Rabbinical Court Plans to Shame Man Into Giving Wife a Divorce

Intends to inform five senior colleagues of husband, a university lecturer, about his 'stubborn' refusal.

Yair Ettinger
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Agunot, or chained women, struggle to obtain religious divorces from their husbands (illustrative).
Agunot, or chained women, struggle to obtain religious divorces from their husbands (illustrative).Credit: Dreamstime
Yair Ettinger

The Supreme Rabbinical Court in Jerusalem is taking an unusual step to compel a man to grant his wife a divorce: It plans to invite five senior academics to explain to them that their colleague, a university lecturer, has been refusing to issue his wife a get (divorce decree) for a lengthy period.

Last week the High Court of Justice approved the move, rejecting the man’s petition against it. The rabbinical court said it’s possible the next move would be to “publicly denounce” the husband. “Since the husband is an educated and intelligent man, the ramifications of this decision by the court will be serious, and could send the considerable investment he’s made toward utilizing his potential and abilities down the drain.”

Nine dayanim (rabbinical court judges) ruled on this case, both in the Petah Tikva Rabbinical Court and the higher court in Jerusalem. All the dayanim were in agreement that the man should divorce his wife. In their ruling, the dayanim wrote that they cannot understand his “stubbornness in not giving his wife a get.”

In his High Court petition, the husband argued that the rabbinical court had no authority to involve his work colleagues and that doing so undermined his basic rights. The High Court categorically rejected his petition. The rabbinic courts are circulating the High Court decision to all dayanim, adding that “The High Court of Justice has thus approved the practice of summoning relatives and people in the get-refuser’s environment — a practice the rabbinic courts adopt as a last resort — to obtain information and try to use the get-refuser’s associates to persuade him to give a get.”

Sources in the Rabbinical Courts Administration told Haaretz that from time to time a court will summon relatives to try to increase the pressure on recalcitrant husbands, but that they could not recall an instance of work colleagues being summoned. The administration sources refused, however, to describe this summons as a precedent.

The rabbinical courts have long been castigated for their sluggish approach toward recalcitrant husbands who leave their wives in limbo, unable to move on with their lives and possibly remarry, and are often accused of not using even those sanctions they have the authority to impose.

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