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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 1/29/10

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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. 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.

* * * * * *

Dear Rachel,

My message in response to the letter written by “Fearful for my friend” (Chronicles 1-1-10): If orthodox women are still reluctant to believe that there are unscrupulous, immoral and unethical men in our community, please read on.

Until the summer of 2000 I was a fairly contented wife, mother, professional woman, and a socially prominent member of a frum community, finishing my degree at a well-known university. New to the Internet and all its dangers, I only used the computer for research and writing. One night while doing my assignments, someone instant messaged me. Not recognizing the screen name I ignored the interruption. This continued every night for a few weeks until in exasperation, I recklessly responded.

Daily online chats evolved into clandestine telephone calls, and finally, a secretive and “romantic” first meeting. “Ephraim” was a clumsy looking, overweight divorced father of three. He lived in a filthy apartment and his only source of income was workman’s compensation. He was always in court fighting for custody of his children (a lost cause) or suing people for imagined slights while spreading vile rumors about his ex-wife.

Not exactly the man of my dreams. However, when the yetzer hara grabs hold of you, it sometimes doesn’t let go. I fell completely under his spell. Ephraim wanted to start a business and I became enamored not just of the man but of the idea of having something to build our future on. When I was laid off from my job, we began to work together. Our joint venture gave every promise of being successful and lucrative.

It soon became obvious that Ephraim was not as interested in working as he was in singing his own praises. He became arrogant, argumentative, opinionated and abusive – especially toward me. He began to date other women he met on the Internet, using Shabbos (when we could not be together) to go out with them. Besides violating Shabbos, he was also a pathological liar. When I confronted him about his indiscretions, he denied any wrongdoing.

I was so “in love” I wanted to believe him and kept ignoring the warnings from friends and colleagues about his lies, cheating, bad character, and attitude. Their comments about how relentlessly I was being used and mistreated had little effect on me. During this period I was also accompanying Ephraim to court to fight for supervised visits with his children. But kids are smarter and know when they are being used as pawns. Inevitably his children refused to see him, and visitation was permanently cancelled. Still I continued to write letters to rabbis, lawyers and judges on Ephraim’s behalf to beg them to help him gain custody.

Our customers soon began to let us go and the business floundered. Ephraim would take to arguing with our contractors, instigating workers against supervisors and padding invoices. He threatened to sue customers and even reported them to the authorities for imagined violations. Then the illegal activity really accelerated. It was innocent enough at first. A few white lies, a few back dated documents… you get the picture. I begged him not to be so irresponsible but it was futile.

Understand that I am omitting many heartbreaking details. All my efforts in the way of damage control (trying to preserve our reputation as a trustworthy company) began to wear me out. At the same time, I disregarded my obligations to family and friends and was pressuring my husband for a divorce, which he refused to consider. I even went to rabbis outside my community to try to obtain a get so I would be free to marry the man I thought was everything I needed and wanted.

When Ephraim’s brother, from whom he had been estranged for over 20 years, died suddenly, Ephraim became a monster. He showed minimal interest in the business and constantly got into trouble. One day he was arrested and I learned, to my horror and disbelief, that he was being charged with identity theft. During the Shloshim, he had tried unsuccessfully to apply online for a credit card under his deceased brother’s name.

The widow, knowing Ephraim’s history, had taken the precaution of monitoring the family accounts for illegal activity. We had to retain an attorney and I had to call in favors from important connections to keep him out of jail. Ephraim naturally denied any misconduct.

The situation worsened: Ephraim applied for Social Security Disability claiming “congestive heart failure” (another lie), began illegally collecting benefits for his children who live with their mother, while refusing to meet his child support obligations which resulted in the suspension of his driver’s license. Mail fraud and tampering followed, and then he took the audacious step of forging MY signature on a legal document and filing it with Family Court to avoid child support payments altogether.

I was subpoenaed and had to appear in court to clear my name. In retaliation for what he “perceived” as my overt betrayal and disloyalty (my refusal to perjure myself), Ephraim took up with a divorcee in the building next door, a close “friend” of his ex wife, whom he had told the world he despised and whom he even accused of convincing his ex to leave him. I knew this to be true as it was in the court transcripts of the divorce proceedings.

One day, even though he and I were still involved, he stopped taking my calls, and, to make a long story short, without a word to me married this woman and abandoned the company.

Ephraim has lost most of his professional credibility and can’t work in the industry. But he has a willing and susceptible victim to support him. Unable to afford a vehicle of his own, he drives around in hers, relies on her salary and has insinuated himself into her family, friendships and synagogue. He “plays” the devoted stepfather to her kids when his own will have nothing to do with him.

I dissolved the business and took a high profile job better suited to my education and talent. Ephraim is currently being investigated by several government agencies. He will someday get what he deserves, but only G-d and the proper authorities can determine when and how.

I take full responsibility for my part in this revolting melodrama. Thank G-d my husband stubbornly refused a divorce and my family and friends never gave up on me. Without them, I never would have been able to extricate myself from a disastrous and horrific relationship with a very sick man.

Young and Foolish no more…

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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