During the panel discussion at Spertus, a Jewish educational center near Grant Park in Chicago, Rabbi Gedalia Dov Schwartz, who is featured in “Women Unchained,” mentioned one possible hope for chained wives: an annulment.
If a marriage began under false pretenses, Rabbi Schwartz said in a telephone interview, it can be considered never to have taken place. Such a case might involve a spouse’s failure to disclose homosexual tendencies, an abusive streak or a gambling addiction.
“If he had this addiction,” Rabbi Schwartz said this week, “and he had covered it up, and once they get married, he goes through his money, his wife’s money, he cleans out her accounts, he’s gambling it away, he goes to the casinos, and back and forth — that’s a deception.”
Rabbi Schwartz cautioned that for an annulment to occur, a spouse’s flaw must have been present but hidden before the marriage. In the end, the prenuptial agreement matters because a rabbi can do only so much.
“I can’t break the law,” Rabbi Schwartz said — although others sometimes do. He said he had recently met a Russian Jewish immigrant from a “semi-Hasidic” community. “I was talking in his presence about the problem of the chained women,” the rabbi said, “and he said in Yiddish, ‘What’s the problem? We don’t have a problem! We beat them up.’ ”