Orthodox Woman's Journey From Teen Wife to Advocate

Fraidy Reiss Helps Desperate Women Exit Arranged Marriages

Unchained at Last: Fraidy Reiss at her home in New Jersey.
chloe smolkin and lindsay rothenberg
Unchained at Last: Fraidy Reiss at her home in New Jersey.

By Anne Cohen

Published February 10, 2013, issue of February 15, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 4)

“My battles are immense,” said one ultra-Orthodox Jewish woman from England whom Unchained is helping. The woman moved to the United States with her husband, to whom she was married for 10 years. Now separated from the man who, she said, abused her, the 32-year-old woman, has been diagnosed with cancer. Surviving an experience like this “is about finding that one person that you can fall back on,” said the woman, who spoke only on condition of anonymity. “Fraidy’s that person.”

Unchained set her up with a divorce attorney from an experienced law firm. The attorney took on her case pro bono. But that was just the beginning. When the woman had trouble getting to the hospital from her home on Long Island, Reiss raised money to help her buy a used car. “I actually sleep at night,” the woman said. “There are other people fighting — really fighting — for my case.”

Unchained also lobbies for legislation. Recently, Reiss collaborated with New Jersey Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg to draft a law that would enable women to access their own crime victim records for free, so that they can use them as proof in order to obtain final restraining orders.

Unchained depends largely on donations of time from volunteers and on money from individual donors. But its startup was made possible by the Good People Fund, a Jewish organization that gives grants to not-for-profits that have budgets of less than $500,000. Unchained’s budget for 2012 was $20,000. The organization does not yet have a full-time staff, but it has managed to help more than 40 women in New Jersey and New York this year, according to Reiss.

Naomi Eisenberger, who founded the Good People Fund, also provides mentorship throughout the startup phase. Her determination to back Unchained was driven in part by the broad spectrum of women from different backgrounds that Reiss’s group serves. Reiss is “raising awareness of the fact that arranged marriages occur in many cultures, not just in the Jewish community,” Eisenberger said.

A 2011 study — the first of its kind in the United States — conducted by the Tahirih Justice Center of people most likely to be first responders to cases of forced marriage, including law enforcement authorities, legal service providers and social workers, reported nearly 3,000 suspected cases of forced marriage in the United States, involving individuals from 56 different countries.

There may be even more than that. Fewer than 10% of those surveyed agreed that their agency had a working definition of forced marriage, and only 22% said that their agency’s screening process enabled them to properly identify instances of forced marriage.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.