May 29, 2024
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Escaping From a Marriage That Almost Cost Her Life, US Woman Secures Get After 10-Year Fight

(Courtesy of Yad La’isha) Marking the conclusion to a difficult, violent case, the Yad La’isha Legal Aid Center for Agunot was able to attain a get (writ of Jewish divorce) for S—a U.S. resident who has been fighting to be released from her abusive marriage for over a decade.

Originally married in Israel 30 years ago, the couple had emigrated to the U.S. where they had two children. Over the course of much of the marriage, S had been subject to physical and mental abuse. This culminated in 2011 when her husband grabbed her by the hair and forced her into a clothes closet at knifepoint. Their 10-year-old son heard his mother’s cries, ran to her aid and pushed his father away, while their daughter called the police.

The husband was arrested and upon release fled the U.S. Leaving his whereabouts unknown, S was left as an “agunah,” a trapped woman unable to secure a divorce or start a new life of her own. Over the years, she received unconfirmed reports of her husband’s sighting in countries as distant as Ireland and the Philippines,but she was never able to find his exact location.

In 2012, S obtained a civil divorce, based on her husband’s violent record. At the same time, he reappeared in the U.S. and continued to threaten and harass S. He impersonated her, had her driver’s license canceled, and even stole her car and parked in a random location, incurring significant fines for S.

Despite the restraining order, S’s husband broke into the family home and began to physically threaten her. He fled before the police arrived, and once again disappeared.

As a citizen of Israel, S repeatedly submitted requests to the Israeli Rabbinical Court to intervene on her behalf. But because the couple were both living outside of Israel, and the man had still not been found, the Israeli case files were closed on each occasion. Then, just under a year ago, information came to light that the husband may have been found in Israel leading to the case being opened once again.

At that point, S contacted the Jerusalem-based Yad La’isha Center, a division of the Ohr Torah Stone network, and rabbinical advocate Devora Brisk was assigned the case. Even while the man’s exact location remained unknown, Brisk was able to secure an order prohibiting him from leaving Israel. A letter demanding he appear before the court was sent to his mother’s home in central Israel.

To everyone’s shock, he appeared at the court, yet continued to refuse to issue the get.

In recent months, the legal proceedings intensified, with the woman appearing before the court via Zoom while still located in the U.S. In early July, she travelled to Israel at the request of the Rabbinical Court where she tearfully provided firsthand testimony about the extensive physical and mental abuse she suffered over the course of the marriage. She presented physical evidence of the abuse including injuries she had incurred at the hands of the man to whom she was still legally married. The husband didn’t deny his actions and confirmed his wife’s testimony.

Even in the courtroom, the man revealed his violent tendencies, repeatedly yelling and insulting the judges, and even throwing furniture.

In response the chief dayan (rabbinical court judge) stated, “We’ve seen enough of this deplorable behavior in front of the court that we now demand that he present the get.”

Understanding the impact of the court’s decision, which could lead to significant sanctions and imprisonment, the man finally relented. S is now free to remarry and start a new life—10 years after securing the civil divorce.

Advocate Brisk welcomed the decision but said, “This case is just a further reminder of the unacceptable reality that so many women are forced to contend with where even after being abused, and in this case almost being murdered, these men are able to continue to make their wives suffer and prevent their freedom. Yad La’isha will continue to do everything necessary to help these women gain that freedom through all means possible.”

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