Father's day will soon take place and I wonder if this secular holiday will evolve into one where fathers are reunited with their children or if it will eventually become a misnomer. Research in gender studies is beginning to reveal that men resist forming long-term emotional relationships until they become financially successful or feel satisfied with their career paths. This is an important concern because research also is yields that 60 percent of the people entering college are women. This number continues to increase.
Studies indicate that women consistently out perform men in universities in general and specifically in a number of fields. More women are entering graduate schools and once again are generally more successful. This is particularly important in an economy where positions of employment are not plentiful. Journalist Benedict Carey reported in the New York Times on May 24, 2011, that psychotherapy has evolved into a field that primarily attracts women. As a result of the dearth of men in the profession, women are currently training women to treat male patients. At the Second Conference on Male Studies held in Manhattan in the spring of 2011, Tom Mortenson noted that "women are receiving a majority of undergraduate degrees in psychology, social services, Biology, history and elementary education."
This past month, I had the opportunity to visit a number of different synagogues in North America. I visited chavurot as well as small, medium and cathedral-sized synagogues. Perhaps, because the services were so long, in each instance I found myself counting and comparing the number of men and women actively participating. In one synagogue the ratio of women Torah readers to men was two to one. In another three to one and in yet another it was 50/50.
At Kiddush (post-prayer social gatherings) I was fair game for every "greeter" in the building. It was as if I were wearing a sign which announced, "I'm new, please introduce yourself."
"Hello, I'm so-and-so, welcome to our community. Who are you?" the designated community greeter would ask. Gratefully, I supplied my name, appropriately praised the service and asked my new friend to tell me about the community.
As the conversation progressed, I asked the key question, "Do you have any idea how your Board of Directors is broken down by gender?" All of a sudden, the friendly conversation buckled and I was taken to meet the rabbi. In most cases the rabbi recognized me and was able to answer my questions. Seventy percent of the people sitting on the board were women and most likely the same percentage of synagogue volunteers were also women. If this is the case, where were the men?
Jewish leaders are beginning to think about the diminishing number of men who are active in our institutions; but the issue is far more serious and has implications that require much broader thinking. Recent studies indicate that young men are not being sufficiently stimulated at home and in school and as a result fail to develop intellectual curiosity. As a result they devote too much time playing sports and video games when they should be studying. This results in huge numbers of men who are unable to compete in the job market. If men are not successful professionally many of them will fail to marry or partner.
In the secular world studies indicate that divorce increases when men are not employed.
Perhaps each year when Father's Day comes around all of us should pause and consider what needs to be done to insure that our sons will eventually become fathers.