Monday, April 07, 2008

Domestic Violence In Jewish Homes

Domestic Violence In Jewish Homes - Date Rape, Marital Rape and Incest

  • Every day, an average of four to five women die in the United States due to domestic violence.
  • Nearly 1,400 women were killed in 1993 by their male partners.
  • An estimated 2 million wives are beaten by their husbands each year, an average of 1 every 16 seconds.
  • A March of Dimes study cites battering during pregnancy as the leading cause of birth defects and infant mortality.
  • Battery is listed as a contributing factor in a fourth of all suicide attempts by women and in half of all attempts by African American women.
  • At least half of homeless women and children are in flight from domestic violence.
  • In 1992, the U.S. Surgeon General ranked abuse by husbands and partners as the leading cause of injury or death to women and classified domestic violence as having reached epidemic proportions.


Disclaimer: Inclusion in this website does not constitute a recommendation or endorsement. Individuals must decide for themselves if the resources meet their own personal needs.

Table of Contents:

  1. Date Rape within Jewish Communities
  2. Cases of Incest and Marital Rape within Jewish Families
  3. Incest  within Jewish Families
  4. Cases of Domestic Violence in Jewish Communities
  5. Case of Domestic Violence Where Murder Occurred
  6. Other Related Cases
  7. Articles
  8. Resources

Cases of Domestic Violence Where Murder Occurred

  1. Murder of Carol Neulander - Case of Rabbi Fred Neulander (Convicted of Murdering his wife)
  2. Murder of Janet Levine MarchCase of Perry March (Nashville, TN)  (Convicted of murdering his wife)
  3. Case of Levy Lalik (Tel Aviv, Israel)  (Arrested for allegedly sexually abusing and murdering his two-month-old daughter)
  4. Murder of Blanche Lewie and Minda Lewis - Case of Leo Lewie (Beverley Hills, CA) (Convicted of murdering his wife, Blanche, and his stepdaughter, Minda. Prior to the murders, Minda filed a criminal complaint against her stepfather. The complaint contained two counts of child molestation and two counts of statutory rape.)
  5. Case of Yosef Nunu (Herzliya, Israel) (convicted of murdering his wife and raping several minors)
  6. Murder of Stephanie Rabinowitz - Case of Craig Rabinowitz
  7. Murder of Keylee Silverman - Case of Heather Silverman


Cases of Domestic Violence Involving Attempted Murder
  1. Case of Ira A. Bloom (East Longmeadow, MA) (found guilty  on both counts in a murder-for-hire scheme to have his ex-wife raped and murdered.)
  2. Case of Michael B. Gray (Denver, CO; Cherry Hills, CO)  (Stockbroker was sentenced to 10 years in prison for attempted murder, after beating his wife in the head with a wooden chair.)

Other Related Cases
  1. Case of Rabbi Tzvi Flaum  (Sued for breach of confidentiality)
  2. Case of Rabbi Dovid Weinberger  (Sued for breach of confidentiality)
  • Articles
    1. An Un-Orthodox Divorce  (07/22/2003)
    2. Women's Voices from Out There
    3. Haredi society discovers family violence, but slowly (01/19/2004)
    4. JWI members give practical advice for abuse victims Jewish Women International (JWI), formerly B'nai B'rith Women, took this troubling truth as both a challenge and call to action.
    5. Activists try to stem gay domestic abuse  Nobody, it seems, wants to talk about gay domestic violence. But that doesn't mean it doesn't exist.
    6. In Israel, 200,000 women may be abused every year  Domestic violence in Israel is on the rise. Approximately 200,000 Israeli women are battered each year, according to the Israel Women's Network. Some 40,000 of them reach emergency wards. Last year, 15 of these victims died.
    7. Abuse requires creative solutions  Responding to domestic violence in the Jewish community can be complicated.
    8. Denial is IN the Individual, NOT Just the Jewish Community  A personal account of domestic violence.
    9. Light a candle to stop domestic violence  NEW YORK (JTA) -- In an effort to stem the tide of family violence, Jewish Women International is asking Jewish families to light an extra candle on Rosh Hashanah.
    10. Domestic violence no stranger to Jewish life The incidence of Jewish domestic abuse across the country greatly increases around Jewish holidays, just as it does amid the general U.S. populace around Thanksgiving.
    11. Wife Abuse in the Jewish Community Many people feel that Jewish people are immune to wife abuse.  According to Statistics Canada, 1/4 of  all women have experienced violence at the hands of a current or past marital partner (includes common-law unions)! (Statistics Canada, 1993)   Like the community at large, wife abuse in the Jewish community occurs in all socio-economic levels regardless of  background and level of education. As well, no denomination within Judaism is immune; wife abuse occurs in the Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist segments of the community.
    12. Violence in the home: An issue for us all  Dr.Richard Gelles, director of the Family Violence Research Program in Rhode Island, studied over 6,000 families nationwide and found that in Jewish families, husbands hit their wives at a rate of 111/1,000 couples and that the incidence of abuse resulting in serious injury is 10/1,000 couples.
    13. Using the Shidduch System: Is it really safe? (09/15/2005)
    14. Beaten, silent and forgiving  (06/20/2006)
    15. Jewish laws governing reporting to the authorities in cases of child abuse (Hebrew)  (2007)
    16. Sins of the husbands : "Women's Minyan" a play by Naomi Ragen  (01/16/2007)
    17. Unchaining women: Bill would facilitate religious divorce; some worry about constitutionality (02/02/2007)
    18. Rise in number of abused haredi women  (10/11/2007)

Women's Voices from Out There
by Naomi Ragen
September 18, 2000

Since I can write about anything I want in this column, this week I've chosen to tell a tale of two sisters-in-law, Jere and Shifra Finer of Baltimore and Monsey. Why should an Israeli columnist in an Israeli paper be writing about two Americans? Simple. To show that the abusive and immoral treatment of religious women at the hands of the religious establishment and community isn't an Israeli original. It's as American as frozen gefilte fish.

Jere Finer, a religious woman from Baltimore, writes me the following: "My sister–in-law Shifra and I divorced two abusive brothers. Our treatment at the hands of the rabbis and the community has been horrendous. For example, her husband has not yet given her a `get' (religious divorce) yet is openly living with another supposedly `religious' woman and her six children, who now wear his own children's clothing and play with their toys. Since this woman's children and his own go to the same school, his little eight-year old is constantly taunted by this other child. No one in the religious community does anything about it."

When the alleged abuse began, Shifra asked the rabbi of the local yeshiva what to do, and he told her to move out with her children, but not to take any money. At the beginning of the separation, a rabbi decided child support payments that were so inadequate it left her dependent on charity to feed her children. Also, as both women only found out later, a woman who leaves her husband forfeits her marriage settlement, about $10,000 – $15,000. This is the kind of information rabbis know, and women don't.

Shifra's apartment building is full of such abused haredi women who followed this rabbinical advice.

Despite charges of paternal child abuse, a rabbi decided on joint custody, forcing children ages 2-8 to spend every two nights in a different bed. While the Beit Din ordered her husband to give her a `get', her husband refused. No sanctions were imposed on him. Fed up, penniless, abandoned by the community and the Rabbinic courts, Shifra went to civil court.

There she finally received some semblance of justice, including increased temporary child support, child custody, and supervised visitation for her husband. Incensed at her chutzpah, the Beit Din is now circulating a letter to the effect that Shifra is a traitor for going to civil court, and her poor husband should be helped in any way possible.

Jere has been an agunah for four years. Despite her husband's considerable financial resources, she and her three children were dependent on charity for food. She too finally went to the civil court to force some kind of financial settlement. The Beit Din in Baltimore put her in cherem (a form of shunning) for it.

As Jere writes: "All I know is that I have to live in this world and that takes money. Tuition for day schools is $30,000 a year alone. Thankfully, these schools, run by open-minded Orthodox Jews, have been very kind to me. One is taking very little tuition and the other gave me a job- the highest form of tzeddakah. I want to gather all the stories of women and write a book. I keep hearing about what a desecration of G-d's name it will be, but isn't all the abuse that's going on a greater desecration? I went to rabbis for years for help but none was given. The religious world hides behind Halacha to avoid taking care of its problems. Believe me, I would have rather done this from within the community, but it can't be done. I will take my chances with Hashem since my motives are pure-- to help other women in this situation. I became observant when I was 12 and I am now 39. What I have seen over the years is a great decline within the Orthodox world. Not in numbers , but rather the essence of what Torah is. I don't think being arrogant about cholov yisroel (cow milk processed by Jews- a kashrut stringency) or putting a baby girl in tights in the summer for modesty is what it's all about. How we behave towards each other is."

A thousand years ago, Rabbenu Gershon decided that the divine law permitting polygamy would hold Jews up to disgrace in the world, which no longer permitted it. He changed the biblical law to prevent that. Isn't there another great Rabbi who can rise to the challenge of our age, changing the biblical law that permits Jewish men to hold their wives hostage, to oppress and extort and abuse them by withholding their "get?" Is there no one to sanctify the name of G-d and his Torah by ridding the Jewish community of this foul disgrace, this crime that goes against every moral law our Torah stands for, and exhorts us to fulfill? Is there no one to make the concept of the agunah a terrible crime of the past? No one to stop the civil courts becoming a refuge of oppressed women fleeing the disgraceful injustices of the rabbinical courts? Out of all the great gedolim, admorim, and Torah scholars, all the men and boys who are learning, and learning, and learning...

