Think of the Children

So many people have contacted me to ask what I think about the book UnOrthodox, its author Deborah Feldman, and if I have opinions on what Pearl Perry Reich is going through in Lakewood. (If you have no clue what I am talking about, Google is your friend). I haven’t read the book, and only watched one interview with Ms Reich, but I have read a few articles about them both.

Everyone has a right to deal with their stresses and frustrations in their own way. For Ms Feldman she has written a book about her life and her divorce, for Ms Reich – well, she landed on Dr Phil debating religious life with Rabbi Shmuley.

I am not going to comment on their choice to leave religious life and strike out to find their own path. Good luck to them on that. They both have their reasons, it has taken a lot of internal strength and fortitude to leave a life that was so firmly ingrained in them.

What I am going to comment on is the children. Ms Feldman has a young son, Ms Reich has several young children, their pictures plastered all over the internet. My heart aches for these innocent children.

I am a writer, I am a writer who could have written a trilogy about my life, my first marriage and my divorce. Post-divorce I also soul searched and questioned religion and G-d. But there were FOUR reasons I kept my private life private – my boys. As readers of this blog know, I NEVER write about my ex, except in a passing manner, I haven’t shared details of our divorce, of our legal issues, financial issues etc. Why? Because I share four awesome kids with him, he is their father and as such he has a right to his privacy and for me to respect him as their dad.

These children – Ms Feldman’s son, and Ms Reich’s children – have no privacy. Everyone knows who they are, whose child they are, people know details about their parents’ lives that are nobody’s business! These kids will grow up and be privy to all this information that will affect their relationship with both their parents. As  parents we have a responsibility to protect our children from all kinds of hurt and pain – and in my opinion, it is irresponsible to put our own needs first and allow our children to suffer so that we can get a great book deal and be on The View or Dr Phil.

Is the long term gain that they are seeking worth it? What is their long term gain, anyway? Will those children grow up resentful because mom has influenced their relationship with Dad with their negative words and deeds in the national spotlight? How will the kids be able to separate fact from fiction? How will they ever know what’s true?

I feel the pain of these mothers who left everything that they knew in order to find out who they really are.  My voyage of self discovery was a painful one too – but without the added stress of media attention. Neither of these women have reached their final destination in this journey, and all these media events and books and interviews are just small stops on the way.

I pray for those kids. I hope that they are all in therapy, and that they do not grow up feeling that they are a part of a tug-o-war between their parents. That’s an ugly place for any child to be. I hope these two women are able to work past their issues and continue on to live good productive lives, and are good role models for their children.

I am very interested to hear your thoughts on this matter. Personally, I am usually non-judgmental about how people choose the live their lives. I am very much a live and let live type of person. Except when I feel that kids are suffering because of their parents’ choices. Children have a right to be kids, to be sweet and innocent and love both parents equally. What happens / happened between the spouses needs to be adult business – there should be no need to involve the children.

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24 Comments

  1. S.A. says:

    True that! Now go rest that pounding heart. Great post and one that I can really relate to.

  2. I agree with what you wrote and I’m not justifying their actions (disclaimer – I know nothing about this beyond what you wrote in your post), but is it possible that these women have gone public in order to create at least some semblance of financial security at a time when everything else seems uncertain? Again, not to justify – I also tend to be protective of my private life (you’ll never see my son’s name in anything I post online, and only certain friends and family can see his photos – same thing with my husband’s name and photos), but the idea of financial security can be a powerful draw.

    • S.A. says:

      That was exactly my thought. When people got their knickers in a twist over Pearlperry modeling my first thought was that she used the one resource she had, her beauty, to support herself and her children. I might be assuming incorrectly but I kind of assumed she didn’t have an education or training to fall back on.

  3. Stella says:

    i agree 100% with what you wrote. that’s the first thought that came to my mind when I saw the articles about the both of them.

  4. Here’s a devil’s advocate position (after all, I have never posted a single picture of any of my children on-line, nor do I refer to them by name). Perhaps these women feel the children’s fathers and religious life in general is so destructive and psychologically harmful, they feel the can only protect their children from these negative influences through full public disclosure. Sort of like escaping from a cult– you don’t want anyone to go through what you went through, especially your children.

