Understanding chained women’s plight

Understanding chained women’s plight

I was pleased to see your admirable concern for the plight of agunot – women unable to remarry according to Jewish law due to a recalcitrant spouse – in your April 10 editorial, “Seeking the Promise of Passover’s Freedom for Agunot.” Your conclusion, however, that Orthodox Jewish leaders are apathetic and timid regarding these women’s struggle stems from a lack of familiarity and communication with Orthodox rabbinic judges, called dayanim.

As one who has served for more than 20 years as a rabbinic judge administering gittin – Jewish divorces – I, together with my colleagues, have diligently endeavored to resolve situations of igun for both women and men. From visits to maximum security prisons, spending entire days in civil court, to devoting long hours seeking the cooperation of recalcitrant spouses, no stone is left unturned in our efforts to secure a get for those caught in a predicament of igun.

My colleagues and I have championed the Rabbinical Council of America’s prenuptial agreement, introduced in 1992, that has made long–term igun relatively rare in Bergen County’s Orthodox Jewish community and many other Orthodox Jewish communities.

Most important, we make every effort to insure that all divorcing Jewish couples, regardless of affiliation and/or level of observance, feel comfortable with the Orthodox get procedure.

The fact that Orthodox Jewish leaders are unable to resolve every situation of igun does not stem from either apathy or timidity but rather is due to our understanding of the halacha – Jewish law. An English language explanation of the acceptable and unacceptable solutions (such as hafka’at kidddushin, or annulments) to igun problems according to the Orthodox standards appears in the first volume of my work, “Gray Matter.”

While the editors may not agree with mainstream Orthodox interpretation of halacha, I hope you take the time to study these writings to enable you to understand the Orthodox approach.

I again applaud your concern for agunot and I welcome further dialogue and discussion to help avoid future misunderstanding of Orthodox Jewish law and the efforts of Orthodox rabbinic judges.