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The Plight of Agunos: A Male Perspective
Much has been written over the years about the plight of agunos. One who is friendly with a woman in this situation is especially prone to experiencing a gamut of emotions, including anger, despair, exasperation and fear.
Anger – toward the husband who could be so cruel as to put his wife, whom he supposedly once loved, into a state of helplessness and uncertainty; anger at the Jewish courts for allowing this horrible man to wreak such havoc in another person’s life; anger at the family members who choose sides, whether these are children, parents, siblings, or extended family, who contribute to the obstacles now facing this unfortunate woman.
Despair – at the situation that has caused this injustice; despair for her and for her children’s future; despair due to the inability to correct her situation.
Exasperation – with a system that claims to be just and honest and good.
Fear – of the present, the future, and of what else the tyrant could cause to hurt her.
Compassion for agunos is certainly well placed – however, there are occasions where it is not the “tyrannical” husband who is at fault. This is not the popular view at large, especially in the Brooklyn neighborhood where I reside. In my community, it is always the husband who is to blame.
Some of the women who find themselves dissatisfied or unhappy in their marriage seek rabbinical assistance. Others seek professional counseling. While both these methods can do wonders to set things back on track, there needs to be coordination among all parties to achieve success. In our society a new direction has taken root, a new tree is growing in Brooklyn – TERRORISM.
This does not refer to the abuse that a husband inflicts on his spouse or children. These issues are very real and must be dealt with. I can only condemn and cry for those caught in such a dreadful state of affairs. We need the rabbonim and others to work on this terrible problem, to try to rectify these poor women’s lives.
Nonetheless, when a woman resorts to terrorist means to obtain sole possession of the family home, all its contents and financial stability, she destroys not only the immediate family, but has a major impact on all that surrounds her. With these so-called women’s groups (advocates for the disadvantaged woman), the potential for abuse multiplies hundredfold. While these groups help many, they are also guilty of causing collateral damage – by not investigating if the woman is telling the truth before they start implementing their systematic plan of action.
Emes is not a requirement of these self-appointed psychologists and therapists. The man is guilty until proven innocent. The poor abused women are advised in how to have their husbands arrested, over and over if need be, and how to take the children away from their fathers, even when the children are crying for them. The husbands are thrown out of their homes, their reputations destroyed – all because the woman said so. No investigation is required.
As I have discovered with much dismay, not all of our alleged rabbonim endeavor to achieve the whole truth in these matters. Rather, they choose to make the issues go away as quickly as possible. Since the woman involved is usually the weaker of the twosome, the common course of action is to pressure the husband to give the Get and allow the pair to go on with their individual lives. This is a proper and noble gesture in an uncomfortable and painful situation. Be that as it may, there are instances where the husband is only trying to protect the children and bring about a peaceful resolution to a very difficult circumstance and wife. To persecute these men socially, financially, and emotionally is tantamount to allowing these women free reign to terrorize our communities, our social hierarchy, and most importantly, the children who suffer the misfortune of being caught in the middle.
We must all investigate the situation fully before we proceed with persecution of either party. The damage that can result from such actions can sometimes never be undone. The pain and harm to our children cannot be allowed, especially when the charges are fabricated and untrue. The notion that a man or woman can do whatever s/he pleases, regardless of the effect it will have on the family, is not in accordance with the “frum” lifestyle that the Torah and our rabbonim/mechanchim have espoused throughout the generations.
My wife pleaded to every rav within her radius that she was an agunah. I was persecuted and screamed at; my office was called countless times and asked to fire me; my parents were threatened with rallies against them, and I was physically accosted. I kept insisting that I wanted desperately to give the Get, but I needed assurances that my children would have the necessary access to their father, who only wanted the best for them. I understand that every child needs a mother, however different the parents might be. These women need to nevertheless appreciate that the children also need a father.
I would like to take this opportunity to applaud The Jewish Press for its attitude in these matters. Your fairness allows us all to hold our heads high and to believe that Emes is the best policy. You have proven once again that there is integrity in journalism and that you will not let personal issues cloud the important issues of truth.
I gave the Get, as I always maintained I would – as long as I was reunited with my children who were taken away from me by false allegations, which my wife subsequently admitted to. Once again, you have proven that you will not condone nor publish dishonesty in our midst. And for this, my wonderful children – who are now able to see their father regularly – and I thank you.