Over the past two years it has been my privilege to be involved with an organization called Tahel, the Crisis Center for Religious Women and Children. Based in Israel and headed by Debbie Gross, it serves Orthodox abused women and children. I presented lectures at both the 2014 and 2015 organizational conferences in Jerusalem.
During my first trip, a thought came to my mind after meeting attorneys from around the world who deal with one of the most troubling problems when it comes to divorce in the Orthodox community – the difficulties many women have in obtaining a Get.
My idea was to form an organization of attorneys that would essentially be a forum for the discussion, and eventually the implementation, of ideas that have worked in various venues that have substantial Orthodox communities. The organization would encourage collaboration between attorneys, dayanim, and lay leaders.
Based on my experience as an attorney who regularly practices in the Supreme Court and batei din, I knew the need existed for such an organization. My semicha from Rav Pam, zt”l, enabled me to understand and work through the halachic issues involved.
At Tahel’s December 2015 conference at the Ramada Hotel in Jerusalem, I introduced the organization I founded – the Yashar Coalition – to a wide array of mental health professionals, law enforcement personnel, rabbanim, and, of course, attorneys.
The principles of the Yashar Coalition are: (1) no representation of clients who will not give a Get at the conclusion of the matter; (2) facilitation of a prenuptial agreement accepted by a wider spectrum of the Orthodox community; (3) discussions of ideas and legislation that have worked in various communities in the U.S. and elsewhere, as well as creative measures that have been adopted by batei din throughout the world.
The Yashar Coalition is actively working on the draft of a prenuptial agreement with the goal, as mentioned in the organization’s founding principles cited above, of obtaining wider acceptance of prenuptials from community rabbis and rosh yeshivas both within and outside the United States.
Additionally, we have been meeting with local public officials regarding possible passage of new legislation to assist in this regard. Details will be forthcoming.
On the one hand, we will never have the police powers the state of Israel has in the area of religious divorce. On the other hand, we can attempt to introduce legislation, drafted with separation of church and state in mind, that can assist those who have been unable to obtain a Get.
The attorneys of the Yashar Coalition come from South Africa, Australia, England, Canada, Israel, and the U.S. We will be holding a symposium in New York on May 23. To register, go to registration @yashar coalition.org.
Readers interested in becoming involved with the Yashar Coalition can e-mail Yasharcoaltion@gmail.com or call my office at (212) 321-7092.Martin E. Friedlander