Forward Thinking

Stigmatizing the Unmarried

By Eliyahu Federman

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In the insular Jewish world there is constant buzz around the so-called shidduch (marriage) crisis, where Orthodox are single despite wanting to find a mate.

This marriage worldview manifested itself in a recent letter, published on the Jewish news site Shmais, in which an anonymous “older single girl” describes her shame and depression for being unmarried.

The stigma of singlehood is rooted in conformist values that lack individual expression. It is sacrificing the individual for the sake of family and community.

The letter is addressed to her “Married Friends.” She starts by describing herself as a nebech – a pity case. She then details the pain and frustration of being single and without children.

She mostly refers to her married friends as a reference point for the ideal life she is lacking. She never discussed why she wants to be married and have children – but only about the life she sees others living.

Marriage is sacred and beautiful. Children are the greatest blessing. But it is harmful when a society conveys the message that you must be married to be happy.

It tells people they must conform to be happy. They must have kids. They must be married. Otherwise they will be miserable. In reality, happiness comes from within, not external factors like marriage.

If you can’t be happily single, you can’t be happily married.


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