Is there no one to stand up and be a man where there are no men? As we light our Chanukah candles, can we all not pray for yet another Jewish victory of the weak over the strong, the oppressed over their oppressors?


An Un-Orthodox Divorce
By Craig Horowitz
New York Magazine - July 22, 2003

Chayie Sieger accused her husband of adultery and battery. Then, after a rabbinical court ruled against her, she accused the rabbis of taking bribes. Is she unstable, as her opponents allege? Or is something rotten in Borough Park?

Chayie Sieger never intended to become a rebel. In fact, for most of her life she was the ultimate conformist, someone who followed the rules and didn't make waves. She was the last person anyone who knew her could imagine doing something to rock the world of ultra-Orthodox Judaism. But that is exactly what she has done.

Sieger, 50, is a pleasant, soft-spoken Hasidic woman who has lived her entire life within a six-block area of Borough Park. She wears a brown wig, dresses in stylish but modest clothing, and dutifully observes all the laws and customs of her religion. She never questions the role of women in the Bobover Hasidic sect, and will even happily argue on behalf of such anachronistic practices as arranged marriage.

For seven and a half years, however, Sieger has been locked in a divorce battle so ugly, so mean-spirited, and so entangled in Jewish law and observance that it has achieved the status of urban legend in Orthodox communities from New York to Jerusalem. She's an accidental activist, who made a decision to fight only when she believed she had no other choice.

Sieger's close-quarter domestic skirmishing has escalated into a legal war that raises disturbing questions about the rights of Orthodox women, the integrity of the rabbinic courts, known as the betei din, and the ethics of a number of ultra-Orthodox rabbis, who stand accused by Sieger of taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to issue her husband the religious divorce ruling he wanted.

It has also raised some questions about New York's civil courts, where her case has crawled through the system, its progress stymied by dozens of motions, appeals, judicial turnover, and endless continuances—a Hasidic version of Jarndyce v. Jarndyce.

Her children don't speak to her. She's a pariah in her community, with many of her former friends agreeing with a lawyer representing the rabbis that she's "the Tawana Brawley of the Orthodox community." And her husband, though still not legally divorced from Sieger, married another woman in a religious ceremony in Florida.

For years, Sieger lived what seemed to be a typical existence in Brooklyn's community of 50,000 Bobover Hasids. Daily life centered on the family and Jewish ritual. She took care of her two children, kept the house strictly kosher, prepared for the Sabbath every week, and once a month attended the mikvah—the ritual baths where a married woman purifies herself for sexual relations after her menstrual period. When she was supposed to cook, she cooked. When she was supposed to go to shul, she went.

The social schedule revolved around ritual. Someone was always celebrating a milestone: a birth, a bar mitzvah, a wedding. And the rest of the calendar was filled with religious festivals. The only thing that made Sieger a little unusual in her world was her profession. She is a contemporary businesswoman who learned the ins and outs of the nursing-home industry from her father and now operates a successful facility of her own.

But Sieger had a secret—she was trapped in a woefully unhappy marriage, suffering silently with someone she says is an unfaithful, quick-tempered, physically abusive husband. A man of obviously large appetites, Chaim Sieger weighed 325 pounds at one point (he's five foot eleven) and gambled incessantly in the stock market and at the craps tables in Atlantic City—a high-roller Hasid with a comped penthouse suite. His manic gambling was so out of control, she says, that he bankrupted them several times, forcing her—in the early eighties when her son was 11 and her daughter 9—to have to earn some money. This was when she started working for her father.

In the late eighties, she discovered that her husband owned two Upper East Side co-ops. Chaim told her he'd bought them as an investment. Chayie Sieger claims she eventually found out he used the apartments for sexual trysts: his own and those of his fellow Hasids, whom he sometimes videotaped in action. During the last six months before she left him, Chayie tapped the house phones, and she has audiotapes of his phone conversations discussing the escapades.

On one tape, Sieger can be heard playfully telling a woman—whom Chayie Sieger claims was his girlfriend at the time—how much he misses her and desperately wants to see her. He tells the woman, who apparently worked in a hotel, that he wishes he could come and see her and they could go use one of the empty rooms. Or that she could come see him, but his wife could be home at any time.

On another tape, he can be heard excitedly pushing someone to have sex with a certain woman. When the man says no, Sieger says, "What, you don't think she's attractive? C'mon, tell her to get undressed. Do it, and turn on the video."

Chayie Sieger stuck it out, she says, because she plays by the rules. Among Hasids, divorce is taboo. A breakup of a marriage would have a negative impact on the ability of the couple's children to marry well. As children of divorced parents, they would be viewed as damaged goods, far less desirable as potential partners. So she waited. But her plan was clear. As soon as the kids were married and settled, she would be gone.

Finally, on a Monday in December 1995, she moved into her father's house several doors away. Sieger knew that leaving her husband after 24 years of marriage was going to be difficult. She just had no idea how difficult. What Sieger hadn't factored in was the severity of the Bobov response. First came the shock-and-awe campaign. The day she left was the day her son and daughter stopped talking to her. She maintains that her relationship with them had always been very close. She blames their abandonment on intense pressure from their father and members of the community. "In the last 25 years, I'm only the fourth woman in Bobov to leave her husband," Sieger says. "And in each case, the woman lost her children. My children essentially went from A to Z in one day, and that's not normal. I didn't see it before, but I think that Bobov is a cult and my children need to be deprogrammed."

Along with her kids, Sieger has lost essentially everything that was important to her. She hasn't seen her grandchildren in nearly eight years (those born after 1995 she's never seen). Lifelong friends cut her off. People she has known since childhood cross the street to avoid her. Invitations to the social events that are central to life in Borough Park stopped coming. "The reaction was so gender-biased," she says. "No friends stuck by me. All of our friends became his friends."

Sieger has become an outcast in her own world. "When everything goes smoothly, there is no better place to be than in an ultra-Orthodox marriage and an ultra-Orthodox community," says novelist Naomi Ragen, an American who lives in Jerusalem and who has written three books about Orthodox women. "But when it goes bad, everyone is against the woman. No matter what goes wrong in the marriage, it is the woman who gets ganged up on and ostracized. There is no justice whatsoever."

But perhaps the most bizarre reaction was her husband's. At first, Chaim attempted to apply pressure to get her to reconsider ("He told me, `I'll give you the kids back in a minute if you come back to me,' " she says). At the same time, he employed a charm offensive. He called, he sent flowers, and whenever she agreed to talk to him, he swore that he was a changed man.

Though she was the one who walked out, according to Jewish law only the husband can grant a divorce. As a result, there is a long-standing problem in the Orthodox world with women whose marriages end but whose husbands won't give them a get, a Jewish divorce. Without a get, these women remain essentially chained to nonexistent marriages, unable to remarry an Orthodox man, while their husbands can go on and get rabbinic permission to remarry. These women are known in Hebrew as agunah, literally "chained woman."

But once Chaim Sieger realized Chayie was serious, he also had a problem. A divorce would mean they'd have to divide their assets, and this was not an attractive proposition. According to a tenet of Jewish divorce law, any assets brought to the marriage by one party leave with that person if the marriage breaks up. Anything not acquired together during the marriage is not community property. The law is the same in New York civil court as well. And in this case, the lion's share of the Siegers' substantial assets was brought to the marriage by Chayie.

Her father, a native of Poland who did time in a labor camp in Siberia during the war, managed to escape to America and in the fifties went into the nursing-home business, eventually acquiring more than seven facilities, which are now controlled by a family trust.
The bottom line for Chaim was that his wife was not likely to be in a giving mood when settlement time came. She'd already made it clear to Chaim that she was not about to let him keep the two nursing homes the family had put in his name when it was advantageous from a business standpoint to do so.

Legally, he knew he didn't have much leverage. He discussed his situation with Rabbi Jacob Meisels, a lifelong friend and yeshiva classmate, who, Chayie Sieger says, became her husband's guide through the sometimes confusing maze of Jewish law. Reconciliation was tried first. She had one marriage-counseling session, without her husband, with Rabbi Solomon Herbst.

At the same time, Chayie says, Herbst was trying to get her to sign an arbitration agreement. When both of these things failed, Chaim Sieger found another avenue to pursue—an obscure, rarely used 1,000-year-old procedure known in Hebrew as a Heter Meah Rabanim, or Decree of 100 Rabbis.

Basically, the Heter was devised to enable a husband whose wife was somehow not able or not willing ("recalcitrant") to participate in the process to obtain a divorce and remarry. According to experts on Jewish law, it was intended for use in extraordinary cases in which the wife had run away or been institutionalized or somehow incapacitated. Because it is such an extreme measure, the document requires the signatures of 100 rabbis in three different countries.

Though none of these conditions appears to have existed in the Siegers' marital dispute—and there is great controversy in the Jewish community about whether the decree should be used under any circumstances—Chaim managed to secure a Heter. The document was issued by a bet din (rabbinical court) that operates under the aegis of the Union of Orthodox Rabbis, a small, right-wing organization that has achieved some notoriety for its strident, outrageous public statements about non-Orthodox Jews. But why would the court issue this document? Why would 100 rabbis sign off on it?

The most serious charge in the 27-page English translation of the Heter is that Chayie Sieger was "not fit to live with and have sexual relations with" because she failed to attend the mikvah; more precisely, she would pick fights with her husband to delay or avoid going. Short of calling her a whore, this is the worst thing you can say about an Orthodox woman. "It's ridiculous. If I can't be trusted to go to the mikvah," Sieger says, "then the food in my house probably isn't kosher either. It's like saying I'm not even Orthodox."

