Woman in chains: Will anything change for Agunot
(Page 5 of 8)
“Husbands who don’t get their marriages are over and they still profess their love,” Rabbi Stern explained.
Rabbi Broyde sees the issue as compounded by the combination of civil and religious marriage that makes the get another factor in sometimes-lengthy divorce settlements.
“The central Agunah problem in America is the relationship between the civil divorce and the Jewish divorce. People want both of these to arrive concurrently,” he said. “And that doesn’t necessarily happen...The problem is that upon filing a civil divorce wife and husband expect the get to be forthcoming immediately. It’s not always the case, but most Agunot are in situations in which the couple is haggling still about their civil divorce. There are harder cases, but if you adopt a definition that an Agunah is someone who has a civil divorce but not a religious divorce, then you have one model of thinking about it. There are other ways to approach this also, and particularly when the couple signs a prenuptial agreement governing the giving and receiving of a get. These models are better.”
The longest case ORA has is an Israeli man by the name of Danny Zadok who fled Israel and now lives in L.A. He demanded $20 million in exchange for a get. ORA sued him for intentional infliction of damage and child support and won a default judgment against him.
“I don’t think the entire system is broken,” Rabbi Stern said. “This is probably one of the most extreme cases.”
The longest living Agunah is believed to be Susan Zinkin, a retired Orthodox Jewish teacher from London. She was an Agunah for 48 years until her husband died this past February.
“As awful as it may sound my ex-husband’s death is a great relief and a huge weight off my shoulders - to be stuck like that was so cruel,” Zinkin, 73, told the British newspaper, The Independent. “I’m quite convinced that had the rabbis wanted to get their act together they could have done something within Jewish law and found a solution.”