“Light at the end of the tunnel” – Released after 10 years
For 10 years, Miriam’s husband refused to grant her a get – a Jewish writ of divorce, even though their marriage was over. This is how one of the most difficult cases of aginut ended
Gadi Deutsch | Maariv | 19 December 2019
Today (Thursday), just a few days before Chanuka, Miriam received her own private miracle as her case, one of the most complicated cases of get refusal in the world, came to an end. Ohr Torah Stone’s Yad La’isha: The Monica Dennis Goldberg Legal Aid Center which represents Miriam, joined forces with the judges of the Jerusalem Beit Din headed by Dayan Rabbi Oshinsky, and with Moshe Biton, the Beit Din secretary to bring this saga to conclusion. After 10 years of refusing to give the get, the husband finally agreed to release Miriam from the chains of their marriage.
The story began 23 years ago in the United States when the couple, who are members of Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) society, got married. After many years of a failed relationship, including complaints of violent abuse, Miriam made the decision ten years ago to get divorced. Although at first, the husband agreed to give the get, he then changed his mind and over the years gave numerous random excuses for his refusal. Religious courts in Israel and in the United States ruled that he is obliged to give the get, but he continually refused to comply. Even the fact that one of the most influential Haredi leaders, the Belzer Rebbe, signed a psak din ruling that he must give the get did not make an impression on the husband. Since the couple are residents of the United states, the legal means and sanctions that the beit din could impose on the recalcitrant husband were very limited, and so the case dragged on for many years, with Miriam remaining an aguna.
Six years ago, there appeared to be a turning point in the case, when the husband flew to Israel for a family event. Israeli authorities here managed to issue a restraining order, forbidding him from leaving the country. However, he was able to evade the ban and depart Israel, apparently by using his brother’s passport, leaving Miriam without the hoped-for get.
Three months ago – after 10 years of refusing to give the get – news that the husband had boarded a flight to Israel in order to attend his son’s wedding reached attorney Tehila Cohen, the rabbinical court advocate from Yad La’isha who is representing Miriam. Thanks to this information, the husband was arrested when he landed and informed that he would not be released until he gave the get, even if it meant he would miss his son’s wedding. The husband remained steadfast in his refusal, remained under arrest and missed the wedding. However, eventually sitting in prison achieved more than any other form of persuasion, and today he finally gave in and decided to give Miriam the get.
As soon as the get was in her hands, Miriam said: “I am so happy and cannot believe that the nightmare is finally over and I have the get. I am overjoyed and excited. Tehila was a true life-saver for me; she gave everything she had to help me, she stood with me during my most difficult hours on the long and difficult journey to receiving my get. I do not have the words to express my appreciation for all she has done for me over the past four years. She was there for me at all hours of day and night. I feel that without her emotional support I would have been lost. Yad La’isha is what its name literally means – a helping hand that supports me and countless other lost and unfortunate women until they see the light at the end of the tunnel. May God bless them in this world and in the world to come.”
Pnina Omer, Director of Ohr Torah Stone’s Yad La’isha: “This was a very difficult case that required international cooperation to bring it to a successful conclusion. We lament the lost years, but are pleased that finally, after ten years Miriam finally received her get and was released from her chains. As soon as the husband came to Israel, great effort was made for the husband to give the get and enable him to attend his son’s wedding. I assume that eventually, he realized that he had made a mistake and in not doing so he missed the happiest moment in his son’s life. I would like to congratulate our advocate, Tehila Cohen and the rabbinical court; they cooperated with great determination – not only to arrange the long awaited get, but also to send a message to other recalcitrant husbands: from now on, these husbands know that if they refuse to give a get, they will also experience suffering – just like the kind they put their wives through.
Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Brander, President and Rosh HaYeshiva of Ohr Torah Stone: “Unfortunately, the get, which according to the original intent of the halakha was meant to protect women, has become a weapon that couples use against each other. For the past 20 years, Yad La’isha has been leading the way in representing and freeing agunot and women who have been refused a get. We are pleased that Miriam has joined more than one thousand women who have been released by Yad La’isha. We will continue to help more women and be proactive in finding ways of preventing this despicable scourge until uproot it from our society.”
Yad La’isha is part of the Ohr Torah Stone network, whose educational institution, social program and initiatives have been operating in Israel and the diaspora for more than 30 years. Under the leadership of Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Brander, President and Rosh HaYeshiva of Ohr Torah Stone, the network continues to develop and expand upon the vision of its founder, chancellor emeritus and Rosh HaYeshiva Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Riskin, to develop a cadre of spiritual, Orthodox leadership that is relevant and welcoming and to set up Jewish, modern, Zionistic communities that strive toward tikkun olam.