Thursday, April 19, 2007

The (Downward) Roller Coaster of Rabbinic Abuse

Yesterday was my birthday. On my way into the City (that would be New York, for the un-initiated) for a celebratory dinner at Abigael's , an awesome steak house, my wife received a call from her friend, whom I will call Malka to preserve some anonymity. Malka got divorced not too long ago, but in keeping with her desire to work within the framework of Halacha, agreed with her manipulating, lying ex-husband (no strong feelings here) to allow the beth din to have the power to decide all matters regarding her, her assets and the children. Ok, not the smartest move, I admit, but what has happened is unbelievable. I grew up "orthodox" and am still observant, I was taught, like many, to revere Rabbis, and to trust. We all know from the sensational cases over the last few years, and what is going on right now in the Baltimore community (good link here) I think that some of that infallibility thinking has gone by the wayside. Unfortunately, rabbinic abuse is something that just won't go away.
Our friend Malka is the prime example. She has repeatedly been subjected to totally unfair and Misogynistic rulings and opinions by the Rabbis she has entrusted to deal fairly with her. In the end, they get to do what they want, with absolutely no oversight or review, and she has virtually no recourse. Having signed a legal document empowering the beth din to act as a court, she has limited ability at this point to challenge their rulings. And the rulings, SURPRISE!!! are often in favor of the ex-husband despite their incredibly, painfully obvious bias, lack of judgement and understanding. And she can't do anything about it. It sucks. As a someone who works with people for a living, listening to the "rulings" that these men have made, using "psychology" as a basis, something of which they have little knowledge, makes me ill. Until the issues are resolved, I am sure unsatisfactorily, there is little that can be done to right the wrongs, or publicise the craziness. It will merely end up hurting Malka. They won't even allow her to bring a representative to their kangaroo court to help an obviously intimidated woman present her case fairly. Fortunately, she was able to find one Rabbi, who was able to assert himself and be present at many of the meetings. My understanding is that while he doesn't do much in the sessions, his presence and his knowledge of Halacha is enough to stop the rampant abuse.... sometimes.
I await the day when we can go public with this information. These rabbis have hurt Malka. Financially, emotionally, and impacted her children. I only hold off to help Malka. I wonder how many others there are like her.


Yoel.Ben-Avraham said...

I don't want to add fuel to the fire, but in Israel the praticioners of "Toen Rabbini" an educated and articulate "speaker" for their respective client is an accepted reality. There are still problems but as people CAN force to be arbitrated in a Beit Din acceptable to BOTH parties these skilled people are making va major impact on the quality of "justice" in the Rabbinic courts. That a large percentage of them are women is not surprising!

Pam said...

These rabbis have already said they will not allow a toen or toenet in. They only allow her lawyer in, as he has no power since she signed over all authority to the rabbis. She did this because one of the rabbis--her rabbi--told her that a bat torah doesn't go to civil courts. And now, she can't get a fair ruling. And when she does, the ex-husband refuses to comply with the rabbinic ruling and brings up other issues and ties them to the original ruling--until he gets what he wants or extorts something in return for his compliance with the original ruling.
It would be nice if your suggestion were even a possibility.