Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Dear Mrs. Bluth,

I have long been a follower of your column and have often used the sage advice you give those who bring their troubles to you. Of late, however, I’ve noticed that you seem to have abandoned the plight of agunot, a platform you so staunchly supported in the early years of you column. Is it possible that agunah issues are no longer relevant?

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I wrote to you over twenty years ago, describing my marital woes, an abusive husband who was alienating my then teenaged children against me by bribing them with anything they wanted while denying me basic needs. He would beat me when no one was looking, if he was in a foul mood, which was quite often as he was a drinker. He would take my paycheck and cash it to cover his gambling habit and bad mouth me to whomever would listen so that people would pity him for being married to such a shrew. I truly suffered in silence, hiding my black and blue marks and bruises, until the day I had enough courage to write to you. The advice you gave me was the best thing for me and had I not taken it, I am quite certain I would have ended up in a mental institution.

It was the lowest time in my life. He succeeded in brainwashing my children, convincing even my own family and friends that I was the cause of all his problems and even had my parents believing that I was mentally ill, depressed and abusive to him. My letter came to you as I had one foot over the ledge with no safety net beneath me. Your words of encouragement, strength and support helped me do what I should have done years before. I still recall the heady, empowering feeling of leaving the house with all the things you told me to secure and going to the safe house you directed me to. I stayed there for three weeks until I was able to get out of the state, get a new job and begin the divorce/get process with the help of the rabbi and lawyer you got for me.

Amazingly, after four months of negotiations, Rabbi B. was able to convince my husband to give me the get, but I got little else from the divorce and life was hard for a while. However, the sense of being free of him was worth the struggle, and the healing comfort I received from therapy and your reassuring words that my children would one day return to me gave me the wherewithal to move on and make a life for myself.

You were absolutely right, after two years post divorce, my eldest daughter did contact me and soon after the twins did as well and we established a close and loving relationship. Along the way I met and married the man that was my true zivug, who is loving, caring and the rock of support that I never knew was possible. Through all this I kept reading your column, but as the years went on, I noticed less and less letters from women in abusive, dead end marriages, and soon it trickled down to just one or two every so often. Has this problem been resolved to the point where abuse and destructive, painful marriages have been made extinct?

 

Dear Friend,

Thank you for revisiting this column these many years later and in a much-improved state of health and happiness. You are both right and wrong in your assessment of the state of agunot in the ‘here and now. Sadly, you are wrong about the thought that the agunah issue is no more. There are still very many marriages that are abusive and destructive, where women are kept silent and in line by their fear and angst of how they will survive outside of the abusive marriage – where will they go, how will they sustain themselves and their children if they were to leave. And the greatest fear of all, what if the brutal husband was to find them.

You are correct that this column has expanded and evolved into something greater than the original Agunah Chronicles, dealing with every need and issue we come in contact with in daily life.

In addition, with the exposure of the plight of the agunot many things started to happen.  Organizations such as Sholom Task Force came forward to aide, assist and offer a huge selection of resources to women and their offspring who needed help to free themselves.  ORA stood up to fight for women to get their get. Safe houses for Jewish women to escape to during their transition period and countless other services emerged to help women in their quest for legal help.

I am so very blessed that I was able to be a part of this great transformation, but realistically, so much more needs to be done. I certainly would welcome letters from women in painful, abusive marriages (men too) because I know all too well that cancer has not been totally eradicated.  No one should have to suffer in silence, especially when there is such a wealth of resources and assistance available in this day and age.

I am thrilled to learn that you were able to find you true zivug and life partner and experience the joy and happiness of a beautiful, loving and caring marriage. I am overjoyed that you have reconnected with your children and that you have regained their love and respect.  May each new day erase the pain of the past and let you look forward to endless joy and happiness in the future.

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