Yad L’isha Frees 64th Aguna of Year on Last Day of 2013

a no faceIn the final hours of 2013, Yad L’isha, the Monica Dennis Goldberg Legal Aid Center and Hotline, unchained an aguna of nearly ten years, bringing the number of resolved cases this year to 64.

When A.’s husband, M., went to Moldavia for three months in 2004 to try to recover the massive losses he had incurred in his diamond business, she and their three children had no inkling that they would never see him again.

“At first, he maintained contact, but after a year or so he simply stopped,” A. says. “We were left with humongous debt. I had to sell everything I owned, and the children and I were left – literally – with nothing.”

“I CHOSE TO LIVE”

A. recalls the exact moment that she realized she had to stop waiting for M. to return. “I had three children, no material possessions and absolutely no support. His parents had cut off contact with the kids – their grandchildren! – and refused to see me or help in any way. I was working in my marketing job during the day and odd jobs in the evenings and I was so, so exhausted. I realized that I had two choices: I could shoot myself, or I could leave the past behind and make a better life for my children,” she recalls. “I chose the latter.”

Five years later, the three children were all excelling in school and A. was getting back on her feet. She applied to the rabbinical courts for a divorce and due to the fact that her husband was missing, her file was transferred to the court’s special Aguna unit where it sat, and sat, and sat – until it was finally closed due to inactivity.

Meanwhile, A.’s life went on; today, her elder daughter is working toward a PhD in brain sciences, her son is an electrical engineer and her younger daughter is studying electrical engineering in university. But the eldest wanted closure, and kept pushing A. to go back to the rabbinical courts to get the divorce that she deserved. “My children understood the sacrifices I made in order to ensure their success,” A. says. “Now that they are all established, mature adults, they wanted more than anything to gift me with a personal life of my own.”

 “ONLY YAD L’ISHA CAN HELP YOU”

When A. and her daughter returned to the rabbinical court, they were told that there was one organization that might be able to help: Yad L’isha. They contacted our Legal Aid Center and the case was assigned to staff advocate Tzvia Moskovitz.

Tzvia reopened the case and convinced the court to hire a Private Investigator. The PI – who had information that M. was in the USA with his brother – came back empty-handed; Tzvia convinced the court to prod M.’s mother who finally, reluctantly admitted that her son was still in Moldavia. “Even then it wasn’t straightforward,” relates Tzvia. “I called the consulate in Moldavia and of course they had no knowledge of his existence. We kept pursuing different leads until finally, on Chanukah, we found him, married to a local woman with whom he had fathered a five-year-old son.”

With such concrete information, Tzvia was able to petition the court to dispatch a messenger to Moldavia and force him to grant A. her get, and indeed, one year after the case was reopened – on December 31st, 2013 – A. finally won the freedom that she and every woman deserves.

 A NEW BEGINNING 

“It’s symbolic that I was set free on the last day of the calendar year,” says A. “May the beginning of this year also signify the beginning of a new life for me and my children.”

 Sixty-three other agunot were unchained by the extraordinary advocates of Yad L’isha during 2013. These women, young and old, secular and religious, came from all backgrounds and ethnicities, from across Israel and the Diaspora. Many were severely abused; all were victimized and held hostage by the whims of their husband and the lack of a level playing field. 

 We pray that A.’s good news is a harbinger of things to come during 2014. May this be the year of justice and freedom for all agunot, everywhere.

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