Paris Rabbinical Court Dissolves Marriage of Women Waiting 29 Years for Religious Divorce

Under Jewish law men must agree to a divorce, which means reluctant husbands may prevent their wives from remarrying

The street rue des Rosiers, the Jewish quarter in the Marais in Paris, January 18, 2010.
The street rue des Rosiers, the Jewish quarter in the Marais in Paris, January 18, 2010. AFP

A rabbinical court in Paris officially dissolved the marriage of a Jewish woman who for 29 years had tried unsuccessfully to obtain a religious Jewish divorce from her abusive ex-husband.

The move Tuesday by the rabbinical court of Paris at the seat of the Consistoire religious group was hailed as a success in the fight for women’s rights by French Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia, according to the French-language edition of the news website Times of Israel.

“This case became a symbol long ago,” Korsia told the news website, which did not name the woman in question.

The couple received a civil divorce in 1988.

In Orthodox Judaism, a woman cannot divorce unless her husband consents, except in special cases where the husband is missing or unable to communicate his wishes. Women whose husbands refuse or are unable to give them a “get,” or religious divorce, are considered “agunot,” or chained women, and may not remarry.

In recent years, rabbinical courts have significantly cracked down on recalcitrant husbands, with prison sentences being handed down in Israel – where religious tribunals function as family courts as part of the judiciary. Outside Israel, rabbinical courts have punished such husbands by shaming them publicly and ostracizing them with a herem – banishment forbidding other Jews from socializing with the writ’s subject.

The woman’s husband ignored such rulings, prompting Korsia to facilitate the filing of a lawsuit against the husband in civil court for “causing damage” to his wife, The Times of Israel reported. The civil court ruled in favor of the woman in 2015, imposing penalties exceeding $60,000.

The husband, who in 1988 was sentenced by a criminal tribunal to nine years in prison for attempting to murder his wife, finally agreed to grant his wife a get to avoid incurring additional penalties, The Times of Israel reported. The woman and her lawyer, Dan Griguer, celebrated her release by raising a toast at the Consistoire’s offices.