant to.

    2. In addition to the high quality of equipment used, the environment of each ShidduchVision studio will be replicated so that each studio has the necessary high quality for lighting and sound as well as other factors that will make singles wonder why they ever travelled for the first few dates.

    This project has been in development for several years and much thought and detail has gone in to making this a first-class, high-quality reality. Shouldn’t you at least be familiar with the background of the project before expressing negativity towards it?

  18. I am an unmarried Balas Tshuva in my 30s who 6 ago was under the impression that there was this “amazing frum Jewish guy” at the end of the religious tunnel. Six years and a year in a half in seminary later, he seems to be no where to be found, and the age of the men being suggested to me seem to increase exponentially with every year I add to my age. The non-religious (and non-Jewish men) are perfectly happy to date women their age, becuase they are not expecting 10 children out of the project. They are looking for a partner. Period. So here is a solution — since kids are so important, and since women control the Jewishness anyway, how about all of the unmarried women marry a mentch — Jewish or not — then they will have Jewish kids, and then all of the problems will be solved. More Jewish people will be added to the world, and the women will not be in a “crisis” where at 22, they are already over the hill. Crisis solved.

  19. Excelent article, and a beautiful, concise description of the possible issues:
    1. Orthodox dating is at fault, with its near-hermetic separation between the genders.
    2. no (halachally acceptable) venues for young religious people to meet
    3. singles have become too picky
    4. men approach dating with a laundry list of requirements
    5. parents coddle their children too much, which inhibits the normal social development
    6. it’s a function of mathematics: boys start dating at a slightly older age than girls

    Issues 1 and 2 are related, frum singles don’t go to dances and mixers. Issues 3 and 4 are related, and might be the result of issue 5. Issue 6 is a non-starter. Unless you are bad at math, you immediately understand that boys have always looked for girls who are two to five years younger, and it makes no difference in the results.

    If I could waive the magic wand and take down expectations a notch, it would have an immediate effect. Too many singles are looking for someone in the top ten percent. And if Rabbi Moshe Pogrow would go back to math class, he would realize that this is the real mathmatical reason for the problem.

    Instead of looking for someone in the top ten percent, if singles would be happy with someone in the top 80 percent, then the “crisis” would disapear. Of course, this would require that singles meet and socialize and grow romantic connections BEFORE background checks and laundry lists are applied.

    It all goes hand in hand.

    That is why the video dating idea is not the answer. It will just make it easier to apply the top ten percent expectations, laundry list requirements and background checks. My intuition says that the video dating will have only a marginal benefit.

  20. Moshe:


    I’m just curious whether you have any idea of the number of older single girls in ratio to older single guys.

    As to your suggestion that nothing can be done- For your Info the NASI Project seems to be doing a real good job.

    For anyone who hasn’t yet realized the pain of single girls and their families please read the comment from Fed Up and multiply by hundreds and hundreds of devastated girls and their famililies. Although I certainly don’t condone the suggestion, it should give us a moments thought to the desperation facing these women (both Balei Teshuva and non Ballei Teshuva). One who chooses to ignore this pain is b’geder an Achzari in the fullest meaning of the word.

  21. I am one of the technical consultants on the ShidduchVision project. I am a Senior Network Engineer and have been involved in the installation and configuration of video conferencing equipment for a couple of years.
    A few points I’d like to clarify:
    1. This is not a PC based webcam. It is NOT Skype over a 128kb DSL line. It IS a business grade Polycom video conferencing system run over a business quality T1 line. The quality of the conference is excellent and a lot of time and attention has been paid to camera angles, distance from camera, and lighting. Even without these considerations the conference is of excellent quality, but these details help to make the experience as true to life as reasonably possible.
    2. I have done video conferences over this equipment. Contrary to what some have written here, it does NOT add pounds to the person. And you can read their expressions and their body language. No one is suggesting that it is the same as meeting in person. It isn’t. BUT, it isn’t like a phone call either. It is a phenomenal way to gain an initial impression of another person. We all know someone who travelled a long distance, at enormous cost in terms of time, money an emotional turmoil, for a date that they realized within 30 min was a total mistake. This system will avoid that.
    3. This idea is different. It’s new. It’s a novel approach. That is enough in many people’s minds to make it unworthy of consideration. “My children got married without this”, etc, etc. But it’s time to open our hearts and minds to the singles out there who aren’t married yet. Or even to those who, B”H, have gotten married, but were bruised and hurt from the experience in ways that were avoidable. We have access to amazing technology that is no longer prohibitively expensive. ShidduchVision is a worthy attempt to help our singles in a dignified and sensitive fashion.

  22. To the tech…
    I still think that technology is not the answer. When all you have is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail. When all you have is “technology”, then everything looks like “technology” will solve the problem. I think it won’t.

  23. Baruch Atta, you are correct: ShidduchVision is not the silver bullet nor is it a program meant to change any of the 6 ideas you mention.

    ShidduchVision was created specifically because so many ideas/dates/suggestions did not happen because of money, time, distance, daily responsibilities, etc.

