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An Agunah Day Message To A Jewish Grandmother


Levmore-021513

You are the mother of a me’agen – a young man who has turned his wife into an agunah.

Sometimes a person in your situation can get so caught up in defending her position or her son’s position that she fails to realize there is no longer a battle. She takes no notice that the oft-repeated justifications are irrelevant after all the issues have been settled – all the issues, that is, aside from the giving of a get.

Most significantly, she does not lift her eyes to take note of the effect her actions will have on her family members.

For the entire family, immediate and extended, is affected when a man refuses to give his wife a get. His mother may naturally stand behind her son to a certain point. After all, he is her son. But that is just the point – she is in a unique position of authority to tell him what to do.

A son, no matter how adult-like in years or independent in disposition, listens to his mother. The true support a mother should give her offspring is one that protects him from ruining his own life. And if she feels she has no right to interfere in his life, she is mistaken. For her son’s ongoing get-refusal will continue to ruin her life. She has a complete and moral right, as a mother and as a grandmother, to demand that her son give his wife a get.

The tannaitic sage Rabbi Shimon was asked by his teacher (Pirkei Avot 2:9), “What is the straight or honest way a man should follow?” He replied, ” He who sees what is yet to come.” Rabbi Ovadiah MeBartanura explains: “He foresees…what will come to be in the future and…calculates the loss incurred of a mitzvah as opposed to its reward, and the reward of a transgression as opposed to its incurred loss.”

Put in today’s terms – before taking action one should calculate the gain and loss incurred by that action before proceeding.

Examine your role not only as a mother but also as a grandmother and calculate the gain/loss ratio of your actions in the ongoing saga of your son’s get-refusal. For your granddaughter – the one who calls you Bubbie – is still quite young. At this point in time she relates to you as a young grandchild should, with love and trust that you truly look out for her welfare.

The fact is, however, that your son is refusing to give a get to her mother. In a short period of time she will begin to comprehend what this means. She will sense that your family hurt her mother.

In another few years your clever granddaughter will begin to use the Internet. Before you know it, she will, out of curiosity, search for her name, her parents’ names and yes, even your name, online. Toward the end of elementary school days, having studied Hebrew and some Jewish law, she will enter the word “agunah” in a search engine. Hundreds if not thousands of links will be displayed on her computer screen. Your granddaughter will be exposed to what the Jewish media wrote, explicated and shouted about the actions of your son. Her father.

Moreover, when your bright granddaughter enters her teens, it will dawn on her that it is not only her father who is actively involved in battling her mother. There is an entire family constellation at play. She will examine her Bubbie’s role in this preventable tragedy. The very same Bubbie who professed her love for the granddaughter and who, as a matriarch, is entrusted with a granddaughter’s welfare.

In fact, she will be so sharp that in her search for the word “agunah” she will notice that this very publication published many articles about agunot. Your teenaged (or even younger) granddaughter will find this very article you are reading – this article where the call is on you, as the mother of the me’agen and as the grandmother of the agunah’s daughter, to compel your son to give his wife a get.

You can do it! It is within your power! You have a moral standing to do so. For your granddaughter will note that this article was published in February 2013, right before International Agunah Day (Taanit Esther), and look back. Was there a get given two weeks after publication? If there was, then you will have done your part to see to your granddaughter’s welfare. You will have allowed a healthy relationship to develop between the two of you. You will have actively let your granddaughter know she can trust you with her secrets, her dreams and her love. You will not have allowed your son to ruin your chances of dancing at your granddaughter’s wedding. Your granddaughter will understand all of this sooner than you think – because she will read these words and recognize the truth.

About the Author: Rachel Levmore (Ph.D. in Jewish Law from Bar Ilan University) is a rabbinical court advocate, coordinator of the Agunah and Get-Refusal Prevention Project of the Council of Young Israel Rabbis in Israel and the Jewish Agency, and author of "Min'ee Einayich Medim'a" on prenuptial agreements for the prevention of get-refusal.


