July 24, 2024
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Agunah Court Scheduled for Summer Opening

For all the agunot, women chained to a marriage because their husbands deny them a get, Rabbi Simcha Krause of Jerusalem told JLBC that the new International Agunah Beit Din is estimated to open sometime this summer. However he gave no indication as to what has delayed the Beit Din from its previous start date in February.

The move to form Beit Din was originally announced at the bi-annual conference of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance (JOFA) on December 8 of last year. However, a Second Agunah Summit, took place last Monday, March 17 at Bar-Ilan University, which  brought together experts in halacha and secular law from both sides of the Atlantic Ocean to address the responsibility of the State of Israel towards the “chained women.”

Included in the discussion was the Bar Ilan University Faculty of Law, as well as representatives of the Tikvah Center for Law and Jewish Civilization of New York University, the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance (JOFA) and the Israel Democracy Institute, (IDI).

How this will affect Rabbi Krause’s efforts is as yet unknown. Previously he said he would only be doing what he’s doing in consultation with some of the respected rabbis of Jerusalem. One such rabbi is Zalman Nechemia Goldberg, a rosh yeshiva, posek and Chief Justice of the Rabbinical High Court in Jerusalem.

Two of the rabbis named as Dayanim were Rabbi Yosef Blau, a mashgiach ruchani at Yeshiva University) and Rabbi Joseph Polak, who served as director of the Hillel at Boston University and chairs the halacha committee of the Boston bet din. Another rabbi who has stated his support is She’ar Yashuv Cohen, former Chief Rabbi of Haifa and president of its rabbinic courts.

Rabbi Krause, a lecturer in Yeshiva University’s IBC (Israel By Choice) program for 20 years, a former president of the Religious Zionists of America affiliated with Yeshivat Eretz HaTzvi in Jerusalem and former rabbi of the Young Israel of Hillcrest, thought of as a moderate among the Orthodox, agreed to serve as the head of the court.

He said, “I am not a revolutionary, and I understand that halacha (Jewish Law) moves slowly but it’s been too slow. It’s time.”

Except for some of the principles and operations, few details of the planned court have been made available but what has been said is this:

There would be six to 10 dayanim (religious court judges)

Each case will be taken on its merits

Work would be timely

There will be standard legal fees but no woman would be turned away for a lack of ability to pay.

The Beit Din would call on mental health professionals for their expertise and incorporate input from women and divorce mediators.

The court would include an ombudsman.

There would be transparency in its findings but the names of couples would not be included in the records that are made public.

Judges salaries would be comparable to Israeli judges (though the court is scheduled to start operations in New York).

The court would support pre-nuptial agreements.

The court would handle divorce cases that did not involve agunot.

While it has been stated that the court will use halachic devices, no examples have been released which has had many rabbis shying away from coming out with any opinion on the new court.

There are 462 open cases of agunot in the United States according to a 2011 study by the Mellman Group. While some report irreconcilable differences, others have to do with sexual abuse and infidelity.

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