The Chains that Bind

(Cross posted on Dov Bear)Breaking-The-Chains-Of-Debt

I was pointed to this article in the Jewish Chronicle.  It is about a TV documentary that talks about the plight of Agunot – Jewish women whose husbands will not give them a Get, keeping them chained forever. Miriam Saleh, a mother of two sons, one of the women interviewed for the television show, is a religious woman. She tried desperately for 5 years to obtain her Get, only to be repeatedly disappointed. Finally, she went to a non-orthodox bet din to obtain her Get, as she had enough frustration and wanted to carry on with her life. Her religious observance has not changed, she is still devoted to Orthodox Judaism, but feels that it is misogynistic, at least in this regard.

I was fortunate enough to obtain my Get without a hitch. But what would I have done had I been in Ms Saleh’s situation? It is so hard for us to judge, but there will be those in her community who will now be doing just that. She is concerned she will be shunned because she is now speaking out about the unfairness of it all.

Kudos to her for doing what she needed to do to move on with her life. I feel so saddened that it took this long, and that it took so much out of her to get to this point. Is there nothing that can be done in this day and age to convince a recalcitrant spouse to grant his wife a divorce? This couple already have a civil divorce, what is the point of not granting the Get other than pure anger and resentment? Does he not want to carry on with his life? Should HE want to marry again, he would grant the Orthodox Get in a heartbeat.

What can be done to change this situation?

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  1. Lady Lock and Load says:

    Did Mirriam Saleh remarry? If she does and has more children, those children would be considered mamzairim I think.

  2. Tzvi Haber says:

    Although I feel terrible for her, this was not a smart move on her part. (yes HSM, I disagree with your kudos :)) As Lady said she will make her childrens lives very difficult. What to do? have the community ostracize him, not let him shop in local establishments or daven in local shuls.

  3. Chanief says:

    The concept of an agunah has always been a pet peeve of mine with regard to the Orthodox community. It is beyond ridiculous and unfair that women can be and are essentially held hostage in this way. I can think of ways to remedy the situation but none of them would be considered orthodox ;o)

  4. Tzvi Haber says:

    Incidentally, men can be held almost equally hostage, and are frequently, since the woman has to accept the get

  5. Mark says:

    Tzvi Haber – What to do?

    The Rabbanim have to get together and change the rules. The rule that the Get has to be freely given and freely accepted has to be changed. I would suggest 3 tries willingly and then the Bet Din can declare it unwillingly.

    If the Rabbanim can change the rules from polygamy to monogamy, and turning chicken into meat, they can certainly make this change which is a smaller one!

  6. Raizy says:

    Denying a get to a woman who is asking for one is cruel and humiliating. It took two years for my ex-husband to give me a get. During that time, I was subjected to repeated threats, harassment, and blackmail. It was only because he saw that I would not give in to him at all did he finally give up and “grant” me the get that should have been mine all along. The final humiliation was sitting in the Beit Din as the Rabbi held the completed get in his hand and told me that in order to receive it, I had to waive my right to receive any property settlement or alimony.
    The system of Jewish divorce needs a major overhaul.

  7. Ari says:

    As we established in a previous thread, a lot of what passes for halacha, is really just custom. And so, it becomes a chicken-and-egg problem when it comes to introducing halachically-acceptable changes. Many orthodox rabbis say they would adopt changes if others were doing so, but are reluctant to make the first move.

    That’s a long winded way of saying that some people have begun signing pre-nuptials, which basically has the husband agree to provide a get if the wife requires one. The rabbi who married us was reluctant to adminster this, although he admitted there was no halachic problem with the concept. So, we had another family rabbi administer the pre-nup. If more people did this, we wouldn’t have this awful problem.

  8. Z! says:

    It’s so sad because the ketubah was originally written with the rights of women in mind.

  9. Shulamis says:

    The Agunah problem is getting worse and worse, especially in the US, not only because of men being mean and nasty but also because of so called “religious” and “orthodox” women that after having the GET without any conditions they go and fight their husbands in the court denying them the legal divorce. More and more man today tie the GET and monetary issues together to avoid the legal divorce gridlock. I am not saying that it is fair, but there is always another side to the story. And this side is not that pretty.

    I wonder if there is any statistics, how many men in Jewish community are AGUNIM within the legal divorce. I personally know at least 4 people who cannot get legal divorce for 3 and more years. One of them is my husband – he is in courts for 6 years already with no end.

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