Judaism December 31, 2017: Adventures and disasters in online Jewish dating for marriage

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EDUCATION

Adventures and disasters in online Jewish dating for marriage

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

The Jewish community is always lamenting the high intermarriage rates especially in the United States and Canada destroying the continuity of the Jewish religion, but there are deeper reasons why the rate continues to get higher. Enter the world of Jewish online dating for marriage, the last hope to find your Jewish soul mate, beshert or simply marry within the religion. The various websites include those that allow the single to meet individually other eligible singles. Others have personal matchmakers working to find you a potential match based on a set of criteria you provide. Both kinds of sites boast their success rates and the number of matches. What they never boast or advertise is the numerous horror stories that make any Jewish single understand why nearly half of North Americans choose intermarriage.

Intermarriage has increasingly become a problem in North America. The most recent survey conducted by Pew Research Center’s Religion and Public Life Project published in the fall of 2013 determined that 44 percent of American Jewish choose to marry someone outside the faith. The poll claimed the rates were higher for Jews who identified with the Reform or Reconstructionist movements, much less among Conservative Jews and almost non-existent in the Orthodox community. In Canada, the community likes to believe the rate is lower than their American counterparts, but not really. According to the Jewish Federations of Canada — UIA’s 2011 National Household Survey, “The intermarriage rate for couples under 30 years of age is 43 percent. More than 72,000 Jews live in intermarried households in Canada, including 15,490 children, more than half of whom are being raised without any religious affiliation.”

I am a Jewish woman in her mid-thirties, who for various reasons chose not to get married as the stereotypical 26-year-old as the majority of my peers did so conveniently many within weeks of each other. I wanted more in my 20s; I wanted graduate degrees, I wanted a career, professional notoriety, and for a while achieved the influence, I wanted. I also experienced personal disappointments, mental abuse, sexual harassment, and the dark sides of interpersonal and professional relationships, unfortunately in the hands of Jewish men. The bad experiences only pushed me further away from pursuing marriage.

There is something about the mid-thirties that makes every woman desperate to find a man to marry, to have children, even if that was never their priority. Opportunities were more tempting to date outside the religion, but as someone who came from a traditional Jewish home, went through the Jewish school system and even pursued graduate work in Judaic Studies, it never seemed an option I wanted to explore. For the past few months, I sunk so desperate as to attempt online Jewish dating for marriage and Jewish matchmaking services, with deep reluctance and not much hope and for good reason. In my journey, I met Jewish men from around the world, but particularly the US, New York, and Canada. I will be blunt you hear horror stories about online dating, and I believe I experienced some of the worst because the experience nearly killed me.

At the matchmaking site, I first encountered a matchmaker who found everything about my profile wrong, from my photo to my about me section and even my instructions to the matchmakers as to my criteria for a potential match. The matchmakers volunteer and come from a variety of professions one of mine was a lawyer, who approached matchmaking as only a lawyer could. From the start, she sent me potential matches without any thought to my criteria, a first look that makes you question the whole dating pool.

When I talked with my matchmaker in the mandatory phone interview I had bad flashbacks as a novice undergraduate having my papers reviewed by my professors explaining why I received that bad grade, but this was my dating profile and my personal views about my life. First, she told me I had to get my hair and makeup professionally done and have a professional photographer take the photos. She told me I was not getting a good response from my photo, ironically she did not realize the photos were from my 20s, I really do not look that different except for my hairstyle, and it was probably me at my peak and at the time I paid the most attention to applying a lot of makeup. She called my profile too arrogant for its bluntness, which was meant to weed out the weak and abusive men, and for my academic and career-mindedness. In other words, she wanted me to entirely dumb myself down for these men and bimbo myself to please them.

Our society frowns at body shaming of this sort, most advice tells women to be themselves, and definitely not change physically, intellectually or belief wise for any man. Jewish matchmakers, however, believe in the backdated notion that women need to sacrifice their integrity to get a man. To please her, as a writer I channeled my inner sarcasm and came up with a profile that included flippant lines like “Gone With The Wind inspired me to study real Jewish southern belles during the Civil War, the Jewish Scarletts, and Melanies. As for me as I am as fiery and determined as Scarlett, but as sweet, caring, and compassionate as Melanie.” With a sappy conclusion, I wrote “I am looking for my own bashert to make this journey through life even more meaningful,” although feminism teaches young women that life can be complete without a man.

All this to the please the males on the site, and what a dating pool it was, in a complete double standard the men were not forced to adhere to the physical ridicule the women were. I was looking for men older than me primarily. I was sent men upward to 50 who had never been married, who looked much older and generally creeped me out. The ones who were divorced and with children were even worse, one claimed to be very religious but had left his wife with five children under age 13 and was now looking to marry another woman and have more children with and then repeat the cycle.

The younger ones in the later thirties and early forties had secrets in their backgrounds; if you did a background search, they either were listed as married or had criminal records or families with ones. Many routinely lied about their professional degrees and jobs. One guy, who was one of six siblings from a religious family, had three of the siblings with criminal records. None of the men were lookers, and most of were not even interested in accepting a potential match, even when on paper it seemed perfect they refused, making a woman question them, their motives for being on the site and even their sexuality.

My worst encounter was with a local man who I previously encountered on another matchmaking site. Months earlier I initially refused him after his acceptance because he lied about his looks, weight, jobs and that he was a fulltime undergraduate student again as he was approaching his mid-forties. Here again, matchmakers other than my own were suggesting this same guy. I thought I had been too shallow the first time, and I thought I should have given him the benefit of the doubt I was wrong.

