web analytics
April 16, 2014 / 16 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Aguna’

Longtime Agunah, ‘Chained Woman’ Freed for Passover

Monday, April 7th, 2014

It’s taken 14 years, an ocean of sorrow and who knows how many trials and tribulations – but at the end an agunah, a “chained woman,” is free at last.

Here’s how it all it began:

Thirty years ago as a 15 year old girl the woman was married in Iran to a man with an explosive temper. Three children and 15 years later, the man’s father became ill. He was sent by his son to Israel for treatment in hopes that it would help, together with his daughter-in-law and granddaughter who suffered from diabetes.

The husband and their two sons remained behind in Iran. But alas! The grandfather died four months later, in the Holy Land. His son did not arrive for the funeral, and instead asked his wife to return to Iran with their daughter – which she refused.

Their two sons came to Israel to avoid the draft in Iran, but their father remained, visiting periodically, returning to Iran each time. At each visit, the husband verbally abused his wife and threatened her incessantly, demanding she return to Iran.

She finally opened a file requesting a divorce at the Rabbinical Court, and asked the Family Court for a restraining order against her husband, for times he would appear on his visits. She also asked for a court order to stop him from leaving Israel on his next visit so he could be forced into giving her a divorce.

But he fled on a false passport, evading authorities and efforts to force him to give his wife a Get – a Jewish bill of divorce. Without that document, a Jewish woman cannot remarry, nor can a man.

The effort continued – then three months ago, it was discovered the man was to return to Israel for the wedding of one of the couple’s sons, using a forged passport, via Turkey. This time, authorities managed to catch him despite the attempts of his children to intervene on his behalf. He was arrested and brought before the Rabbinical Court – where again he refused to issue a Get.

The Rabbinical Court in Israel (unlike elsewhere in the world) is empowered to impose sanctions, and so the rabbinical judges did. Placing the “chained wife” in a safe house where she could no longer be harassed by the husband’s family and their children, the Court jailed the husband.

When he figured out that he had no hope of leaving without issuing the decree of divorce, the husband at last came to his senses, agreed to terminate the marriage, and issued the Get to his estranged wife.

“We thank all the departments who worked so hard together, the Interior and Foreign Ministries, the security services, for their help in freeing this woman who has suffered so long,” said Rabbi Eliyahu Maimon, director of the Department for Chained Women in Jerusalem.

“This year at last she will sit at the seder table on Passover as a free woman.”

Religious Divorce: Where Does Justice Lie?

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

There are always two sides. That’s what makes discussion of this issue so difficult for me.  But not difficult enough to have a firm opinion on how to handle a religious divorce in Judaism otherwise known as a Get.

There is never an excuse to withhold a Get from a woman. NEVER! So strongly do I feel about this issue now, that I can’t envision any circumstance where a Get should not be given when a marriage is no longer viable. Even when there are legitimate issues to discuss like custody of the children or post divorce financial arrangements (e.g. alimony and/or child support). If there is no hope that there will ever be reconciliation, the Get should be given without any preconditions.

I do not say this lightly. Because I am absolutely certain that divorce is not always the husband’s fault. Sometimes it is the wife who is a fault. People can be evil. Evil knows no gender. I need not go into details but it isn’t too difficult to imagine how some husbands are treated during divorce proceedings. Like being accused by the wife of molesting their children in an attempt to get full custody. These things unfortunately do happen.

Nevertheless, there is no way I could in good conscience ever support using the Get as any kind of leverage in any situation. Because that gives an unfair advantage to husbands. Once you allow the Get to be used for leverage, there is no end to the kind abuse it can entail.  Since a woman can only be freed of the bonds of marriage if the husband willingly gives her a Get, he is the one holding all the cards. Even long after they stopped living to together as husband and wife and a civil divorce had been executed.

I am not saying that serious issues between divorcing couples shouldn’t be addressed. Of course they should.  But not at the point of a gun.  Once the marriage is over – a Get should be executed right away. Then they can talk. I believe justice will prevail most of the time. A truly good father can get custody over an irresponsible mother. I know at least one Orthodox family where the wife sued for full custody and father wanted joint custody. They went to court and the father got full custody. The Get was never used for leverage. It was given right away.

Unfortunately the world doesn’t work that way.  The plight of Agunos is very much alive precisely because there are husbands that do use a Get for leverage. They will extort exorbitant amount of money as the price of giving one. One such case was reported recently in the New York Times.  Meir Kin is withholding the Get from his civilly divorced ex-wife. He is asking for full custody of their 12 year old son and  $500,000.

This is extortion pure and simple. Not only that, but he has remarried. Or more correctly, he married a second wife.

Now Halacha clearly forbids a man from having more than one wife. This has been the case for over 1000 years. But the prohibition is rabbinic. Biblically he is allowed to have more than one wife. A rabbinic prohibition may be structured any way the rabbis choose to do so.  Which in this case enabled loopholes. Specifically one called a ‘Heter Meah Rabbonim.’ In very unusual circumstances, one may seek 100 rabbis to ‘permit’ a husband to marry a second wife.

One example where a man might be given a Heter Meah Rabbonim is when the reverse happens. When a man wants to give his wife a Get, but she refuses to accept it. A Woman who does not accept a Get remains married to him, whether he likes it or not, and whether he lives with her or not. A Heter Meah Rabbonim frees him to marry a second wife. A woman whose husband refused to give her a Get has no such recourse.

NY Man Pleads Guilty to Violently Forcing Husbands to Free ’Agunot’

Monday, March 10th, 2014

A New York personal trainer has pleaded guilty in federal court to being part of a group of men who used violent means in exchange for pay to force Jewish men to give their wives religious divorces.

