JOFA Statement About the Arrest of Rabbis Using Violence to Force Men to Grant Their Wives a Gett

New York, NY, November 5, 2013 - Recent news stories regarding divorces being obtained through violent and criminal means have caused concern about how the Orthodox community is dealing with agunot, women chained in unwanted marriages. JOFA responds to these concerns as follows:

  1. We unequivocally condemn the practice in which rabbis, under the guise of freeing women from their dead marriages, are abusing vulnerable women by extorting them and suggesting it is safe to engage in criminal activity.
  2. This awful series of events is a result of the ongoing situation in which rabbis fail to find viable lawful solutions to the problems of freeing Jewish women from a dead marriage. Rabbis who leave women chained in unwanted marriages are complicit in this story,, which endangers Jewish women, instead of helping them. Women are treated as second class citizen in divorce practices in Judaism because no rabbis have come to their rescue by using legitimate means available to them, thus leaving them prey to unscrupulous rabbis who use unlawful means. While these men clearly misused their authority and relied on the terrible means of violence, kidnapping and extortion, it must be noted that this is an outcome of the untenable situation of women denied divorce under Jewish law and unequal exit power from marriage in Judaism. Contemporary rabbinic failure to protect women from unwanted marriages has created this horrific situation.
  3. Until there are viable Jewish legal remedies which are fair to women and men, all Jews are in danger of ridicule and disdain. It is an embarrassment that viable, lawful Jewish solutions have not been implemented.
  4. JOFA believes Rabbis must take responsibility for finding better ways to deal with Jewish divorce and for bringing these solutions into the mainstream of Jewish law. We commend Rabbis who are working in this direction.
  5. We applaud those women who, despite their enormous suffering, remain committed to resolving this problem in legal and non-violent means

If you agree with these sentiments, then tell your rabbis. Tell them that they must represent Jewish women’s interests and implement legitimate and legal solutions in freeing agunot. Ask your rabbis specifically what they are going to do to see this problem is solved. Tell them you want community education about solutions, and demand that batei din act legally both within halachah and within the law of the land.

To learn more about JOFA’s work on behalf of agunot, come to the 8th International JOFA Conference, on December 7-8, which will feature panels and discussions about the current agunah crisis. www.jofa.org/2013conference

To learn more about JOFA’s position on agunot, click here