Dear Mrs. Bluth,
I read your column the moment The Jewish Press lands on my doorstep. You can’t imagine how many times you’ve helped me out by the answers you give and have saved me from many troubling situations. But now it’s my turn to write to you and, hopefully, your response will help me and many others going through the same misery I am. Yes, sad to say, I have become a statistic of the never ending divorce/bais din saga, the gift that keeps on giving!
I am a divorced mother of four children who, baruch Hashem, I have sole custody of. I can’t begin to tell you about the misery I was put through in bais din where the rabbonim made me feel like I was responsible for everything that went wrong in my marriage. I had a toain who was absolutely useless and his ridiculous defense only added to the all male circus atmosphere. From what I have learned from others in my unique club of misery is that batei din almost always support the men, it is a glorified religious front that is a cover for an all male boys club, where women come to be ridiculed, belittled and excoriated until there is nothing left of their self esteem or sense of dignity when they leave.
Why is it that bais din is so tolerant of the men and so quick to vilify the women? I know from experience that by the time the rabbonim pick everything apart, the meat and potatoes will belong to the men and the bones thrown to the women. Men get to keep control of everything, the kids, the decision making, where they go to camp and to what yeshivas they should be sent, with the bill going to the wife who doesn’t know where her next dollar is coming from because it certainly isn’t coming from her ex. Even in the rare instances when the man is supposed to pay for tuitions, food, medical expenses, clothes for his kids post ‘gett‘, a strange thing happens, the ex refuses to pay, claiming he has no money, lost his job, is terminally ill and thus should be excused from his obligations and any other ridiculous excuse, because he knows the bais din has no muscle to enforce their judgement. Even after hiring a a private detective who produced proof that there was plenty of money at the end of the well-concealed paper trail, there is no way to do anything about it. Those women who go to secular court to get their divorce come away with far more justice than they receive from bais din.
I am post divorce for over two years now and many of my friends are comprised of women who have gone through the same horrors I have. It is the glue that binds us together and we have formed a tight bond where we help each other out as is needed, as best we can. I work two jobs to make ends meet and my parents help cover the rest along with babysitting and homework detail, so that I can keep our heads above water. The best part of this is that my children have not seen their father for the last year and a half because I took him to court to fight for a fair judgement for support and visitation, both things he would not provide. So he vanished out of our lives and this was accomplished by a court of law, a just judge who saw through the ridiculousness of the bais din’s rulings and gave me the house I live in and the freedom from a horrible and unjust gett.
A long time ago, when this column used to be known as the ‘Agunah Chronicles’ I would get bags filled with letters describing the horrors of bais din and the unbelievable lengths to which many men would go to back away from the responsibilities to the wife and children they were in such a hurry to leave behind. Many of them did terrible things to hide their assets so as not to have to part with a penny, many did awful and devious things, spread horrible lies, in order to damage their ex-wives reputation in order to come out looking like a knight in shining armor. In those cases, with the poor wife appearing unstable, and unable to keep the marriage alive and making the husband appear to be the victim, it left the women broken and abandoned by their communities and had to give up rights to their children.
I have seen and heard such decimating things it makes me wonder how we could ever expect Moshiach to reveal himself to such a heathenous, godless people. But something wonderful was born out of that misery. The Agunah Chronicles, through the magnanimous graces of The Jewish Press, that gave a voice and a platform to these down trodden women exposing the monumental injustices forced upon them by the very institution that should have upheld da’as Torah on their behalf and the concern for their children.
We’re not all the way there yet, but we’ve come a long way from the draconian era of the trials and tribulations of the agunah in bais din. So many wonderful organizations were birthed from that column to help the abused, neglected and traumatized women trapped in dead marriages. So, two steps forward and sometimes one step back, but we have hope and faith that the Borei Olam will guide us on His path and help us right some of the wrongs.