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September 23, 2014 / 28 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘prenuptial agreement’

Getting Serious About Get-Refusal

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

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.

On the flip side, it’s emotionally very difficult to admit we have a problem. We are worried about how others will regard us. Moreover, addressing a problem entails gathering strength to go about solving it. It’s so much easier to hide our heads in the sand.

About ten years ago, at a rabbinic convention in Israel, I was introduced to a well-known American Orthodox rabbi as a to’enet rabbanit – rabbinical court advocate. The rav politely asked me what I do. I briefly explained how I work with dayanim in Israeli batei din on cases of Get-refusal they have difficulty resolving. I stressed my focus on prenuptial agreements to prevent the agunah problem from arising in the first place, through the Council of Young Israel Rabbis in Israel.

“Oh, I know all about prenups” the rabbi replied. “My daughter just got married but I didn’t tell her to sign one. We don’t need these things.”

This rav, one of the most effective leaders in the American Orthodox world, did not recognize the very real agunah problem in his community. In fact, I have received cries for help (even though I am in Israel) from women who belong to every manner of Orthodox community in the U.S., from chassidishe and haredi to Modern Orthodox and everything in between.

Truth be told, it is difficult for a rav to admit publicly to a problem of Get-refusal in his community when no one is admitting it in the other communities. It is more comforting to imagine that should an agunah case arise, the community will take care of it. However, individuals who begin to tread the path of a me’agen are becoming more and more resistant to communal pressure or even rabbinic influence.

By recognizing the potential for the problem and arranging the signing of prenuptial agreements for its prevention, communal and rabbinic influence can be restored. The problem needs to be prevented from taking root in each individual case before it is too late.

Nevertheless, the practice is to hope for the best, rationalizing the agunah problem with statistics. “What,” we think, “are the chances of this happening to me or to my daughter?”

And yet our communities have overcome deep-seated reluctance in order to deal with other widespread problems. To cut down on the number of cases of genetic disease afflicting the Orthodox community, for example, practical yet dignified solutions were found. The community needed to find a way to assist individuals on a communal level and so now many Orthodox educational institutions routinely bring professionals into twelfth-grade classes to administer blood tests.

In this manner, the individual understands the implicit stamp of approval by the rabbanim and the fear of “what will others think?” is erased, since all are working toward the prevention of the problem.

Similarly, the leadership of each of the various Orthodox communities can make practical arrangements for prenup education with every educational institution – high school, yeshiva gedolah, seminary or college.

A service should be provided whereby every student, man or woman, who becomes engaged is called in. The school’s rabbi or counselor can present the couple with a halachic prenuptial agreement together with an explanation, and arrange for notarization services in the school’s office. In this manner the community will quickly understand that all are expected to sign a prenuptial agreement. It will become “automatic” – one of the things you have to arrange before you get married.

Even those who marry later, while no longer under the aegis of educational institutions, will remember to sign a prenuptial agreement since it will have become a standard part of the shidduch process.

Twenty-one rabbanim of one of Americas’ Orthodox communities – roshei yeshiva of Yeshiva University – recently signed a (second) kol koreh calling on all rabbis and the Orthodox community to promote the standard use of a halachic prenuptial agreement. They were spurred to do so by the Organization for the Resolution of Agunot. There are those who may feel YU or ORA is not their derech, but that does not relieve them of the responsibility to address the agunah problem in their own communities.

Will Your Children Sign a Halachic Prenuptial Agreement?

Sunday, July 1st, 2012

Did you know that in the United States, the probability of a first marriage ending in divorce is between 40%-50%, while in the United Kingdom, one in every three marriages that took place between 1995 and 2010 ended in divorce? In Israel the divorce rate is at around one third. Unfortunately, these figures have only grown in recent years. Therefore, when a couple gets married, the possibility of a future divorce is sadly neither impossible nor unrealistic.

With this in mind, when I recently wished a friend “Mazal Tov” on his daughter’s engagement, I broached the issue of prenuptial agreements in accordance with Jewish law. Though I discuss the topic all the time (not only with my kids, letting them know it’s a requirement as far as I’m concerned), I had never tried to encourage a rabbi, let alone a rosh yeshiva, of its importance. I was so relieved when my friend, a rosh yeshiva, turned to me and said, “Of course they’re signing one. People who don’t sign halachic prenuptial agreements are stupid.” I wish all my conversations on the subject were so easy, but the halachic prenup has not yet been accepted in all circles.

