The get-refusal problem should have been solved more than 30 years ago - opinion

Published date12 March 2022
Publication titleJerusalem Post, The: Web Edition Articles (Israel)
How can it be that in the 30 years since this law has been enacted, women can still not marry or divorce freely? Why has the issue of agunah – women refused a divorce by their husbands – not been solved

Rachel (an alias for privacy reasons) began enduring horrific physical and verbal abuse shortly after she married. She had one young child and the couple decided to divorce. Her husband fled the country to avoid paying alimony and did not give Rachel a get (a Jewish bill of divorce). After 20 years of agunah, Mavoi Satum, an organization fighting for the rights of agunah, represented her in the beit din, the rabbinic court.

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At that point, the beit din ordered him to give the get but claimed that because Rachel's husband was not in Israel, they could not enforce the order or apply sanctions. Because the rabbinate failed to find a solution for her, Rachel has been an agunah for more than 30 years. Her dreams to remarry and start a new family could never be realized. Today, Rachel is nearly 60 years old and still married to her abuser, with no hope in sight to ever receive her freedom.

One in five women is faced with agunah when divorcing. Close to 2,000 women a year grapple with agunah. How is it possible that in 2022, in a modern and progressive country we remain unwilling and/or unable to address such human tragedy? Some choose to blame Halacha (Jewish Law). The main claim I hear in response to this topic is: "This is a halachic issue and is not easy to solve. We cannot risk potential mamzerim because of being lenient when it comes to dissolving a marriage."

This fear is misguided; there are halachic solutions to this matter. We as a society must be willing to take any steps possible to free women from being caged in dead marriages. There are religious scholars who have taken brave steps to create change.

For example, the late rabbi Simcha Krauss fought tirelessly to help solve this issue, despite being the target of scathing backlash. Unfortunately, rabbis like him are not the mainstream. The majority of rabbis that occupy the seats in the rabbinate seem apathetic and disinclined to utilize the halachic tools available to them to end the suffering of so many women.

Perhaps most striking is that when the rabbinate is presented with a case it feels must be solved, suddenly there are acceptable solutions. Shira Isakov...

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