Yigal M. Gross
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Halftime in Staten Island

The pain that Avrohom Weiss's family is causing his chained wife is now boomeranging back onto them -- time to end the game

It’s halftime in Staten Island.

Ten days after the New York Post article first appeared and Gital Dodelson introduced Avrohom Meir Weiss’s get-refusal to the world, it’s time for Avrohom Meir and the broader Weiss and Feinstein families to do what they have resisted doing for the past four years. It’s time for them to think about themselves.

Yes, you heard me right – they need to think about themselves. Because if they thought about themselves—if they cared about themselves—they would not do what they’re doing. The words that come to mind when one thinks of a family that insists upon chaining a woman to a dead marriage to extract an “agreement to arbitrate” in the face of thousands of well-organized and highly outraged community members are not principle and bravery. They’re lunacy and suicide.

Team Avrohom Meir, now that you’ve turned off your phones because of all the angry calls, shut down your email accounts because of all the angry mail, and barricaded yourself in your homes so as not to confront the world outside or because you have nowhere really to go as the number of places that will host you gradually shrinks, why not take some time to do a (perhaps painful, but entirely necessary) cost-benefit analysis. Ask yourselves — is whatever it is that you’re holding out for worth all of this?

Is increased visitation worth the angry phone calls in the middle of the night? Is it worth having a young man’s picture plastered all over the internet, before thousands of people, as a “Get-refuser”? A young man who could have—and should have—moved on with his life: married a loving wife, had more children, and perhaps, like his forbearers, gone on to a promising rabbinic career? What Avrohom Meir did to Gital is horrible. But what he has done to himself—what his family, with almost sadistic indifference, allowed him to do to himself—is cataclysmically worse. There is no wound more painful and unforgiveable than that which is self-inflicted.

Is $350,000 worth two prominent authors, who have dedicated their lives to teaching, being subjected to a relentless public campaign and ousted from Orthodoxy’s premier publishing house in shame? Is it worth the damage to the Feinstein brand? Consider the humiliation of Rav Reuven Feinstein—a once universally-respected rabbinic authority—who now needs to hide his speaking engagements because he is followed by protestors rather than students. And to a once-prestigious family, now so isolated that the furthest degree of separation between Avrohom Meir and a respected Rav who will endorse him is his very own great uncle.

That’s the situation in Staten Island at halftime. A battered, bruised family, fallen from grace, virtually destroyed by its stubborn arrogance.

At this point, the question for Team Avrohom Meir is very simple: do they have the intellectual honesty and maturity to recognize that the fight is lost? In the end, one way or another, a get will be given. The choice they face is simply how much more punishment to needlessly inflict upon themselves before getting there.

Team Avrohom Meir, the first half was bad, but the second half stands to be dramatically worse.

At halftime, Team Avrohom Meir faces a well-organized and impassioned group of almost 14,000 people, fresh off two successive victories—against Artscroll and against Ohav Emeth—ready to launch a relentless campaign against their Team Avrohom Meir’s institutional (and financial) pillars, MTJ and YSI. Team Avrohom Meir, let me give you some friendly advice: if you go 0-2, don’t go all-in on a third hand. Pursuing an increasingly losing effort with increasingly greater stakes is not a strategy, it is insanity.

Indeed, at halftime, there are other people in Staten Island who are doing some soul-searching about Team Avrohom Meir’s strategy. Students at MTJ and YSI are more than a little concerned by this rather shocking display of nepotism—that their institution is willing to jeopardize its legitimacy and, by extension, the legitimacy of its students, in order to promote the interests of its Rosh Yeshiva’s grandchild. Community members are asking themselves if they’re really interested in seeing protestors outside their homes. Both are asking – do we really want to play with such a reckless team in the next half?

At halftime, faced with such a bleak picture, there is only one sensible thing for Team Avrohom Meir to do — end the game and give the get.

About the Author
Yigal M. Gross is an attorney who lives in Teaneck, New Jersey with his wife Tamar Warburg and their children Ella, Sara, Yonatan, Aviva and Norman.