A few years ago, it became clear to gedolim that the age gap between boys and girls entering shidduchim was a major cause for the high number of unmarried girls in our community. Therefore, reducing the age gap was believed to be able to effectively improve this dire situation.
One year ago, gedolim both in Eretz Yisroel and America signed a kol korei urging the community to allow boys to start shidduchim at a younger age. The community responded. Previously, boys would typically go to Eretz Yisroel at age 21-22 and stay there for 1-2 years, only starting shidduchim at age 23. In the past year, many more boys have become engaged at age 21-22. In fact, during the zeman following the release of the kol korei, an unusually high number of boys entered Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood were already engaged. The assumption that boys must learn in America for 3-4 years post high school, go to Eretz Yisroel for another 1-2 years, and only then start shidduchim is no longer widespread. Now, boys are more willing to start shidduchim earlier.
This week, a letter on this topic signed in Teves 5772 by Rav Chaim Kanievsky, Rav Ahron Leib Shteinman, Rav Shmuel Auerbach and lhbchl”c Rav Elyashiv z”tl was rereleased. The letter asks Roshei Yeshiva to find ways to enable their talmidim to start shidduchim at a younger age. It also addresses the bochurim, encouraging them to start shidduchim earlier as this will be greatly beneficial to them as well.
Additionally, many American roshei yeshiva have now signed a brand new kol korei urging boys and their parents to start looking for shidduchim by age 22½. They can do so either by decreasing the amount of time spent in Eretz Yisroel or by starting shidduchim during bein hazemanim, even if they plan on returning to Eretz Yisroel. Alternatively, some boys may choose not to learn in Eretz Yisroel before marriage.