Sisterhood Blog

Insisting on a Jewish Prenup

By Hannah Scholl, Estee Goldschmidt and Marc Herman

  • Print
  • Share Share
U.S. House of Representatives
Rep. Dave Camp

In her Sisterhood post “On Agunah Issue, Pressure Rabbis, Not Rep,” Dvora Meyers takes on a grassroots campaign to pressure Michigan Rep. Dave Camp to condemn what we consider to be abusive behavior by his staffer, Aharon Friedman. In the past, Camp has called Friedman’s refusal to grant his wife a Jewish divorce decree, or a get, “gossip.” It is time for Camp to recognize this error and do what is right.

The facts of this case are not under dispute. Friedman married Tamar Epstein in April 2006. The marriage failed, and Friedman and Epstein were civilly divorced in 2010, after being separated for two years. For Epstein, an Orthodox Jew, civil divorce is insufficient. Jewish law mandates a religious divorce decree, or get, which must be consented to by both parties. But Friedman has refused thus far to give Epstein a get, and that shows a basic disregard for human decency. He’s been banned from his synagogue, and a prominent rabbinical court has issued a public declaration condemning his intransigence.

In effect, Epstein is an agunah, or a “chained woman.” She cannot remarry in a religious ceremony. And because Epstein is an Orthodox Jew, that effectively means that Friedman (also Orthodox) is deliberately preventing her from remarrying.

This case is unique because of the outpouring of social and other media pressure. Meyers argues that it is wrong to ask Camp to condemn the abusive behavior of his staffer. Instead, she argues, activists should petition Orthodox rabbis to amend Jewish law.

We are not experts in Jewish law, and we will not debate whether such a change is feasible. Currently, no such solution has gained widespread acceptance among Orthodox rabbis. Yet that does not release us from our obligation to do everything in our power to release agunot from their chains. In our case, this includes using all available means to pressure Rep. Camp to denounce his employee. Neither Camp nor Meyers can seriously argue that it is wrong to bring social pressure to bear on a congressman who refuses to condemn acts of spousal abuse committed by staffers.

Furthermore, Meyers argues that Orthodox rabbis haven’t done enough to embrace solutions to the agunah crisis. She believes the Halachic Prenuptial Agreement, endorsed by many leading Orthodox rabbis, isn’t enough of a solution to the plight of agunot. We believe that the prenup is the most viable long-term solution. For those who are not familiar with it, the Halachic Prenuptial Agreement imposes a financial penalty on the person who refuses to grant the get. It is a financial deterrent against emotional abuse.

The Halachic Prenup has gained many supporters among Orthodox rabbis. To our knowledge, it has been 100% percent effective in cases in which it has been properly signed. The only problem is implementation: Rabbis should affirm that they will only officiate at weddings at which this sort of prenup is signed, and congregants should encourage rabbis to disseminate the prenup, so that no other woman will have to suffer the way Epstein is suffering.

Camp was recently named a “Champion for children, marriage, and family” by the National Association for Relationship and Marriage Education. So how can he justify doing nothing to support Epstein in her plight?

We are saddened that in her efforts to engage in heartfelt activism on behalf of chained women, Meyers misses the point that what we are doing is for a real person, not just for an idea.

The authors are part of an online campaign on behalf of Tamar Epstein.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Tamar Epstein, Prenup, Marriage, Divorce, Aharon Friedman, Agunot, Agunah

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.