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17 Responses to “An Agunah Day Message To A Jewish Grandmother”

  1. I will also point out that grandparents & the father's family should be concerned about the schidduch implications for a grandchild whose father refuses to give a 'get.' Potential mates & their families may see the father's continued refusal to give a 'get' as a flaw in character such as vindictiveness or bad temper or as a lack of true commitment to acting as a Torah Jew who complies with majority rabbinic rulings. They may not want to get involved with a potential spouse whose family is clearly & publicly involved in controversy & strife. Although the father or his family may feel it is unfair, he will be seen as the recalcitrant & oppositional person. It may seem a long way off, but as a grandmother myself, the time flies, & what a shame that a sweet, innocent young person's ability to find a loving spouse should be impaired because of her father's stubborness. So very sad.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Well Written! As a young adult I identify very much with the scenario that this granddaughter will sooner if not later search the web. I have done that my self, and every time I am surprised, in a positive way, to find somethings out about my parents and grandparents.
    YOUR granddaughter can be proud of you one day- if you choose to look out for you WHOLE family. Do the right thing today, and you will be happy and feel complete with your self in the future. Good Luck!

  3. I wish my husband would listen to his mother, or his brothers, or his shul rav and do what is right — give me a get. But he is a stubborn man and takes advice from no one.

    I also wish I had the courage to email this article to my mother-in-law. It has been three years since my marriage effectively ended, more than two years since I moved out, and yet I still don't have a civil divorce or a get. How can a mother stand silently by while her son mistreats the mother of her grandchildren in this way?

  4. Rivky Schramm Krestt says:

    Another Taanit Esther and still no GET.

  5. Rambam rules that a me‘aggen is to be beaten until he consents to give a geṭ. While the courts are reluctant to do this, the me‘aggen's mother should tell him that he absolutely deserves this.

  6. Daria Lesnik Hoffman says:

    Great piece – and a new way to look at the issue, from the perspective of the mother. We all must do our part as women to publicize this tragic issue within halacha and find a way to surpass the cruelty that exist in the world.

  7. Keshet Starr says:

    Very moving piece, and so true. In the long term, this is a lose-lose for everyone–especially this grandmother.

  8. Trish Weisman says:

    I am appalled by the callousness of all who could help end the suffering of agunot (and their families and children) and choose to turn away their faces. Get refusers and their enablers should be shunned until they return to the path of Torah.

  9. Trish Weisman says:

    I am appalled by the callousness of all who could help end the suffering of agunot (and their families and children) and choose to turn away their faces. Get refusers and their enablers should be shunned until they return to the path of Torah.

  10. Esther O'Campo says:

    Even for something as horrific as murder we have a situation where it is what Hashem wants from us, in fact demands from us, in order to defend our own life or that of another. But for get refusal there is no justification, no "it serves an purpose, even if the rest of the community disagrees", no possible way in which this is what Hashem wants from your son or by extension from you. "B'zchus nashim" we were redeemed from Egypt. The same is true of the ultimate geulah. How much closer to Hashem's vision of a perfect world would we be, and would your family in particularly be, if you were not embroiled in the chillul Hashem that is get refusal. We are approaching another Pesach, and you as a woman and a mother have the power to influence your son that it should be a Pesach b'gashmius for one more Jew-the mother of your grandchild. And if it isn't, then your family's seder is a mockery, and your granddaughter will realize this all too soon.

  11. Anybody who has studied Torah well knows the following: Sometimes the wife and the mother of the couple's children may be a not innocent victim. She may be a naricisistic or BPD wife and mother (discussed in the Jewish Press in the past). Nonetheless, Gemara and rishonim still show that once even such a wife cannot be controlled through economics (such as a woman who forgoes her ketuba or who received the money she desired through a secular divorce), the husband is required to divorce her lest matters become worse.

    In this case, even the child custody arrangements have been concluded and so there is no scenario in which any good can be gained from withholding a get.

    Thus, please tell your son that even if your former daughter-in-law does not deserve a get and is a source of emotional harm to her children, refusing a get solves nothing. in that case, the victim man becomes a sinner in refusing to grant a get.

