by Amy-Lila Greenstein

The Betrothal Fiasco

When Israel Goldstein, a 39-year-old Orthodox Jewish man from Brooklyn, interpreted a biblical passage as allowing him to betroth his 11-year-old daughter to a man whose identity he refused to disclose, he gained complicated leverage against his wife in their bitter five-year divorce battle. This archaic practice of betrothing young daughters was used during medieval times (when arranged marriages were the norm) to deal creatively with erratic economic conditions. Whenever a father had dowry— even if his daughter was literally a toddler— he seized the moment in the girl’s interest, to ensure that she would have a husband. Goldstein, however, has warped the purpose of this practice, and, unfortunately, his act has triggered about 20 other Orthodox men to do the same.

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