He was still lying about being over 300 lbs, and that he now needs two years to graduate. With talking to him I found out he been fired from a job that he had no qualifications for and should have been grateful to have instead he challenged every one of the institutions time-honored traditions. He failed to see he was wrong at all ever, just talked about himself and pretty much to himself. Two phone calls and emails were enough, but his matchmakers misinterpreted talking twice on the phone as a reason to be roped into marriage and started to stalk me and call me at all hours to force me to go with him. When I complained about it to the site’s support, I was the one kicked off the site, because one can never complain about the amazing Jewish men and their matchmakers.

The second dating website eliminated the headache of matchmakers but left one more vulnerable to the crazies. From the start, I met one man who lied about being disabled and claimed he wanted to marry me but conveniently wanted me to pay for everything. Another man was a grieving overweight widower with children in his mid-forties, who thought I was older than I claimed by a year made an issue about it even though he was still 10 years older than I no matter what, and he was hiding a criminal past. I met another local guy, who knew all my peers from school, which goes against one of my rules of dating, he kept pursuing me by email even though I was not interested, and when I said we knew too many common people he flipped out and had a meltdown practically confessing his past sins on my email account. Never mind, discussing the countless other men whose stories and encounters I experienced that are not worth repeating.

Beware, however, the guy who pretends to be sweet complimentary and flattering. He contacted me the moment I started on the site literally. He was a little younger than me, which goes against another dating rule of mine, but seemed too nice not to talk to, we shared similar academic interests, he was religious, had attended a Yeshiva, made aliyah in his 20s, served in the IDF, but from the start there were red signs. He Facebook friended me after the first call, was telling me he loved me in the first week and saying he wanted to marry me within days. He was showing me all his graduate school essays for my critic, and I also suspected my rewrites. Soon, however, his multiple daily emails were becoming too demanding and time-consuming. For the first month, I kept him at bay, while I searched for someone more worthy and more compatible with me.

Getting kicked off of the matchmaking site, somewhat made me more desperate suddenly I was taking seriously the love declarations of the younger graduate student lothario who claimed to want marriage but seemed to be only desperate for sex. I committed to him, and he even bought me an engagement ring, we started planning a spring wedding, but the early issues only increased. He would email non-stop during the day, while he was at work, even while was in class and expected me to babysit him as he went home each night and then talk to him on the phone each evening. He had hissy fits if I did not answer within minutes. I was soon accounting for every break. My life was not my own, my work was going to the wayside, everything I built up my entire adult professional life. I had no time watch TV, to eat, or even shower.

Years before I knew a man who thought, I was unreasonable when I wanted a response to a single email within the professional 24-hour period or at least 48 hours and got annoyed if I emailed after 48 or 72 hours again. He was oversensitive as to what boundaries were; he should have known and experienced the chocking control I was without barely a minute to myself than he would have known the definition of harassment. I looked forward to Shabbat, not for the religious joys of the day, but because it gave me 25 hours of peace and not hearing from the guy I now felt trapped with.

It was not only his time control, the guy had sexual fetishes, he would not stop bothering me with, and drove me crazy explaining and talking about them. As I got deeper, his control extended to his sexual overtures. In the era of the #MeToo movement, he forced me to send explicit photos over the internet he used for a sexual act, or else he threatened to break up with me and end our engagement. It was my main boundary he crossed it, I never forgave him for it, and began distancing myself from him. I felt sexually assaulted and abused, and still, he was trying to force me to send more photos. The whole short and the now abusive relationship was taking a serious toll on my health. Finally, after one recent Shabbat he told me erev Shabbat he returned my ring for financial reasons, a ring that cost less than $2000, to begin with. Enough was enough, returning my engagement ring behind my back was the last straw. Over two months and 5000 emails later I ended it, but I remain with a deteriorated health, physically bruised and hurt by his deceit and abuse.

In a mere few months of online Jewish dating, I feel more beaten up then the years of normal dating. I always questioned privately intermarriage even as some of my peers from Jewish school chose that route. I was equally appalled at the intermarriage rate from the 2013 Pew poll as I reported about it in an article. I firmly believed in Jewish continuity through marriage, after my experiences I have greater sympathy and understanding for intermarriage, as see my peers who intermarried are happier than I am or even my peers who married within the religion and maintain a hypocritical showbiz relationship with Judaism.

My foray shows there are problems with the Jewish dating pool, abuse, insanity, and criminality, much can be attributed to the men as much as their parents especially the mothers who raised them to treat a woman as objects without any respect. Equally at fault are the matchmakers, whose mindsets are back 100 years before the emergence of the feminist movement and Betty Friedan’s “The Problem That Has No Name.”

I begin to question the commitment of Orthodox rabbis to Jewish continuity, when the rabbi I contacted after being kicked off the matchmaker site, never responded to me although I pleaded and pledged my dedication to marrying Jewish, but was now without options to find a Jewish mate and needed his help. The community, the rabbis, the matchmakers, the parents not only educators are responsible for the rising intermarriage rate. When they make it unappealing and impossible for a Jewish single to find a Jewish mate, the single Jew stops caring and dealing with the problems and decides on the easier route intermarriage rather than remain single trying to find another Jew.

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

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Education July 17, 2017: Concordia University’s policies purposely delay graduation dates

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EDUCATION

Concordia University’s policies purposely delay graduation dates

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Concordia University is plagued with enrollment issues delaying students’ graduations and potentially ruining their prospects for graduate and professional school. Wikipedia Commons

We are now in the summer with this year’s convocation ceremonies celebrating university graduates just ended, while new incoming students anticipate the start of their higher education journey. However, how many students who start university end up at the finish line? The question is the reason why graduation rates are an important part of choosing a university, but some universities hide their problems. One such school is Concordia University in Montreal, Canada. Concordia has long faced questions about their graduation rates, but now a reason has emerged, the University has been purposely pushing students to delay graduation.

An April 9, 2017, article by local Montreal radio station CJAD entitled “Over Enrollment Blamed for Class Crunch at Concordia” exposed that the university has over enrollment issues in key requirement courses. Instead of dealing with the longtime issue, undergraduate advisors are convincing students to delay graduation by taking a reduced course load, which ruins students’ graduate school prospects if they look to go outside of Concordia. The psychology department is not the only department experiencing these types of problems they happen elsewhere within the university. The issue is also not exclusively a problem plaguing undergraduate students, deterrence tactics also common at the graduate level.

The report by CJAD and authored by reporter Shuyee Lee delved into some of the reasons there are problems with Concordia graduation rates, over enrollment in courses and advisors telling students to take lighter course loads. In what has been going on “for years” unreported, students face problems enrolling in popular courses that are also part of the major or specialization requirements to graduate or even proceed with next level courses. The courses often offered once a year do not have enough spaces, filled up quickly, and have long waitlists, in the end, many students are shut out. Students have to take longer to graduate and fulfill their requirements. The even problem, the university’s cover-up, many academic advisors are trying to convince students to take lighter course loads, make the students believe it is better for their academic future to do so.

One of Concordia’s most popular majors, Psychology was highlighted in CJAD’s report. Student Paolo Drago, the representative for the Concordia’s Undergraduate Psychology Association spoke to CJAD about the problems within his department, he and fellow students face. Drago explained, “Some courses are only offered once a year, by a particular professor, so you can imagine people who want to take a specialization class that really caters to what they want to research or study, they might not be able to get into that class for a whole year because the class is full, it’s usually a class of 60 so they start lagging behind on the classes they want to take.”

Concordia might be able to keep students enrolled longer and garner additional fees, but it is to the academic detriment of its students. Delays in graduation, taking longer than the average time to complete a degree and taking lighter course loads are frowned at in graduate and professional applications. Students trying to be admitted into law, medicine, and graduate programs at other universities are having problems being admitted and the explanation, they were only listening to the advisor’s does not work. Drago told CJAD, “People are kind of blindsided when they start applying and they don’t get accepted, ‘Well, I did everything the academic advisor told me to do and it’s not paying dividends.’”

Instead of finding solutions, the university’s faculty and administration are denying that there are even any problems. Concordia spokesperson Chris Mota denied there are any over enrollment issues. Mota said, “There are a few programs where opening extra sections of a course is a challenge.” Still, the university plans to increase the minimum average for acceptance to their psychology program, and increase course sizes for the popular required courses. Nevertheless, what about the greater problems in other programs that was not part of CJAD’s report?

This is not the first time Concordia faced a controversy about graduation rates. In 2014, Concordia faced a controversy when the Montreal’s French language paper La Presse wrote an expose claiming a drastic fall in the university undergraduate graduation rate. Concordia quickly pressured La Presse to retract the story. In the original story published on January 3, 2014, entitled “ PLUS DE LA MOITIÉ DES ÉTUDIANTS DE CONCORDIA NE DÉCROCHENT PAS LEUR DIPLÔME “ reporter Hugo Pilon-Larose claimed that only 48 percent of students who started degrees in 2006 had completed them by 2012. The number was a fall from the 75 percent, who had started their degrees in 2001 and finished them by 2007. The troubling number was supposed because of the higher proportion of international students and part-time students.

The university was outraged, almost immediately La Presse was forced to retract their original article. Another article was published four days later on January 7, 2014, entitled, “Taux d’obtention de diplôme: Concordia maintient le cap” and written by Pilon-Larose. The New correction article now claimed that Concordia’s 2007 graduation rate was 75.5 percent and 2012, and it was 74.2 percent for students who commenced their studies six years before. Benoit-Antoine Bacon, vice-president, and vice-president of academic affairs at Concordia University boasted about the rate in the revision. Bacon said, “Our graduation rate is close to or even above the national average. We are very satisfied. But we can always do better, and we are working hard to increase it. But to do so, we face financial and academic challenges.”

In comparison, the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) a comprehensive school like Concordia had a 68.7 rate in 2007 and 71.3 percent in 2012. McGill University and Université de Montréal (UdeM), the city’s medical and doctoral schools had higher rates. McGill had 84 percent in 2012 for students starting in 2006, lower than in 2007 when they had 86 percent graduation rate for students who commenced their studies 2001. Université de Montréal (UdeM) graduation during the same period dropped only slightly from 80.2 percent in 2007 to 79.4 percent in 2012.

Meanwhile, Concordia countered with a correction to LaPresse’s story. The university claimed that LaPresse compared full-time rates from 1999 to part-time rates for 2012 leading to the discrepancies. Concordia indicated that the full-time rate is down only slightly from 74.5 percent to 74.2 percent whereas for all cycles is down 75% to 75.9%.

The truth is the graduation rate is much higher than La Presse’s number but not nearly as high as Concordia claims. University rankings claim the number is in fact, nearly 5 percent lower that Concordia boasts. Maclean’s Magazine profiled Concordia in 2016 for their annual university ranking where Concordia held the tenth position in the Comprehensive University category. According to Maclean’s Concordia has only a 70.5 percent graduation rate, but an 85.9 percent retention rate, showing students keep going and going at Concordia without completing their degrees.