The Heter also charges that she was unable to care for her children because she was more interested in her career ("even though Mr. Sieger supported her with dignity"), and that she filled her house with "quarrels and embarrassment," turning it into "an insane asylum." According to the Heter, she did this by waking her husband up in the middle of the night, turning the radio on really loud, and pouring water on him while he slept.

Sieger believes that the rabbis who run this court were bribed by her husband to issue the Heter. She filed a $13 million civil suit in 1998 charging them with accepting bribes that ranged from $50,000 to as much as $215,000. She also charged them with defaming her and essentially ruining her life by leaking information contained in the Heter in Borough Park.

"All my life I've trusted rabbis, believed in them," says Sieger. "So why wouldn't people believe what's been said about me? After all, if the rabbis are saying these things, then they must be true."

Sieger believes her husband paid the rabbis to issue the Heter and its damaging accusations so he could use the document to blackmail her into giving him what he wants in the divorce settlement. In other words, he would tell her the Heter existed, then offer to have it torn up if she accepted a get on his terms. However, she chose to fight rather than give in. "Look," she says, "husbands are entitled to be greedy, vindictive, angry, or whatever. But they shouldn't have rabbis to help them act on those impulses."

For their part, Rabbis Aryeh Ralbag, Haim Kraus, Hersh Meir Ginsberg, Elimelech Zalman Lebowitz, and Solomon B. Herbst vehemently deny Sieger's charges. Well-known Washington, D.C., attorney Nathan Lewin, who has litigated many highly charged cases involving Orthodox Judaism, is handling their defense with a bare-knuckles bravado that seems to indicate a personal passion for the case. (Herbst is represented by Louis Tratner.)
"She's managed to mislead and bamboozle everybody with her stories," says Lewin, a compact man with white hair and a trim white beard, whose fees for defending the rabbis are being paid, in large part, by Chaim Sieger.

Chayie Sieger's response is succinct: "Nat Lewin would represent a monkey, as long as it's male and has a beard."

It is clear from the legal briefs, the various motions, and the mountain of deposition transcripts that the defense position is that Chayie Sieger is making everything up. But if she is indeed lying about everything, what about the police report from the 66th Precinct that was filed when she'd gone in after she says Chaim had beaten her?

"I don't believe Chaim Sieger beat her up," says Lewin, an observant Jew who says he knows of cases where women inflict wounds on themselves. "I have seen other instances when women make false claims about what their husbands do."

While Chayie Sieger's original sin in the eyes of the Bobov community was walking out on her husband, her second, perhaps even more serious transgression was to seek relief in the secular courts. To understand how serious an offense this is considered in Hasidic communities, you only have to know that a poster popped up all over Borough Park that said, in Hebrew, IT IS A COMMANDMENT TO KILL A MOSER (an informer, someone who tells stories outside the community). "Rabbi Daniel Frommel took me to his synagogue in Brooklyn and showed me the poster," Sieger says. "He told me I was the target for going outside the rabbinic courts." Ironically, Sieger herself agrees that Orthodox Jews should not use the secular courts. "I never would have gone outside if there had been another choice. But I was desperate, and I knew there was no chance I was going to get justice any other way."

Chayie Sieger was not quite 18 when a family friend suggested to her parents that she meet a young yeshiva student named Chaim. Perhaps, if the unofficial matchmaker was right, they would like one another. In Borough Park, where Hasidic Jews do things the same way they did them hundreds of years ago in Eastern Europe, this was the first step in arranging a marriage.

As it turned out, Sieger was quite taken with her "blind date," whom she remembers even then, when he was barely 20, as a very charming smooth talker. And so, on their third heavily chaperoned meeting at her house, they had a l'chaim: a toast to the couple's engagement. It was June, and the following March, filled with hope and expectation, the two young Hasids were married. The year was 1972. Twelve months later, they had a son, and two years after that a daughter.

But very early on in their life together, there were signs of trouble. Nine months after the wedding, when Sieger was six months pregnant, she says, a woman who worked with her husband called and said she had had an affair with him. The woman claimed she was calling because she felt guilty and because she thought it was a terrible way for a supposedly pious man to behave.

When Sieger confronted her husband with this information, she says, he didn't even flinch. He said the woman was angry because she hadn't gotten a weekly paycheck she believed she deserved and this was her way to get even. "I made excuses from the very beginning," Chayie Sieger says. "I heard what I wanted to hear and believed what I wanted to believe. It took a long time, but eventually I realized there's no fixing this guy."

Still, Sieger says, she suffered quietly, never telling anyone what was going on. Even when she finally left and her son and daughter turned on her, she would not let them hear the details of their father's secret life on the audiotapes. The only people who knew the truth, she says, were her father, her brother, and Solomon Halberstam, the Bobov grand rebbe.

In June 1996, six months after she had moved out, Sieger went to the Bobover rebbe's daughter and requested a meeting with her father. She hoped that if she told Halberstam her story, he would help her get through the difficulties in the best way possible.

And so, on a beautiful Sunday afternoon she went to a house at the corner of 48th Street and Fifteenth Avenue. The building contains both the synagogue and the rebbe's home. They sat down at the dining-room table in his modestly furnished second-floor apartment.

She asked the rebbe, who was dressed in the traditional chalat, the black silk belted robe, to talk to her husband and help her secure a get. The rebbe asked her what the problems were in her marriage and told her to speak candidly.

"I talked to him about Chaim's bizarre behavior," she says, "and explained that for a long time I thought I could change him. But after years of trying, I finally realized I couldn't. He was very sympathetic and very disappointed in Chaim. `How could I not have known?' he asked. I was surprised by how warm he was on a personal basis with a woman."

The rebbe told Chaim he should give her a get, and his daughter told Chayie she should go to see Rabbi Herbst for counseling. "In the meantime," she says, "Chaim was telling everyone nothing happened. We just had a little fight and it'll all be fine."

In the rabbinic tribunal system as it's currently practiced in America, there is no central authority—no oversight, nor any avenue for appeal. And simply refusing to show up if someone starts a proceeding is not as easy as it sounds. "If you and I have a dispute, it is very difficult for you to refuse to come to court," says Rabbi Moshe Dovid Tendler, professor of Talmudic law at an affiliate of Yeshiva University.

"Essentially, I have you over a barrel. If you don't come, there can be rabbinic sanctions. For example, you can be prohibited from being called up to the Torah. And there are social sanctions as well. You'll stop receiving invitations."

If you refuse to go to court, other ultra-Orthodox people may even stop doing business with you. They will assume you can't be trusted, and if there is a disagreement of some kind, they'll have no recourse because you won't appear in court.

In this case, Chaim Sieger went to a rabbinic court run by the Union of Orthodox Rabbis and asked them to preside over his divorce. They agreed to take the case and sent Chayie a hazmannah, which is something between a summons and an invitation to appear.

Sieger says she was told by a knowledgeable rabbi that she would not get a fair hearing from this court. He told her to instead opt for a zabla, which is, in essence, going to arbitration. She picks a representative, the other side also picks a representative, and then the two of them pick an arbitrator to hear the case. She then notified the court of her intent to seek a zabla.

Beyond this point, however, events become impossibly murky. The rabbis' side argues that Chayie Sieger never followed through on the zabla request and that she didn't respond to the next two hazmannahs they sent. Jewish law states that if the notices are ignored, the court can then act without the participation of the delinquent party.

Chayie Sieger says that she was never given proper notification of the proceeding or sufficient time to respond.

Lewin has argued in court that Sieger's lawsuit against the rabbis should be thrown out because it violates the separation of church and state. "This whole debate is over something that only matters to religious people," he says.

"I don't care whether Mrs. Sieger wanted these rabbis to decide this matter or not. And whether she agreed to participate or not is irrelevant. The whole notion that these rabbis are three thugs off the streets who've come in and taken somebody who hasn't voluntarily gone to a rabbinic court is ludicrous."

When there have been problems with the rabbinic courts, the primary corrupting influence has been money. Some of the courts have suspect reputations, and one widely respected expert in the Jewish world told me off the record that the court in the Sieger case has "a reputation for having its hand out."

"A rabbinic court that charges money for its services is really an oxymoron," says Tendler, who talked to Chayie Sieger five years ago about getting involved in her case but ultimately did not because of time constraints. "It is actually against Jewish law for these rabbis to charge anything for their services, and yet it's gotten very expensive. They sometimes charge as much as lawyers now."

In the past, when Jews lived an insular existence and had their own institutions, these rabbinic courts received salaries that were paid by the community. There was also, as there is in Israel today, a higher authority to deal with controversial or disputed decisions. But while America is a secular state, Israel is a Jewish state, with a chief rabbi and government oversight of religious institutions.

In the case of the Union of Orthodox Rabbis, the court that produced the Heter for Chaim Sieger, there are two questions at the heart of the case: Were they bribed by Chaim Sieger to produce the result he wanted, and even if they weren't, did they act properly and responsibly in accordance with Jewish law in issuing the Heter Meah Rabanim?

"A rabbinic court that knows its business would never have gotten involved in this," says Tendler, "until a civil court had acted in their divorce case. This court did not follow protocol. They jumped the gun."

Tendler says that in any marital dispute where there are complicated issues to be resolved, like a disagreement over assets, a Heter is unacceptable. "The Heter is a very extreme step that shouldn't even be considered until years and years have passed without a resolution."

