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February 03, 2011

Court Allows Woman To Sue Husband For Making Her An Aguna

Scales_of_justice low res A woman’s bid to sue her recalcitrant husband after he consistently refused to give her a Jewish divorce for more than 16 years is upheld in precedent-setting decision.

District Court sets precedent by upholding right of ‘aguna'
Woman’s bid to sue her recalcitrant husband after he consistently refused her a get for more than 16 years upheld in precedent-setting decision.
By RUTH EGLASH • Jerusalem Post
A woman’s bid to sue her recalcitrant husband for NIS 700,000 in damages after he consistently refused her a get (Jewish divorce) for more than 16 years was upheld this week in a precedent-setting decision by the Tel Aviv District Court, The Jerusalem Post learned Wednesday.

“The woman standing before us has been held hostage by the [husband] who has no valid reason for the prison that he made for her simply because she once agreed to marry him,” wrote the judge on Monday, ruling on a case brought by the husband, who was appealing the damage award set by a family court.

“The respondent had the right to a get from the moment she wanted one, and all the more so when she married the appellant at the age of 24, was with him for all of three months, and knew no comfort from him.”

“Today, almost 40 years old, she continues to suffer from his cruelty towards her,” the judge continued. “He prevents, and prevented her, from experiencing life’s joys, establishing a family, and especially from having children. We are talking about immeasurable damage that increases by the day. These actions are immoral and go against the Basic Law – Human Dignity and Freedom.”

“This is indeed an important precedent,” commented attorney Susan Weiss, founder of the Center for Women’s Justice (CWJ), which has represented the women since her first attempt to seek damages in Family Court through this appeal hearing in the district court.

“This is the first time a court of appeals has ruled on such a case and its decision – barring a contrary ruling by the Supreme Court – is binding on all family courts in Israel.”

She added, “This is also an important ruling for CWJ, for Israeli women, as well as for Jewish women in the Diaspora.

It is our hope that this case will serve as a precedent for women all over the world allowing them to realize that religious laws cannot be exploited to abuse them or be used to infringe on their basic rights to autonomy and freedom.”

Weiss explained that one of the main goals of the CWJ since its inception in 2001 is to establish that get refusal is abuse (a “tort”) that entitles women to damages.

CWJ has successfully achieved damage judgments for agunot, or “chained women,” in family courts all over Israel in amounts totaling millions of shekels. This ruling marks the first time that these judgments were confirmed by an appellate court.

“Slowly but surely, we have convinced family courts all over Israel to award out clients damages,” she said, adding that in this particular case, the husband appealed the family court’s ruling in the Tel Aviv District Court.

In Israel all Jews must be married in accordance with Halacha, although civil marriages from abroad are recognized. Divorces among Jews must also be effected in accordance with Jewish law.

According to Jewish law, a woman cannot remarry until her husband agrees to give her a get. Women waiting for an intransigent husband to give a get are known as agunot, or “chained” women. If agunot do marry without receiving a get from their previous husbands, the children born of the second marriage are considered illegitimate, or mamzerim, and can only marry another mamzer or a convert.

While the rabbinical courts are empowered by law to impose sanctions to coerce one of the sides, usually the husband, to grant a divorce, the CWJ maintains that they generally don’t.


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This is great. Even American women can possibltv sue in Israeli court based on this principle.

Good decision. This may make certain men not willing to let their wives be free reconsider their actions.

Good news for a change! Let's notice that it took a SECULAR Israeli court to recognize the abuse that Halachically a man can commit, and award her damages for it!

Let's also note that the rabbis are powerless to do anything of the sort, and therefore, the whole halacha of the aguna should be nullified or changed. It is pathetic as it is practiced now.

I don't see how this would help women outside of Israel though. Even if an aguna would travel to Israel to try to sue her husband who is in the USA, the Israeli courts have no jurisdiction in the USA and cannot enforce any penalties on the husband or awards to the wife.

Well, at least in Israel this is one thing that is working in the right direction!

Great news!

According to the Charedim, the man is a Tzaddik. In the light of this decision, they will riot.

I dunno...I had a cousin in Israel whose husband refused to divorce her...they threw him in jail, and he gave the get...I don't know why they only do this in some cases and not in others...

There is no reason why damages cannot be awarded by any secular court in agunot cases.

It very common for a domestic abuser to take advantage of psychological vulnerability in a particular victim. The majority of women have sufficient self esteem to leave any man who abuses them, however a significant minority do not because they are mentally vulnerable. The secular courts have a duty to protect such women. An domestic abuser must not be allowed to say that because the woman 'chooses' to live with him, she has agreed to the abuse. The Family Courts have a duty to protect the vulnerable from their own weakness and stupidity. Quite often a woman obtains a restraining order against her boyfriend but then shortly afterwards allows him back into the home where further abuse becomes inevitable. The courts will treat such a woman sympathetically because her actions are so 'stupid' that they prove her mental vulnerability. The fact that this 'stupidity' may be based on some superstition or religion does not alter matters when it comes to protecting the mentally vulnerable.

