Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe
Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe Marjorie Wolfe
by Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe

Leo Rosten (“The Joys of Yiddish”) defines “cockamamy” as mixed up, ridiculous, muddled, implausible, and foolishly complicated. His example: “Did you ever hear such a cockamamy story?”

Well, this month (February 2012), I read a cockamamy story of a Florida “rikhter” (lawyer) named Judge John “Jay” Hurley.

The case involved domestic abuse.

Before I get to the details of this case, I have a question for you? Are there many cases of domestic abuse among Jews?

According to JewishinSt.Louis, “Do Jewish Men Do That? Domestic Violence in the Jewish Community,”

“Several prevalent myths lead Jews to doubt that domestic violence is a Jewish problem. One such myth is that Jewish families are loving, nurturing and harmonious.”

“Shalom Bayit”—domestic tranquility—is the central idea in Judaism, but unfortunately it is not the reality in many homes. Another myth is that domestic violence is limited to families that have less “khinukh” (education), belong to a low socioeconomic status, are non-observant, intermarried, immigrants,....and the list goes on.

The facts: Individuals with all levels of social power, status and connection can choose to control those close to them. With enough forcefulness, an abuser can victimize anyone, regardless of the person’s resources.

“Domestic violence occurs in Jewish families at about the same rate as it does in families of other religions—about 15-25%. Domestic violence is found in EVERY kind of Jewish home: Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, Reconstructionist, and unaffiliated.”

Domestic violence can be as subtle as an unkind “vort” (word) or as blatant as a slap across the “ponem” (face). It often begins with name calling, being “eyferzikhtik” (jealous) and starting to “kritikirn” (criticize) one’s mate. It can then escalate into slaps, punches, choking, and possibly death. Domestic violence also may include dictating religious observance, withholding money, threatening to hurt or kill, stalking, sending threatening messages or belittling someone so they feel “nishtik” (worthless).

According to JewishinSt.Louis, “One important difference between Jewish women and others is that Jewish women take far longer to change their situations (7 - 15 years) versus 3 - 5 years, according to one study.”

Why? fear of shame that could be brought on the family or the broader Jewish community by public knowledge of the abuse. For traditionally observant women, the pressure to stay can be even stronger, including the difficulty of raising large numbers of children “aleyn” (alone)...and the importance of fathers in sons’ education.

Some women are told:

. “He’s under a lot of stress. Your husband won’t hurt you. Just stay out of his way.”

. A divorce would kill your mother.

Or she worries how she would get kosher food if she stayed in a shelter. states that “One in four Jewish women are victims of domestic abuse. And Robyn Rosen, the Jewish Chronicle Online, March 10, 2011, stated that “The British Jewish Community found that 26% of the 842 people surveyed had personally experienced domestic abuse. Jewish leaders have criticized organisations for ‘sweeping the problem under the carpet.’”

One 41-year-old Orthodox Jew and mother of 6, who was a victim of domestic abuse, started divorce proceedings. She was told that her husband would only provide a Get if she signed a document exonerating him from any type of abuse. The Bet Din advised her to sign it.

And now back to Circuit Judge John “Jay” Hurley. One newspaper headline read:


Joseph Bray, 47, and his wife, Sonia, made an appearance in a Broward County courtroom. The wife accused the husband of domestic violence. He pushed and shoved her, The cops arrived and arrested Joseph. (BTW, there were 2,282 cases of domestic violence in Palm Beach County in 2011—over 6 a day.)

The couple seemed willing to patch things up and the judge—who is bit of showman—released the husband He did so with a very detailed set of conditions:

“Stop by somewhere and buy her some flowers. (Walgreens has them on sale: $19.99 for a dozen red roses. Bring her a large heart-shaped mylar balloon at the same time.) Get a card. (Hallmark?) Get dressed. Take her to Red Lobster for dinner….and then bowling.”

What a frivolous ruling! This clearly illustrates the lack of understanding about the seriousness of this very private crime. “Ikh hob tsu dir a tayne.” (I have a complaint to bring to you.) Shame on you Judge Hurley! Don’t make light on domestic violence!

Marjorie Wolfe
  Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe