Unfaithful among the faithful

CBS report follows the stories of Hassidic Jews who were unable to accept the spouses chosen for them.

haredi stroller 224 88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
haredi stroller 224 88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Arranged marriages in the ultra-orthodox Jewish world have led some in New York's Hasidic community to betray their spouses or abandon their marriage altogether. A new CBS report follows the stories of two members of the community who could not accept life with the partner chosen for them. CBS 2 Investigation: Sacred Vows, Secret Affairs 'Yossi,' a 36-year-old of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, said he slept with several married Hasidic women he met on the Internet. "There are a lot of places on the internet where people meet up…in discussion forums where people have common interests. You get to know another person and sometimes it evolves into a sexual relationship," he told CBS 2 HD. Yossi explained that he had felt trapped in his marriage. His wife, who he had never been attracted to, was chosen for him while he was still in his teens. "I met my wife for just a very brief period and then months later we got married and we hadn't seen each other. I never felt committed to her in any way," he said. "Women in the Hasidic community that I met online and I had a number of fairly serious relationships…while married," he added. Leah was 17 when she was married to a man she hardly knew. "I ended up with someone I had no idea who he was and I end up in bed with him," she said. She bore her husband two children over two years of marriage, but her unhappiness with the relationship led her to sneak onto the internet and reach out to others, eventually desiring sexual experiences. "Getting attention from other people was just for me an escape. I really didn't know what love was," Leah said. Yossi and Leah eventually divorced their spouses, and have left the religious lifestyle. Yossi visits his children regularly, while Leah is in the midst of a legal battle with her husband over custody. Both have fallen out with their families as a result of their actions. Rabbi Moshe Tendler, a professor at Yeshiva University, told CBS that Yossi and Leah's stories were "a real oddity, a rarity." But he added, "I believe [cheating] is more of a problem than it has been." Tendler said the blame may lie with increased Internet access and the community's failure to deal with psychological issues that can arise in arranged marriages. Hasidim's tendency to tighten restrictions in the face of temptations from the outside world was also a factor, he said. "It has been for the last 20 years a clearly discernible trend of further isolating from the outside world," Tendler said. "Opportunities for young people to meet each other have become very restrictive. How does a boy meet a girl? How does anyone learn how to communicate with a female?" "You can't put up a wall," he said. "You can put up a wall for one generation, two generations. But the wall is always breached. It is not a permanent solution to anything. Education is a permanent solution," Tendler said.