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!
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • 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.
  • 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.