David Hellman, 31, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Trenton, N.J. and could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison with a fine of $250,000 at his June 12 sentencing hearing.

Nine other men, including two Orthodox rabbis, were arrested in October 2013 as part of an FBI sting operation. The ring charged some $60,000 for its services. According to a complaint filed in court, the men kidnapped and beat up recalcitrant husbands until they agreed to the religious divorce.

Hellman was charged with “traveling in interstate commerce to commit extortion,” and the others were charged with kidnapping, Reuters reported, citing court documents.

Orthodox Jewish women waiting for a divorce, or “get,” granted by a rabbinical court, are known as “chained women” or “agunot” because recalcitrant husbands refuse to sign the divorce documents, although some husbands, and wives, withhold a get in order to gain more favorable terms for alimony or custody of children.

New Hope for ‘Agunot’ Women Trapped by Separated Husbands

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

A new independent rabbinical court to address the issue of agunot, so-called “chained women” whose husbands refuse to give them a religious writ of divorce, will be launched next year, the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance announced this week at a conference in New York.

Jerusalem Rabbi Simcha Krauss, a leading Modern Orthodox rabbi and widely respected scholar, will head the court (Beit Din), which will have no institutional affiliation and will begin operating in New York.

Rabbi Krauss told JTA that the court will utilize little-used, obscure resources in Jewish religious law to free agunot, including the ex-communication from communal prayer of their husbands and Sephardic laws that allow for greater initiative from women in divorce cases.

He said he will leave “no door unopened” in his quest to address the plight of agunot.

Eventually, Rabbi Krauss said, he wants to open an affiliate court in Israel. He also is working on attaining approval from the Israeli Chief Rabbinate, which is necessary if the court’s judgments are to be upheld under Israeli law.

“The goal of this project is to humanize the Beit Din,” Rabbi Krauss told JTA. “You can’t solve these situations with sleight of hand. But hopefully we can use the right methodology, so that even these situations get solved.”

He acknowledged that the biggest challenge facing any avowedly independent religious court is mainstream acceptance, particularly within the Hared communities.

“Nobody wants agunot,” Rabbi Kraus said. “So hopefully, if [Haredim] see that we are solving these cases, maybe they will come to us. Or maybe they will follow.”

FBI Arrests NY Rabbis for Beating Husbands Who Refuse Divorce

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

The FBI raided a Monsey yeshiva Wednesday night and arrested four mean, including two rabbis, who allegedly kidnapped and beat recalcitrant husbands who had refused to grant their wives religious divorces and thereby prohibit them from re-marrying under Jewish law.

The “executors” used by the divorce gang included “electric cattle prods, karate, handcuffs and placed plastic bags over the heads of husbands,” the complaint charge stated.

The status of stranded Jewish women is known as “aguna” and is a problem that has received deserved focus in Israel and the Diaspora in recent years.

The FBI investigation and arrests bring to national attention the anguished situation of “aguna” women and perhaps will help put legal pressure on husbands who have separated from their wives but refuse to allow them to re-marry.

The suspects were arrested after a month-long sting operation in which a female FBI agent posed as an Orthodox woman trying to get a religious divorce from her husband. Another undercover agent posed as her brother.

Rabbis Mendel Epstein and Martin Wolmark, along with Ariel Potash and a fourth individual known as Yaakov, appeared Thursday in U.S. District Court in Trenton, N.J. Six others could be charged, according to reports.

The FBI also raided Yeshiva Sha’arei Torah in Monsey and a yeshiva in Lakewood, N.J., Brooklyn and elsewhere.

The rabbis allegedly charged $10,000 to persuade the rabbis on the rabbinical court to approve kidnapping husbands, and another up to $60,000 to pay for others to abduct and beat husbands.

The FBI agents called Rabbi Wolmark in August and said they were “desperate for a religious divorce and were willing to pay a large sum of money to obtain a divorce,” according to the charge sheet.

“There are a couple of ways to do that,” Wolmark allegedly said in a recorded phone conversation. “You have to, we have to, convene a special Bet Din and see if there are grounds to, to, to coerce him on the ‘get’ [divorce decree].”

Wolmark allegedly added, “You need to get him to New York where someone either can harass him or nail him. Plain and simple,” he said, according to the complaint. The rabbi then set up a meeting between the undercover agents and Rabbi Epstein. A recorded conversation revealed that Rabbi Epstein spoke about “kidnapping, beating and torturing husbands in order to force a divorce.’

He allegedly added, “Basically what we are going to be doing is kidnapping a guy for a couple of hours and beating him up and torturing him and then getting him to give the ‘get.’”

One of the “tough guys,” supposedly Rabbi Epstein’s son, “uses his karate skills” on the victims, court papers said.

The FBI said the “divorce gang” has been operating for 20 years and that Rabbi Epstein said he carries out approximately one kidnapping a year.

Forcing husbands to grant a divorce is permitted under Jewish law, a rabbi told The Jewish Press Thursday. “Jewish law does not always seem humane, but it really is humane because physical force often is the only way to force angry husbands to release their wives from virtual bondage and to allow them to-remarry,” he said.

The rabbi added that rabbis often are blamed for the situation of the agunot but also are criticized for using force, recognized under Jewish law, to solve their dilemma.

He pointed out that force can be used only if a Bet Din [religious court] authorizes it and only if there are substantial reasons to order a divorce.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/fbi-arrests-ny-rabbis-for-beating-husbands-refusing-divorce/2013/10/10/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: