Get refuser named and shamed
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