Then there is the peculiar matter of the 100 signatures. Rabbi Ralbag testified that he threw them away because there was no reason to keep them. He also said he could not remember the name of a single rabbi who signed the document other than his fellow court judges.

"A Heter is so rare," Tendler says, "that any rabbi who is involved in one and does get 100 signatures would probably frame them and hang them in his living room."

During his deposition, Chaim Sieger said he never bribed any of the rabbis and paid only a relatively modest fee of $5,000 for their services. But circumstantial evidence suggests otherwise. Near the end of January 1998, about seven weeks after the Heter was issued, Chaim Sieger withdrew $945,000 from an account at Chase Manhattan Bank in cash, cashier's checks, and money orders.

When questioned about this by Chayie's lawyer, he said he couldn't remember what he did with the money. Perhaps, he blithely said, he was making interest-free loans to friends. There are, however, no records to support this. That very same week, Rabbi Ralbag, who testified in his deposition that his annual salary is around $35,000, suddenly came into $40,000. He then invested that money in stock in an Independence Savings Bank initial public offering.

Ralbag at first offered no explanation for where the $40,000 came from. Ultimately, he said it was a gift from his parents. So far, however, he has not submitted his parents' bank statements or a gift-tax filing. The same day that Ralbag deposited his sudden windfall, Rabbi Ginsberg, whose stated salary is $11,000 a year, deposited $50,000 into an account at Independence. He has so far offered no explanation for the source of his money.

Chayie has charged that her husband transferred $500,000 to an account belonging to Rabbi Meisels. Meisels, who is not named in the lawsuit, kept $215,000 for himself and then distributed the rest, in several cases through an intermediary, to the rabbis who took care of the Heter. Chayie Sieger has copies of bank statements, canceled checks, and money transfers to back up her claims.

Rabbi Herbst, who did not sit on the rabbinic court but served as a marriage counselor to the Siegers and, when that wasn't working, introduced Chaim Sieger to Rabbi Ralbag as someone who knew about Heters, also had enormous good fortune that same fateful week as Ralbag and Ginsberg. Herbst also invested $50,000 in Independence stock.

Herbst, who testified that he makes about $25,000 a year, submitted bank records in the name of Congregation Kehal Premishlan, Inc., which he said was "his congregation," dating from 1992 to 1993. He also submitted bankbook photocopies that showed a balance hovering around $20,000 over a four-year period. Not exactly sufficient funds for his investments. Particularly given that it appears he made a second purchase of Independence stock, also in January, this time totaling $215,000.

In addition to the financial "coincidences," there was the sworn testimony of a man named Frederick Frankel who said he went to Rabbi Ralbag to discuss getting a Heter and that Ralbag told him it would cost $100,000. "He [Ralbag] told me he needed a $10,000 deposit to start the process," Frankel said, "and I asked him basically who to make the check out to, and he told me it had to be cash . . . And he said that normally the whole $100,000 is in cash, but at a minimum, 50 percent of it had to be in cash." Frankel never went any further.
In January 2002, New York State Supreme Court judge Martin Schoenfeld, ruling on Nathan Lewin's motion to have the case dismissed, found that there was more than enough evidence to take the bribery case to trial. Despite the weight of the circumstantial evidence, the defense argues that all of this adds up to nothing more than coincidence. Lewin says the Independence IPO was a very hot topic in Brooklyn's Orthodox neighborhoods and that "everyone in Borough Park was investing in it."

A large part of the defense strategy has been to depict Chayie Sieger as an unstable, manipulative shrew. Abe H. Konstam, Chaim Sieger's divorce lawyer, laughed derisively when I asked about Chayie Sieger. He referred to the "well-documented shenanigans she has perpetrated" and said all his client wants is his freedom. Then he refused to talk to me any further.

His reference to Chaim Sieger's desire to have his freedom was particularly curious. Though the Siegers' divorce case has yet to come to court in New York, Chaim is already remarried. And he has two new babies. Not long after the Heter was issued, Sieger traveled to Florida with his girlfriend and they were married by his friend Rabbi Jacob Meisels. According to copies of American Express bills that were produced during the legal wrangling, the newly married couple threw a party at the Doral in Miami that cost, for catering, flowers, music, and travel expenses, upwards of $200,000.

Why Florida? One possible explanation is the state does not recognize religious marriage ceremonies. Therefore, since Chaim and Chayie Sieger are not divorced, he could still "remarry" this way, without, presumably, being charged with bigamy. Chaim Sieger's lawyer vehemently denies that his client is remarried, though he refuses to comment further. He would not, for example, explain how it is that Sieger is living with a woman and their new babies in the middle of the intractably religious world of Borough Park, if they're not married.

Chayie Sieger's decision to take her husband and the rabbis to court was opposed by virtually everyone. Even her own daughter essentially told her to tough it out. "She said I'd put up with it for 24 years and was still in one piece, so why couldn't I just continue to put up with it?" she says.

Several days after this conversation, her daughter-in-law, a Canadian who now lives in Borough Park, came to visit. She told Sieger that if she didn't reunite with Chaim, she would leave her son and go back to Canada.

"I was shocked," Sieger says. "I told her I'd taken a lot on myself and didn't want to take it on anymore."

As Sieger tells this story about her children on a recent steamy summer morning, her eyes fill with tears. She speaks haltingly, sitting in her meticulously arranged office in the Bronx nursing home she owns.

But just when she seems about to lose it, she regains her composure and the look on her face hardens. "All my life I've played by the rules, and this is the position I end up in," she says. "No family should be destroyed the way mine has been. They have made me a wife without a husband and a mother without children. This is what's pushing me to see this through. I'm going to fight till the end."


Haredi society discovers family violence, but slowly
By Tamar Rotem
Ha Aretz - Mon., January 19, 2004 Tevet 25, 5764

About three years ago, on International Woman's Day, B. called the hotline of the Crisis Center for Religious Women, and asked for help. It was already dark when she summoned the courage to dial the number being broadcast over the radio all that day. The next day, a Friday, she packed a few suitcases with trembling hands, and fled with her young children to a shelter for battered women, far from the Haredi city where she lived. She couldn't bear the thought of spending another Shabbat with her husband's violence.

At the height of the crisis, she says, there was something calming and "less threatening" in the knowledge that she had found refuge in a Haredi shelter. Long before she fled to the shelter, she had endured more than her share of suffering. After several years of marriage, during which her husband abused her physically and emotionally, B. divorced him, but was forced to leave her two children in his custody.

After some time, when her husband was in the process of becoming newly religious and she failed to get the children back, she remarried him and adopted a Haredi lifestyle. She hoped the family values so sacred to Haredi society would spread to her home. But her hopes were in vain.

The more extreme her husband became in religious observance, the more frequent became his outbursts of violence toward her and the children. B. was isolated in the heart of a community where everyone knows everything about everyone.

Several times B. turned to the community rabbi, hoping he would be able to influence her husband, who had a criminal record, and bring an end to the violence. But, she says, the rabbi made do with half-hearted comments about shalom bayit ("peace in the home," or marital harmony). "I often had a feeling he was afraid of my husband," says B. The years went by, and three more children were born. It had become more difficult to leave.

It took another six years for her to get up her courage again. Like many battered women, B. came to her senses when her husband began to cause greater harm to the children. A few weeks before she fled to the shelter, he closed the credit account in the neighborhood grocery, and as a result, her children often went to bed hungry. After he threw their 10-year-old daughter out of the house one night in one of his fits of rage, B. decided to run away.

For an outside observer it may be difficult to understand the necessity for a Haredi framework in a situation that is defined as pikuah nefesh (life threatening). However, B. paid a high price for staying in the ordinary WIZO shelter she was forced to move to after her husband discovered the address of the Haredi shelter and began to threaten to murder her.

When her husband complained in the rabbinic court that his children were violating the Sabbath in the secular shelter, the dayanim (rabbinic court judges) decided the three children under the age of six would be transferred to his custody, despite his violent past. Only after she appealed to the Supreme Court did B. win custody of the children.

Banished women
In 1995 Noach Korman, a Haredi attorney, founded the non-profit organization Bat Melech (King's Daughter, a Talmudic reference to a modest Jewish woman), which operates the only shelter in the country for religious and Haredi women. He did so when during his work as a rabbinic advocate (the equivalent of a defense attorney in the rabbinic courts) in the legal aid department in Jerusalem - a government body that provides free legal advice to the financially distressed - he encountered cases of women who had nowhere to go.

One day, he says, a young Hasidic woman with an infant, who had fled from an abusive husband, was sent to him. She used to sleep in the lobbies of hotels, and walk around in shops during the day, to escape the cold. Korman tried to find a Haredi family to take her in. He contacted various bodies, rabbis, Knesset members and charitable organizations, but in vain.

"Nobody wanted to interfere in the case of a married woman," he says. The explanation was that there is a halakhic (religious law) problem of yihud, which prohibits a woman from being alone with a man other than her husband. But the real reason was actually deeper. When he suggested she go to a shelter, the woman refused, arguing that they would try to make her secular there.

Another case that shocked Korman was that of a 20-year-old girl from a Lithuanian Haredi background who fled from an abusive husband. She and her baby were living in a room in the seminary where she had studied before her marriage. During the school day she was in effect kept prisoner in her room, so that the students wouldn't meet her.

The association began to operate a shelter in an apartment, which the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs officially recognized in 2000. About 100 women turned to the shelter in 2002, and a similar number in 2003. Twenty-two women actually stayed in the shelter, and twice that number wanted to be accepted, but were turned away for lack of space. They arrive with a large number of children, which is why a Haredi shelter can accept fewer women than other shelters - up to seven at a time compared to 10 or more in other shelters.