  12. Oriya Orlov says:

    is this the education you gave to your son? can you feel what his ex wife feels every day? if you have any influance on your son.please force him to give his wife the "get" so she will be able to go on with her life! put yourself in her shoes!

  13. I do not know enough about the individuals involved to be able to say who is "right" or "wrong." But get refusal must be viewed as a banned weapon that no faithful Jew should ever use, or should ever be encouraged to use, against his (or her) spouse.

  14. Doris Jaffe says:

    An agunah is being killed emotionally, financially, socially. Ijn cases of divorce any woman who is an agunah for up to two years should be given a heter to remarry and carry on with her life. A recalcitrant husband should be publicly lynched or even killed. Enogh with extortion/blackmail/bribery. Don't use children as pawns.
    Respect children and in-laws. Men – have self respect. End bitterness and recrimination. Be a mensch – be a man. Don't muddy yourself. When you refuse to give a Get you ruin your own chances for a serene life. My remarks are only regarding agunahs through divorce. For agunahs due to husbands in the military who are missing in action, or whose husbands are mentallly incapable of giving a Get, that's a different story. Who are the rabbis (Chazal) who gave us law's "di Rabbanan?" Why don't today's rabbonim and Batei Din have the guts to reinterpret laws to free agunahs? The laws were made by men and protect men. It's about time they stopped trying to get couples to reconcile and just demand that a Get has to be given BEFORE A CIVIL DIVORCE – OR AT THE SAME TIME. DEFINITELY NOT AFTER. Perhaps a requirement for marriage is that couples have longer engagements and not be rushed into shidduchim. They need to see how each person handles anger, disappointment, handles finances, communicates, etc. They should attend mandatory couples premarital counseling. That itself may help to ensure better marriage. To all the current agunahs: I have had four freinds who where agunahs. One finally received a Get after 30 years; another one after eight years. The other two got theirs within a reasonable time. I saw their suffering and understand your pain. I care.

  15. Doris Jaffe says:

    An agunah is being killed emotionally, financially, socially. Ijn cases of divorce any woman who is an agunah for up to two years should be given a heter to remarry and carry on with her life. A recalcitrant husband should be publicly lynched or even killed. Enogh with extortion/blackmail/bribery. Don't use children as pawns.
    Respect children and in-laws. Men – have self respect. End bitterness and recrimination. Be a mensch – be a man. Don't muddy yourself. When you refuse to give a Get you ruin your own chances for a serene life. My remarks are only regarding agunahs through divorce. For agunahs due to husbands in the military who are missing in action, or whose husbands are mentallly incapable of giving a Get, that's a different story. Who are the rabbis (Chazal) who gave us law's "di Rabbanan?" Why don't today's rabbonim and Batei Din have the guts to reinterpret laws to free agunahs? The laws were made by men and protect men. It's about time they stopped trying to get couples to reconcile and just demand that a Get has to be given BEFORE A CIVIL DIVORCE – OR AT THE SAME TIME. DEFINITELY NOT AFTER. Perhaps a requirement for marriage is that couples have longer engagements and not be rushed into shidduchim. They need to see how each person handles anger, disappointment, handles finances, communicates, etc. They should attend mandatory couples premarital counseling. That itself may help to ensure better marriage. To all the current agunahs: I have had four freinds who where agunahs. One finally received a Get after 30 years; another one after eight years. The other two got theirs within a reasonable time. I saw their suffering and understand your pain. I care.

  16. Anna Schivo says:

    TIT FOR TAT . AGUNAH FOR ME'AGEN .

  17. Alan Skorski says:

    With Aharon Friedman himself a young man he has probably ruined his own life in that no normal woman would ever want to marry a guy like him. Good education, good job, but no future.

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It began in the United States with the Yiddish newspaper the Forward in the first half of the 20th century. The galeriye fun farshvundene mener (gallery of vanished husbands) appeared regularly, listing names and photos of men who had disappeared leaving their wives as agunot, chained to a Jewish marriage. The Jewish Press followed in the latter decades of the century, launching its own weekly seiruv list.

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