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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 12/04/09

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Dear Rachel,

The article by the abused wife (My suffering seems endless / Chronicles 11-6) brought tears to my eyes. I have been a victim of the same community bullying for several years now. My name has been besmirched all over – as far as Europe and Israel. Simple things like going to shul and communal gatherings are taboo for me. People whisper, call me names and look upon me with disdain and horror, as if I am some hardened criminal.

This is because I divorced a choshuva (honorable) man with a condition that I was not told about before we were married. Good people have tried to set me up with shidduchim, but when my name is checked into, it is met with slander.

The community has even managed to alienate my only child from me. Where is justice? Living here has become a daily nightmare that is almost indescribable. (I cannot afford to leave because rents are astronomical.)

Looking for employment has become another difficulty for me. Prospective employers check out my name and hear only evil and slander, which render me unemployable. Even my father was told not to have anything to do with me when he was at a family simcha.

People have stooped so low as to throw eggs at my door, and little children take the liberty of calling me names. This is all learned from their parents.

The Rabbanim are in cahoots with my ex-husband’s family, demeaning me with their looks and stares. When will this disgrace stop? At the end of our lives, we all have to speak to the Ribono Shel Olam. How will those held responsible for the destruction of another human being defend themselves?

I know that there are other men and women being subjected to this evil, and I want to make people aware of the character assassination and slander that have a stranglehold on our “religious” communities.

Snubbed is not the word

Dear Rachel,

I am writing in response to the young Orthodox woman who had written her sad story about having married a very abusive man whom she ended up divorcing a couple of years later.

Her ex-spouse continues to abuse her by spreading malicious gossip and falsehood about her and her family. This has caused her irreparable harm, including being ostracized by her former friends and the members of her community.

Despite this difficult situation, this young woman has refrained from speaking lashon hara about her former husband, choosing only to confide in her therapist and immediate family members. She has suffered deeply, due to her ex-husband’s malevolence in ruining her name (while she takes the “high ground” and keeps silent). You responded by commending her for her admirable behavior in refraining from speaking lashon hara, and you told her she could walk with her head held high as a result.

I will have to disagree with you on this one, Rachel. I too was stuck in an abusive marriage – for over 25 years. Some of the reasons I remained in the marriage were due to the messages I received when I was a young innocent girl in Yeshiva: work to keep the shalom bayis in your home at all costs; be dan l’kav zchus (give the benefit of the doubt); and refrain from speaking lashon hara.

Unfortunately, when one is married to a sociopath/con-artist/pathological liar, keeping these mitzvos can end up hurting the victim and causing much suffering and pain. My willingness to be dan l’kav zchus my ex-husband over and over again set me up to be betrayed in a never ending cycle.

My refusal to speak “lashon hara” to anyone about his abusive, noxious and illegal activities ended up working as a cover for him so that he could actually continue in his evil ways. My ex-spouse continues to abuse me through my adult children to this day, by trying to poison them against their own mother. He plays the “victim” and continually tells them how I destroyed the family unit.

The religious leaders in my community think the best way to handle this is to take the “moral high ground” and keep silent. This tactic has left my children even more confused and angry at their mother about the divorce.

On the contrary, I have come to believe that keeping silent in the face of evil behavior is nothing to be proud of. Keeping silent and “living a lie” in these kinds of situations only serves to protect and enable the evildoer.

I see no reason why this woman should continue to suffer this way. It is no “mitzvah” for her to enable her abusive former husband to continue his destructive and evil activities.

When it comes to the laws of lashon hara and being dan l’kav zchus, one needs to use common sense as well. I believe these are very important mitzvos, but they can be misused and abused when it comes to protecting evil behavior.

I should’ve known better

Dear Victims,

The complex laws of Shmiras Halashon are not cut and dried. The need to seek advice or just to lift a heavy burden off your heart… to get an evildoer to change his ways, to protect others from harm or to clear your name and reputation – are some of the mitigating factors that make speaking out permissible (within halachic parameters).

Each of you has been horribly wronged and is being unjustifiably vilified. The impropriety of some supposed religious leaders is deplorable, to say the least. Yet, it is hard to believe that an entire community is corrupt. A respected and reliable confidante (ideally a Rebbetzin, under the given circumstances) should be sought out. The mere act of sharing can relieve much anxiety and can furthermore serve to set the record straight, besides offer the benefit of gaining some effective guidance.

Don’t despair or give up; reach out beyond your communities, if need be. Chaveirim kol Yisrael Jews the world over are connected.

* * * * *

We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 338 Third Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11215

About the Author: We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.


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