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 3 of 4)

The study itself defined forced marriage as “one that takes place without the full and free consent of one or both parties” and distinguished this from an arranged marriage, in which, it stated, “the choice ultimately remains with the individual.”

Avi Shafran, director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America, an ultra-Orthodox umbrella group, agrees with that definition. For him, there is no such thing as forced marriage in the Jewish community. Jewish law, he said, does not permit it.

“There are certainly ‘arranged marriages’ in some Orthodox circles, but that just means that parents of a young man and young woman decide that their children are a good match,” he explained. “But in such cases, the young people must approve of one another before marrying.”

Reiss argues that “choice” is a relative term. Technically, she pointed out, she could have refused to marry. There is having a choice, and then there’s “choice,” she said. That is even truer after the marriage takes place.

Shafran acknowledged that, like all communities, the Orthodox Jewish community is not immune to domestic abuse. But he was reluctant to counsel in favor of secular authorities, whom he said “are powerless to do anything about the most common form of abuse in a marriage: psychological abuse.”

Instead, he advised, a woman seeking shelter from an abusive husband should approach the abuser’s rabbi, who should be able to effectively intercede. “[If] bringing in secular authorities is the only way to protect the wife (or husband), that will likely be the counsel of an experienced rabbi,” he said in an email.

When Reiss walked into the police department of Lakewood, N.J., and asked for a temporary restraining order against her husband, she had been living with him for nearly eight years, during which, she said, she feared constantly for her life and for the safety of her two children.

“I probably was the first Orthodox Jewish woman ever in Lakewood, N.J., to walk into the police department and ask for a restraining order against her husband,” she said. “They were shocked.”

Her friends, family and community were outraged — but not at her husband. A rabbi in her community dispatched an ultra-Orthodox lawyer to her home. His job was to escort her to court to withdraw the complaint.


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!
  • "Selma. Nearly 50 years ago it was violent Selma, impossibly racist Selma, site of Bloody Sunday, when peaceful civil rights marchers made their first attempt to cross the Pettus Street Bridge on the way to the state capitol in Montgomery, Alabama." http://jd.fo/r50mf With the 50th anniversary approaching next spring, a new coalition is bringing together blacks, Jews and others for progressive change.
  • Kosovo's centuries-old Jewish community is down to a few dozen. In a nation where the population is 90% Muslim, they are proud their past — and wonder why Israel won't recognize their state. http://jd.fo/h4wK0
  • Israelis are taking up the #IceBucketChallenge — with hummus.
  • In WWI, Jews fought for Britain. So why were they treated as outsiders?
  • According to a new poll, 75% of Israeli Jews oppose intermarriage.
  • Will Lubavitcher Rabbi Moshe Wiener be the next Met Council CEO?
  • Angelina Jolie changed everything — but not just for the better:
  • Prime Suspect? Prime Minister.
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • 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.