For 28 years, Raya Dinenberg was an agunah. Twenty-eight years of loneliness after her husband disappeared, seemingly without a trace. Twenty-eight years of being trapped that finally ended this week.
Agunah Finally Freed – But Only After 28 Years Of Waiting
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
For 28 years, Raya Dinenberg was an agunah (a woman who is unable to remarry or have a sexual relationship with a man, either because her recalcitrant husband refuses to grant her a Jewish divorce document known as a get or because her husband has gone missing). Twenty-eight years of loneliness after her husband disappeared, seemingly without a trace.
Tuesday, her recalcitrant husband was found alive and well, living as a vagrant in Tel Aviv, the Jerusalem Post reported, and yesterday, after 28-years of suffering, Raya Dinenberg finally got her Jewish divorce.
In 1987, Dinenberg – then in her mid- to late-30s – and her husband were in the process of divorcing. A civil court had just sold their jointly-owned apartment and given her husband his share of the proceeds. One morning soon afterward, her husband left home without a word and never came back.
Raya Dinenberg was left alone with her two young daughters, who were then four- and nine-years-old.
After almost two months of fruitless searching passed, she gave up home that her husband would return, and she opened up a divorce file in state rabbinical court.
And then she waited for 27 long and lonely years, unable to legally remarry and knowing that even though she was not Orthodox, any children she might have with another man would be stigmatized by the state's rabbinate and prevented from marrying "pure" Jews – a stigma and restriction that would be passed down to their children and their children's children for all generations.
Last year, she contacted Yad L’isha: the Monica Dennis Goldberg Legal Aid Center and Hotline, which hired a private investigator to try to find Dinenberg’s husband, even though the state rabbinical courts have their own investigators who are supposed to investigate disappearances like this.
Two months ago, Yad L’isha had enough evidence to show that Dinenberg’s husband was alive, well and working in south Tel Aviv and the private investigator began working with police to have him arrested. Tuesday, the private investigator got a tip placing the man at a grocery store in Tel Aviv. The Private investigator was able to get there before the man left and then follow him while also notifying police, who came and arrested Dinenberg’s husband.
Wednesday Dinenberg’s husband was brought before the Tel Aviv rabbinical court. He was reportedly “bedraggled, dirty, disheveled and almost unrecognizable.” He told the rabbis he fled 28 years ago because of severe financial problems and said during that entire time he never had a permanent place of residence. Instead, he said he slept in public parks, on bus stop benches, in mechanics’ shops and in homeless shelters, and anywhere else he could.
He earned money, he reportedly claimed, by begging, by doing menial work and day labor, and moved from city to city.
Rabbinical court judge Rabbi Shlomo Tam reportedly told the man that he could choose to go back to prison or he could choose to give his long-suffering wife granting his long-suffering wife a Jewish divorce. He granted the divorce immediately.
After the divorce was granted, Yad L’isha reportedly praised Tam and noted that he had issued every possible court order to help Yad L’isha’s private investigator. It also praised the private investigator for his “amazing and unbelievable work.”
Dinenberg – now in her mid-60s and who never was and who is not now Orthodox – was ecstatic.
“Ahead of Passover, I have merited to finally go out to freedom. I can now, after so many years, finally celebrate the Passover holiday with my daughters and family as a free woman,” Dinenberg said after receiving her get.