In the past year, for example, a mother of nine stayed there. In most cases, the older children don't come with the mother, and that's a source of pressure on her to return home. A significant part of the therapy is directed toward the children. Esther Plant, the director of the shelter,believes that this is likely to prevent them from becoming victims of abuse in the future. Haredi women stay in the shelter longer than do other women, because they are banished from the community, and therefore their rehabilitation is slower.

In 2002, 10 women stayed in two temporary apartments that the NPO provides for women who have left the shelter, and in 2003, there were four such women. As opposed to other shelters, here they employ a woman who is in contact with the women who leave the shelter, and helps them to manage. Sixty percent of the budget of the shelter is paid for by the Ministry of Labor and Social Services. The Haredi shelter has additional expenses, including the cost of extra-strict kashrut supervision and private education in religious schools. The rest of the budget comes from donations, a minority of them from Haredis. It turns out that it is still difficult to get them to donate for that purpose.

Chaya Rozenfeld, the director of the department for family violence in the Jerusalem Municipality, who is also the consultant to the mayor for promoting the status of women, says that the woman who is the breadwinner in Haredi society has amassed a great deal of power, which undermines the supremacy of the man. (Haredi society has created a social structure in which two-thirds of the men study, and many of women are bread winners.)

"The woman is more educated, and has more contact with the outside world. In a society where they emphasize the centrality of the man, this causes pressures within the family, some of which are expressed in violence against the woman," she says.

The conspiracy of silence about abuse, says Rozenfeld, is one of the characteristics of conservative and closed societies in general, not necessarily just Haredi society. "Such a society educates toward an ethos that the integrity and the welfare of society is more important than the welfare of the individual," she says. "Sometimes it's difficult for us to understand to what extent the integrity of the family is a supreme value in Haredi society." The battered Haredi woman pays the price. "When she complains of violence, they tell her, `Sacrifice yourself for the community,' and therefore women will remain in a problematic marriage."

No statistics
Apparently keeping the family secret, which perpetuates the pattern of violence, has deeper roots in Haredi society, because of the taboo related to abuse and because of the fear of ruining the family name and the shiddukh (match). One of the battered women in the shelter says her husband imprisoned her in her house in a Haredi city when she was pregnant, for over 24 hours, without electricity and water. She could have opened the window and called out to passersby, but she didn't do so for fear that it would be discovered that her family was defective.

Professionals in the field, virtually all of them religious, believe that fewer women in the Haredi sector will turn to shelters, which for them are the last resort, because of the significance attributed to marriage. Rabbis will prefer to send violent men to violence-prevention therapy groups that have opened in Jerusalem and in Bnei Brak, rather than sending women to a shelter, although it's still not clear whether the therapy for men is successful. The difficult economic situation, says Plant, is also a reason why fewer women come to the shelter.

The experience of the Haredi shelter shows that Haredi women turn to a shelter after many years of marriage, sometimes after they have married off their older children. "They wait with their suffering, because the price they will pay if they leave the community is high," says Plant.

Rozenfeld says "there have still been no Haredi women who murdered by their husbands." It may be just chance. This past August a violent husband tried to set his wife on fire at the entrance to the Haredi shelter, and afterward committed suicide in prison.

There are no statistics on the extent of violence against women in the Haredi sector. However, Plant estimates that the dimensions of the problem are similar to those in society as a whole. She says that the phenomenon crosses denominations and ethnic groups. "Not all the Haredi communities are willing to acknowledge the problem as yet," she says, "and therefore it is difficult to gather statistics."

There are a few professional bodies in the field - like the center for domestic violence in the Yad Sarah organization in Jerusalem, which serves mainly a Haredi population, or the Crisis Center for Religious Women in Jerusalem, which was founded by a religious woman, Debby Gross, over a decade ago. Even they are cautious about publishing statistics about the number of those who contact them. This may be interpreted as a desire to protect the community, but apparently the fear is that revealing the statistics will prevent cooperation with the Haredi community, which is interested in being portrayed as a nonviolent society.
From the increase in the number of staff at the center in Yad Sarah - from one female social worker to 10 male and female social workers within two years - we can at least learn of the sharp rise in the number of requests.

Rabbis won't believe
On one of the days of Hanukkah a party was planned in the shelter, but the four women who were staying there were too upset to celebrate, and it took time until they were convinced to participate. The youngest, in her early twenties, shares a room in the shelter with her four children. In the next room, which is clean and well-kept, lives a women in her forties, with her young daughter. She arrived at the shelter from Bnei Brak, where she enjoyed a high economic and social status.

Nobody, she says, imagined that for six years her husband, a respected rabbi, beat her, and later even threatened to kill her. According to her description, before marriage she was an independent woman, and she says that her husband succeeded with threats and beatings to cause her to become frightened and emotionally disturbed. This is her second time in the shelter. She came in the summer, and after a month returned to her husband. "Now," she declares, "it's final."

Even after they have publicly announced their intention to divorce, over 25 percent of the women who come to the shelter return to their husbands; about half the usual percentage among women who stay in shelters. "Anyone who has left the Haredi community no longer has a place to return to," explains Plant. When a woman wants to return to her husband, the approach is "to go along with the woman and her wishes," as she puts it. Therefore, although the professionals don't always believe in it, they help her by enlisting support in the community, and particularly that of the rabbis, in order to scare the husband and to prevent a repeat of the violence.

The success of the treatment for violence against Haredi women, like that for children at risk and other problems, depends on the delicate communication that takes place behind the scenes with the rabbinic establishment, says Shlomit Gidron, who until last year was the director of the social services department in the Bnei Brak municipality. She says that "when the Haredis are convinced that there is a need, they establish a wonderful system of services."

And in fact, in the social services departments in the Bnei Brak and Jerusalem municipalities, extensive work contacts have been established between the rabbis and the professionals. Rozenfeld believes that the rabbis' consent to the establishment of services in fields that are already considered legitimate, such as special education, has paved the way for areas that are still considered more problematic, such as violence in the family.

All those involved in the field are of the opinion that more and more rabbis and community leaders are beginning to be aware of the problem of violence against women in Haredi society. And in fact, R., who is now staying in the shelter, said that a rabbi who is considered a supreme authority in the Haredi community where she lives told her explicitly to go to the shelter.

Plant lectures in women's forums in closed Haredi communities that invite her with the consent of rabbis. She reports a daily dialogue with neighborhood and community rabbis. Some understand the problem, but there are many, she says, who still deny its existence, and try to pressure her to send the woman from the shelter for another attempt at shalom bayit.

The lack of awareness also stems from the fact that the rabbis have no direct contact with the women, says Rozenfeld. "Violent men are characterized by strictness, which goes very well with punctiliousness regarding prayers and study times. It makes a wonderful impression on the rabbi. He sees before him a man who comes to prayers, a wonderful student in the kollel (yeshiva for married men). And then comes the woman and tells a story that sounds strange. `But I know him,' says the rabbi, `it can't be.' That's why even rabbis who in principle will say that the problem should be dealt with, will make endless demands of the woman to prove that there is violence."

Attorney Korman says that frequently the rabbis have difficulty understanding the psychology of the battered woman, her feeling of guilt that she herself has brought about her situation. "In a society where they still teach women that the altar cries over every couple that divorces, as it says in the sources, a battered woman feels that she must preserve shalom bayit."

"There is no society in which the woman pays a price of banishment as in the Haredi community," says Plant. "A battered woman is considered a blot on the entire society."

D., who fled to the shelter three years ago after many years of marriage to a violent husband, paid a high price for her decision to stop obeying the edict of community and to end her marriage. She came from an ultra-Haredi community, and the fact that she turned to the authorities and to the police was unforgivable. Her family ignored her, the community banished her and gave full support to her husband. After her stay in the shelter she never returned to her community. Her children, who were incited against her, ignore her to this day.

Full-length film
She married at the age of 17. D.'s husband was known in the community as a problematic and violent young man, even before their marriage, but this fact was concealed from her. At an early stage in the marriage, she says, she saw the first signs of his tyranny. He used to take out sacred texts and show her that they said that the husband rules over his wife and that he is allowed to hit her. Later on his domineering behavior was expressed in religious restrictions. He forbade her to open her mouth in front of a man, and used to check whether the clothes she bought were sufficiently modest.

D. was beaten every day. Her husband made sure to hit her in places on her body that would be covered by her clothes. Over the years she had six children. Today she is 40 years old, and is angry that the community considered her to blame for her situation. The worst was her mother, who is a marriage counselor in the community, who told her in response to her description of the daily beatings that "it's normal."

"In cases where there is violence toward the woman, rabbis pressure the couple to preserve shalom bayit, but behind this concept hides the assumption that both of them are equally to blame," says D.

However, she has a positive recollection of an important and influential rabbi in the closed community where she lived, who understood her situation and helped her with a very painful issue, going to the mikveh (ritual bath), which in religious society is a condition for having sexual relations with one's husband.

The rabbi told her explicitly that she was forbidden to immerse herself in the mikveh when her husband treated her disrespectfully, and even indicated a list of rabbis who forbade it. "For me that was the beginning of the end. Because a woman who doesn't go to the mikveh can't continue to live with her husband," she says.

So in effect, although the rabbi didn't tell her outright to break up the marriage, she reached the point with his help. The final push to contact the shelter arose when she discovered that her children were imitating their father's behavior. She understood that she had to save them.

