October 16th, 2019
JOFA Calls For Action To End The Agunah Crisis
Earlier this week Israeli media reported an incident in which the country's Chief Rabbi David Lau refused to allow for the burial in Jerusalem of a man's mother until he agreed to deliver a gett (writ of divorce) to his estranged wife. This unnamed man has been refusing to grant a gett for 14 years, though he has since remarried. Bowing to those pressures, the recalcitrant husband agreed to give his wife a gett only to go back on his word after the burial of his mother. This incident has once again brought to light the plight of the Agunah.
Rabbi Lau’s tepid reaction to what amounts to this man's mockery of a halakhic ruling and his disregard for another’s life falls woefully short of what should have been his response given the gravity of what is at stake -- a woman’s freedom. Thus, we call on the Chief Rabbi to rise to the responsibility his office vests in him: to hold the recalcitrant husband accountable; to mobilize action on behalf of this chained woman; and to take the necessary steps to address the Agunah problem in a comprehensive manner. The failure to institute a permanent and systemic (i.e., halakhic) solution to the Agunah crisis is a moral failure of our rabbinic leaders, one that must be addressed.
Make no mistake, gett refusal is abusive behavior. When one party holds up the divorce process out of vindictiveness, it violates the norms of kiddush Hashem and kavod habriot, the deeply rooted values of sanctifying God’s precious Name and honoring one another.
We must name those rabbis and religious courts that openly favor men who allow this perversion of halakha to continue. Without such action, we allow coercive and unethical behavior to continue without repercussions.
Therefore, we call on our rabbinic leadership to stop enabling abusers. We call on them to enact a systemic solution to end this ongoing crisis.
May 16th, 2019
JOFA Statement on Recent Abortion Legislation
JOFA’s position has consistently been that women and couples should consult their physicians and personal halakhic advisers in making decisions about abortion and reproductive health care without the involvement of the government. We support every woman’s legal right to make decisions about and have control over her own body.
We are deeply troubled by the recent and pending passage of some of the most restrictive abortion legislation in decades in states across the country. Halakha, as it relates to abortion, is complex and psak is informed by the specifics of each case. We urge the lawmakers who are considering pending legislation to be respectful of a woman’s right to make the best and most appropriate decisions for herself and her family.
February 1, 2019
JOFA Statement on Reproductive Health Act
JOFA applauds the New York State Legislature on the passage of the Reproductive Health Act, a law that protects the health care provider and which ensures safeguards and protections for the life and health of a pregnant woman at any stage of her pregnancy. JOFA’s position has always been that women and couples should consult their physicians and personal halakhic advisers in making these types of decisions without the involvement of the government. We support every woman’s legal right to make decisions about and have control over her own body.
We are deeply troubled by recent statements issued by the Rabbinical Council of America, the National Council of Young Israel and the Agudath Israel of America about the passage of this bill. Halakha, as it relates to abortion, is complex and psak is informed by the specifics of each case. These statement positions, written by male led rabbinic governing bodies, are replete with inflammatory and divisive language which is lacking in any nuance. Moreover, they demonstrate shocking insensitivity to those women and couples who, for a variety of reasons, must consider whether to seek an abortion. We urge these organizations to reconsider their rhetoric and engage in this discussion in a manner which is respectful of a woman’s right to consult her physician and halakhic advisor and make the best and most appropriate decisions for herself and her family.
April 14, 2019
JOFA Statement on Vaccinations
Recent measles outbreaks in our communities and elsewhere have raised concerns regarding the health and well-being of our families and communities. It is well-established that preserving life and maintaining health are core halakhic mandates. The reality is that, often, women are the ones to take the lead in these family matters.
Given the current medical crisis, JOFA urges every individual to follow the vaccination schedule as prescribed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If there is a doubt as to continued immunity, we encourage blood tests to check for measles antibodies and, if necessary, booster shots. Moreover, JOFA encourages all members of our communities to use their voices to inquire about the vaccination policies of their families’ schools, camps, youth groups and synagogues and to lean in with rabbinic authorities who have the ability and capacity to influence institutional policies. This includes education, outreach and enforcement. We are obligated to take steps to protect our health and the health of our families and demand that our institutions do everything in their power to do the same.
January 31, 2019
JOFA Statement on Child Victims Act
JOFA applauds the New York State Legislature on the passage of the Child Victims Act. By extending the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse, this necessary legislation will prevent abusers from being able to escape the consequences of their actions simply because of the passage of time. Time most certainly will not have erased the pain and damage inflicted on the survivors of child sexual abuse. Also, it may take years for survivors of child sex abuse to recognize and name the crimes committed against them and be able to publicly identify their perpetrators. We are therefore dismayed that Agudath Israel of America has repeated their opposition to the bill, the basis for their opposition resting on the financial viability of the institutions that associate with these predators. These very concerns lead to repeated failures on the part of faith-based communities to publicize, identify and prosecute sexual predators. It is all too common to discover institutional leadership that failed to take action in order to avoid unwanted attention to themselves or risk retribution from the abusers.
We are troubled that even with all the evidence of sexual abuse by those in positions of religious leadership, the Agudah chooses to shield its schools, houses of worship, youth group programs, summer camps and other institutions. Its leadership maintains that these brick and mortar centers are the “very lifeblood of communities like ours,” when in fact protecting lives – especially the most vulnerable – should be the most important value. We urge the Agudah to endorse the provisions of this bill in order to ensure that such abuses are prevented in the first place, to hold the perpetrators accountable and to enable survivors to heal no matter the passage of time.