By the looks of this bride, will she have a fair shot at a civil and mutual divorce, if need be?

Several Rabbis took the time to respond to a recent article on Agunot, published in the Wallstreet Journal (written by a friend of mine, Bary Wiees). They took the time to massage certain points Barry made which makes my blood boil- so I will take the time to respond.

1.    Only 180 Orthodox women are waiting for a get and are being held up by their husbands.

I don’t know where the numbers are coming from, nobody does. The advocates suggest 10,000 that is also an estimate. If I didn’t think it was a waste of time and energy that could be better spent helping individual women, I would suggest that an official study be done, but I think the advocates have their hands full with more that 180 cases.

I do not trust the Rabbanut to tell us how many women are unfairly waiting for a get. There are quite many halchik categories that can be manipulated to get a low number. I heard from a Toenet (a women lawyer for Rabbinical courts) that on the door to the court room or Dayan’s office there is a sign about how good married life is. When the court decides that the couple should “go work it out” (even though the couple is clearly separated) do they count this is an aguna?

Also why is the number quoted conspicuously of Orthodox agunot- what happened to the rest of Israeli society that is required to use this corrupt Beit Din?

2.    The system is not broken only people are problematic.

Yes people are problematic, but a system that gives more leverage to one side of the couple than the other brings out the worst in men who may be hurting about their break up.  

The system IS broken. Our system includes a ketuba, this is a sum of money that the man promises at the beginning of the marriage that should they separate he will pay her (kind of like an ancient version of alimony). Toanot report that the very basic first step of all divorce proceedings is for the woman to give up on her ketuvah in exchange for the get.

And then we are surprised when that is followed by more extortion. The system is broke.

3.    There are many creative laws and ways to move divorces alone.

Yes there are, and they may be better applied in America where the secular government is trying to help create oversight and use civil divorce as a way to force people to divorce appropriately.

But not so in Israel. There is no civil oversight over the Rabbinical courts. Most of the judges are political appointments that have no specific training or sympathy for this line of work. Further they are so obsessed with not “forcing a divorce” that they hardly ever use the creative tools afforded to them- sanctions on husbands such as taking away a driver’s license etc.

4. There are just as many men waiting for divorces

How many men do you know that have been waiting 6, 8, 12 years for a divorce. I am sure that divorce is ugly and many men and women take a year or even two to iron out details. It is not the same.

5. The prenup – wonderful idea. Last I heard it has not yet been tested in court and most lawyers do not think it will hold up. I do believe in it. I think if you can convince your fiancé to sign a prenup this means you already have a working relationship that respects both parties, and the husband will have some awareness of the pain caused to agunot before he is put to the test.

By the way, in Israel you have to sign a prenup at the Rabbanut’s office. Don’t be surprised, if they can’t find the form, or outright tell you shouldn’t or can’t sign it. Or they make you feel so guilty that you are thinking of divorce on your wedding day that you yourself decide not to sign. But the ketubah a big part of our tradition does just that- prepares for eventualities on the wedding day itself- oops I forgot they don’t honor ketuboth anymore anyway.


Rena Sherbill
10/2/2007 04:30:55 pm

Hey Aleza,

I'm Aleza Andron's friend Rena, she told me about your blog. Just wanted to give u props for getting your much needed voice out there. Let's hope people are TRULY listening!

Kol Hakavod,


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