Jerusalem Rabbinical Court ordered shaming of a recalcitrant husband who fled to Gibraltar
In an unusual step, the Jerusalem Rabbinical Court allowed the publication of details of Eli Sompo, who has been refusing to give his wife a divorce and anchoring her in their failed marriage after fleeing and disappearing in Gibraltar. The goal: to put pressure on him and his relatives. His wife turned to the public: “Help me get the freedom I deserve”
Kobi Nachshoni | Ynet News | 18 February, 2019
The Jerusalem District Rabbinical Court has authorized the publication of the name and picture of Eli Sompo, who is preventing his wife Esther from receiving a divorce, thus imprisoning her as an aguna – a chained woman – in their failed marriage. Sompo escaped and disappeared in Gibraltar, and did not comply with three different decisions of the jurisdiction of the last six months that required him to give her the divorce. Now the head of the panel, Dayan Uriel Lavi, decided to increase the pressure on him by “shaming” – in the hope that he would turn himself in and release his wife.
In a recent decision in the matter of Sompo, Rabbi Lavie wrote: “All the measures that were determined in the decisions of the court regarding the husband’s refusal to give a get are in effect, including the publication of the husband’s name and picture in any means of publication that the woman deems necessary, so that the husband’s acquaintances, now in Gibraltar, will do what is possible to persuade him to obey the verdict that obliges him to divorce, and to end the anchoring that the husband imposes on the woman. If the divorce is not granted within the next 15 days, the woman is entitled to request a new hearing in which to determine ask for a new hearing for a ruling obligating her husband to divorce her in any legal fashion (kfiyat gerushin).”
In the wake of this, Esther published the following post on Facebook: “In accordance with the court’s instructions and out of no choice, I am compelled to publish the picture of someone who insists on being my husband and who holds my freedom against my will: Eliezer Yehuda Sompolinsky (Eli Sompo) son of Mordechai Sompolinsky (Or Elhanan) and Leah Sompolinsky (nee Chadash). This publication is intended to pressure him until the desired get is received.”
She added that “Anyone who knows anything about his whereabouts or can contribute to the fact that he will grant a divorce is invited to share with the Rabbinical Court in Jerusalem, under the jurisdiction of Rabbi Lavie. Please share! Help me receive the freedom I deserve!” She signed the post with the hashtag: #Born_to_Freedom.
“Defeated and isolated in their campaign”
In recent years, the rabbinic courts have been using the unusual social sanction against men like Eli Sompo, apparently because the development of digital and social networks has made the sanction particularly effective.
In three prominent cases, the exposure brought an increase in pressure both on the get-refuser and on the judges toward finding a solution to the woman’s plight, and ultimately the marriages were annulled; once by the state rabbinical court (the case of Oded Gez) and twice by private alternative tribunals (the cases of Sharon Ben Chaim and Meir Gorodetzky).
Pnina Omer, director of Ohr Torah Stone’s Yad La’isha organization which represents women who are being refused divorces and is accompanying Esther in her struggle, said in response to the ruling: “Every woman is entitled to freedom. The role of society on the whole, of our communities, the leaders of our communities and of every moral person – is to stand on the side of the agunot. We must all express a clear position against get-refusal and exert great pressure on those who refuse until they remain defeated and isolated in their campaign and are ready to release their wives from the prison of being an aguna.”