In a groundbreaking ruling, the Tel Aviv Rabbinical Court ruled on Monday to jail the father of a get-refuser for 30 days.
In a precedent setting step, today (Monday, March 14) the Tel Aviv Regional Court ruled to incarcerate for 30 days the father of a get-refusing husband, on the grounds that the father was responsible for his son’s recalcitrant refusal to divorce his wife for more than 10 years.
The court ordered that the Jewish-American tycoon be sent to jail after it was proven that he has been discouraging his son from divorcing his wife D – a client of Yad L’isha – the Monica Dennis Goldberg Legal Aid Center – for the past ten years.
The head of the Tel Aviv rabbinical courts, Rabbi Shlomo Shatsman, stated that “The complainant’s extended and brutal divorce case is one of the hardest agunot cases the rabbinical court system has had to deal with.”
The couple married 19 years ago and lived in the US, where their two children were born. During a visit to Israel about 10 years ago, the wife suffered a severe stroke which left her disabled, after which her husband abandoned her and their children. Since that time, he has ignored the Tel Aviv rabbinical court’s ruling compelling him to grant her a get, leaving her chained to a nonexistent marriage.
A private investigator in Israel and the US discovered that the man’s father, a wealthy ultra-Orthodox businessman and philanthropist, is the man behind the refusal to free the woman. When the husband’s parents visited Israel last October, the court summoned them to testify and even issued a restraining order preventing them from leaving the country until they do so; the parents refused to comply and in fact asked Israeli rabbis and public figures to intervene on their behalf, applying strong pressure to the Tel Aviv tribunal in an attempt to rescind the order or at least treat him with leniency.
Rabbinical advocate and civil attorney Osnat Sharon, Director of OTS’s Yad L’isha – the Monica Dennis Goldberg Legal Aid Center, which has been representing D for the past three years, stated: “In this groundbreaking ruling, the rabbinical court ruled that it will take harsh measures against our client’s father-in-law, who has been assisting his son in the chaining of his wife for ten years.
“As part of Yad L’isha’s handling of the case, we understood that there was no choice but to turn toward the husband’s father. Several of our staff advocates have been involved in this mission, working intensely around the clock during the very short period of time allocated by the court to bring new evidence which shed light and proved beyond any doubt that the husband’s father is, in fact, the one standing behind the aginut-chaining of his daughter-in-law.
“This ruling is extremely important and significant for all those who deal with cases of agunot in general, and for Yad L’isha in particular. The rabbinical court teaches us in its decision that our client’s basic right to be released from her chains and her right to autonomy, respect and family life are a supreme value; anyone who assists or supports get recalcitrance and chaining of women is liable to find himself behind lock and key. It is clear to us that with the application of this ruling, cases of many other agunot who are awaiting solutions will be solved if such steps are taken against those who aid and abet get-refusers.”
Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, founder and Chancellor of Ohr Torah Stone, adds: “This case is also important because of the unequivocal stance that the tribunal, under the leadership of Rabbi Shlomo Shtessman, has taken on behalf of the woman, and in the face of tremendous pressure from high profile public figures and spiritual leaders. Bold actions of this sort which push the boundaries of the law as far as possible will help other agunot and prevent future refusals. We want to acknowledge the professional, tireless work of our Yad L’isha advocates and pray for the freedom of this client, and all chained women.”