The Big GET: Getting unchained from a broken marriage can be tough for some Jewish women
Tamar Epstein and Aharon Friedman are not the only young Jewish couples who find themselves fighting to get a marriage “unchained.” It seems to happen quite a bit. In the Orthodox culture, in order for a woman to totally be freed from her marriage, she not only has to get a civil divorce, but her husband has to give her a “get” which is basically a rabbinical divorce. If he never gives her a get, she is never divorced, and she cannot re-marry. It is unclear whether she can ever have a civil marriage, but certainly in her religion, she can never re-marry unless her husband gives her a get. She remains “chained” and they call her an agunot. Or agunah. (One is the plural and one is the singular. I always get mixed up which is which.)
Why do these men do this? It is a form of control for many. But for some, it is because they truly don’t believe in divorce. There are people who don’t believe in divorce. I, personally, don’t believe in divorce. However, I also don’t believe in holding someone hostage to a marriage.
Chaining a woman to a broken marriage is frowned upon by many in the Jewish religion. There are many prominent rabbis who have spoken out about it both here in the U.S. and in Israel. It is considered by many to be “reprehensible” behavior.
However, it happens a lot and there are many men who get away with this. Short of paying him bribes or sometimes relinquishing all rights to her children, many women are stuck. They cannot get out of the chains of their marriage.
Hopefully, Tamar Epstein’s case will shed a spotlight on this problem. It affects thousands of women both here in the United States and abroad. It is a human rights issue that should not be ignored.