  5. Been There says:

    Like you, I don’t really care what people do. Want to pain yourself purple? Go for it. Far be it for me to put in my two cents. But both are cases in which the situation is being exploited for personal gain, kids be damned. They are asking for public opinion and insulted when they get any that is less than positive. You are either a supporter or an enemy? The Hasidic world is terribly insular and I am no expert on the ins and outs of their customs. In both cases, there is more to the story. There are reasons why husbands don’t give a GET – sometimes the wife is trying to extort large amounts of cash to accept one or has other unreasonable demands. Ms Feldman had too many “freedoms” while married for anyone to take her claims very seriously. Like you said, the kids are out there, forever. What if they choose a frum life? Who will they marry – in a world where family is everything? How will the girls be perceived with a mother who bares all for anyone who may pay? I don’t care what these women do. I am happy they are out and unobservant if it isn’t true for them. I only wish their kids weren’t hostages, pawns in the get rich quick scheme. It should be about the children but it’s not.

    How many of us have gone through divorce unscathed? The most mentally stable among us feel a bit crazy. This does not give us permission to publicly dis our ex or tell lies about them to our advantage. Part of being a good parent when there has been a split is to remain neutral.

    You have done this. I try to do this. It aint easy but it’s necessary.

    • Chanie says:

      “There are reasons why husbands don’t give a GET – sometimes the wife is trying to extort large amounts of cash to accept one or has other unreasonable demands.”
      Or they’re just being spiteful jerks wielding the last form of control they have over their former wife and preventing her from moving on and possibly finding happiness. I know more situations in the one I describe then in the ones you mention.

      “How will the girls be perceived with a mother who bares all for anyone who may pay?”
      Bares all for anyone who may pay? Did Pearlperry Reich suddenly become a porn star or a stripper? Modeling does not equal stripping the last time I checked.

      • batya from NJ says:

        I agree with Chanie that most times that men withhold Gets from their wives, it’s simply because they can. They enjoy the ability to be in control of their wives & they often want to “punish” their wives by daring to leave their marriages even if their marriage was a sham or a really bad one. There is no excuse to withhold a Get from a wife who is miserable in a marriage.

      • Been There says:

        Everyone knows about the spiteful jerks. They are aplenty. Many don’t realize the behind the scenes games from the other side. It happens a lot and when the woman cries “agunah” everyone assumes it’s the man. Not always.

        It goes beyond modeling. There are men in the community who *claim* she’s offered her services for money. Truth? I don’t know. She’s not mentally sound. Anything is possible.

        • Chanie says:

          In your original comment you stated it as fact. The reality is that they may *claim* anything they want but the only thing you know for sure is that she is a model and until there is evidence to support their claims they remain just that.

  6. Chanie says:

    I agree with you to a point. It’s awful that children need to be exposed in this way, however there is a huge difference between Deborah Feldman and Pearlperry Reich. Deborah Feldman is trying to sell books, Pearlperry Reich is fighting to stay in her childrens’ lives on a daily basis. I might do things that seem a little out there if someone were trying to take primary custody of my children. I agree that parents need to put their children first always when it comes to divorce and the less dirty laundry shared with others the better but it appears that Pearlperry’s situation is different from other divorces and definitely different than Deborah Feldman’s. The two have come into the public eye at around the same time but are in vastly different situations and have vastly different goals.

  7. Mark says:

    If a person believes (whether it’s reality or just perception) that someone is trying to take their children away from them, I think that person will do almost anything to prevent it from happening. Maybe that is part of the motivation for what these people are doing (going public, writing a book, withholding a get, etc).

  8. lady lock and load says:

    I agree with you Hadassah, 100%. I feel bad for the children and I also feel bad for these two women who had awful experiences with our religion. I can’t bring myself to read her book and I don’t have a TV so I don’t know much of their cases. I also feel bad for the poor parents and relatives of these women who not only feel awful that their daughters are not following in their family traditions but it has to be in book form, on the internet, and on TV. In the case of Pearl/Perry, she is fighting for custody of her children so she went on TV which I think was brave of her. If chas v’shalom I was in her situation I would do anything I could to regain custody of my children. It is a very sad situation and it’s always the kids who are the karbonos.

    • batya from NJ says:

      According to the interview I read with Deborah Feldman, her mother allegedly abandoned the faith as well but I feel for the people who did try to be there for her & I also feel badly for her that she was disenchanted with the religion as well. It isn’t all that surprising given her family circumstances. Deborah, unlike Pearl Perry did not seem to have a bad marriage per se but rather a marriage to a stranger as is the case in many Chassidish marriages where couples barely know each another before they become engaged & the truth is, I think THAT is the common denominator between both stories. Both girls were married off young to people they barely knew but who their relatives felt would be good shidduchim for them.

