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Aguna

A year has passed and the outrageous stories of get-refusal continue to shame Jewish communities – both in their own eyes and in the eyes of general society. We have witnessed women suffering as agunahs in all the Orthodox sectors— yeshivish, chassidish, modern Orthodox and everyone in between. Rabbis and families stemming from every part of the religious community have experienced the frustration of being ineffective in relieving the existential pain of an agunah and her children.

When a husband refuses to give his wife a get, the victims of that get-refusal are more or less powerless to force him to do so. I say “victims” in the plural since a get-refuser holds reign not only over his wife, but also over her parents, siblings, community and even the rabbonim of the Beit Din trying to resolve that particular agunah problem. All of them pay the price of iggun, each in his own way. Not only is the situation agonizing, it is heartrending – since each of those involved could have prevented the husband from refusing to give the get.

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Many Orthodox leaders have recommended the signing of a halachic prenuptial agreement for the prevention of get-refusal. Many Orthodox leaders feel uncomfortable with the suggestion – each for his own reasons. But no one can contradict the fact that, both in the US and in Israel — a halachic prenuptial agreement for the prevention of get-refusal has proven to be one hundred percent effective. These are the words of Rabbi Yona Reiss, current Av Beth Din of the Chicago Rabbinical Council, as have been published countless times on these very pages. With that fact in mind I turn to the parents who are marrying off their children.

Parents! It is your responsibility to protect your child from any harm that may befall her or him. If you don’t protect you and yours – who will do so? If your daughter finds herself as a victim of get-refusal YOU will pay the price—literally. So what can you do? What can your community do? You can follow the example of the yirei shamayim community in Gush Etzion:

On a recent motzei Shabbos, over 200 people crowded into a shule in Efrat. More than ninety married couples from all over Gush Etzion came to sign a halachic post-nuptial agreement. Ranging from newlyweds to a couple who celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary by signing a post-nuptial agreement, everyone felt the excitement. As they entered the crowded lobby filled with live music and enticing food, each person was infused with a sense of mission, of shlichut. The individual couple had decided to come out of a sense of purpose – to serve as a personal example to their children, establishing a family minhag where every marrying couple must sign a prenuptial agreement for the prevention of get-refusal. Each couple decided to make a statement – if we do this after so many years of marriage, so must you!

However, upon joining the many couples of various stages of marriage – every individual felt uplifted. The understanding dawned on all that each couple not only were there to protect their own family, but were affecting the community of Gush Etzion (which has seen its share of terrible get-refusals) and Israeli society in its entirety.  Organized by the Agunah and Get-Refusal Project of the International Young Israel Movement in Israel in coordination with Batya Hefter, head of the Women’s Beit Midrash of Efrat and Gush Etzion and chaired by local community leader Sara Hirshorn, this Post-nuptial Signing Party was so effective that requests poured in from all over Israel to organize similar events in many locales. The ripple effect is at work.

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Rachel Levmore (Ph.D. in Jewish Law, Bar Ilan University) is a rabbinical court advocate; director of the Agunah and Get-Refusal Prevention Project of the International Young Israel Movement in Israel and the Jewish Agency (iyim.org.il); member of the Israel State Commission for the Appointment of Dayanim; and author of "Min'ee Einayich Medim'a" on prenuptial agreements for the prevention of Get-refusal.

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