Debunking The Debunking
Rabbi Chananya Weissman is a hero to many and a personal role model in midos and maasim tovim. His brilliant work with “End the Madness,” where he has served as founder, CEO, and audience cannot be overstated, as it has led to hundreds if not thousands of shidduchim. His well-written articles, with clear and articulate points always made in a respectful manner, add much to the discourse in this paper and others. Thus, I was hesitant to write this letter, as it might be considered disrespectful to him.
Nevertheless, I believe that in his front-page article last week (“Debunking the Age-Gap Theory”), Rabbi Weissman made some major statistical mistakes that need to be clarified. Perhaps he can take time from his busy schedule meeting with baalei batim and talmidim to address this.
Rabbi Weissman was attempting to debunk the age-gap theory (AGT) and show that it is a myth. He quoted a study by the Jerusalem Post showing that in Jerusalem, 27% of men and only 20% of women between the ages of 20 and 30 are single. He uses this statistic to prove that there are certainly not more single women than men, and if anything the reverse is true. But there are many flaws with his analysis:
1. The AGT is something that, as its adherents say, is applicable to the yeshivish community in the United States. Quoting statistics from people in Jerusalem adds little to the conversation.
2. The Jerusalem study seems to include all people in the Holy City–Muslims, Christians, chareidi, dati, etc. Again, this has little or nothing to do with the issue at hand.
3. Even if this study only included right-wing Orthodox, it would still be flawed, since it includes all ages between 20 and 30. In other words, it includes all girls of marriageable age, but many boys who are not yet there (ages 20—22 or even 20—23). Which of course is the entire point of the AGT.
4. Last but not least, using percentages in no way shows whether or not the problem exists. If there are 100 men and 150 women in the study, then 27% of the males is still a smaller number than 20% of the females!
I applaud Rabbi Weissman’s fine work on solving the shidduch challenge, and believe that the age-gap proponents have never truly proven that they are correct. They often use numbers such as “4% annual growth rate” without sharing the data behind those numbers, which violates first principles of those of us in the field. Nevertheless, if I can be bold enough to pass along a message–and it is so close to Chodesh Elul it scares me–Rabbi Weissman, using your own incorrectly applied data is not the way to prove them wrong.