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  • Writer's pictureJodi Samuels

Eyes Wide Open

My husband and I are co-founders of an organization that targets young professionals in NY and now Israel called Jewish International Connection New York- We pride ourselves on making over 100 matches from our events. Last night a friend sent me an email with the subject line “remember this guy?” I proceeded to read the link she sent.

It’s a plea from an aguna – a woman chained by her recalcitrant husband’s refusal to give a get – religious divorce. This couple met at my Shabbat table. He was a neighbor and she at the time was a typical unaffiliated young lady at our table. While I knew some of the story reading this in detail made me have a sleepless night. I sent this message to Basya.


I am reaching out to you and I want to share my story. I feel that people can learn how to help others in domestic abusive situations. We saw all the warnings and did not do enough. We cared but we did not act.

You met Isaac in my home. We were intrigued by the lightening romance and your fast turn to Orthodoxy. However we were reassured by your constant smiles and giggles. My son loved Isaac and he was always in Isaac’s apartment on shabbat afternoon. Isaac looked like he would be a great dad.

The first time I saw you after your honeymoon was outside the building. I was excited to see the new bride and you were tearful. You told me Isaac was not what he seemed and was angry at you and insisting you wear the head scarf. I asked if you discussed these issues before marriage and you told me no. You were so anxious and clearly unhappy. I recall being so concerned. When my son tried to visit on Shabbat Isaac told me you had a custom of no visitors in 1st year including a 3 year old kid. He declined all our invites and we never saw you. I was concerned. Then we went away for a few days and we came home and our nanny said you moved out. I tried calling you with no success. There was no response to emails. I was suspicious.

Along with a friend who lived with us we started investigating. We called Isaac’s supposed workplace, her cousin worked there and had never heard of him. We called every Gilman in NJ and reached your mom who said you had no contact with her and she was worried. I had people call your cell phone pretending to invite you to an event and Isaac answered and screamed at them. We knew all was not good. We finally tracked you down in Miami on one visit. You invited us to eat with you in a public succah. You were so quiet and anxious. We saw all the warning signs but we didn’t act. We got in our car even more convinced yet we did not help more. I tried to stay in contact and Isaac occasionally answered my emails. He was always curt and made it uncomfortable to reach out.

On our next trip we reached out and Isaac invited us to your new home. You had just had your daughter and you were living in a very nice home with lots of beautiful furniture. Isaac was the hands on loving dad. The guys were outside and I asked you in the kitchen how things were going and you thanked me for helping you meet your beshert. I asked if you were in touch with your parents and you said occasionally. You looked anxious but the outside looked good and I was shocked by your comment thanking me. I recall getting in the car and Gavin and I said things did not add up!!! The house, the furniture but no jobs. The sudden bliss.

A few months later we learned you left him.

My eyes were wide open and my heart in the right place but I did what most people do and that is stay out of other peoples business! When I saw you outside the building that day I should have told you no newly married woman should be sad and frightened of her husband. I should have offered you help to escape. I saw it in real time exactly what you see on TV about abuse. We speculated, we suspected, we saw the warning signs. It was a topic of discussion amongst mutual friends and neighbors we all knew you were in trouble. In Miami in the kitchen I should have told you I know and that I would help you escape.

My message to others if you see something do something. Caring is not enough!

Originally published: May 12, 2016


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