Aside from clarifying the La Presse controversy, Concordia does not publish graduation rates only the number of graduates each year and the number of students enrolled each academic year.
In 2011–12, there were 35,848 undergraduates, 23,390 full-time and 12,458 part-time enrolled at the university. There were also 7,314 graduate students, 5,294 full-time and 2,020 part-time. Meanwhile, that year 4,889 undergraduate received the diplomas, and 1,593 graduating students graduated. In 2015–16, there were 35,616 undergraduate students; the divisions between full and part-time were not disclosed. Meanwhile, 5,213 undergraduates received a diploma and 1,901 graduate students. Although there are more students graduating in the previous academic year, no data was released to indicate when they started their studies and how long it took them to graduate.

Concordia does fare well in world university rankings, partly because they are a comprehensive university focusing or some professional and graduate degrees, but are not a full research, medical doctoral university. In Canada, according to Maclean’s Concordia is 10th in the comprehensive category. On the world stage, the university cannot compete with Canada’s bigger names.

According to the 2018 Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings released in June, Concordia is 431–400, having moved up 30 spots. In comparison, the University of Toronto is now Canada’s top university in the QS ranking replacing McGill coming at number 31. McGill is now second in Canada at number 32. Although McGill ranks first in Canadian rankings in international ones the University of Toronto usual takes that honor. Canada’s third University in the top 100, the University of British Columbia is now number 52. In Canada, Concordia was in 16th place of all Canadian schools.

Meanwhile, in the Times Higher Education’s (THE) 2017 World University Rankings, Concordia came at between 501–600 th position. The school did better in the 2017 Young University Rankings, were ranked in the 101–150 th position. The University of Toronto again topped the Canadian universities on the list. The University of Toronto took the Number 22 position. The University of British Columbia was tied for 36, while McGill University was number 42.

The revelation of Concordia’s deterrence methods came close to home. I had two degrees from the neighboring McGill University before entering Concordia University. I had a BA in History and Art History and a Masters in Library and Information Studies before starting a second Masters degree in Judaic Studies with a thesis, at Concordia’s Religion Department from the start I was pushed to relax my course load. I came with plans to move full speed ahead and finish the program in two years and then on for a doctorate, but at every turn, there were obstacles that slowed me down. The following is my own experiences and observances while I was a student at Concordia.

At McGill, I completed a Masters degree by course and finishing the 48-credit degree in two years by taking a full load of four courses each semester. In Concordia, I was cautioned to take only two courses a required seminar and independent course in my first semester. In my first semester, I tried to stay strict with deadlines but saw professors being lax about deadlines as if it was not unusual, and it was not. For final research papers in seminars and independent courses my professors routinely recommended continuances that lasted up to two months into the next semester. With weekly readings and some short writing assignments throughout the semester it becomes easy to need the extra time a complete a research paper for a course, and if you start down that path, you continually need the extra time.

The research papers I completed for each course were sometimes upward to 50 pages in final presentation form. With the sheer amount of research for the papers plus reading throughout the semester, it is easy to take advantage of light course loads and extensions because they are approved and even advised by the faculty and your program advisor. Students fall into the trap, made so easy by your department but it ends up being destructive to graduating on time and realizing your academic goals.

Another unreported problem in Concordia is the amount of time it takes graduate students to complete their degree. A warning sign was hearing how long some of the students in the Religion Department were taking for their degrees, an average four years for the masters and upward to ten years for the doctorate. Concordia gives longer maximums for completing a graduate degree than neighboring McGill. The longer maximum time for full-time students is a leading indicator is would take longer to complete the degrees. The masters’ degree I was enrolled in the Religion Department resembled more of a mini-doctorate program at that time, with not only a thesis but also two comprehensive exams, it was impossible to complete it in the usual two years a Master’s degree should take. The degree has now been curtailed with the comprehensive exams removed as a requirement.

Concordia’s graduate programs have students paying a set schedule of fees regardless of the number of credits a student takes each semester. Therefore, one can take two courses and still be a full-time student. After the degree is paid, and if a student has not completed their degree they pay continuance fees. In comparison to Concordia’s, fee schedule, at McGill even in graduate study students pay by the number of credits per semester. In the end, after the three years, I completely paid off my degree plus three semesters of continuance fees, but with only 18 credits completed on my transcript.

Another way to deter students was making them repeat courses they had previously received credit for at another university. I faced another added burden, unlike the majority of students in my program I came with a Masters degree already under my belt, something the department repeatedly tried to forget. Whereas in McGill if a student already completed a research methods course, they were exempted from the requirement, it was the opposite in Concordia. I had taken an entire degree on research methodology, librarians are expert researchers, the ones helping students conduct research and find sources in the academic libraries, but the department was insistent I take a repetitive course or would not graduate.

The research methods course consisted of visits to the libraries and archives to hear about how to research. During my MLIS programs, I worked in libraries. Prior to entering Concordia, I had just put on an exhibition of a collection I cataloged in Canadian Jewish history as part of work I did at McGill’s University Archives. The department ignored that I completed a degree in research at the nation’s preeminent university. In my experience, the entire cycle was one I could not escape except leave the program without graduating. Therefore, after three years, 18 credits, an unsubmitted completed thesis, and a 3.95 CGPA I left Concordia’s MA in Judaic Studies program.

Like CJAD’s report on the psychology department’s deterrence methods, my experience was more the fault of the Religion Department than the university’s policies although they did facilitate them since departments have more control over graduate students and programs. As I observed a majority of the graduate students accepted to the Masters and even the Doctorate program came from different disciplines. I came from a related one history and was focusing on American Jewish history, but did not have Judaic or Jewish studies major beforehand. Other students came from even more different degrees and disciplines. Sometimes the students were required to take extra courses to obtain a background other times not, like me.