It is open for secular courts to consider that Jewish marriage laws are deeply misogynist and in so far as they create agunot are against public policy. The fact that Orthodox women 'voluntarily choose' to keep to that law notwithstanding that it is clearly against their own best interest is to be understood as being no more of a choice than that made by some women who 'voluntarily choose' to live with violent and abusive boyfriends. Orthodox women have been brought up and conditioned to be vulnerable to this particular abuse and the fact that it is religiously based should not be of concern to a court. I seem to remember that some years ago a rabbi took sexual advantage of a desperate and vulnerable woman claiming that his semen was holy. No one would argue that the punishment of that rabbi by secular authorities somehow interfered in the separation of church and state.

Once courts fix problem of agunot (chained Jewish women), they have to begin working of case of chained Jewish men, who can not marry until their previous wife accepts their get. There are quite a few aguna men in this world and no one cares.

After that we have to solve a much more severe problem in Catholic world - both men and women can not divorce at all and thus are ultimate case of aguna with no chance of getting out of it.

Lots of things to fix.

this is ridiculous. the israeli govt. forces its jewish citizens to marry and divorce at the hands of the rabbinate, and to therefore be bound by their rules. and now some guy can be sued in civil court for playing by those very rules??

It is open for secular courts to consider that Jewish marriage laws are deeply misogynist and in so far as they create agunot are against public policy.
Posted by: Barry

barry, i liked your post, but on this point, since israeli law forces people to be married by rabbis, they have MADE this public policy. if the courts find this objectionable the solution is to permit civil marriage exclusive of jewish law.

Hurray for justice! I think the rabbis also should be sued for enabling such poor behavior.

Who knows; you cannot compare the pressure an agun or a catholic suffers from being denied the 'right to procreate' to that of an agunah. Only the child of an agunah suffers the very real disabilities of being a mamzer. As for catholics, the disabilities of illegimacy are minor. Whilst an agunah (like an agun or a catholic) might be prepared to live with the fact that people consider her as living in sin, it is much harder for her to live with the idea that her children will be find it hard to marry not their their actions but through hers.

Ah-pee-chorus; courts do not bind themselves according to criteria set by others. Common law recognizes marriages entered into according to religious rites. So a Jew and a Jewess who marry in a synagogue are man and wife according to both Jewish Law and common law. Lets say the man commits adultery. Under common law the women is entitled to a divorce whether or not the husband consents. It is not open for the husband to argue that as Jewish Law does not allow that right and as common law recognizes marriage according to Jewish rites, then the rights of divorce (or other matrimonial remedies) should also follow Jewish Law.

The Israeli Courts should allow civil marriage and also institute civil divorce. Civil divorce should be available whether or not a particular spouse married religiously or civilly.


i'm referring only to israel, where it is their rules themselves that force halacha to be the legal guide for marriage and divorce.
as an aside,i think america does not recognize religious marriage unless a marriage license has first been procured.
isnt that what polygamists rely on when taking multiple wives in religious ceremonies, which the states do not view as marriage under civil law?

I agree, agunah is in worse condition, since her child will be a mumzer. However, she has an option to prevent it and still have a child - marry civilly a non-Jew.

I agree, agunah is in worse condition, since her child will be a mumzer. However, she has an option to prevent it and still have a child - marry civilly a non-Jew.

Posted by: who knows | February 03, 2011 at 12:31 PM

Good point, and the child would still be 100% Jewish with no social detriments. This is an ideal solution for the agunot and the "Rabbis" have no one to blame but themselves. After all, they can find loopholes for everything else, why is this the only matter for which no loophole can be found?

Question: If the agunah married a non-Jew and then he decided to convert, what would be the status of a child either a) born before conversion and b) born after conversion? I would imagine that case (a) is fine but in case (b) the child might be a mamzer? Is that correct?

A woman should not have to sue, if a civil divorce is not followed by a Jewish get after a reasonable amount of time it should be off to jail. No need for the woman to hire lawyers and incur an expense.

What about the cases where a woman feigns to be an Aguna to receive more from the court??? How do we reconcile this??? take a look at
http://lonnakin.blogspot.com/ . You think the American rabbis assisting these women have not been paid Off? Read that blog and see the Halachic violations that this woman committed!!! How come no one stands up for the man in certain divorce situations??? The answer lies that the filthy "feminist Movement " constantly portrays the woman as "the only victim" and that is not true.

O cmon Menashe-there you go again injecting logic!-dont you know that in our society the pecking order of correctness has been established?-it is, as follows
Women (only if black, latino, gay, or liberal)
and, of course, Obama uber allis-
Please dont inject your damned logic into discussions-as if the man could possibly be right-hahaha!-make me laugh-so "old school"-you obviously either didnt go to college, or didnt pay attention!

“The respondent had the right to a get from the moment she wanted one, and all the more so when she married the appellant at the age of 24, was with him for all of three months, and knew no comfort from him.”

Secular court decided she is entitled to a get on demand made up of apikorsim, am hortzim and those who hate the Torah so obviously she is entitled to a get.

In every single divorce the man is at fault, the man is an abuser, women never abuse men, never lie before marriage about where they are prepared to live, never have psychological or mental issues, never destroy the family, never maaser lies to the cops, never obtain false orders of protection, never make false allegations of molestation, never brainwash the children against their fathers, never prevent the fathers from having a relationship with their children, the women are always angels, and in fact all men should be shot. In fact women never suffer from post partum, only men do.

Great post Shmarya and thanks for the psak halochoh from the judicial decendants of Aharon barak the apikores!

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