A year has passed and the outrageous stories of Get-refusal continue to shame Jewish communities – both in the eyes of Jews and in the eyes of general society. We have witnessed women suffering as agunahs in all the Orthodox sectors— yeshivish, chassidish, Modern Orthodox and everything 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 agunahs and their children.
When a husband refuses to give his wife a Get, the victims of that 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 rabbanim of the bet din involved in trying to resolve the 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.
Many Orthodox leaders have recommended the signing of a halachic prenuptial agreement for the prevention of Get-refusal. Many others, however, feel uncomfortable with the suggestion, each for his own reasons. No one, however, can deny that in both the United States and Israel a halachic prenuptial agreement for the prevention of Get-refusal has proved to be one-hundred percent effective. These are the words of Rabbi Yona Reiss, current av bet din of the Chicago Rabbinical Council.
With that in mind, I turn to 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 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 motzaei Shabbos, over 200 people crowded into a shul in Efrat. More than ninety married couples from all over Gush Etzion came to sign a halachic postnuptial agreement. Ranging from newlyweds to a couple who celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary by signing a postnuptial 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 couples 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!
Joining together with the many couples in various stages of marriage, every individual felt uplifted. The understanding dawned on everyone there that while they were all there to protect their own families, they were also 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 Postnuptial 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.
We raise children knowing they may not always do as we say – but as they reach adulthood they indeed do as we do. Combine that with the responsibility that lies on a parent’s shoulder, and one reaches the conclusion that parents must sign a prenuptial agreement for the prevention of Get-refusal. This is the only surefire method of protecting our daughters.
International Agunah Day is marked yearly on Ta’anit Esther – this year on Wed., March 23.