Woman in chains: Will anything change for Agunot
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When the judge indicated that he would rule in favor of Tamar, the husband attempted to bring the case back to beis din, but beis din refused to hear the case since there was a verdict from a secular court. The court ruled that Tamar would receive full physical custody of their daughter and share legal custody with her husband. When the two were separated Tamar asked for a get and her husband refused. That’s when ORA stepped in.
Founded in 2002 by several undergraduate students at Yeshiva University, the organization works to help women and men attain full religious divorces. In most cases, according to Jeremy Stern, the director of ORA, the organization works as a third party to help couples resolve their get issues. Most cases ORA deals with involve men refusing to give a get. When mediation proves impossible, the organization ramps up its efforts, in some cases using whatever public and legal means are available.
“We use all legal remedies to pressure the recalcitrant parties,” Stern explained. “We don’t bust a knee cap but we include social, financial and legal pressure.”
The public rally was the result of a failure to negotiate a get with Tamar’s ex-husband. The hope was that the public pressure against him and his uncle would make him reconsider. The night before the rally, the husband called a rosh yeshiva at Yeshiva University in the hope that ORA could be pressured to call off the protest.
“A get is not meant to be an instrument of extortion,” said Rabbi Kenneth Auman, the rav of the Young Israel of Flatbush, who attended the rally. Rabbi Auman estimated that in the 25 years he’s been in Brooklyn he’s been involved in at least 10 cases of Agunot.
Tamar’s case is also complicated because no one knows why exactly her husband is holding back the get. He has refused to speak about it with her and did not respond to repeated requests for an interview.
“It’s very unclear what he’s trying to get from me other than getting back at me,” Tamar explained, adding that she was willing to compromise on some of the custody issues. “I know he has a lot of anger at me for leaving him... I don’t understand what would justify him not giving a get other than getting back to me.”