Foiling an Injustice

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The get-refuser tried to wed another woman – and was thwarted

Chutzpah that crosses international borders: Michael Eisenbach has refused for years to grant a divorce to his wife, Yad La’isha client H. – but that didn’t stop him from trying to marry another woman in the United States 

by Chanan Greenwood | Israel Hayom | July 4, 2019
 

Yisrael Hayom print article Thirty-five year old H. and Michael Eizenbach, who belong to the Toldot Aharon Hassidic community, were married for nine years until H. who, along with the couple’s five children was the victim of abuse and severe violence at the hand of her husband for years, decided that she wanted a divorce. She filed for full custody and child support at Family Court, and also turned to the Rabbinical Court of the Eida HaChareidit (the Orthodox Council of Jerusalem).  In turn, Michael Eizenbach filed a suit in the State’s Rabbinical Court, but soon after left Israel, leaving his wife an aguna (a woman imprisoned in marriage because her husband had disappeared), without the means to provide for herself and the five children who were under her care. 

After leaving the country, Eizenbach made contact through relatives and demanded that H. consent that all matters be argued before the Rabbinical Court, which would also have authority to hand down a ruling.  H. consented to his request and even signed an agreement to that effect; however, immediately following the signing of the agreement, Eizenbach severed ties for another three years. 

About two months ago a letter arrived from an important Hassidic rabbi in England with a copy of the get, stating that Eizenbach had gone to a Rabbinical Court in Monsey, NY, and had received there a “Dispensation of 100 Rabbis” to take another wife, in exchange for a get which he had left at the Rabbinical Court. 

This news was a big surprise to H., but also instilled in her some hope: perhaps she would finally be able to be freed of the chains of her marriage?  Unfortunately, it was soon discovered that Eizenbach had also sent another letter which included a list of conditions, inter alia – that all the rulings of the State Court be revoked and that full authority be given to the Rabbinical Court in all matters. 

Advocate Osnat Sharon
Rabbinical Court Advocate and Attorney Osnat Sharon

H., who was shocked at the turn of events, turned to her rabbinical court advocate and attorney, Osnat Sharon of Ohr Torah Stone’s Yad La’isha: The Monica Dennis Goldberg Legal Aid Center and Hotline.  Sharon ventured to understand the particularities of the conditions set out by the recalcitrant husband Michael, but was confronted with outright refusal, insisting that the suit for custody and child support must first be completely retracted, and only then would he be willing to enter into negotiations for a new divorce agreement.  “The thing is that the minute we turn to the Rabbinical Court, the Family Court no longer has authority to deal in the matter,” explains Sharon.  “The husband knows this very well and is holding on to this card tightly, exploiting the situation in order to continue denying her the get.”

Michael Eizenbach
A photo of get-refuser Michael Eizenbach on the Israel Rabbinical Courts’ website

As a runaway husband, Michael Eizenbach’s name and picture appear on the Rabbinical Court’s website and have been public for the past year and a half, but even this drastic step did not result in the sought-after get.  About six months ago the Rabbinical Court ruled that Eizenbach be forced to give a get using every measure acceptable by law:  “The husband chose to leave the country instead of living up to his obligations towards his children and paying support.  But surely there is no need to add yet another wrong and leave his wife chained in marriage without the ability to remarry… this in itself is reason enough to coerce the husband into giving a get to his wife.” 

In light of the new events, last week Advocate Sharon asked for an urgent hearing to take place in the Rabbinical Court in Jerusalem, with Uriel Lavi presiding as Rabbinical Judge, after all attempts to understand the conditions that Eizenbach had set in exchange for the get had failed.  During the hearing, H. related all that had happened, displaying Eizenbach’s letter to the Rabbinical Judges.  The Rabbinical Court then handed down an unequivocal ruling, renouncing completely the “Dispensation of 100 Rabbis” enabling him to remarry, that had been given in the United States.  The Rabbinical Judges alluded to the rulings of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein z”l and Rabbi Shalom Elyashiv z”l, who had outlined very clear rules regarding the Dispensation of 100 Rabbis, and asserted that the Rabbinical Court in the USA was violating these guidelines, which state explicitly that the husband must make sure that his wife can obtain her get any time she wishes, without her confronting any difficulty or obstacles, and any “dispensation” given in such case where these conditions are not met shall be considered null and void. 

The Rabbinical Court in Jerusalem ruled in no uncertain terms that, “Since these rules are binding, even in the case of an American Rabbinical Court… the dispensation that had been given is null and void.”  Furthermore, they added that the “Dispensation of 100 Rabbis” to marry a second wife is only valid when the wife does not want to accept a get; in this case, H. wants nothing more than to receive her get

“A hearing concerning a dispensation to remarry can only take place in the presence of both parties.  Since the hearings in this case initially began in the Rabbinical Court in Jerusalem, there is no reason for a Rabbinical Court in the USA to give ruling in the matter of a marriage dispensation,” read the statement issued by the Rabbinical Court.  “It was the husband who fled Israel and did not abide by the ruling of the Rabbinical Court compelling him to grant a divorce.  And while the hearings had taken place here in Jerusalem, he found a body abroad to deliberate in the matter of his request for a dispensation for marriage without conducting a proper hearing with testimonies in the presence of his wife.”  Under such circumstances, the dispensation is null and void and Cherem de’Rabeinu Gershom (the prohibition to marry more than one wife) shall be binding in the case of the husband.”

The Rabbinical Court took a dramatic decision and gave permission for its ruling to be made public with the full names of both parties.  “The reason being that those who had a part in giving the marriage dispensation and obtaining the signatures of one hundred rabbis, must know that they should wash their hands of it.”

Rabbinical Court Advocate and Attorney Osnat Sharon said:  “In our case, the get was given by a Rabbinical Court we know nothing about, and the judges are hiding behind a decision that has no halakhic foundation.  There are rumors that today one is able to buy a dispensation for 10,000 NIS.  Is this the case here?  Was this decision – which has so distorted the life of H. – taken out of sheer greed?  Is it possible that a Rabbinical Court gives a dispensation with such dramatic implications without even listening to the wife?”

Pnina Omer, Director of Ohr Torah Stone’s Yad La’isha: The Monica Dennis Goldberg Legal Aid Center and Hotline said: “H.’s story has exposed us to a very perturbing phenomenon, in which a recalcitrant “chaining husband” not only denies his wife her freedom, but goes so far as to find a dubious dispensation to marry a second wife and begin a new life.  Unfortunately, this is not the first time we have come across such a blatant distortion of justice.  We extend our gratitude to the Rabbinical Court in Israel that took it upon itself to mitigate the injustice and denounce it publicly.”

Read the Hebrew article on the Yisrael Hayom website

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