Controversial women’s rights protest held in Kiryas Joel for woman seeking religious divorce
A controversial women’s rights protest in the ultra-Orthodox community of Kiryas Joel is raising awareness to a centuries-old religious law that Jewish activists say is “trapping” women in unhappy and abusive marriages.
Dozens of protesters, mainly women, were seen during the hours-long demonstration Sunday holding signs that read, “Free Malky,” while chanting, “Give a get!” Crowds of men and women from the community are seen looking on, and in some cases, engaging in loud verbal exchanges with activists in videos the event organizer, Adina Sash, provided to News 12.
“In Jewish law, for a woman to exit a marriage, she needs her husband to sign a permission slip that she is no longer his property,” says Sash.
The 36-year-old from Brooklyn is a growing voice and activist in ultra-Orthodox communities where women are rarely heard speaking out. This time, she focused her efforts on a Kiryas Joel woman named “Malky” who needs a religious divorce called a “get” to remarry.
“She met her husband like 45 minutes twice in a chaperoned living room, on a blind date,” Sash says.
The activist claims the woman has been fighting to obtain the “get” from her husband for more than four years, and says the Jewish law is important in the religion.
“If you’re a woman who says, ‘I don’t need that permission slip,’ they’ll say you’re not listening to our rules and the patriarchy will basically stigmatize and excommunicate a woman who doesn’t care about getting a get," says Sash.
Sash says the religious law was meant to protect women but is being misused in some cases in rabbinical family court proceedings that are overseen strictly by men.
“It’s being used to subjugate and objectify women,” says Sash. “There’s a women’s rights revolution happening right now under our noses among women who are saying we are not going to stand for this anymore.”
The woman says her message in the insular Orange County community drew hundreds of people, supporters and critics alike - including some who threw eggs at them and allegedly vandalized an LED billboard truck she rented for the protest.
“It was spray painted. The driver was physically assaulted with a hammer,” says Sash.
State police were at the protest and tell News 12 that no one was arrested. They say only twenty people were there, despite the activists’ videos showing many more.
Sash estimates as many as 600 people were there at one point during the demonstration.
“I want people to know there are thousands of women trapped in these dead marriages,” Sash says.
A source in the ultra-Orthodox community spoke to News 12 about the religious practice based on the condition of anonymity.
“This is a human rights issue,” said the man. “A woman should have her rights, as a man, and this should be an outrage in our society.”
Sash says she’s worked on 25 cases in which a woman was unable to obtain a religious divorce from her husband and was successful in helping 15 of women obtain a get.
Extended interview with Adina Sash