Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Moron (that's "more on") Rabbis, Agunot, and the faulty system

I promise that I am not going to keep ranting about the Aguna issue, or the rampant abuse of the Rabbinical Courts, but I want to follow up on some earlier posts.I will then "give it a rest" for a while. It is also something I feel strongly about, and believe the inequity of the system requires us to do something about it. This inequity is steeped in Jewish law, that on its face, is the one issue that I have always has serious problems understanding in our religion. It puts the entire power for divorce only in the hands of the husband. It is he who decides IF he will grant a divorce, and until he does, there is nothing that the wife can do. She cannot date, she cannot remarry. She is "chained" which is the definition of Aguna. However, sometimes, what we do about this inequity can in and of itself be awful. I will get to that in a few minutes, when I take issue with an email I received today from an organization of which I think very highly. But first, a short lesson and story. The Talmud dictates that under certain circumstances, if a Jewish Court orders the dissolution of a marriage, and the husband refuses to comply, the use of coercion is acceptable. There was a story I was once told about a man brought forcibly before the Rabbinical court demanding that he give his wife a Get (Jewish divorce). He refused. Finally, the Chief Rabbi of the court looked him straight in the eye and said, "in Judaism, there are two ways that a man can divorce his wife.... voluntarily, or if he dies. Which would you prefer?" I am told it is a true story. So we see that our tradition has a long history of trying to help these chained women free themselves where it is appropriate. And to use drastic means. So it comes as no surprise that I received an email letter from JOFA today asking to support a woman by the name of Sima Milgraum, who has been an Aguna for ten years. I don't know Sima's story, but I am sure she is worthy of my, and your support. No woman, for any reason, should be allowed to be an aguna for ten years. However, and here is where I have the problem, they recommend that the public stop using the services of the recalcitrant husband's brother. This brother, Michael Milgraum is a divorce mediator, and recently wrote an article titled Divorce: Individual and Communal Responses to a Difficult Problem. It occurs to me that Michael Milgraum may not have a relationship with his brother. Maybe he hates him. Maybe this is his way of trying to get the community mobilized to prevent what his brother did. Maybe he is an idiot and deserves the condemnation and boycott. But I don't know that, and JOFA didn't tell me that. I would never want to damage the fine work of JOFA. In addition to their work on behalf of Agunot, their education of the community on Women's issues is terrific. I think if they have more information that would convince me that this is an appropriate way to "get to" Sandy Milgraum, they should tell us. If not, they should refrain from harming someone to get to someone else. If you have any additional information, email me, or leave a comment, and i will correct it.

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