Friday, March 2, 2012

Petition on behalf of Tamar Epstein

I received the following email yesterday:

As I am sure you are aware, there has recently been a great effort by the Jewish Community to help free Tamar Epstein from the chains of being an Agunah. Her ex-Husband (they are civilly divorced) is an aide for the prominent House Ways and Means Committee, chaired by Representative Dave Camp. Recent efforts have focused on pressuring Rep. Camp to make a statement condemning all forms of emotional abuse including Get refusal.

This is especially critical because he has previously referred to this issue as “gossip”.

For several days hundreds of people posted on his facebook page. Unfortunately Camp did not respond and instead disabled his wall. This aspect has been covered by Politico, Foxnews, and The Jewish Week.

We are now making an effort to have the public sign a petition (which has over 3,000 signatures ) asking Camp to make a statement. See

I state explicitly that I have not looked into the details of Aharon Friedman's claims. If that disqualifies my support for the petition in your eyes, so be it. However, I believe that a Get must never, under any circumstances, be used as a weapon or as leverage.

I have written about Agunah issues elsewhere on this blog; see, for example, this post from 2008. I believe they are best handled without direct pressure and head-to-head battles. That said, I know there is room for such pressure as well, and I pray that this pressure will succeed.


  1. R' Adlerstein over on Cross Currents reports:
    Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky is one of the signatories to a shtar seruv against Friedman. Rav Yisrael Belsky, who at one point was counted in Friedman’s camp, has turned against him. R Hershel Schachter has taken a personal role in applying public shame pressure against Friedman. While it is always possible to empathize with both sides in a dispute, at some point the law must speak. After a person has been given every opportunity to be heard in legal proceedings, any assistance given to the losing party is nothing less than a stab at the process of law itself. We are well past that point in the case of Aharon Friedman.

    That's pretty heavy metal saying the guy is in the halachic wrong, regardless of whether or not the divorce was a good idea or his fault.

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  3. Re: Your 2008 post which includes a link to the Prenup Agreement. I assume that there is a Canadian version of this same agreement (ie. with reference to the local Bet Din vs. the Bet Din of America?)

  4. Micha 1-

    Micha 2-
    The new form was foisted rather than chosen. I have sent them feedback on this. I'm sure someone is discussing this somewhere, but it's Friday afternoon, so I'm not likely to get around to Googling it for a while.

    Actually, Canada has a problem with this, because of laws against use of religious bodies to handle legal disputes.

  5. My understanding is that until recently Batai Dinim were acceptable under the laws of arbitration in Ontario (ie. if both parties accept them as an arbitrator). But I heard a rumour recently that because Moslems tried to start applying sharia using this law, the govt of Ont withdrew it for everyone!

    There is of course also the famous federal Get Law that John Syrtash in our shul was instrumental in getting passed. AIUI it basically says that if either party wants to negotiate for more than the standard law allows (ie. splitting assets, child custody), then the requesting party must remove any religious impediments for the other to remarry. This is mainly helpful for recalcitrant husbands. But if he says in the civil divorce - I don't care, let her have whatever is coming to her as determined by the judge, then this has no power. I think this works in halacha because he isn't being forced by the non-Jewish court - it's up to him to decide.

    But of course, this is only of use after civil divorce. Reading your older article and with my niece getting married in 2 weeks in Toronto, I wondered if the prenup is being used now in Canada and apparently it's not?

  6. Hi Michael,

    1. The rumour is correct.

    2. The Get Law is effective in theory, and in many cases in practice, but it doesn't help if the husband opts not to enter a plea. Also, some batei din have stated that they will not respond to a wife's claims if she goes with the Get Law in secular court.

    3. Mazal tov! I would recommend speaking to the Rabbi to investigate options.

  7. In the Torah there are very specific instructions as for the get process. one is that the husband cant be forced. In Eastern Europe there was a famous case (sorry I forget the name of the Rav) of husband being tricked into giving the get by promises and this was deemed to be forced.
    However the Rema does mention in a teshuva different situations in which the husband can be forced. He does mention the question of danger. But he says playing cards or being mechalel shabat does not come into that category.
    The next question is the money issue. This woman will almost certainly go to court to ask for half his assets and the court will in all likelihood grant this to her.
    using a get as a weapon is not right I agree but using the power and might of the state as a weapon to steal from her husband is also not right.
    This is stealing since the Torah does not grant to her half of her husband's assets so she is using the power to the state to steal. And stealing is forbidden according the Torah. Also there is a further question of the child but in this case the woman might be right for having the child with her. In general girls are with the mother and boys at a certain age with the father according to Torah law.
    The next most pressing question here is rebelious wife (moredet). Simply put: the basic din of a rebellious wife is that she loses the ketubah plus the fruit of property she brought into the marriage (nichsai zon barzel and melug). In this case however she will surely try to steal most of his property. Why no rabbi thinks that stealing is a problem is a mystery to me.
    and there the further question of why he does not want to go to a kangaroo court that he already knows what the verdict will be. I cant answer that question. especially when he know that what a beit din decides is in general not what the Torah says so it ha no din of a beit din. In this case to know what the Torah says one would have to go to a person that has some knowledge of ketuboth.

  8. Adam-
    While your comments have their place, they don't apply to this case, in which - as I understand it - the financial and custody issues have already been resolved. Only the Get remains.

  9. We already know from a previous post's comments that Adam Zur is in favor of people being beaten up and (almost) killed for no reason other than that he doesn't like their ideology.

    Now we find that he's also in favor of husbands being mesarvei get.

    Again I say, shomu shamayim! You are not fit to shine the shoes of our host, or of any other decent Jew.

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. Anonymous-
    I'll let Adam defend himself, but please don't bring me (or my shoes, which I just shined on Erev Shabbos) into it...

    Thanks! That was the tip I needed. Problem solved.
    If you are advising any other bloggers, here are detailed directions:
    1. Go to Layout
    2. Choose Posts and Comments
    3. Set Comment Location to Embedded (as you had noted)

  12. Sorry, need to edit those instructions:

    1. Go to Layout
    2. Choose Settings in the left-side sidebar
    2. Choose Posts and Comments in the resulting left-side menu
    3. Set Comment Location to Embedded

  13. I have a little thing I have thought about Gitin (Divorce) for a long time. It is the date. The sages established the date as from the time the present government began its reign. Counting from a different date makes the get not kosher. An example would be counting from the time of the beit hamikdash (from its building or destruction or from the time of a different government). These are all ways to posel a get. And though the present form is well established for along time,- but hey, so was the form of the get in the time of Rabbainu Tam established. That did not stop him from changing it. (Though I might not accept it, I would be very interested to know what R. Ovadiah Joseph would have to say about this. I don't always accept his conclusions but his halachic reasoning is very brilliant in general.)

  14. Adam-
    That's why we write למנין שאנו מונין. See Nachlas Shivah on Kesuvos, Siman 12, where he stresses this.

  15. Thank you. That answers my question.
    (At least according to Tosphot. But Tosphot always goes according to the opinion that when the reason for a law is null then the law is null. So along with tosphot (in gitin)and your answer this answers the question fully. My main question was really according to the Rambam. But at this point it seems like nit picking since i always go by tosphot anyway.

  16. I was also wondering about the issue of the fact that the husband appoints someone to write the get. I remember that the Tiferet Israel brings this question in the his booklet on Nashim. But I was wondering if there are other people that deal with this question. (To be clear: why does shlichut help in this case?)

  17. Adam-
    I don't see why this would bother the Tiferes Yisrael; the gemara explicitly licenses a shaliach to write the get. The shaliach may not even need to see the husband, cf Gittin 66a.