    Agav, the other day, while a friend of mine was walking in to the Bais Medrash in Lakewood, he overheard a bachur- in the hall on his cell- in a pretty exasperated tone saying,

    “I’m not going to California to meet a girl.”

    With ShidduchVision he can at least see who it is he may not or actually may wish to meet.

    Using ShidduchVision, singles can meet before they meet which will hopefully lead to many more possibilities, for everyone, especially out of towners. When doing the math, even if only marginal beneficial, as you say, that will ultimately mean possibilities heretofore not realized by many singles and that will certainly make them and their parents very happy, b’sha’ah tova U’mutzlachas!

  24. Baruch Ata:

    “And if Rabbi Moshe Pogrow would go back to math class, he would realize that this is the real mathmatical reason for the problem.”

    Perpaps you can explain why the boys by and large seem to be getting married relatively quickly and the girls seem to be left out. Or perhaps you deny the statement that there are hundreds and hundreds more older single girls than guys.

    I await you pogsition

  25. If we could simply educate our young people to be self aware, respect others, act intelligently and responsibly, and have some genuine Emunah, I think all of our problems would decrease. I think the video idea is great, but no technological advancement is going to change the serious sense of entitlement in young men and women and the lack of genuine respect for men and, especially women. Let’s get some video conferences on education for all those values, in addition to dating interviews!

  26. I refer Mr. Pogrow and readers to two articles of mine that address both the myth of a demographic problem and the folly of trying to solve such a problem by manipulating men to date older women (which is nothing more than a pyramid scheme, and would only cause other women to be left with a problem).

    The articles can be found at

    I would also advise singles who wish to “date” long-distance via video conferencing to sign up for skype or some other messenger service and talk for free. You don’t need to blow $18 to sit in a “gadol-approved” studio.

    For all the money being thrown at the problem and all the “gadol-approved” this and that, things only seem to be getting worse. Our parents and grandparents didn’t have try far-fetched and irrational things to get married. Neither do today’s singles.

    Every person has a choice. Choose to be your own person and choose to be sensible. Don’t be a lemming following all the other lemmings off the cliff.

    Chananya Weissman

  27. (Rabbi) Chananya Weissman:

    as your article so eloquently shows you miserable fail to even begin to fathom why their are far more girls entering the pool than boys each year. And why encouraging close in age shidduchim would alleviate the inequity of numbers. I would be more than happy to debate you but I’m not sure this is the proper forum. I’ll spell it out in short

    1. more 19 year old girls than 22 yr old boys due to population growth
    2. girls start dating at 19 and boys at 22

    If there would be more close in age shidduchim than there would NOT be far more girls in the shiduch pool than guys.

    You totally misunderstanding of the concept as evident in the article should lens me to call into question you motives.

  28. (Rabbi) Chananya Weissman :

    I apologize. I forgot to cut and post your article that shows you total misunderstanding of the situation.

    You write:

    “I believe the presumed catastrophic disparity between eligible single women and men is largely mythical.”

    Hmm- I guess having more 19 yr olds in the world than 22 yr olds due to population growth is “mythical”

    you continue

    “But even if it were true, as long as every marriage consists of one man and one woman, and as long as we can’t expect a bumper crop of single men, this entire idea is a puffy cloud of smoke.”

    Gee wiz- if the reason there are more girls than boys in the pool is because of the dating ages than closing the age gap alleiviates the problem. NOT rocket science.

  29. Anonymous (who’s responding to R. Weissman): the problem is, how to do this? There is encouraging boys to DATE older girls, but l’maaseh, unless they start MARRYING older girls in droves there won’t be any impact. I think that there are so many more factors involved, the “learning gap”, the ridiculous circus shidduchim has become, the lack of chanoch l’naar al pi darko and really understanding what is best for each of our children… Focusing on age to the exclusion of all the other factors is a quick fix that isn’t necessarily going to best lead to a coming generation of batei neeman b’Yisrael.

  30. HI Tzippi

    Ask your husband to show you a tos first page of second perek of Kidduchsim d”h assur #2. See to what extend the rishonim were willing to facilitate helping girls to get married. Tos. permits that which the gem prohibits. Bythw the gem prohibited it on the grounds that Chazal were concerned for shalom bayis issues.

    NO, I’m not advocating solving the shidduch crisis by creating a shalom bayis crisis. I AM on board the movement of advocating closing the age gap that will alleiviat the shidduch crisis despite people such as yourself hypothesizing w/o any basis whatsoever that close in age shidduchim lead to bad marriages. Frankly their is no basis whatsoever to that thought.

    The rest of the “circus” is wholly irrelevant to the single question of why their are so many more older single girls than boys.

    PLEASE decide what problem you are trying to solve. Changing what you refer to as the “circus” (even if successful”) w/o solving the inequity of numbers, will have almost no impact on the phenomena of far more older girls than boys.

    As an aside, there is very strong reason to believe that the “circus” itself is a result of the inequity of numbers in the dating scene and not the cause. THUS closing the age gap is in effect the single most effective way of not only alleviating the crisis of hundreds and hundreds of agunons (see that same tos. who uses the term to refer to halachically permissable girls who have other difficulties in getting married) but of changing the “circus” as well.