August 18, 2003

Love And Remarriage
The shocking saga described by Craig Horowitz is unfortunately by no means an exception to the rule for many Orthodox/Hasidic families [“An Unorthodox Divorce,” July 28]. It is a poorly kept secret that far too many Orthodox Jewish men regularly abuse and mistreat their wives and then seek refuge behind the veil of Orthodox leaders. Divorce is rarely an option, and publicity for even acute cases is unheard of. The Sieger case clearly illustrates the difference between “observant” and “religious” Jews.
-Alan Steiner, Brooklyn

An Appealing Feminist
The jewish orthodox Feminist Alliance (jofa) applauds New York for its thoughtful exploration of the Sieger case, the details of which highlight the flaws inherent in the betei din system of rabbinic courts. If the process included a court of appeals, Chayie Sieger would not have had to take her complaint to the civil courts. The system, in which litigants pay their judges (who are often self-appointed), is unregulated and replete with opportunities for corruption.
-Carol Kaufman Newman, Manhattan

Unfinished Sympathy
My initial reaction to Chayie Sieger’s plight was: How awful for this poor woman. It wasn’t until I read the article for the second time that I began to question my gut reaction. I have a difficult time believing that the Bobov community can have such power over all of her lifelong friends and even her children. How could there not be one person standing beside her?
-Michele Miller, Bayside, N.Y.

G-D On Gossip
If Orthodox Judaism is correct that G-d considers loshon hora, meaning evil speech or, more precisely, gossiping and spreading rumors, a grave sin (not as bad as, say, idol worship, but worse than mixing wool and linen in the same suit), you guys are on the Acela to Hell for “An Unorthodox Divorce.” 
-Theodore L. Blumberg, Manhattan

Misery Loves Company
Being a Christian, I was not aware of the strict laws regarding divorce for women in the Bobover Hasidic sect. But as a divorced woman of over twenty years, I was reminded that differences in religion mean nothing when we make stupid choices about our lives. Chayie Sieger, like myself and many other American women (and men), picked a lemon.
-Beth Allen, Bellevue, Wash.

Rabbis Redux
Craig Horowitz’s finely crafted piece about the Hasidic community’s rejection of a woman who had the temerity to walk away from an abusive husband was chilling—but not surprising to those of us who have experienced the greed and duplicity of some Orthodox rabbis entrusted with responsibility for granting the get, or Jewish divorce. Acting in anger and disbelief at the plight of our daughter, who desperately was trying to move on with her life, my husband and I spent several years contacting Orthodox rabbis in our efforts to extricate her from the clutches of a husband who, nevertheless, refused to grant her a Jewish divorce without significant compensation. To a man, they were unsympathetic, with many of them suggesting that she somehow was responsible for the failure of the marriage.
-Darryle and Michael Gillman, Lincolnwood, Ill.

Get Ahead
After reading about the Sieger divorce wars, I have two choice words for Chayie Sieger: Yosher koach (may your efforts be strengthened). While I am sure that there are those who will decry Chayie’s airing Orthodox Jewry’s dirty laundry in public as a chillul hashem (desecration against the name of the Almighty), I commend this woman for speaking out courageously and addressing the plight of the agunah (chained woman who is denied a Jewish divorce by her husband). Where the get is concerned, a woman’s choice is often to take a settlement that impoverishes her and her children, or remain imprisoned in a lifeless marriage forever. My prayers are with you, Chayie.
-Michele Lyons Gross, Lawrence, N.Y.

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August 18, 2003