A mother of four has spoken out about her ordeal at the hands of an Orthodox Jewish community- saying she was trapped in an abusive arranged marriage for six years.
Pearlperry Reich, 30, says she was pushed into an arranged marriage with Sinai Meir Sholz in her home of Borough Park in Brooklyn, New York and had ‘issues’ right from the start.
She is still fighting to finalise her divorce as her husband fights her all the way – saying she acts improperly by wearing trousers and accusing her of ‘promiscuous’ activity.
Ms Reich talked about what she describes as an emotionally and physically abusive marriage.
She claims her husband called her a ‘slut’ in front of her children, cut up one of her $4,000 wigs and warned her that she was ‘playing with fire’ by seeking to leave the Orthodox community.
Ms Reich, who is launching a modelling and acting career, says that her husband is trying to portray her as an unstable and promiscuous woman in order to retain custody.
She paints a very different picture, however, saying that she will continue to raise the children in a Orthodox environment even though she no longer respects the Orthodox teachings herself.
One of the most poignant points of contention in the battle is whether or not Ms Reich, 30, is sufficiently strict, and her wearing of trousers is a big issue.
‘My dressing in pants and being openly non-conforming to their standards is NEVER in front of my children,’ she wrote in an email.
Considering the brouhaha that her trousers have caused, she may be in for some more problems as some of her model photos are sexually suggestive.
Her ex, who she says was both physically and emotionally abusive during their marriage, still refuses to grant her a legal or Jewish divorce until she agrees to abandon custody of her children.
During their marriage, he cut up her $4,000 wig and insulted her in front of their children.
On at least one occasion, he told their daughters that she was a ‘slut’.
Ms Reich said that her husband was abusive but would not detail the extent of that abuse. It clearly was serious, however, as she received a restraining order against her ex after he sent a threatening text message.
‘You are playing with fire and by the time you realize it will be too late,’ the text said.
Since she left him five years ago, she has moved from Brooklyn to Lakewood, New Jersey because she feels it is more accepting.
‘I vary considerably from the accepted orthodoxy level in the Lakewood community and have since become a lot more liberal and open minded,’ she said.
She also has a boyfriend and her ex’s lawyers say that she is behaving inappropriately by kissing her boyfriend in front of their four children.
She said that while she may not follow the religion’s rules all of the time, she is very clear to do so while her children are present.
‘I keep my home 100 per cent Kosher in regards to the kids,’ she said.
She also said that since she left her husband five years ago, she has done the lion’s share of the child rearing for all four of their children- ages 5, 7, 8 and 9 years old.
Complicating the legal matters of the case, the couple agreed to a beth din- a special contract issued in rabbinical courts- that said they would share custody and she would raise the children in accordance with Orthodox teachings.
She now argues that she was not aware of what she was signing, hoping to repeal the decision.
Because she left the tight-knit religious community, she has been very alone throughout the ordeal, with even her parents ganging up against her.
‘My father gave me a very hard time. He didn’t want me to get divorced, period,’ she told The New York Post.
‘They discouraged me from making police reports about abuse…my father, the rabbis and my husband’s family…his parents made a meeting with my parents. They called me a bitch and a whore, and my parents accepted it.’
Now, she just hopes that her case earns enough attention and sympathy to overturn the agreement that she signed in rabbinical court which allows her husband joint custody.
‘It’s more than emotionally draining- it’s psychological, mental,’ she said.
Ms Reich’s plight comes just a week after the announcement that another woman named Deborah Feldmen who left the Orthodox lifestyle has penned a memoir about her time in her ultra-conservative marriage.
Rather than writing a book, Ms Reich is using social media as a way to tell her story.
Her Facebook support group already has over 2,000 followers and she has launched a Facebook Causes page to help her raise money to pay for the ensuing legal battle.
by Susan Floyd