“This wasn’t a war against Judaism or against the rabbis. This was a battle against the monopoly of the state courts, a monopoly which they abuse and in so doing harm women, the rights of women, and do injury to the equal status of women." In response to the decision, women's rights group plans to open its own rabbinical divorce court.
Above: Nathalie Lastreger
Is The Haredi Monopoly Over? State Rabbinical Courts Back Down, Allow Ex-O Woman To Divorce Outside State Rabbinate’s Control
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Nathalie Lastreger, a formerly Orthodox woman from Paris who moved to Israel and then much later married in a private religious ceremony rather than though Israel’s haredi-controlled official state chief rabbinate, has won her battle get a Jewish her bill of divorce known as a get from a private rabbinical court outside the chief rabbinate’s control, the Jerusalem Post reported.
The 48-year-old Lastreger suffered through the divorce that ended her first marriage in the official state rabbinical courts. When she remarried 11 years ago, she decided to do so outside the rabbinate’s control because of that divorce experience, so Lastreger and her second husband were married in an unrecognized religious ceremony conducted by a rabbi from the Masorati (Conservative) Movement with the idea that if they should ever decide to divorce, they could do so in the same way.
But when the time eventually came when the couple decided to divorce, Lastreger’s second husband insisted the divorce be handled by the official state rabbinical court system – something Lastreger absolutely did not want. So she refused to attend divorce hearings scheduled by the state rabbinical courts. And that led to the state rabbinical courts issuing a ban – enforced by the Government of Israel – stopping her from leaving Israel. When Lastreger still did not comply with the state’s rabbis, they had an arrest warrant issued for her and fully intended to throw her in jail.
Lastreger responded by saying she would rather go to prison than give the state rabbinical courts control over her life, and she appealed the state rabbinical court’s arrest orders to the High Court of Justice, claiming the state’s rabbinical courts do not have jurisdiction over her.
This caused the state rabbinical courts to back down, fearing the High Court would rule in Lastreger’s favor, setting a clear legal precedent that would destroy the state-rabbinate’s monopoly over marriage and divorce in Israel. They granted Lastreger the right to divorce in a private rabbinical court, as long as the court is Orthodox.
Instead of continuing her appeal, Lastreger agreed in order to satisfy her soon-to-be-ex-husband, even though she preferred divorcing in a rabbinical court affiliated with the Conservative Movement.
An independent haredi religious court handled the divorce, which became final earlier this month.
Lastreger, who is now a leader in the Conservative Movement, and is studying to be a rabbi through the movement’s smicha (rabbinic ordination) program. She insists she is and always has been committed to halakha (Orthodox Jewish law), and says she has always insisted on marrying, and if necessary, divorcing, according to halakha.
But Lastreger also says that she thinks Israel’s marriage and divorce laws should be changed to allow people to marry through whichever Jewish stream is meaningful to them and then divorce if necessary through that same stream. She also supports civil marriage and divorce for those who prefer it.
Even so, she insists her refusal to subject herself to the state rabbinical court and her petition to the High Court were not meant as a “war” against Judaism itself.
“This wasn’t a war against Judaism or against the rabbis. This was a battle against the monopoly of the state courts, a monopoly which they abuse and in so doing harm women, the rights of women, and do injury to the equal status of women,” Lastreger told the Post.
“Monopolies are not good,” Lastreger continued, “not in business and not in religious services. Hillel and Shamai disputed many things in the times of the Talmud, here were always disputes in Jewish law, but there was never a monopoly until the State of Israel was established. The main reason for my main anger is that they're doing these injustices in the name of God, but God deserves more credit than is allowed for Him by what these people do.”
But Lastreger’s attorney, Batya Kehana-Dror of the Mavoi Satum women’s rights group, thinks Lastreger’s case will have historic implications – which she believes will eventually include breaking the state rabbinate’s monopoly over marriage and divorce.
“Our intention is to break the rabbinate’s monopoly. We’re talking about an institution which is unreliable. It is a monopoly, and its main activity is to preserve its own power instead of finding ways to solve serious problems for women,” Kehana-Dror told the Post, adding that Mavoi Satum intends to establish its own independent rabbinical courts and encourage divorcing couples to use them.
If divorces done through Mavoi Satum’s new rabbinical courts are challenged, Mavoi Satum will file a petition with the High Court of Justice citing Lastrenger’s case as precedent for its actions.
The Conservative Movement’s Israel head, Yitzhar Hess, reportedly told the Post his movement’s rabbinical courts should also now be able to do divorces legally.
“From here on in, it will be hard to to turn the wheel backwards. If this is the guiding principle, then other independent rabbinical courts are entitled to the same status, specifically the rabbinical court of the Masorati Movement which functions completely in accordance with Jewish law,” Hess said.