Rachel Levmore

Learn from International Agunah Day 5774 – 2014

The post in the list-serve pleaded: “A 27 year old aguna living in Yerushalayim who is poor and from a very poor family has been waiting for three years to receive a Get. Her husband is demanding 15,000 shekel as a “payment” for the Get. She was advised by an excellent lawyer that the best thing to do is to pay him off and get the Get asap. B’H her friends and other wonderful people have collected most of the money, but they still need 5,000 shekel more. If you would like to participate in this great mitzva of Pidyon Shvuyim, please call …” (Feb 2014)

The article in the New York Post cried:

“We’ve tried everything — the informal route, negotiations. I’ve asked him myself, my parents have asked his, our camp tries to reason with his camp, but, counting down from the time when he sued for custody in March 2010 and I first asked him for a get, we’ve been shut down for 3¹/₂ years.” (Gital Dodelson, The New York Post, November 4, 2013, [Gital did receive her get in February]

The rabbi-blogger posted:

“This case has been ongoing for about three years. It was kept quiet in the hope that the case would be resolved behind closed doors. Unfortunately, that ship has sailed and the couple’s wedding mailing list was informed that a get is being withheld by a young man and his family. The letter asks those who came to celebrate at the wedding six years ago to send a “response card” to the young man’s family demanding that he give the get.” (Rabbi Eliyahu Fink, Feb 2014)

The NY Daily News exposed:

“Two rabbis plotted to kidnap Jewish husbands, torture them with electric cattle prods and force them to grant their desperate wives religious divorces, the feds charged …The gray-bearded rabbi was arrested Wednesday night when the FBI raided his Kensington home and locations in New Jersey and at the Orthodox Jewish enclave of Monsey.” (Oren Yaniv, NY Daily News, Oct 10, 2013)

The poor anonymous agunah in Jerusalem; the well-spoken agunah, whose husband is a scion to a rabbinic luminary in New York; the technologically-gifted rabbi in Venice, California; the Brooklyn ultra-Orthodox rabbi who physically tried to coerce get-refusers:  Together they represent ALL of Orthodox Jewry—whether they call it the “frum world”, the “Orthodox community”, the “yeshivish”, the “chasiddish”, or just plain “yidden”. All suffered failed attempts to dissolve Jewish marriages in a dignified manner. All are victims of the husband’s controlling behavior. All have felt the domestic abuse of a get-refuser. All are helpless when faced with any husband who chooses to exert the power he has — due to the fact that the rabbinic leaders have not stopped him from doing so.

Yet, as previously explained in The Times of Israel:

“Both in the United States, in the form of the Beth Din of America’s Binding Arbitration Agreement (, and in Israel through the Agreement for Mutual Respect – Hesekem L’Kavod Hadadi (, it [the prenup] has worked every time – a get was given by the husband after his initial refusal to do so, spurred by the agreement.” (Rachel Levmore, “For many potential agunot halachic prenups indeed break their chains“, Times of Israel, Dec. 15, 2013)

And as the Jerusalem Post reported:

“Chief Rabbi [of Uruguay Ben-Tzion] Spitz not only authorized the use of a prenuptial agreement designed to prevent get-refusal, he mandated its use.” (Rachel Levmore, “Model Rabbinic Leadership“, Jerusalem Post, Feb.6 2014)

Jews love to learn. What do we learn from this very limited selection of quotes regarding agunot in the past few months?

If one rabbi and one woman can protect their respective groups of followers—we learn that the other leaders of the Orthodox world are choosing to be held back! All the Orthodox rabbis the world-over are responsible for the future ruined lives of the daughters of Israel and their families. All the rabbis can prevent get-refusal from arising – whether those rabbis are addressed as Chief-Rabbi, Rabbi, Rebbe, Rov or HaRav. All the teachers, all the parents, all of the communities, all of us are responsible.

It is your responsibility, just like it is mine, to ensure that every marrying couple signs a prenuptial agreement for the prevention of get-refusal.

International Agunah Day is signified annually on the day of Ta’anit Esther-March 13th.

The International Young Israel Movement in Israel will be sponsoring an event together with the Jewish Agency to be held Saturday night March 8th in cooperation with Beit Knesset HaNassi, at 8 PM at 24 Ussishkin, Jerusalem. The two speakers to be featured at “Jewish Divorce: The Halakha in Action and Halakhic Solutions to the Agunah Problem” are Rabbi Simcha Krauss and Dr. Rachel Levmore. The public is invited to come learn how every person can help eradicate the agunah problem.

About the Author
Rachel Levmore, PhD in Talmud and Jewish Law from Bar Ilan University, is the director of the Agunah and Get-Refusal Prevention Project of Young Israel - Israel Region and the Jewish Agency; one of the authors of the prenuptial "Agreement for Mutual Respect"; author of "Min'ee Einayich Medim'a" on prenuptial agreements for the prevention of get-refusal; member of Beit Hillel-Attentive Spiritual Leadership; and the first female Rabbinical Court Advocate to serve on the Israel Commission for the Appointment of Rabbinical Court Judges.
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