web analytics
April 16, 2014 / 16 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Spa 1.2 Combining Modern Living in Traditional Jerusalem

A unique and prestigious residential project in now being built in Mekor Haim Street in Jerusalem.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Demonstrations And Remonstrations On Agunah Day

Levmore-030212

Share Button

Those who are subjected to emotional suffering tend to be kept out of society’s line of sight. All the more so when society is either the cause of the suffering or can alleviate it and does not do so.

On the individual level, suffering takes up all of one’s energy, attempts to escape it consume one’s financial resources, and all of one’s time is expended in its alleviation. As a result, it is easy for the average person not to notice the suffering or to ignore it.

Fortunately, tools have been developed that serve as reminders that stir our conscience. One such tool is the determination of particular calendar days to raise awareness of a specific phenomenon. This is the purpose of International Agunah Day.

Ta’anit Esther, which falls on March 7 this year, has been set aside to remind us that there are women suffering in our midst as their Jewish husbands refuse to free them from the bonds of marriage despite the marriage’s utter breakdown. In doing so, the husband creates the agunah – the victim of get-refusal.

Not much has been done since last year’s Agunah Day to resolve the agunah problem. If anything, the problem has grown more acute – witness the weekly seruv listings on the pages of The Jewish Press. The refusal of Jewish men to grant Jewish women a get has been reported on the pages of various Jewish-American and Israeli publications and, even more devastating for Jewish society, the general media, both mainstream and social: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, YouTube, Facebook, etc.

The standing of Jews is weakened every time those who aren’t Jewish read, see or hear about the inability of a grown woman to exercise her human right to leave a failed marriage. Her inability is an expression of the inability of the greater Jewish society – laypersons and rabbis alike – because it is due to the quiet acceptance of her suffering. The inaction in our communities and in our rabbinic establishment is more than a reflection of our ignoring the problem. It is actually a cause of the problem.

Get-refusal is a particularly insidious form of domestic abuse, since the abuser justifies his actions to himself. After he has totally convinced himself he is acting in accordance with societal mores it is easy for him to continue in his recalcitrance. As it is, the community around him is wont to “keep out of other people’s private affairs” and will conveniently ignore the suffering caused to the agunah, thus adding to it.

When rabbis do get involved and issue a ruling that the man has made his wife into an agunah, it may have been so long in coming that the husband’s obstinacy has been buttressed and reinforced by society’s inaction up to that point.

Fortunately, not all Orthodox Jews are complacent in this simplistic ignoring of the agunah problem. For example, the Yeshiva University-based Organization for the Resolution of Agunot in the United States and the Council of Young Israel Rabbis in Israel have extended help in many forms to many agunot, working to ease the women’s pain and bring about a resolution. Indeed ORA has organized numerous demonstrations over the past few years, held in protest of recalcitrant husbands’ abuse of power.

It is interesting to note that the clear majority of protestors in the earlier demonstrations were Modern Orthodox, with “yeshivish” individuals joining later on. The crying out against abuse of agunot coupled with the relative lack of public disapproval gives the impression that the more stringent a community in its adherence to kashrut, Torah study and dress code, the more lax it is in its adherence to two crucial mitzvot: lo ta’amod al dam rey’echa and hocheyach tochiach et amitecha.

In the first instance, one is instructed by Torah law not to stand idly by when one’s fellow Jew is suffering, when that person is in need of help, when one’s support can make the difference. The latter mitzvah makes it incumbent on the God-fearing Jew to remonstrate one who is behaving improperly and transgressing a commandment. The agunah and the get-refuser, respectively, are prime examples of these categories. Where is the community’s stringency in obeying these two mitzvot? Where are the societal demonstrations of zero tolerance for any instance of get-refusal?

The Rabbinical Council of America resolved in 1994 “that every member of the Rabbinical Council of America will utilize prenuptial agreements, which will aid in our community’s efforts to guarantee that the get will not be used as a negotiating tool in divorce procedures. ” How many other sectors of Orthodox Jewry have made a similar declaration?

Any society is judged by how it treats its weak and suffering. Just read the words of our prophets. For Jews, that is the measure of Kiddush Hashem, sanctification of God’s name. Tragically, the get-refuser and the society that turns a blind eye to his actions choose to ignore that responsibility. For the desecration of God’s name is not caused only by the get-refuser himself. The entire Orthodox Jewish community is responsible.

Share Button

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.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

Leave a comment (Select your commenting platform)

One Response to “Demonstrations And Remonstrations On Agunah Day”

  1. Esther says:

    ASKING a narcissistic husband to give a get is like asking Achmedinejad to care about Israel.

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Loading Facebook Comments ...
Loading Disqus Comments ...
Current Top Story
The interior of the El Ghriba synagogue on the island of Djerba, Tunisia, in 2009.
Tunisian Jew Stabbed in Djerba
Latest Indepth Stories
Lebovic-041814

How much is the human mind able to grasp of the Divine?

Benveniste-041814

Jews have brought the baggage of the galut (exile) mentality to the modern state of Israel.

Dann-041814

The Haggadah is an instruction manual on how to survive as strangers in strange lands.

It’s finally happened. New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan reported on her blog that “many readers…wrote to object to an [April 2] article…on the breakdown in peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians,” claiming “[they] found the headline misleading and the article itself lacking in context.” Ms. Sullivan provided one such letter, quoted the […]

Nor did it seem relevant that according to widely circulated media reports, Rev. Sharpton was caught on an FBI surveillance video discussing possible drug sales with an FBI agent.

Jewish soldiers in the Polish forces often encountered anti-Semitic prejudice.

When the state was established, gedolim went to Ben-Gurion and asked him not to draft women and, later, yeshiva bachrim.

Perhaps worse than all the above is the acute lack of unity among Jews

At our seder we emulate the way it was celebrated in Temple times, as if the Temple still stood.

Not one world leader holds Abbas accountable for his part in the breakdown of negotiations.

The 1948 re-establishment of Jewish sovereignty was a modern day Exodus and Parting of the Sea.

Spies who caused American deaths and worked for enemy states received lighter sentences than Pollard.

Christie’s “good friend” is an Imam who supports murderers of Jews and defames Israel and Christians.

One grey night it happened, Bibi caved no more
& Poof that Foggy Bottomer, he vanished from our sight

More Articles from Dr. Rachel Levmore
aguna

International Agunah Day falls annually on Ta’anis Esther, this year on March 13.

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.

It’s human nature to hide our heads in the sand. That may be because we are mostly optimistic. We believe everything will be all right even when we know we are taking a chance.

Those who are subjected to emotional suffering tend to be kept out of society’s line of sight. All the more so when society is either the cause of the suffering or can alleviate it and does not do so.

In producing “Women Unchained,” a daring yet dignified film about women who can’t get a get – a Jewish divorce – filmmakers Beverly Siegel and Leta Lenik have done Jewish society a favor.

Presumably, almost all the readers of this publication are Orthodox Jews – those that pride themselves on serving G-d through fulfilling His commandments. Keeping in mind the rabbinical edict, “A mitzvah that comes your way—don’t miss it!” (Rashi, Bavli Megillah 6b), it would behoove the readers to know that an oft-missed mitzvah has come their way.

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.

    Latest Poll

    Now that Kerry's "Peace Talks" are apparently over, are you...?







    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/demonstrations-and-remonstrations-on-agunah-day/2012/02/29/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: