Rabbinical Court Rules: Ostracizing and Shaming May be Levied Against Recalcitrant Husband
“I deserve to be set free,” says Sarah, a woman being denied a get (Jewish writ of divorce) by her husband, Chaim Meizlish. The Rabbinical Court recently ruled that the husband’s personal information may be made public, due to his persistent unwillingness to release his wife of the bonds of a failing marriage, from which she wishes to be set free. The rabbinical judges have also levied religious and social sanctions against the husband including that one may not conduct any business with him or even pray with him in the same minyan.
The Regional Rabbinical Court in Tel Aviv has recently ruled that the name and picture of Alter Chaim Meizlish be made public. Meizlish has refused to grant his wife, Sarah, a get, and continues to hold her captive in a failing marriage. The rabbinical judges have gone so far as to levy religious and social sanctions against him due to his insistent refusal to abide by a previous court ruling instructing him to grant his wife a divorce.
The couple’s marriage hit the rocks a few years ago; however, to this day, they have not finalized a divorce agreement, despite the Rabbinical Court’s unequivocal decision that it is incumbent upon the couple to divorce. A few months ago, the rabbinical judges found the husband accountable for the situation and proclaimed him as a sarvan get – a recalcitrant husband who refuses to grant his wife a Jewish writ of divorce.
Of late, the wife, Sarah, turned to the Rabbinical Court in a plea to impose the sanctions provided by law against Alter Chaim, including incarceration, and to permit online shaming for the purpose of exerting pressure upon him. At this point in time, the rabbinical judges have also decided to levy sanctions of Rabeinu Tam, and to permit publicizing his name and picture.
“The husband remains firm in his refusal and has rebuffed the order given him by the court to divorce his wife,” the ruling states. “In light of this, and following a close examination of the case, the Rabbinical Court accepts the position of the wife and hereby issues a court order against the husband, Mr. Alter Chaim Meizlish.” In accordance with this court order, the husband’s personal information was uploaded to the Rabbinical Court’s website, as well as a call to the public for his ostracization.
“Don’t allow him to say kaddish”
The public is urged to keep away from the recalcitrant husband – “…one may not conduct any form of business with him, nor feed him, nor host him, nor visit him.” The rabbinical judges also levied religious sanctions against him stating thus: “One may not allow him to say kaddish in a minyan, call him to the Torah or ask him to lead the prayer service.”
Sarah Meizlish told Ynet: “He has held me on a leash out of sheer malice, and since he believes he has nothing more to lose, he allows himself to be cruel to me. I am glad the Rabbinical Court has made it clear that he has does have more to lose, and that if he keeps up this kind of attitude, the Rabbinical Court will impose further sanctions and will make it clear to him, in no uncertain terms, that it would serve him best to grant me my get, so that we can each go our separate ways.” She went on to say, “I deserve to be set free after all I’ve been through as his wife these past 31 years.”
Pnina Omer, Director of Ohr Torah Stone’s Yad La’isha: The Monica Dennis Goldberg Legal Aid Center, which represents Sarah Meizlish, explained that they requested a shaming decision because “online shaming has proved to be a useful tool in the past, and in this case it seems to be the right step to take in order to place pressure on the recalcitrant husband. It is the duty of the Rabbinical Courts to use every possible halakhic tool at their disposal in order to set agunot (women imprisoned in marriage) free, and we commend this type of cooperation. This tool is there to remind the public of its responsibility to its members and of the strength it has to impact such situations. Husbands denying their wives of a get must receive a clear message from their respective communities, namely – you are no longer welcome here until you do the right thing and release your wife from the chains of marriage.”
Rabbi Kenneth Brander, President and Rosh HaYeshiva of Ohr Torah Stone, added: “Among the numerous activities in which we engage at Ohr Torah Stone, helping agunot takes top priority. People must join forces in order to help any woman who is left chained in marriage by her husband, and put into practice those sanctions levied by the Rabbinical Courts so that all recalcitrant husbands hear the message loud and clear: refusing your wives of their get will lead to your being ostracized from society.”