A majority in the department were also mature students returning to school after years in other professions. A minority were students continuing through the different academic cycles, I was one of the youngest in the program despite having completed another Masters before. I frequently saw favoritism for the mature students. Favoritism, in general, ran rampant, and it had nothing to do with grades or GPAs, rather personality but also research interests. Unlike psychology, religion is not usually a popular discipline; especially Judaic studies where there were only a handful of graduate students. University politics plays a factor, allocation of funding from the university depends on departmental enrollment. Promises of fellowships and awards attracted students like me for the money but mostly the prestige and honor. Keeping students in the department longer makes a larger student population. All these factors and some external ones were a recipe for students to take longer completing their degrees.

The reveal in CJAD’s report just touches on advisors recommending reduced course loads. Unfortunately, the advice is even more detrimental to graduate programs. Concordia’s policies do everything possible to slow down graduate students making them spend double the time and money. Departments are pushing students to take longer to graduate to increase their number of students and make sure the university collects more fees and that they get larger budgets. Instead of finding solutions, the administration chooses to ignore or better yet shut down any report that might indicate a problem at the university. LaPresse quickly withdrew their story in 2014 and CJAD’s report in April never went further with a followed up or covered by any other news outlet.

As their graduate rates suggest, maybe a majority of Concordia University’s students eventually graduate, others are fed up with the high costs, lengthy times and slow career movement. Either way, students are the ones that lose out from the university and department politics and policies. Longer times to graduate at the undergraduate or graduate level give students wishing to continue their studies little options outside of Concordia, which seems an intentional part of the cycle. For those who discontinue their studies, they are left few choices to continue graduate school, except return to Concordia or years of explaining why they did not complete their degree. Now at least thanks to CJAD’s reporting students and ex-students do not feel alone, it a common unresolved occurrence at Concordia one that desperately needs remedying.

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

 

Judaism August 18, 2016: How a tragedy in Montreal should bring attention to domestic abuse in the Jewish community

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POLITICS

How a tragedy in Montreal should bring attention to domestic abuse in the Jewish community

By Bonnie K. Goodman

On Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016, a chapter in a tragedy in the Montreal Jewish community came to an end, but a discussion and new awareness have to begin. Wednesday, Montreal police arrested 80- year-old Salomon Abeassis for arson and first-degree murder of his longtime wife, Teresa Cohen’s, 75, death. This couple lived in the same rented house for over 30 years on a quiet street in the predominantly Jewish suburb of Cote St Luc. The neighbors’ thought they were such a nice quiet couple but underneath the perfect veneer, this woman presumably lived with the silent problem in the Jewish community, domestic abuse.

On a quiet, sunny Sunday, July 10, a fire broke out in the upstairs duplex on Guelph in Cote St Luc. The downstairs neighbor and longtime landlord heard the screams coming from upstairs tried to go upstairs to help first through the front stairs after the husband supposedly buzzed her in and then through the back stairs. It was front the back window, she saw the horrid sight, the wife was on the floor of the kitchen ablaze; there was no way the neighbor could do anything to help. The neighbor called 911, but they took 20 minutes, and in that, the time, the wife suffered alone. Cohen was taken to the hospital, in critical condition with terrible burns all over her body, her life hung in a balance a day later, on Monday, July 11; Teresa Cohen died from her injuries and with her what happened and her true story of suffering.

What set this story apart was how heinous the crime was, police say a liquid accelerant was poured on Cohen supposedly by the accused, her husband, the only other person in the house at the time and then set on fire. The crime first appeared to look like a suicide, because the wife had recently had hip replacement surgery and lost some mobility. The neighbor said they were always so quiet and that Abeassis helped his wife after she broke her hip in March, taking her to doctors’ appointments. For over a month doctors protected the husband preventing the police from questioning him, as he remained an important witness. Abeassis was taken to the hospital for smoke inhalation, something people are released from the hospital in a day maximum, but for five weeks, he was kept sheltered, doctors say he was in a coma. In no other case would that happened except he was an eighty-year-old supposedly nice Jewish man with no prior criminal record.

Finally, on Aug. 5, doctors gave police the green light to question Abeassis. Upon his release from the hospital, he was arrested and “escorted” by police to the courthouse where he was formally charged. Abeassis was brought in a wheelchair and had problems hearing the proceedings against him; he seemed confused as he was represented by his legal aid lawyer and charges were formally brought against him. He will be kept in custody until his next court date in October and has conditions; he cannot contact two of his daughters or their families.

As a journalist, I write about the news often, and the news is hardly pretty, but this story hit me hard, partly because it was in my community, practically in my backyard, I know the street well. More importantly, it touched me because it was a tragic story and end to domestic abuse. I was in a relationship where I was mentally abused and controlled for years, everyone around me told to get away from him, that one day he would do real harm to me. Then he tried to, although not the same, I akin what he did to me as a man with the same rage that tries to kill a girlfriend or wife. I occasionally allude to what happened to me in some of my articles. Guess what he was a nice Jewish man, with a good reputation. No one could have ever imagined how he terrorized me and wanted to destroy me, I was even in denial, I could not see what he was doing to me. I came from a good family; I was sheltered, and I was too trusting.

This woman probably suffered for years from her husband’s abuse living with it in silence afraid of the shame it might cause her family, what others might have thought. We will never know if her daughters, knew anything, wanted or did not want her to leave him, what we know is nobody helped her, and she died a horrid death. This man she lived with, was married to maybe 50 years, raised four children is not just accused of killing her, but obliterating her in every way possible.

Living in the community and with many of peers living there as well, possibly even knowing the family, with one of the daughters a teacher at a local Jewish day school, I was shocked that nobody commented on the incident. The local Jewish press also covered the story to a minimum; the mainstream press covered the story because it was a possible murder in a quiet suburb that rarely if ever sees murders, and because of the sensationalism and shock of the crime, the victim, and the suspect.