The purpose of the specific document, which must be done in accordance with Jewish law, is to make sure that no one person can blackmail another in order to receive a get, a Jewish divorce decree. Unfortunately, I have seen cases of this type of blackmail in my capacity as a financial advisor, so I know it happens. Such stories can be heartbreaking, with one side caught in limbo sometimes for many years.

So if you have a child getting married, make sure that he or she has a halachic prenuptial agreement signed well before getting to the chuppa. Even if your kids are too young to be in the dating world, start talking to them about it now, so it becomes just one more thing to check-off on the wedding to-do list.

For details on a halachic prenuptial agreement in Israel go to www.youngisraelrabbis.org.il/prenup.htm and in America go to www.theprenup.org/prenupforms.html.

Mazal tov, and may the bride and groom live happily ever after!

Three Cheers For IRF’s Mandating Prenuptial Agreements

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

The Orthodox community has recently been rattled by yet another high profile agunah situation – this time in Philadelphia and Washington. This was not the first nor will it be the last such case. We know that genuine halachically viable solutions to the agunah problem are hard to come by and might not even be within our grasp. But we also know the agunah problem can be functionally solved in practice, even if not in theory, and the solution is clear and obvious.

The Beth Din of America prenuptial agreement (which can be found at www.theprenup.org) really does work in almost all the cases actually presented in the United States. Its structure – payment of money until a Get is given – has a proven track record of actually delivering a Get case after case. It is the vaccine against the agunah problem. But, like all vaccines, it has to be used before one has the illness – taking a vaccine after the fact never works.

Indeed, all of us who are genuinely interested in actually solving the agunah problem have been pushing the Beth Din of America prenuptial agreement for years. YU roshei yeshiva have signed public letters backing it and many other halachic authorities have endorsed it as well. There is virtually no halachic controversy about its permissibility to use. The RCA has twice endorsed its use and encouraged its members to use it.

But yet the truth is that for a variety of reasons – nearly all social or political – the use of the Beth Din of America Prenuptial agreement is still uncommon outside of the Modern Orthodox community, and certainly not used 100 percent of the time even within it. Many RCA members do not use it.

The next step is obvious. We need to agree, as a community, that every Orthodox wedding has to have a prenuptial agreement addressing the giving and receiving of a Get. When every marriage is vaccinated against the possibility of the woman or man being an agunah, agunah matters will go the way of smallpox – they will functionally disappear as a problem even as we actually have no cure. A potent vaccine is as good as a cure. We all know this – but as is the case with many other communal matters within Orthodoxy, we lack the vision and authority and will to impose our solution on our community, even our own rabbinic community.

Not the International Rabbinic Fellowship. Recently, the IRF passed a resolution stating:

As a requirement of membership, IRF Rabbis may only officiate at a wedding where there is an IRF approved halachic prenuptial agreement, and IRF Rabbis are encouraged to participate ritually only in weddings with halachic prenuptial agreements.

This is obviously the right approach – rabbinical councils throughout America need to mandate the use of prenuptial agreements by all their members and not tolerate deviation on this matter. Marriages without such agreements produce cases of agunahs – no different from children without vaccinations contracting polio – and it is to credit of the IRF that they are the first rabbinic organization to mandate the right solution to the problem.

It is the IRF – and no other organization at this time – that is mandating what the rabbinical leadership at Yeshiva University is insisting is the critical step in purging our community of the distressful problem of the modern-day agunah.

Nobody is right about every matter every time, but the IRF deserves three cheers for getting this one very right. I hope other rabbinic organizations see the light and actually adopt policies with teeth that regulate conduct of their members in this area. We can cry over the problem of the agunah, or we can work to fix it as individual cases arise, or we can mandate that the problem be vaccinated against so it ceases to plague us. I vote for the latter solution as the best now available to us and I think we should mandate that no Orthodox rabbi perform weddings without a BDA prenuptial agreement.

If your rabbi belongs to an organization that does not mandate the use of any prenuptial agreement, ask him why that is the case. If your rabbi does weddings without using a prenuptial agreement, press him to stop doing such weddings and to mandate that no such weddings take place on the synagogue grounds.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/three-cheers-for-irfs-mandating-prenuptial-agreements/2012/05/23/

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