      That said, plenty of marriages where couples date for long periods of time & even live together before marriage often end up on the rocks. Sadly, there is no perfect way to ensure a long & happy marriage. It takes a lot of effort, commitment, & help from Above.

      I do feel badly that Orthodox Judaism is being ridiculed by these Dr. Phil appearances, newspaper interviews, & book sales. However, even though this upsets me personally, I guess these women do have a right to free speech & to share their stories & in the case of Pearl Perry to hopefully get her Get & not lose custody of her kids.

  9. Bethany says:

    It reflects well on you that you’ve never discussed those private matters. You appear above the fray and quite classy.

  10. ana says:

    check out this video of chassidim burning the israeli flag… this is the community that feldman comes from.

  11. rachelli says:

    these women are really hurting inside. that is why everyone knows their private thoughts and actions. all that stuff should have been kept quiet and private. now they have to fight for the emotional health of their children, which is much harder to deal with. they also need intense therapy.

  12. Erika says:

    I actually *did* read Deborah Feldman’s book – but I know little to nothing of Pearl Perry Reich’s story.

    Going back to the original question of whether or not what either of these women did (by taking their stories public) is harmful to the children, my answer would be…. possibly.

    Yes, it is quite possible that taking their respective stories public will “harm” their children (emotionally, I’m assuming, not physically). That being said,I don’t have a problem with it. If a child was in a car that plunged into an icy river and the child’s arm was pinned between two items and the mother had to choose between letting her child drown or amputating a hand in order to save the life,I would hope she would choose to cut off the hand. Does cutting off the hand hurt? Absoultely. Is it necessary, in order to save the life? Of course. I don’t see any difference. These women believe their children were orare in harm’s way and the only way to save them (and possibly save others) was to bring the issues to the public’s eye. I see nothing wrong here.

  13. rebeccad says:

    It is so interesting that this is going on at this point of my own life. I am very upset at my own parent for doing the very same thing. One of my parents wrote a book about the life of a pet in the house hold, but really wrote an auto biography of our life and their divorce!The worst part of it is that it was on the Oprah top 10 to read and it just won a national award! so like those kids My sibling and I have been thrown into the lime lite and given unwanted attention on our very private lives.

    There are things in the book I don’t remember happening this way or that way and I was really mad at this particular parent for a long time because they portrayed events and people negatively. Then I just had to stop being angry because I realized that this was the way THEY remembered it! Maybe grief, sadness and anger color memories into a more harsh form. Being a child in the middle I obviously didn’t see the whole picture. I still ,like these other kids, have to sort fact from fiction and exaggerations from reality.Still for this particular parent it seems that this is the reality as I have found out through conversions with them.

    My parents went two different ways from their old life Extremely religious and one is in the occult now. Such is life……..

    • batya from NJ says:

      Rebecca, I think you meant conversations not conversions, right ;)?!
      On a serious note, I feel sorry for the pain you feel having your life broadcast for the world to see. In the case of Feldman & Reich, the children are younger & probably do not even know how ‘famous’ they are.

  14. Aliza Hausman says:

    When I was fighting for custody for three harrowing years, I was offered an interview on Dateline but was told by my lawyers to refuse because it might do damage to the case. To this day, I do not agree with them. If they had interviewed all the parties involved fairly, they would have realize I should retain custody. Still, as for both situations, having been in a similar situation myself as far as choosing to go public to help a custody case, I can tell you that these women have probably talked to their lawyer, if not lawyers plural. I do not enjoy that Orthodox Judaism is being dragged through the mud, especially in front of audiences who do not realize what a big umbrella OJ emcompasses but I feel that in a way they are being taken advantage of, too. Oprah does a happy-go-lucky story of Hasidic Jews and then these other extreme cases come to light? You cannot really know what you would do until you are in that situation, ready to do anything possible to save your child from a situation you barely escaped unscathed. The children should not have to pay for what their parents do and it is sad that they might. But that is not Mom’s fault. That is the community’s fault. I am nothing like my parents, who did not even attend my wedding, so why should I be judged by how they live/d their life?

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