I had to repost on my social media the local media’s take on the story after the arrest. I was practically stoned for posting. My peers who would comment on everything, every little event, thought it was inappropriate to comment on this incident. They said it was “disrespectful” “not right to comment” “because we don’t exactly know the situation and we can’t speculate,” because it could be “taken out of proportion,” and a “tragic story that does not need people dissecting it.” Irrelevant, was although “They seemed to be very nice people from a nice family,” they were not religious.

This was a heinous, heinous crime. It happened in our backyard literally, in our community. We live in an age where we comment on every tragedy in the news, but they are far away, with the news media defining who is the enemy it is OK to remark and to take sides. We routinely comment on the domestic abuse cases of celebrities taking sides, giving our opinions. If the Jewish community experiences anti-Semitism, there is no stop of responses from the community and the Jewish media. Why do we have to ignore this story, is it because we feel uncomfortable and if we do not talk about it did not happen. Our problem is in when we know the people and they are in our community we do not want take sides, the black and white becomes gray.

Teresa Cohen most probably experienced domestic abuse, she kept silent, and she paid for it in the most horrendous way possible, her life, supposedly by the hands of someone she lived and built a life with for the majority of her life. To keep silent is what is disrespectful, showing neutrality is practically condoning what happened. There is a denial that domestic abuse is not a problem in the Jewish community it is. For Teresa Cohen not to have died totally in vain, we need to do more to make aware and help those suffering domestic violence in the Jewish community, in our community. We need to make sure these women do not end up with the same or similar fate.

Domestic abuse has long been a silent problem in the Jewish community the prevalent attitude is “Oh it doesn’t happen – there’s no abuse in the Jewish community.”  Just last year the Canadian Jewish News did a cover story entitled “Domestic Abuse is a Jewish Issue, Too.” Generally “one in four women experience domestic abuse during their lifetime” and according to the Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Abuse’s statistics the rate of abuse in the Jewish community is the same between 15 and 25 percent of women experiencing abuse. At Montreal’s Jewish women’s shelter Auberge Shalom Pour Femmes, 20 percent of those at the shelter are Jewish while 35 percent participate in their “external services” to helped abused women.

Religious reasons are often behind the denial about abuse occurring in the community. Penny Krowitz, the executive director Act To End Violence Against Women (ATEVAW) told CJN, “For most people in our community, they don’t believe it happens to us. They believe the Jewish community is immune to such things, because of our tremendous value on family and shalom bayit.”

The other part of denial comes from the women experiencing it themselves, because Krowitz points out, “women often think that if their husbands aren’t hitting them, they’re not being abused.” Domestic abuse is all encompassing and is “defined as an imbalance of power when one uses threats or physical force to create fear, control or intimidate another.” Krowitz says the majority of domestic abuse in the community is “verbal, emotional, psychological, financial, spiritual, sexual – it’s not visible abuse.” Like me when Krowitz first spoke to a sisterhood about domestic abuse she thought, “The community is going to kill me.”

We have to stop emphasizing the perfect Jewish appearance of being the being the perfect mother, wife, and family living idyllically. The concept and ideal of shalom bayit are often the reason Jewish women do not do anything to get out of their abusive relationships, because as Krowitz indicates, “she is ashamed that her home is not a place of peace, and she feels like it is her fault.” The second obstacle is shandeh – “the shame of admitting, disclosing, that your home is not a happy place. That your husband doesn’t treat you well, that you are frightened, that you walk on eggshells.”

The abuse happens in every socio-economic sphere of the community and among different levels of religious observance, it does not just happen in families where they are not that religious as one of my peers implied. In fact, Orthodox tradition dictates that Jewish women take a submissive role in the patriarchal relationship making the imbalance of power ripe for abuse. Not helping the issue is religious courts most often side with the husband. Jewish women need their husband’s permission to acquire a get a Jewish divorce, if not and a Jewish woman leaves she is considered an “agunah, a chained or anchored woman.”

We still have this belief both religiously and socially that divorce, being single is a stigma, that if we do not have that perfect life, there is no place for Jewish women in the community. Maybe if there was more awareness, less focus on image and less shame associated with leaving than Jewish women would leave their abusive husbands and not end up like Teresa Cohen. She had four grown daughters, and grandchildren, but died alone, and the minute she was set on fire, she was alone with no one to help her. The same way we talk about the larger atrocities that have befallen the Jewish community, we have to speak of the smaller ones to never to forget and never let it happen again.

Judaism June 6, 2016: McGill SSMU outlaws BDS after professors release letter three months too late

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Judaism March 15, 2016: Kotel Rabbi reverses support on egalitarian space ban on non-Orthodox prayer

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Kotel Rabbi reverses support on egalitarian space ban on non-Orthodox prayer

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, March 15, 2016, 8:57 AM MST

Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz is formally withdrawing any support he had for the Kotel's egalitarian prayer space. Instead, he is asking lawmaker to overturn the January cabinet vote and prevent Women of the Wall from freely praying, March 14, 2016
Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz is formally withdrawing any support he had for the Kotel’s egalitarian prayer space. Instead, he is asking lawmaker to overturn the January cabinet vote and prevent Women of the Wall from freely praying, March 14, 2016
Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Judaism February 25, 2016: McGill pro-Israel students face new reality anti-Semitism after SSMU BDS vote

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McGill pro-Israel students face new reality anti-Semitism after SSMU BDS vote

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, February 25, 2016, 9:13 PM MST

