“Today I feel simultaneously a sense of shame and a sense of pride,” said Moriah, a longtime aguna who was freed by Yad L’isha: the Monica Dennis Goldberg Legal Aid Center and Hotline. “Shame for the State of Israel, that in 2014 a woman should have to fight for her basic right to freedom and self-determination, and pride in the fact that female rabbinical advocates exist, like the one who represented me and finally resolved my case.”
Moriah was speaking to students from the various post-high school programs at Midreshet Lindenbaum, Ohr Torah Stone’s women’s college for advanced Torah studies, at a “Get Party,” which took place in late November.
“The idea for a ‘Get Party’ stemmed from the fact that we wanted to give our clients – most of whom are struggling financially – the gift of formally celebrating the freedom they had been awaiting for so, so long,” explains Aliza Benjamin Gellis, Director of Special Projects at Yad L’isha. “But we it was hard to plan a celebration when so many other women are still entrapped. So we decided to make the party an educational experience, through which we can also alert young women to the phenomenon of get-refusal and teach them how to avoid it.”
The party marked the first in a series of events that Yad L’isha plans to hold four times a year. “Like Yad L’isha, Midreshet Lindenbaum is also an Ohr Torah Stone institution,” relates Gellis. “We happen to share the same building, on the same campus. It was only natural that the very first party take place right here in the Besen Family Center for Advanced Women’s Studies,” she explains. “Future parties will be held in other institutions and various other locations. We hope to really make an educational impact amongst different populations.”
A Renewed Desire to Live
Twelve agunot whose cases had been resolved over the past three months were honored at the party; three of them related their personal stories to the Midreshet Lindenbaum students.
“By the time I arrived at Yad L’isha, I was angry and devoid of all hope,” recounted Debbie. “Now, four years after I began the court process, I am filled with joy and a renewed desire to live. I hope I can help other women who are in the same horrible situation that I was in,” she said.
Yad L’isha’s director, Osnat Sharon, congratulated the 12 women on their courage. “It takes great strength to leave an abusive marriage,” she reminded all present. “To stand up to men who cheated, manipulated, and abandoned them, men who abdicated responsibility toward their children, tried to blackmail them in exchange for the get… These women endured this abuse valiantly and bravely. Today they sit here in safety and in pride.”
Freedom for All Women
Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, founder and Chancellor of Ohr Torah Stone, pointed out that until 18 years ago it was forbidden by law for a woman to serve as an advocate in the religious courts. “Women would come into a courtroom which was pure intimidation: three male judges and two male advocates representing the sides,” he recalled.
“It was only thanks to the Supreme Court case that Ohr Torah Stone filed that today women are allowed by law to study advocacy, become certified as advocates, and represent clients. And as a result, Yad L’isha – and countless other graduates of our Monica Dennis Goldberg School of Women Advocates – have represented and freed thousands of women,” Rabbi Riskin declared.
“This party is a celebration of freedom for all of the unchained agunot, as well as for empowered female advocates,” he concluded.