In a rare, possibly precedence-setting ruling against the troubling phenomenon of men refusing to release their wives from unwanted religious-Jewish marriages, the Jerusalem Rabbinical Court last week sanctioned that a specific get-refuser should be denied housing by any property owners—including his current landlord.
The case involved a couple who married in 2006 and had five children before the marriage began to deteriorate after about ten years. In 2017, the wife officially began divorce proceedings in the Jerusalem Rabbinical Court but was largely ignored by the husband, who repeatedly refused her requests for a get, claiming that he still loved her and that she was being manipulated by others who were opposed to the marriage.
In 2019, with representation by the Yad La’isha Legal Aid Center, part of the Ohr Torah Stone network, the Court imposed a legal demand for the husband’s compliance and issued a series of sanctions against him upon his continued refusal.
However, Yad La’isha advocate Dina Raitchik explained that the nature of this man’s refusal made it clear that additional measures would likely be necessary. “We realized that the more commonly used sanctions – such as nullifying his driver’s license or even putting a hold on financial accounts – would have only a limited impact because he didn’t drive and his accounts had already been frozen because of previous legal and financial issues. As the individual was from the Haredi community, we favored imposing more halakhically-oriented options like refusal to accept him as part of a prayer quorum, or forbidding him from learning in public Torah-learning forums, and so forth.”
Those measures also had limited success as the kollel where the man was learning refused to comply with the sanctions and even requested that the court nullify them. Despite their request being denied by the court, the kollel continued to defend the man and welcomed him to learn and pray with no reservation.
In response, Yad La’isha demanded that the head of the kollel appear before the Rabbinical Court, but several days before he was scheduled to present testimony, the kollel agreed that the recalcitrant husband would no longer be accepted in their midst. Except that, according to Raitchik, as soon as the planned date of the hearing passed, the kollel again reneged, and the man was welcomed back.
“Not only did they accept him with open arms, but they even contributed 10,000 shekels to address a court order he faced over absent alimony payments, which if left unpaid would have led to his arrest,” Raitchik said.
Raitchik commended the Rabbinical Court for their determination towards resolving the case but says that with the ongoing support of the kollel and the man’s community, those actions would have limited impact.
As a result, Yad La’isha took additional measures and requested that the court impose a ruling prohibiting the man’s landlord from renewing his rental agreement, which was coming to an end. In a rare, possibly precedential decision, the Rabbinical Court agreed and even instructed any other landlords in Israel to avoid renting to the man. In its decision, the Court cited halakhic sources as well as prior Israeli High Court decisions.
“We thank the Rabbinical Court for accepting our request, and hope and expect that this man’s community will comply with it as well as the previous decisions made in this case so that this deeply unfortunate and painful case can be resolved after nearly five years of captivity,” said Adv. Raitchik.
Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Brander, President and Rosh HaYeshiva of the Ohr Torah Stone network said: “The ruling in this case represents a further example of the dedication, creativity, and expertise displayed daily by our team of women rabbinical court advocates, lawyers, and social workers. We have been working to free chained women for over 20 years and will continue to do in the constant pursuit of justice.”