Woman granted Jewish divorce after husband sanctioned by European courts
The get was given just days after sanctions were imposed, ending a three-year battle.
In a watershed moment, a secular court in Western Europe successfully placed sanctions on a man refusing to grant his wife a get, (Jewish divorce document), leading to the man divorcing his wife in just two days.
The case in question centered around a couple living in Europe who had been married for 20 years, identified only as G (the wife) and A (the husband). G had requested a get from A in 2017, but he had refused, prompting her to move to Israel and soon thereafter to seek the help of the Rabbinical Court.
As halacha (Jewish law) requires the husband to voluntarily grant his wife a divorce, many women are rendered “agunot” – literally “chained women” – as they are “chained” to their marriages if they aren’t given a get. This is made worse by the fact that according to Jewish law, without a get an agunah is forbidden to pursue new relationships, which is considered adultery, while men are allowed to do so even while still married.
Rabbinic courts and halachic thinkers have attempted for years to find a halachic solution to agunot, but there has yet to be found a method that has universal approval.
With the help of Ohr Torah Stone’s Yad La’isha Women’s Legal Aid Center, which helps and advocates for agunot, G was able to get the court to rule that the man must grant her a get. However, the court was unable to physically force him to do so, as halacha stresses that a get must be granted voluntarily. But as A was not living in Israel, the court turned to the European legal system.
After having been given a detailed explanation of agunot and get refusal, the court agreed to hold A accountable, and imposed a daily fine of €500, to be continued indefinitely until a get has been given.
In just two days, A gave his wife a get, freeing her from her “chained marriage” after a three-year battle.
“The fact that a civil court outside of Israel is recognizing the injustice represented by this phenomenon of get refusal is nothing less than extraordinary,” Yad La’isha attorney Tamar Odenberg, who represented G, said in a statement.
“It is critical that women recognize the legal tools at their disposal to counter this trend and embrace them however possible to gain their personal freedom.”
After receiving her get, G thanked God for what she described as her “personal Hanukkah miracle,” as well as Yad La’isha for helping her through this long and arduous process.
“Their staff gave me the strength to continue my daily routine while addressing this challenge of get refusal and living as an agunah, which sadly does not get the recognition it needs in our society today,” she added.
While this case represents a landmark moment in freeing agunot due to the fact that secular, foreign courts now seem willing to impose sanctions on get refusing husbands, many women worldwide are still trapped in their marriages.
But according to Yad La’isha director Pnina Omer, this is exactly why her organization does what it does: “Until the Jewish world succeeds in finding the necessary halachic solution to this challenge, it is our sincere commitment to stand at the forefront in helping these women gain the freedom and new lives they so deserve.”