Get re­fuser named and shamed

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY JOANNE GREEN­AWAY Joanne Green­away is a lawyer and the get case­worker at the Lon­don Beth Din

TO­DAY THE Lon­don Beth Din has is­sued an ad­vert in the case of John Abaya­hou­dayan, who has re­fused to grant his wife, Rivkah, a get (a Jewish di­vorce) for 15 years.

We urge Mr Abaya­hou­dayan to do what is proper ac­cord­ing to Jewish law and moral­ity and re­lease Rivkah from be­ing an agu­nah.

Ac­cord­ing to Jewish law, a cou­ple must go through the get process in or­der to be able to re­marry and form a new fam­ily. This process re­quires a man to freely give a get and a woman to freely re­ceive it. Like Jewish mar­riage, the get is a pri­vate ar­range­ment and can­not be im­posed uni­lat­er­ally by any author­ity. This is the foundation of Jewish di­vorce and part of the in­ter­na­tion­ally recog­nised ha­lachic frame­work within which we work.

The Chief Rabbi and Lon­don Beth Din are de­ter­mined to en­sure that the process is not abused and that peo­ple are not pre­vented from mov­ing on with their lives when a mar­riage has clearly bro­ken down.

In many cases, re­fus­ing a get is sim­ply a form of abuse whereby one party wields power over an­other. Such use of the get as lever­age within the con­text of civil pro­ceed­ings is an ab­hor­rent way of ex­tract­ing greater con­ces­sions than the courts would oth­er­wise award.

The im­pact of get re­fusal can be dev­as­tat­ing. It robs the woman of her right to re­marry and find new hap­pi­ness. Even if re­mar­riage is not a con­sid­er­a­tion, the psy­cho­log­i­cal ef­fect of be­ing locked into a failed mar­riage is tremen­dously dam­ag­ing.

Any child born of a woman’s fu­ture re­la­tion­ship with an­other Jew, while she re­mains mar­ried in Jewish law, will be a mamzer — a Jewish sta­tus we do eve- ry­thing in our power to avoid.

While a woman’s re­fusal to ac­cept a get can also be enor­mously dam­ag­ing, it does not have the same im­pact on any chil­dren the hus­band may go on to have in a fu­ture re­la­tion­ship.

The Lon­don Beth Din is com­mit­ted to help­ing vic­tims of get re­fusal in what­ever way we can. Sev­eral im­por­tant tools are avail­able: in par­tic­u­lar the Di­vorce (Reli­gious Mar­riages) Act, the United Syn­a­gogue by-laws and Pre-Nup­tial Agree­ment. Th­ese were brought in in 2002 as a re­sult of huge ef­forts made by the Beth Din, former Chief Rabbi Sacks, Judge Dawn Freed­man and the late Judge Myrella Co­hen.

How­ever, there con­tinue to be cases in which one party prefers to re­main mar­ried than agree to the get.

Pub­li­cis­ing get re­fusal is a last re­sort. It may be very dam­ag­ing for the rep­u­ta­tion of the in­di­vid­ual con­cerned and could have a knock-on ef­fect on their fam­ily. We try hard to avoid this and bring about a res­o­lu­tion.

This type of pub­lic­ity is one of many strate­gies that we con­sider, af­ter con­sult­ing spe­cial­ist le­gal coun­sel. We urge the com­mu­nity to get be­hind th­ese ef­forts to ex­ert moral pres­sure on those who abuse the get process with such dis­re­gard for the lives of oth­ers.

By sup­port­ing agunot we send a strong mes­sage that we, as a com­mu­nity, stand by those truly in need and refuse to tol­er­ate this form of abuse.

Agu­nah cases con­tinue to pose dif­fi­cul­ties around the world

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