By REUVEN BLAU • NY Post
The Talmudic titans, based here and in Israel, are calling for matchmakers to stop setting up Jewish men with much younger women, claiming the practice is leaving too many older women unmarried.
Matchmakers should set up men only with women whose ages are "within a year or two of the boy's, or even older," the 60 yeshiva rabbis declared in a letter.
The marriage missive, issued in late September, also suggested that shadchanim -- Jewish matchmakers -- concentrate on girls "age 20 and above."
Local singles bristled at what they saw as an implication that women who aren't even of the legal drinking age are already old maids.
"That mindset is the reason there's a crisis," said Allison Witty, 30, a communications director. "Women in the Orthodox Jewish world shouldn't have an 'expires by' stamp on them."
Sima Greenstein, a volunteer matchmaker in Cedarhurst, LI, had "mixed feelings" about the letter.
"When 30-year-old men say they want a 19-year-old girl, it's just unfair to the ones who are the right age for them," she said.
But, she added, "I'm not closing my doors to anybody. There are some 19-year-old girls who want to get taken by an older man."
About five years ago, the rabbis assembled an emergency meeting to address the growing number of single Orthodox women -- the so-called shidduch crisis.
Those rabbis concluded that older men marrying teen women was the primary cause.
They sponsored ads in Jewish publications promoting close-in-age matches. Some even suggested that matchmakers get paid double for making such connections.
Rabbi Shmuely Boteach, author of "The Kosher Sutra," a relationship guide, welcomed the latest edict.
"Men need to grow up," he said. "Rather than appreciating a woman who has matured like a fine wine, they often look for someone who is all cover and no book."
He said he knows many women in their 40s and 50s who have completely given up on love.
"This is getting worse because we live in a visual age. Men are only looking for wrinkle-free women," he said.
Michael Salomon, author of the book "The Shidduch Crisis," said the rabbis need to do more.
"I think this [edict] is a feeble attempt to address a situation that has never been addressed properly," said the Orthodox Jewish psychiatrist from Long Island.
He said the crisis is also reflected in spiking divorce rates and domestic violence among observant Jewish couples.
Singles are being bullied into marriage by pushy matchmakers, the therapist said.
Ilana Hostyk, 18, called it "good advice" to marry someone close in age, but noted, "When love comes around, I don't think you can place rules on it."