Raising Consciousness about the Agunah Crisis -By Rabbi Hyim Shafner

This past Sunday  our congregation, Bais Abraham in St. Louis, Missouri, hosted a post-nup signing event with the aim of prompting the whole shul and much of the community to sign the RCA post-nup and to raise consciousness for the plight of Agunot, women chained in a marriage by a recalcitrant husband who refuses to grant them a religious divorce.  The event was co-sponsored by two other local Orthodox synagogues, Young Israel of St. Louis and Nusach Hari B’nai Zion.   Rabbi Yonah Reiss, the new head of the Beit Din of the Chicago Rabbinical Council spoke at the event followed by a mass post-nup signing and a party. I think as shuls and communities host more and more public post-nup signings the entire Orthodox community will follow suit and this will serve as a bulwark against get recalcitrance.  Chazal, the Rabbis of the Talmud, instituted the Kitubah precisely to protect women financially, emotionally and physically in case of divorce.  If they lived today they would be standing with us and requiring all Rabbis to ensure every couple has a pre or post nuptual agreement.   HERE is a link to some of the press.

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5 Responses to Raising Consciousness about the Agunah Crisis -By Rabbi Hyim Shafner

  1. Mr. Cohen says:

    I agree that we should take action to prevent Jewish women from becoming agunot.

    But something bothers me about the pre-marriage agreement:
    It is a one-sided document designed to help the women, without doing anything to help the men.

    For example: the pre-marriage agreement penalizes husbands who refuse to give Jewish religious divorces (gittin) to their wives, but does not penalize wives who refuse to accept Jewish religious divorces (gittin) from their husbands. I want the pre-marriage agreement to include a clause prohibiting the wives from refusing to accept gittin. If she violates this clause, then she will be fined.

    I want the pre-marriage agreement to include a clause prohibiting the wives from saying or doing things to make the children hate or disrespect their fathers (which is a big violation of Torah law anyway), even if the marriage ends in divorce. If she violates this clause, then she will be fined.

    I want the pre-marriage agreement to include a clause prohibiting the wives from spreading rumors against their husbands (which is a big violation of Torah law anyway), even if the marriage ends in divorce. If she violates this clause, then she will be fined.

    The ketubah is one-sided document designed to help the women, without doing anything to help the men; the last thing we need is another one-sided agreement designed to help the women, without doing anything to help the men, especially considering the one-sided American divorce courts that usually give the women everything they want at the expense of the men.

    • Hyim Shafner says:

      In terms of accepting a get men have access to a heter mayah rabbanim which women do not.

      • Mr. Cohen says:

        What you say is true in theory. But practically speaking, some husbands do not have access to 100 Rabbis if they live in remote areas, or they don’t know how to do it.

        I believe we are still better off with the clause I suggested than without it.

      • Mr. Cohen says:

        QUESTION:
        What about the Heter Meah Rabonim?

        ANSWER:
        If one out of three Orthodox Rabbis will sign a Heter Meah Rabonim, then a Jewish husband must approach 300 Orthodox Rabbis to gather the 100 signatures he needs to divorce his wife who refuses to accept a get.

        If one out of seven Orthodox Rabbis will sign a Heter Meah Rabonim, then a Jewish husband must approach 700 Orthodox Rabbis to gather the 100 signatures he needs to divorce his wife who refuses to accept a get.

        What if the husband does not have the time or the money or the strength to present his case to 300 Orthodox Rabbis or 500 Orthodox Rabbis or 750 Orthodox Rabbis?

        If the husband lives in a remote area where there are few Rabbis, like Montana or Arizona, then gathering the signatures will involve considerable travel and time and expense. The husband would need to make a multi-month visit to New York City or Jerusalem. This means taking time away from work plus airfare and hotel expenses.

  2. The heter me’ah rabonim is like a liberal who understands economics. Everyone’s heard that one’s out there but no one has actually seen it.
    This is the problem with golus Judaism – everything’s a ritual and when someone doesn’t want to perform his part he gets pilloried.
    Giving the get is not a religious ritual, it’s a legal procedure. In Jewish law, as much as you might not like it, divorce is initiated by the man. A woman who stands up and says “I want a divorce!” has not uttered any statement of legal significance. Therefore a man has no legal obligation to hand this get over.
    Consider the current state of family courts. Unless the woman shows up naked and drooling she is almost always automatically handed controlling custody of the children. The law might say 50% when it comes to splitting property but what 50% means is “everything that can be squeezed out of the guy”. A woman can insinuate that her husband was abusive to the children and without any need to prove it the custody arrangements will be made to exclude him. The legal system has done everything it can to ensure that divorce is an adversarial process and the only thing the man has on his side is the decision when to give the get. A pre-nup essentially leaves him completely without any advantages in what is almost always a nasty fight and you want to take that away from him?

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