McGill University's Jewish and pro-Israel students are facing a wave of increased anti-Semitism, harassment and bullying after the student union voted to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, Feb. 23, 2016
McGill University’s Jewish and pro-Israel students are facing a wave of increased anti-Semitism, harassment and bullying after the student union voted to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, Feb. 23, 2016
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Judaism February 16, 2016: Top colleges and universities for Jewish students in the US and Canada

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Top colleges and universities for Jewish students in the US and Canada

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, January 16, 2016, 7:22 PM MST

Two different rankings name the University of Florida and Princeton University the best colleges for Jewish life on campus
Two different rankings name the University of Florida and Princeton University the best colleges for Jewish life on campus
Princeton.edu

Judaism December 27, 2015: Sotheby’s auctions 9 items from Valmadonna Trust Library for nearly 15 million

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Sotheby’s auctions nine items from Valmadonna Trust Library for nearly 15 million

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, December 27, 2015, 6:14 PM MST

Sotheby's auctioned off the Valmadonna Trust Library's most prized item the complete Bomberg Talmud for over $9 million, Dec. 22, 2015

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Sotheby’s auctioned off the Valmadonna Trust Library’s most prized item the complete Bomberg Talmud for over $9 million, Dec. 22, 2015
Sothebys.com / Morton Landowne YouTube

Judaism December 10, 2015: Obama celebrates White House Hanukkah party with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin

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Obama celebrates White House Hanukkah party with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, December 10, 2015, 7:03 PM MST

President Barack Obama and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin delivered remarks, before reciting the blessing and lighting the Hanukkah candles at a White House reception, Dec. 9, 2015

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President Barack Obama and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin delivered remarks, before reciting the blessing and lighting the Hanukkah candles at a White House reception, Dec. 9, 2015
Photo by Aude Guerrucci – Pool/Getty Images / White House YouTube

Judaism November 9, 2015: Sha Shtil a critical education on the problems of the Jewish Federation system

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Sha Shtil a critical education on the problems of the Jewish Federation system 

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, November 9, 2015, 11:28 AM MST

Canadian filmmaker and activist Ben Feferman's documentary Sha Shtil: Inside Canada's Jewish Establishment examines the transparency and democracy problems the Canadian Jewish Federation system faces

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Canadian filmmaker and activist Ben Feferman’s documentary Sha Shtil: Inside Canada’s Jewish Establishment examines the transparency and democracy problems the Canadian Jewish Federation system faces
Ben Feferman YouTube

Judaism May 20, 2015: Women of the Wall again barred from reading Torah as police arrest supporter

Women of the Wall again barred from reading Torah as police arrest supporter

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, May 20, 2015, 1:26 PM MST

 

For the month of Sivan Women of the Wall were supposed to have Bat Mitzvahs for six girls, who were denied the chance to read from the Torah, May 20, 2015

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For the month of Sivan Women of the Wall were supposed to have Bat Mitzvahs for six girls, who were denied the chance to read from the Torah, May 20, 2015
Women of the Wall / Yael Gilboa

Jewish Musings April 21, 2015: Women of the Wall triumph finally read from full size Torah scroll at Kotel

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Women of the Wall triumph finally read from full-size Torah scroll at Kotel

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, April 21, 2015, 10:46 AM MST

The Woman of the Wall (WoW) Nashot HaKotel read for the first time from a full sized Torah scroll in the women's section of the Kotel, Western Wall for Rosh Hodesh Iyar services, April 20, 2015

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The Woman of the Wall (WoW) Nashot HaKotel read for the first time from a full-sized Torah scroll in the women’s section of the Kotel, Western Wall for Rosh Hodesh Iyar services, April 20, 2015
Women of the Wall Facebook / YouTube

Jewish Musings April 6, 2015: Obama celebrates seventh Passover Seder at the White House

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Obama celebrates seventh Passover Seder at the White House

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, April 6, 2015, 12:48 AM MST

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted their seventh Passover seder, and the president's eighth, Obama also released a Passover statement emphasizing the Exodus story, April 4, 2015
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted their seventh Passover seder, and the president’s eighth, Obama also released a Passover statement emphasizing the Exodus story, April 4, 2015
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Judaism October 26, 2014: Women of the Wall’s historic Torah scroll smuggling reading at Kotel bat mitzvah

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Women of the Wall’s historic Torah scroll smuggling reading at Kotel bat mitzvah

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, October 26, 2014, 3:37 PM MST

 

Sasha Lutt becomes the first girl to have a full bat mitzvah in the women's section at the Kotel, Western Wall by reading the Torah as part of the Women of the Wall's monthly prayer service, Oct. 24, 2014

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Sasha Lutt becomes the first girl to have a full bat mitzvah in the women’s section at the Kotel, Western Wall by reading the Torah as part of the Women of the Wall’s monthly prayer service, Oct. 24, 2014
Women of the Wall

Judaism October 12, 2014: Bible Lands Museum oldest siddur on display despite mystery surrounding the book

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Bible Lands Museum oldest siddur on display despite mystery surrounding the book

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, October 12, 2014, 11:05 AM MST

The Jewish prayer book, siddur from the Green Collection is currently on display at the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem, although scholars are questioning its authenticity, Sept. 18-Oct. 18, 2014
The Jewish prayer book, Siddur from the Green Collection is currently on display at the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem, although scholars are questioning its authenticity, Sept. 18-Oct. 18, 2014
Times of Israel

Judaism May 28, 2014: Recent Brussels, Paris anti-Semitic attacks backup ADL Global 100 poll claims

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Recent Brussels, Paris anti-Semitic attacks backup ADL Global 100 poll claims

