Jeremy Stern
Director of Partnerships, CauseMatch
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Why I rescinded my shul membership

He left his synagogue for failing to address the tragedy of "chained women" that plagues the Orthodox world

Two weeks ago, I rescinded my shul membership. The rabbi had made a public statement against the use of halachic prenuptial agreements. For me, he crossed a red line. I cannot identify with an institution whose religious leader opposes rectifying one of the worst desecrations of G-d’s name that currently plagues the Orthodox community.

Get recalcitrance is not only a violation of Jewish law, but a form of domestic abuse in and of itself. Domestic abuse is not just about black-and-blue marks, but about a repeated assertion of power and control from one spouse over the other. That is precisely what goes on when an estranged husband vindictively and sadistically refuses to issue a get long after the marriage has proven to be irreconcilable.

We cannot stand idly by while such abuse is perpetrated in our midst, and we cannot simply point fingers at others — rabbis in particular — to “fix” the problem. Simple solutions are rarely the cures for complex problems, and the agunah crisis is no exception. However, while a comprehensive solution to the agunah crisis may be beyond our grasp, there is one solution which has been extremely effective in preventing this problem going forward, and it is in our hands to implement: the halachic prenuptial agreement.

At the end of the day, we choose our rabbis, our rabbis don’t choose us. We hire our shul rabbis. We are the ones who vote them in and sign their contracts. It is up to us to make this a red-line issue. We must hire rabbis who will not only encourage the use of halachic prenups throughout the community, but insist upon their use whenever they officiate.

As a former shul president, I take shul membership very seriously. More important than the dollar amount of your membership donation is the fact that you become a part of something larger than yourself. With shul membership you are saying, “This is where I belong.”

So, I now belong to a different shul. Even if the ink is long dry on the rabbi’s contract and you’re new to your community, you can vote with your feet and choose to be a member of a shul where the agunah crisis is addressed head-on. Make this a priority.

The agunot who are suffering in silence deserve no less.

About the Author
Jeremy Stern is the Director of Partnerships at CauseMatch, an Israel-based digital fundraising platform. Previously, he served in leadership positions at the Organization for the Resolution of Agunot, Tzohar, and Ohr Torah Stone. He lives in Efrat with his wife and children.
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