Men who refuse a get may lose burial rights

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY SI­MON ROCKER

MEN WHO refuse to give their wives a re­li­gious bill of di­vorce may be stripped of their burial rights, the Lon­don Beth Din has con­firmed.

The re­li­gious court of Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis last week took the un­prece­dented step of pub­lish­ing a no­tice in the JC ban­ning from syn­a­gogue a man who had de­nied his wife a get.

The JC has learned that the Beth Din is ac­tively con­sid­er­ing the use of other sanc­tions in sim­i­lar in­stances.

Joanne Green­away, the Beth Din’s get case­worker, said: “The United Syn­a­gogue byelaws clearly pro­vide for the right to mem­ber­ship to be ter­mi­nated where a per­son has been ruled by the Beth Din as un­rea­son­ably with­hold­ing a get. The right of burial is con­tin­gent upon mem­ber­ship of the US. The Beth Din is fully pre­pared to make use of this sanc­tion.”

Last week’s ac­tion cen­tred on John Abaya­hou­dayan, from north-west Lon­don, who has re­fused his wife Rivkah a get for 15 years.

The no­tice said that United Syn­a­gogue con­gre­ga­tions should refuse him en­try and went on “to in­vite peo­ple whether it is in­ap­pro­pri­ate for them to have so­cial or busi­ness con­tacts with him un­til the get is given”.

Rabbi Isaac Abra­ham, regis­trar of the Sephardi Beth Din, said that it “fully sup­ports the Lon­don Beth Din’s ac­tions as ad­ver­tised and are com­mit­ted part­ners in help­ing in the cause of agunot [chained women]”.

Mr Abaya­hou­dayan, who came to the UK from Iran when he was a teenager, is be­lieved not to be a mem­ber of the US.

The Abaya­hou­dayans were di­vorced in civil court in 2002. But un­less a woman has a get, she is un­able to re­marry ac­cord­ing to Jewish law and any chil­dren from a sub­se­quent union would be con­sid­ered mamz­erim, il­le­git­i­mate.

Mrs Abaya­hou­dayan and the Lon­don Beth Din had thought of go­ing pub­lic on her plight be­fore but she felt it was in­ap­pro­pri­ate for her and her fam­ily at the time.

Mrs Green­away said that it was “not easy for some­one to be in the spot­light. It’s a big de­ci­sion, so we work with the women in ques­tion about how we can help.”

She said that there were “a hand­ful of really in­tractable cases but ev­ery case, even if not long-term, is dif­fi­cult for the peo­ple in­volved to a de­gree”.

In an­other case, the Beth Din is plan­ning a pub­lic protest against a hus­band re­fus­ing a get.

In the 1990s, the Fed­er­a­tion of Sy­n­a­gogues is­sued an os­tracism or­der against a re­cal­ci­trant hus­band, say­ing that peo­ple should not eat, drink with or go near him. He even­tu­ally re­lented and is­sued a get.

Nearly 20 years ago, the United Syn­a­gogue ap­proved sanc­tions against get-re­fusers, deny­ing them syn­a­gogue hon­ours such as be­ing called to the To­rah.

But the big­gest break­through in the UK came in 2002 with changes to di­vorce law Eng­land and Wales, which gave judges dis­cre­tion to with­hold a sec­u­lar di­vorce if they were felt one of the par­ties was un­rea­son­ably pre­vent­ing a re­li­gious di­vorce.

In Is­rael, where there is only re­li­gious but no civil mar­riage and di­vorce, ob­du­rate hus­bands can have their pass­ports taken away or even be thrown into jail.

But if they still refuse a get af­ter th­ese mea­sures have been taken, the rabbinical courts say they are pow­er­less to do more.

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