Susan Rosenfeld’s marriage wasn’t what you’d call romantic. She was thrown up against a wall, doused with a bucket of cold water in bed, and, toward the end, became her husband’s punching bag. "Since I wear long sleeves, no one really knew," she says. Looking back, Ms. Rosenfeld regrets keeping the abuse a secret. But "in the Jewish community, you don’t call the police on your husband."
In her mid-30s, Ms. Rosenfeld hopes to remarry and build a new life for herself. But as an Orthodox Jew, a civil divorce is not sufficient. For Ms. Rosenfeld to be officially released from her vows, her husband has to grant her a Jewish bill of divorce, called a get. The document, which certifies the termination of the marriage–the Aramaic text declares "you are hereby permitted to marry any man"–not only allows women to remarry, but ensures that future children will not be deemed mamzerim (bastards able to marry only other mamzerim).
Two years have passed and Ariel HaCohen, Ms. Rosenfeld’s husband, has refused to grant her the get. This makes Ms. Rosenfeld an aguna–literally, an anchored woman–trapped in a dead marriage.
Debi Gordon emails:
Spin-doctoring has hit a new low – and a new high. Bari Weiss’s spit piece, what you’d expect but wouldn’t even find in "The Star" or the "Enquirer" has, in one heartless stroke, butchered the reputations of a gentle soul, a noble clergy and a dependable newspaper – one which was respected until now for its integrity.
Wall Street Journal, aren’t you ashamed?
I am an Industrial Psychologist trained to distinguish between fact and fantasy. When a colleague showed me this article yesterday, I didn’t know whether to cry or to explode. I felt like doing both. Did I mention I’m also trained never to react this way?
I know Mr. HaCohen, an industrious computer professional, whose character the article disparaged. I’ve also worked with many clergy from various religions and denominations, devoted men and women of the cloth, who frustratingly try to help people whom those in my profession cannot help; those who have given up and don’t want to be helped. And while I am not particularly religious, I believe in exercising moral clarity: I can recognize the ugly face of prejudice straight away. Casting aspersions on a clergy’s adherence to religious laws – just because they don’t bend to your whims – speaks volumes about the stone thrower’s true motives, her agenda.
In my entire life I met few people, fewer men still, as kind, as gentle, as patient and yes – even romantic – as Ariel HaCohen. William Holden and Jimmy Stewart come to mind. Now Gary Cooper in "Meet John Doe" does too. Mr. HaCohen’s genuine respect for life – all life (even a loathsome spider he saved from my rolled-up Journal) – and sensitivity to other people’s needs and feelings make him simply incapable of doing what he’s accused of doing in Ms. Weiss’s maligning murmurings. Quite contrary to her rather transparent attempt at character assassination, Mr. HaCohen always went to great lengths to resolve any controversy with dialogue and understanding, and was certainly never one to take advantage of some one’s vulnerability (to which I can attest.) The Wall Street Journal has maligned a good man who most assuredly never abused anyone.