D. is now remarried. She returned to Haredi society. B., on the other hand, is confronting many problems. While her husband remained in his community and prays in his synagogue, she was exiled from her city and lives in social isolation. She is unemployed, lives in financial distress in a shabby and crowded apartment, deals with bounced checks and a daily fear that her landlady will throw her out.

"Single mothers have no future in Haredi society," says a Haredi community leader. Two weeks ago the principal of the religious school threatened to remove her children from the school in the Haredi city if she didn't pay the monthly tuition. When she told him that she had nothing left to do but pray, he replied, "Then pray somewhere else."

Bat Melech is now trying to increase awareness of violence against women in Haredi society, and to educate toward violence prevention. The association's newspaper is distributed in mikvehs, synagogues and places where women congregate. Debby Gross says that thanks to the growing awareness, there are today more divorces at an early age than in the past, because young women know how to say no to violent husbands.

However, the attempt to educate toward nonviolence seems to contradict the tendency of the Haredi public to avoid discussing these subjects. Very few articles on the subject have been published in the Haredi press. And of course, it's impossible to bring these subjects into the schools, because the Haredi public considers them a threat to the pure souls of its children.

The only attempt is being made at present by Bat Melech, which is planning to distribute a full-length film for home computers, on the subject of domestic violence. The problematic subject matter was treated very cautiously, between the lines, so the film wouldn't be rejected.

The problem of preventing violence is much more serious. "According to the halakha, a husband who doesn't respect his wife cannot be honored in anything related to the community, such as being called up to the Torah, and all the more so is it forbidden for the community to defend him," says D. Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, spiritual leader of Shas, spoke in favor of the Haredi shelter about a year and a half ago, but Rozenfeld says that there is no other rabbi or posek halakha (arbiter who makes halakhic decisions) who will get up and declare publicly that there is a halakha that forbids a husband to beat his wife. Plant says that she would like to see a list of abusive husbands in every synagogue.

In other words, the condemnation should be clear. However, she says: "We are not in favor of radical change. If this is a revolution, it's a quiet one. One woman and then another and another, a rabbi and another rabbi." Plant and Rozenfeld plan to develop awareness among rabbis' wives, mikveh supervisors, women who advise brides-to-be: "We want them to know how to identify the phenomenon so they can come to the woman and say to her, you are not alone."


September 18, 2005

In the orthodox world it is not uncommon for single individuals who are looking for their beshert (soul mate) to use a matchmaker (shadchan). For many this makes dating so much easier, yet for a few, their lives have been changed forever in a negative way.

There have been times that a shadchan neglected to tell a client (either male or female) of their potential dates past criminal record. There are pros and cons about doing this. Everyone deserves a fresh start. If two individuals don't hit it off, there is no need to share everything. One of the problems of doing this is that there have been times that if one person doesn't hit it off with another, one may think of a friend who might be a better possibility. They no longer may use the shadchan, and a friend can end up engaged to someone who could be problematic.

I am aware of situations in which the shadchan (matchmaker) was aware that there were allegations of an individual being physically or sexually violent. Because the shadchan (or the rabbis who support the alleged offender) didn't believe the allegations, an introduction was made with a potential partner. There have been several cases where a couple marry, and an innocent person becomes a new victim of domestic violence, and or their children (male and female) become incest survivors.

After consulting with many survivors of these sorts of situations, I think it's time that we demand that there be a policy that shadchans are required to disclose if a potential mate has a criminal record prior to the introduction, especially when there have been allegations of physical or sexual violence.


Beaten, silent and forgiving
By Tamar Rotem
Haaretz - June 20, 2006

What can I do? Praise God. What suffering, what torment I went through. The tears I shed. It's impossible to tell the whole story. But you remember. You remember everything. The shouts, the blows, the curses, the threats. I only wish that evil Jews should go through everything I did. All day. He never gave me a minute's rest."

Listening to this story, one wonders how the person telling it can praise God. But maybe that is what battered ultra-Orthodox women do: remain silent, reconcile themselves, smooth things over and, above all, forgive. Not only their husbands, but God, too.

She is in her forties. The more the violence increased, the more religiously strict the family became. The more she and other family members were subjected to the husband's assaults and terror, the more pictures of rabbis were hung on the walls. She wears black and a crimson head-covering. A fine face, strong features, olive skin stretched across high cheekbones.

"It's a miracle that no marks are visible," she says, rubbing the sensitive area, a souvenir of one of her husband's many attacks, this one five years ago.

It happened on Shabbat eve: Her husband smashed her face against the floor. Her forehead split open to the temples and blood flowed freely, to the terrified screams of the children.

"After the Kiddush he sat at the table," she recalls. "I was standing by the sink, as usual, busy arranging the food. He asked for something and I guess I didn't hear him well, or didn't understand what he wanted. What does it matter? Suddenly I'm on the floor. I was living my life in constant fear. You don't know where the next blow will come from, when he will drag you by the hair through the house. I got used to it. I stopped thinking that he would murder me, like I did at first."

Her husband has not been in their house for a few months. He was forbidden from returning in the wake of an injunction issued by the Family Affairs Court. Since then he has disappeared from her life and she is no longer afraid of him. But she has new troubles. She has a terminal disease and is certain that it was brought on by the suffering and the ordeals she went through - because she was a victim and "took everything to heart," as she puts it. On the other hand, the disease is atonement for sins. Her husband was exultant when he heard that she was sick. But even now, you can hardly hear a bad word about him from her.
After that incident, when the blood streamed from her face, she did not consider calling the police or taking refuge in a shelter for battered women. The social worker who worked with the family heard about the assault a few days later and called the police, without her knowledge. She was taken by surprise when the officers arrived, she recalls, and she sent them packing.

Battered women keep their lot a secret in every society, but in the ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) society the conspiracy of silence surrounding violence in the family is stronger, because marriage is a sacred institution and Haredim recoil from dissolving it. Seeking help from therapeutic agencies outside the community is often looked on as betrayal. Dirty laundry is not hung outside.

"I didn't think it was our way - to go to the police," she says. "I did not file a complaint. I told the police it was nothing."

Despite the threats to her life, she says she never went to a shelter for battered women, because of the shame. "I have grown-up children. I did not want them or their friends to know that I was in a place like that. I didn't want the neighbors to know." Yet the neighbors heard and saw and knew everything - and even testified on her behalf in court.

She lives in a distressed Haredi neighborhood, with long, train-like buildings, laundry hanging out on the front balconies and strollers piled up at the entrances. A scene of general neglect. The apartments are small and cramped. Nothing can be hidden here. The walls are thin. You can hear a chair being moved in the adjacent apartment, so how could people not hear plates being hurled against the wall?

"He broke all my dishes. If he wanted something and I didn't want to give him, then right away, smash - one dish and another and another," she relates.

She married at age 20, a pretty young woman from a religious home. Her husband grew up in what she calls a masorti (traditional) home. When they moved into one of the Haredi areas, they assumed the proper look: He wore a black skullcap and grew a beard. She wore stockings and kept her hair totally hidden. She removed the television set from the house. She registered the girls in the Haredi Beit Yaakov school. But all these trappings of righteousness did not stop the husband from using his wife as a punching bag. He never worked or provided for the family. She worked as a cleaning lady in yeshivas.

Immediately after they were married she became pregnant and at the same time got her first slap. Her memories of high holidays and the births of her children are bound up with violence. A number of events occurred around the Shabbat table.

For years she disappeared from home during some of the holidays. "The children," she says, "trembled with fear. When I was at home I couldn't leave them for a second. He would threaten and hit them."

Her husband would also not allow her relatives to visit. There were times when she did not have money to buy food for the children, and her father would come with full baskets and leave them outside, next to the door. He would knock on the door quietly with his fingernails, as a sign, so that the husband would not hear.

Rabbinic salvation
As a Haredi woman, she never stopped believing that the rabbis would be her salvation, but in vain. Years ago she opened a file in the rabbinic court, in the hope of getting a divorce. She spent endless days attending exhausting deliberations, at the end of which the judges hesitated to instruct her husband to grant her a divorce. In the end, she says, they always sent her to rabbis who were supposed to make decisions about her.

"Finally I stopped going to the hearings. I saw that they were not making a decision and were not interested in helping me. The judges and the rabbis simply do not understand what a woman like me is going through."

It goes without saying that she did not get the rabbis' authorization to use contraceptives, with the result that more children were born to the violence-ridden family.

In 1999 the court did, however, make a rare decision: It ordered the husband to stay away from the house for a few months. This was after her mother died and her husband did not let her observe the mourning customs. "He brought a darbuka to the house and pounded on it 23 hours a day. He turned on the radio at full volume, and this when it was forbidden for me to listen to music," she relates.

The rabbis, then, acted only when they had the impression that the husband was interfering with his wife's attempts to uphold halakha (Jewish religious law). But even this decision was marked by indecisiveness: The husband had to keep away only during the day, from 7:30 A.M. until 10 P.M., and only on weekdays. On Shabbat he was allowed to be at home. "At night and on Shabbat he continued to torture me," she says.

Two years later, after the attack in which her face was injured, the court acceded to her request to order her husband to stay away from the house altogether. But this did not help because the decision was temporary and the husband did not obey it. She was certain that after years of pleading, of court deliberations and neighbors' testimonies about the acts of violence, she would be allowed to get a divorce. In one of the hearings at this time, such a decision appeared to be imminent: A date was set for a hearing in which the husband would be ordered to give her a divorce.