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, May 28, 2014, 2:16 PM MST

Jewish Museum of Belgium in Brussels the scene of the most recently recent deadly anti-Semitic attack in Europe, May 24, 2014; The ADL's recent survey "The ADL Global 100: An Index of Anti-Semitism" mapped out the world's most anti-Semitic countries
Jewish Museum of Belgium in Brussels the scene of the most recently recent deadly anti-Semitic attack in Europe, May 24, 2014; The ADL’s recent survey “The ADL Global 100: An Index of Anti-Semitism” mapped out the world’s most anti-Semitic countries
GEORGES GOBET/AFP/Getty Images

Judaism April 22, 2014: President Obama celebrates Passover with annual White House seder tradition

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President Obama celebrates Passover with annual White House seder tradition

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, April 22, 2014, 9:52 PM MST

President Barack Obama, family and former 2008 campaign staffers celebrate the second night of Passover with a seder, in the White House Old Family Dining Room, April 15, 2014; this is Obama's 6th seder, a tradition that started in the 2008 campaign
President Barack Obama, family and former 2008 campaign staffers, celebrate the second night of Passover with a seder, in the White House Old Family Dining Room, April 15, 2014; this is Obama’s 6th seder, a tradition that started in the 2008 campaign
White House

Judaism April 20, 2014: National Library of Israel acquires Moses Montefiore Haggadah for collection

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National Library of Israel acquires Moses Montefiore Haggadah for collection

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, April 20, 2014, 2:14 PM MST

The dedication page of the Moses Montefiore Haggadah acquired by the National Library of Israel for their world's largest Haggadah collection
The dedication page of the Moses Montefiore Haggadah acquired by the National Library of Israel for their world’s largest Haggadah collection
Israel Hayom / National Library of Israel

Judaism March 10, 2014: Looking to thwart assimilation through Jewish and Israel education

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Looking to thwart assimilation through Jewish and Israel education

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, March 10, 2014, 10:34 AM MST

 Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman proposes a new global Jewish education initiative to curb assimilation at the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Jerusalem, Feb. 18, 2014
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman proposes a new global Jewish education initiative to curb assimilation at the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Jerusalem, Feb. 18, 2014
Flash 90

Judaism February 10, 2014: Kolech Orthodox feminists Women of the Wall break over egalitarian prayer space

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Kolech Orthodox feminists Women of the Wall break over egalitarian prayer space 

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, February 10, 2014, 4:59 PM MST

Women of the Wall are ready to accept a government proposal to permanently move to Robinson's Arch causing supporters and groups of members to splinters off from the organization, vowing to continue to fight to prayer at the women's section of the Kotel
Women of the Wall are ready to accept a government proposal to permanently move to Robinson’s Arch causing supporters and groups of members to splinters off from the organization, vowing to continue to fight to prayer in the women’s section of the Kotel
Miriam Alster/Flash90

 

Judaism February 8, 2014: After survey of American Jews Pew Research Center plans one for Israeli Jews

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After survey of American Jews, Pew Research Center plans one for Israeli Jews

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, February 8, 2014, 10:37 PM MST

After releasing the "A Portrait of Jewish Americans" in October 2013, the Pew Research Center will conduct a similar survey of Israeli Jews to be released in November 2014
After releasing the “A Portrait of Jewish Americans” in October 2013, the Pew Research Center will conduct a similar survey of Israeli Jews to be released in November 2014
AP

Judaism January 7, 2014: Pope Francis formally announces May trip dates to Israel, Middle East

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Pope Francis formally announces May trip dates to Israel, Middle East 

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, January 7, 2014, 8:25 PM MST

Pope Francis formally announced the dates of his Israel and Middle East trip during his Sunday blessings, Jan. 5, 2014; the Pope will make that trek from May 24-26, 2014
Pope Francis formally announced the dates of his Israel and Middle East trip during his Sunday blessings, Jan. 5, 2014; the Pope will make that trek from May 24-26, 2014
GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images

Judaism January 6, 2014: Women of the Wall face Torah smuggling controversy at Shevat Rosh Hodesh prayers

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Women of the Wall face Torah smuggling controversy at Shevat Rosh Hodesh prayers

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, January 6, 2014, 10:18 PM MST

For the second month in a row the Women of the Wall were denied to read from the Torah during their monthly prayer service, Jan. 2, 2014; they were accused of trying to smuggle a Torah scroll into their Shevat service
For the second month in a row, the Women of the Wall were denied to read from the Torah during their monthly prayer service, Jan. 2, 2014; they were accused of trying to smuggle a Torah scroll into their Shevat service
Miriam Alster/Flash90

 

Judaism November 28, 2013: American Jews far and wide celebrating Thanksgivukkah phenomenon

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American Jews far and wide celebrating Thanksgivukkah phenomenon

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, November 28, 2013, 2:37 PM MST

This year American Jews celebrated a rare convergence of two holidays, Hanukkah and American Thanksgiving, which was given the new name Thanksgivukkah
This year American Jews celebrated a rare convergence of two holidays, Hanukkah and American Thanksgiving, which was given the new name Thanksgivukkah
Bloomberg News / Bloomberg.com

Judaism November 28, 2013: Rare 18th century illuminated Haggadah sold at auction

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Rare 18th century illuminated Haggadah sold at auction

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, November 24, 2013, 6:54 AM MST

Rare 1726 Haggadah by artist and scribe Aaron Wolff Herlingen sold for $340,000 USD in auction, Nov. 22, 2013; the manuscript was discovered in a box in a Manchester, Great Britain home garage
Rare 1726 Haggadah by artist and scribe Aaron Wolff Herlingen sold for $340,000 USD in auction, Nov. 22, 2013; the manuscript was discovered in a box in a Manchester, Great Britain home garage
Adam Partridge Auctioneers & Valuers