Can’t get no satisfaction: Why Orthodox women are staging a ‘sex strike’ to protest religious divorce refusal

Adina Sash, left, holding a sign in Yiddish that translates to "Give Malky a get"—a reference to Malky Berkowitz, an Orthodox woman whose husband has refused to divorce her for four years. (Image courtesy of Adina Sash/Instagram)

Malky Berkowitz wants a divorce. But the 29-year-old Orthodox woman, who lives in Kiryas Joel, north of New York City, can’t get a get—a Jewish Orthodox divorce—because her husband won’t allow it, even after four years of Berkowitz fighting for one.

Her case is just one of many taken up by Adina Sash, a feminist Orthodox activist in Brooklyn who posts online as @FlatbushGirl. But as Sash kept posting about Berkowitz, she found Berkowitz’s story resonated more strongly with her audience than others. As time passed, and Berkowitz remained an agunah—a “chained woman” whose husband denies her a get—community support snowballed. “Free Malky” caught on: Sash organized rallies, commissioned an an airplane to fly a banner over New York and, most recently, organized a “sex strike”, where women in support of the cause stopped going to the mikvah. (After menstruating, married Orthodox women must visit a mikvah to cleanse themselves before they can have sex with their husbands—so no bath means no sex.)

The story has garnered international headlines, drawing comparisons to the ancient Greek play Lysistrata and casting a spotlight on Sash, both positive and (when Orthodox men hear about it) extremely negative. Bonjour Chai‘s own Phoebe Maltz Bovy had many questions from a secular feminist perspective, so we invited Sash to join the show to explain the societal problems, Orthodox women’s perceived agency and what life is like inside these insular communities.

What we talked about

  • Follow @FlatbushGirl on Instagram
  • How the Fast of Esther became linked to International Agunah Day, from The CJN archives
  • Read Phoebe’s piece on the Guernica debacle in The CJN


Bonjour Chai is hosted by Avi Finegold and Phoebe Maltz Bovy. Zachary Kauffman is the producer and editor. Michael Fraiman is the executive producer. Our theme music is by Socalled. The show is a co-production from The Jewish Learning Lab and The CJN, and is distributed by The CJN Podcast Network. Support the show by subscribing to this podcast, donating to The CJN and subscribing to the podcast’s Substack.