"I was certain that this was the end of my suffering. But when I went back to the court they again sent me to some rabbi and threw the decision on him." That rabbi, she adds, did not have the impression that her suffering had reached its full measure. "There is no need to break up the home over this," he told her.

The magic incantation "domestic harmony" was uttered again and the routine of beatings and threats continued unabated.

It was after she fell ill that she found the inner strength to act on her own and went to Bat Hamelech, an association that helps religious women in distress. She relates that when she returned home from the hospital after surgery, physically and mentally exhausted, her husband said he should say the "Hallel" prayer for her approaching death. He made fun of her appearance, her skeletal body, and when she read Psalms in bed for her recovery he told her it wouldn't help. He also kept her family away.

"This is your punishment!" he screamed. "You are paying for everything you have done to me."

When he conveyed his message to the neighbors and everyone knew what was going on, she went to the Family Affairs Court and obtained a permanent restraining order keeping him from the house.


Sins of the husbands : "Women's Minyan" a play by Naomi Ragen
By Esther Solomon
Jewish Theatre - January 16, 2007

During the rehearsal stage of her debut play, which examines women's abuse, silence and suffering within the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) community of Mea Shearim, Naomi Ragen met with a prominent Haredi rabbi. She offered him a deal: The rabbi would secure a meeting between Rachel, a woman who had escaped domestic violence, and her children, estranged from their mother ever since. In return, Ragen would tear up her contract with Habimah, where her play based on Rachel's story was due to be performed. The rabbi asked for some time to think about it. Later he replied to Ragen that he could not - or would not - comply with her conditions.

Ragen says she was not surprised by the rabbi's refusal. In a recent conversation with this reviewer, Ragen, author of six novels, says that "we [both Rachel and herself] didn't believe that the play would help Rachel, but maybe it could help other women. It was part of the process of inching our way to understanding these women's reality, turning it into common knowledge." Ragen says the play aims to break through the wall of collaboration and silence that surrounds the issue of abuse in the Haredi world. "None of the Haredi audience that came to see the play complained that it was untrue, just that there was nothing they could do about it," she notes.

From its inception, through its writing, performance and recent publication, Ragen's play has been part of a dialogue between life and the stage. What roots the play is the true story on which it is based, and the heavy presence of real and shattered lives behind the dialogue and stage directions. Ragen's close and ongoing relationship with Rachel, her real-life inspiration, raises a host of challenging questions about the borders between art and activism, the responsibility of a writer to her 'sources' or muses, and how to comprehend the damage to a protagonist's real life that exposure on stage can do.

"Women's Minyan" is not an easy read, and at times even risks melodrama. But it would be wrong to categorize the play as sensational or sentimental. Even as an unperformed bare text, it paints a wrenchingly sad tableau of loss, helplessness and hopelessness.

The action takes place in a claustrophobic space, a room in a Mea Shearim apartment that becomes a stage on which lifetimes of frustration, anger and distress are played out. The tragic fall from grace of Chana, model mother of 12 and community counselor, dominates the narrative. Escaping the murderous beatings of her husband Yankele, she is shut out of her previous life. Her community closes ranks around the husband, accusing Chana of abandoning her family and dishonoring him, and forbids her to see her children.

Armed with a court order mandating access to them, Chana arrives for her first visit home in two years. The reception committee - mostly antagonistic female family members and acquaintances, many of whom still regard Yankele as "saintly" - tells her that, apart from the two eldest daughters present, Chana will be unable to see her children. Chana proposes the 10 women form a minyan, a prayer quorum, not to pray, but as a court of opinion of her peers, to listen to her side of the story and decide for themselves whether she deserves to see her children. The full extent of years of suffering emerges, and the minyan finally votes to allow Chana access.

Currency of fear
The minyan and its independent vote is a victory for free choice and collective action by women, which runs counter to the values of the Haredi community as expressed in the play. As such, it is doomed to have a symbolic rather than an actual effect. The hollowness of the women's authorization victory is clear when, during the much-anticipated offstage meeting, Chana's children turn away from her in terror. The community's rabbi has told the children that Satan took their mother away and, as Chana's most loyal daughter, Shaine Ruth, declares to her mother, "if they looked you in the eyes, they'd die."

The play explores the social and religious intimidation that keeps the community together, with more than a dash of physical coercion in the form of the Modesty Police. Any step outside the norm is an irreversible act replete with the danger of expulsion. Even those willing to accept such consequences are paralyzed by the shadow that would be cast on their children's future lives - in particular, their marriage prospects.

Ironically, in escaping a savage marriage, women like Chana are faced with the risk of sentencing their daughters to inauspicious and unwanted, if not necessarily violent, marriages. Chana's escape meant the derailment of a match with a promising yeshiva student arranged for her eldest daughter, Bluma, leading to the daughter's intense bitterness toward her mother.

The currency of fear in these women's lives is yichus, or lineage, used to evaluate the relative standing of a potential matrimonial candidate. The "contamination" of a family's yichus is a material and spiritual defect that continues through the generations. Ragen's work reflects the way in which a threat to yichus can justify violence. According to a recent study, over 13 percent of Haredi men agreed that a husband may beat his wife if she causes problems with a marriage arrangement for their children. Since there is no obvious mechanism of "rehabilitating" yichus within the community, abusive marriages imprison women even more securely.

Even if women are courageous enough to escape, no justice system aids them. The writ of secular courts carries little clout in a community that recognizes only the judgment of the religious court system. Chana's challenge to the minyan simply to hear her story reverberates forcefully when contrasted with the voiceless passivity of women in the rabbinical courts - "Taliban or Iranian-style religious courts" as Ragen describes them.

The bleak image of life in the Haredi community portrayed in Women's Minyan and its staging in the heart of Tel Aviv to a largely secular audience (the play was first performed at Habimah in July 2002) could leave its author open to charges of "Haredi-bashing." Ragen's response to this charge is clear-cut: "All societies should be open to criticism. The crime [of abuse] is the offense and not the exposure of that crime."

There are few images of happy marriages or relationships in general in Ragen's play; men create a balance of terror at home and in the bedroom; obedience is the cardinal female duty; slander and gossip are pervasive and are consciously manipulated by communal leaders to divide and rule, to break autonomous thinking and solidarity. Modesty squad vigilantes police the community, illustrated in the play by the broken arm and leg inflicted on Chana's friend Zehava at their hands when Chana sought sanctuary with her.

Saints and sinners
Apart from dramatizing the dark side of Haredi life, the play has a self-consciously strong polemical, campaigning tone. This is particularly blatant when reading the script, unmediated by the characterization of actors in a performance. On the one hand, Ragen clearly aims to raise awareness of the invisible suffering of Haredi women, who are usually outside the public's consciousness. On the other hand, it shows how the issues raised by Chana's story are universal: marital abuse is hardly confined to the Haredi community, nor are Haredi women the only ones locked into abusive relationships. It is this polemical tone that raises the first of several problematic issues in regard to the play.

A polemical play does not hesitate to state its position and its sympathy for specific characters that embody this position. In the case of Ragen's play, it is hard to argue with the play's message, but the reader feels intimidated by the bluntness of its expression. Like a morality play, the cast is divided into saints and sinners, and despite the partial redemption/conversion of the sinners at the end, many of the characters appear to be two-dimensional mouthpieces, ironic and disappointing in a play with real biographies as its source.

The theme of abuse itself is also stretched toward caricature. Late in the play, there are revelations of additional sexual, financial and moral abuses committed by Yankele against Chana, boys in his yeshiva, Zehava and even his sister. Strangely enough for the moral of the story, it is not the abuse endured by Chana that tips the minyan's balance in her favor, but rather the additional horrors revealed by other characters.

The effect of such a surfeit of abuse is problematic. Surely Chana's original charges are more than sufficient? Do the other charges not detract from the seriousness of marital abuse? Is the abuse of a sibling so much more shocking than that of a spouse? Does the play run the risk of depicting Yankele as evil incarnate, a character so grotesque and a story so exceptional that few broader lessons can be learnt? Does 'everyday' abuse seem insignificant, not worth protesting, next to Yankele's monumental horrors?

According to Ragen, the writing of the play was done with Rachel's full knowledge and cooperation. Although mindful that the public staging of the play could damage her chances of seeing her own children again - art influencing life - some artistic naivete also seems to have been involved. There were moments of elation during the staging of the play, and encouragement from the public; some members of Rachel's family did actually contact her, while a number of theater-goers were sufficiently moved to offer Rachel assistance in the form of legal and financial support.

But after the dust settled, her Haredi contacts broke off in the face of social pressure, and the theater-goers' momentary solidarity yielded little follow-up. Worst of all, the latest rabbinical court decision cited Rachel's public "brazenness," a coded reference to the play and its impact on "her children, their honor and good name" as a key reason for "this abnormal and problematic situation." Eleven years have now passed since Rachel last saw her children.

It could be argued that such is the fate of many whistleblowers who face up to strong institutions. Ragen herself asserts that "only good has come out of this [play]" for Rachel and for other women caught in the same trap of abuse and exclusion. "There is a new openness in the religious courts, some of the harsher rabbis have been removed, and there is the start of a debate about removing the rabbinical courts' jurisdiction over some child custody cases to the civil family court system. There are now shelters for abused Haredi women and their children", she remarks.

Ragen recently organized a fundraiser for Rachel - now divorced but without alimony, in poor health and living in squalid conditions in an apartment in Safed. Is this a breathing space, a time for recuperation to regroup energies to continue the fight? Or is it recognition of the end of a chapter, and the start of a new life, whatever such a trite expression might mean for her?

