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Get Detective: Meet the Elusive, Intrepid P.I. Who Frees Chained Jewish Women

He’s the expert who specializes in finding ‘disappeared’ husbands—men who leave their wives without Jewish divorces, or hope

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“Do you know, I don’t know?” he said. “As a mensch, when you hear about it, you have to help. Sometimes I think it has to do with a past life. But truthfully, I ask myself this question all the time.”

“Maybe you’re just a true crusader for the women’s cause,” I said.

He shook his head. “Here is where you and I see things differently. Women are not the same as men. Equality is garbage. You can be equal and different. Women should learn things, of course, but they don’t teach women certain aspects of the Talmud, the shakla v’tariya, the back and forth. Because women are different; they don’t think logically.”

“They tell women, trust your emotions,” I scoffed, “and then call them emotional. They don’t teach them to think logically, and then they say, you don’t think logically. Do you know how betrayed I felt when I realized I didn’t know how to think?”

He had a good laugh at this, but after that he took out his laptop and showed me an image of the get he claimed he smuggled out of a Spanish church, used during the Inquisition, that stipulated that should a party fail to come home, without their partner’s consent, for three consecutive months, the marriage would be instantly dissolved.

He noted with frustration that no contemporary rabbi would even look at his smuggled get. “They don’t want to hear. Let me see your hat.”

I told him I wasn’t going to check out the mikveh, partly to see how he reacted to disappointment. He told me that we’d go to shul so I could see the man for myself. But I’d still have to wear the hat. The story was, I was his daughter helping with the manufacturing gig. With my small black beret on, the woman at my motel’s front desk didn’t recognize me. I felt like Mata Hari’s frum cousin from Lakewood.

We got in the car and I drove us toward the synagogue. The rain had started, curtaining the view in a dark gray that was not unpleasant. “I love this weather,” Gaiman said. “I love watching the way it makes the water in the ocean speak,” he said. “Take a left,” he instructed.

He directed me through a series of nice streets down a series of less nice streets. The big houses were interspersed with shacks, abandoned houses with broken windows, and houses with broken windows that were not abandoned. But there were still a few homes that looked nice, well maintained, painted and cheerful. It’s the kind of neighborhood that I would no doubt end up in if I moved to a charming Southern town. A neighborhood for dark thoughts, broken souls, and fast food.

Gaiman looked around furtively. “Slow down. Now, drive, and don’t stop … but look there.” He pointed across the street to a picturesque home with a wraparound porch. “There. They are living there,” he said.

The house seemed charming. I imagined an alternative version of this story, in which two people are simply trying to get by.

“Do you ever feel sorry for the men?” I asked.

“Feel sorry for him? There were women who were tough cookies, but does that mean I sympathized with him? No. She’s hard. OK. Get on with your life.” He paused. “It’s not always men. Sometimes, the woman is the one who delays.”

He directed me back to the synagogue, and I was suddenly terrified that I would see the man—whom Gaiman had described thoroughly—and feel pity, instead of the pieties of disgust, loathing, and hatred of a man who would curtail a woman’s freedom, despite having found himself a new partner.

Gaiman and I entered the shul and parted ways. I moved to the women’s section in the back and spotted the “target” instantly. He was wearing a blue shirt, jeans, a baseball cap. He had small eyes and held his body like a prized possession. It was like there was a wall around him, separating him from the decent and innocent members of a small Orthodox community in a charming Southern town. He wasn’t speaking to the others, and they weren’t speaking to him.

Gaiman’s target began to murmur aggressively before services started. I wondered what he could possibly be saying. He prayed hard, shuckling back and forth, as if he were in the midst of making a deal that wasn’t going his way.

***

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Get Detective: Meet the Elusive, Intrepid P.I. Who Frees Chained Jewish Women

He’s the expert who specializes in finding ‘disappeared’ husbands—men who leave their wives without Jewish divorces, or hope

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