In whatever way Rachel's personal narrative develops, one vivid phrase from the play sticks in the mind, spoken by Chana's ever-faithful friend, Zehava: "A man doesn't need a gun to kill a wife. He can squeeze the life out her, drop by drop." And in Rachel's case, even an ex-wife can be prey to the slow and painful murder of self, motherhood and hope.


Unchaining women
Bill would facilitate religious divorce; some worry about constitutionality
by Eric Fingerhut
Washington Jewish Week - February 2, 2007

Supporters of Maryland legislation that would require a Jewish man to give his wife a Jewish divorce before he could receive a civil divorce say they are confident their bill is constitutional and optimistic about its passage. But some in the Jewish community wonder whether the bill may breach the wall between church and state.

Known as a "get law," using the Hebrew word for divorce, the legislation would require the parties to the divorce to sign an affidavit, "under penalty of perjury," that they have taken "all steps ... to remove all religious barriers to remarriage by the other party."

The bill comes in response to the increasing visibility of the plight of agunot, or chained women. For a couple to divorce under Jewish law, a man must grant a get to a woman. Without it, a woman may not remarry in a religious ceremony.

The bill is backed by the Maryland Jewish Alliance, the coalition that lobbies on behalf of the Washington and Baltimore federations and community relations councils.

The alliance's David Conn, who also is the Baltimore Jewish Council deputy director, said the legislation would "complement what the community is doing" to help agunot.

While the bill may "intersect with religion," he said, it "would not excessively entangle" the two.

"If we viewed this bill as a breach [of the wall between church and state], we'd never support it," said Conn. "Given the legal analysis and the terrible ... problem, we're strongly in support."

Conn cited a letter that the bill's co-sponsor, Del. Sandy Rosenberg (D-Baltimore City), received from the state attorney general's office in response to a request to examine the legality of the proposed law.

That missive, from Kathryn Rowe, Maryland's assistant attorney general, states that while "the proposed legislation presents a substantial issue under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, it would likely be upheld if challenged."

The document argues that the law has "multiple secular purposes," such as promoting "the possibility of new family formation by removing voluntarily maintained barriers to remarriage" and protecting women from "coercion in negotiations related to their divorce."

Rowe also noted that the proposed legislation does not "contain any explicit reference to the religious practices of Orthodox Judaism that could be taken as a governmental endorsement," nor does it "incorporate into civil law any aspect of Jewish religious practice."

She writes that the bill avoids "excessive entanglement" with religion because "it leaves to the parties involved [to decide] whether the affidavit is to be required," and "where it is required, the court need not adjudicate matters of religious doctrine."

"It need only note whether the required affidavit has been filed and consider evidence, if presented, of a knowingly false statement," states the letter.

A similar bill has been on the books in New York state since 1982. A state court rejected a legal challenge to that legislation about a decade ago.

This is not the first time the "get bill" has come before Maryland legislators. Conn said it was first proposed in 1997 and passed the Senate in 1999, but foundered in the House amid concerns that the legislation would have unintended consequences on Catholic annulments. While that problem was corrected, the legislation did not make it out of committee the next year and has not been proposed since.

But in the past year, two cases of agunot have garnered publicity in the Free State. One involves Sarah Rosenbloom of Baltimore. Her ex-husband, Sam, has denied her a get in the six years since their civil divorce because, he said last year, he is angry that she has refused to apologize for lodging criminal allegations - which were later dropped - against him.

The New York-based Organization for the Resolution of Agunot has held periodic protests outside Sam Rosenbloom's Gaithersburg house as a way to apply social pressure on him and bring attention to his ex-wife's plight.

The protests led to Rosenbloom proposing, and the City of Gaithersburg agreeing to, an ordinance last year restricting the gatherings.

The increasing visibility of the issue, said Conn, led Baltimore's CHANA: Counseling, Helpline and Aid Network for Abused Women and the Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Abuse, to approach the alliance and encourage it to make another attempt on the legislation.

Rosenberg said he expects to introduce the bill in the next week or two and sees the legislation as a question both of women's rights and religious freedom.

"We hope it will be seen as a religious freedom issue," he said, because it makes it possible for women to "marry and remain in [their] faith."

Without such a bill, "women have to make a choice if they wish to remain" practicing Orthodox Jews.

The bill's sponsor in the Senate, Sen. Lisa Gladden (D-Baltimore City), notes that while the Constitution supports a separation between religion and state, "it doesn't say we should turn a blind eye" when there is a "need" such as this one.

Conn and other supporters emphasize that the bill is "not a panacea" or "full solution" to the problem. First, the bill would not help any current agunot, or women whose husbands have already received a civil divorce and are still withholding a get. A man also could still refuse to supply a get simply by not agreeing to a civil divorce.

But it is an additional tool for women, said Agudath Israel of American Washington director and council Rabbi Abba Cohen, whose organization is backing the proposal.

"The rabbis have ... been working on this problem for 2,000 years," said Cohen. "They believe they have gotten to the point that no other options are available to them within the Jewish law to alleviate the suffering of the agunot" outside of secular legislation. In the Diaspora, "they don't have the same tools" of community pressure they did elsewhere, said Cohen.

As one tool, the Conservative movement has developed the "Lieberman clause," a portion of the ketubah, or marriage contract, signed by the couple that authorizes a beit din, rabbinical court, to order the husband to give his wife a get. The beit din also may annul the marriage. That solution has not been adopted by Orthodox authorities.

But one Jewish former state legislator believes the legislation is unwise and questions its constitutionality.

Sharon Grosfeld, a Democrat who served eight years in the House and four in the Senate before retiring this year, said the agunot issue is a "very big problem, bigger than most people realize," but that the "get bill" is a mistaken way to handle it.

"This is a religious law, and not a secular law," said Grosfeld, an attorney. "I don't think the government should have a role in trying to remedy a bad situation when that situation should be remedied by a religious institution."

Even if the law is ruled constitutional, Grosfeld said she still thinks it is a "dangerous way for religious groups to go" because it sets a precedent for the government to tell them how to practice their faith.

One Jewish women's group said it was still considering the pros and cons of the legislation and had not taken a position on it.

Sammie Moshenberg, director of Washington operations at the National Council of Jewish Women, said that while her organization is extremely concerned about the plight of the agunah, she noted the "church-state implications of the bill that basically ... [are] entangling government in a religious matter."

"We're weighing that against the ... aim of the bill to address this really horrible issue" of women prevented from remarrying, Moshenberg said.

Hadassah said it had no comment on the bill.

Md. Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery County), who is also a professor of constitutional law and the First Amendment at American University in the District, is still deciding where he stands on the issue.

"It's a close call," he said, noting that the legislation does have a "secular purpose and effect ... to facilitate remarriage."

On the other hand, "it appears to be kind of an entanglement" of the state with religion, adding that one "can't use the government to resolve religious controversies."

As the only constitutional law professor in the State House, he said a number of his colleagues have asked for his opinion on the matter.

Susan Weinberg, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington's president, acknowledged that the church-state issue is a complication. But, she believes that backing the bill does not undermine the Jewish community's stance against the mixing of religion and government in other areas.

"Legislators will see the difference," she said, once Jewish advocates explain "how they can vote for it without breaking the fire wall" between church and state.


Rise in number of abused haredi women
New generation of rabbis encouraging battered Orthodox women to seek help, involve police. Welfare minister: Conspiracy of silence on this issue slowly being broken
By David Regev
YNET - October 11, 2007

The number of calls made to hotlines for victims of domestic violence in the Orthodox community has increased three-fold over the past few years, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Thursday.

The number of haredi women who called the hotlines jumped from 477 in 2004 to 1,402 in 2007, while the number of women who were housed in shelters for battered women each month nearly doubled, from 24 to 40 on average.

Attorney Noah Korman, who established the first shelter for abused haredi women in 2000 and opened a second one two years later said, "The phenomenon of violence against women exists in the Orthodox community just as it does in any other, but it was not made public as it was in the secular sector. Haredi women preferred to keep it secret. It must be remembered that domestic violence brings great shame on an Orthodox family."

According to him, haredi women turned to the hotlines and shelters as a last resort.

"Women who arrived here did so after suffering years of abuse, when they felt they were in danger and could not take it anymore," Korman said.

'It's strictly forbidden to beat a woman'

He said the change in the rabbis' position regarding the phenomenon was also instrumental encouraging more abused women in the community to seek help.

"Haredi women are becoming more and more aware of the dangers related to domestic violence, and the new generation of rabbis is encouraging them to file complaints and break the cycle (of violence)," Korman said.

David Yosef, the rabbi of Jerusalem's Har Nof neighborhood and the son of Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, declared on Wednesday that it was "strictly forbidden to beat a woman.

"If the need arises to involve the police in this matter, then they should be involved," he said.

Korman said most of the violent incidents against haredi women take place on Shabbat due to the fact that on weekdays the men are usually studying at yeshiva or tending to other matters.

He said that in many cases the violence erupts at the Shabbat diner table, adding that many of the haredi women arrive at the shelters with their children, "sometimes with nine or 10 of them".

On Wednesday Welfare Minister Issac Herzog visited a shelter for battered haredi women for the first time.

"The conspiracy of silence regarding violence against Orthodox women is slowly being broken, and we plan on helping them as best we can," he said.



Some of the information on The Awareness Center's web pages may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc.

We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

For more information go to: . If you wish to use copyrighted material from this update for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." –– Margaret Mead

No comments: