"Chained women" in Australia
Hundreds of Jewish women stare down at a rabbi in a school hall. The Victorian chapter of the National Council of Jewish Women of Australia has called a meeting tonight to discuss agunot, "chained women". These are the women whose husbands refuse to hand over a religious divorce certificate, a gett. Without a gett, the woman are forbidden to remarry under Jewish law.I'm not sure they answered that clearly here, but one thing is certain: those who refuse are making complete fools of themselves.
"You have the absolute responsibility to answer her question now!" one woman screams at the rabbi. An excited "oooh" rolls through the crowd. The question the woman wants answered: Why won't rabbis change the laws around divorce?
These women cry they can't remarry without a gett. But they can. An agunah (singular for agunot) can remarry any man she wants under Australian law. So why do Australian Jewish women, many secular, feel chained by this one ancient law?
Also, one woman said the following:
What would God have done had she remarried under civil law?Oh for crying out loud! If God wouldn't condemn her for getting a civil divorce, then why feel guilty? It would not be going against Judaism at all, just against customs of a specific movement, as I'm guessing is the case here.
"I don't think God would do anything," Rosemary admits. "But I would feel very bad in myself. We were brought up fairly religious and I keep everything as best I can."
Rabbi Avrohom Jacks is the black-bearded rabbi under siege at the agunah meeting. He is an associate judge at the Melbourne beth din, the rabbinical court that oversees divorces and conversions.Well if he doesn't approve, why does he presumably fail to tell people they can abandon such crap? I get the feeling he's distorting what God told Moses, and worst, that he's putting words in God's mouth, which is basically violating the Commandment stating Thou Shalt Not Use God's Name In Vain. At the end, they say:
At his dining table, I pitch an explanation for the law: an obstacle so that couples think again before deciding to split. Rabbi Jacks shakes his head. We need not seek a rational reason.
"If my three-year-old wants to play with a shiny knife," the rabbi says, "when I take the knife away from her, she thinks I'm a monster. Basically I have to tell her, 'Look, you're only three years old. Your maturity and understanding is far inferior to my adult understanding.' We look at God's rules in the same way."
He says God told Moses the gett law around 3000 years ago. The consequence of betraying God carries on through the generations. "This is the most tragic thing," Rabbi Jacks says solemnly. If a woman without a gett has a child with another man, that child is branded a mamzer.
"Is that a bastard or something?" I ask.
"Yeah," Rabbi Jacks concedes. This cruel label has real-world repercussions. A mamzer is prohibited from marrying anyone, except another mamzer. "It's a stigma that's passed on forever," the rabbi declares.
I ask Doreen Beckwith why she and Colin chased Victor for a decade, trying to secure a gett or death certificate. "Why not get married in a liberal synagogue, on day one? Did you think God would be angry with -"Good grief, this one comes off sounding like an atheist! She sounds more like somebody who imprisons herself in a shoddy custom because she doesn't have the courage to fight for better standards. If that's how she's going to go, then she's practically doing God a disfavor. A major disappointment we have here. Additionally embarrassing is how the people cited in this article are basically declaring democratic laws invalid, illegal and illegitimate, all because the custom they go by is inexplicably more vital. All they've done is make themselves look stupid.
"No, it's nothing to do with God!" she interrupts. "It is your principles and how you look at these things, how you feel about future generations. No, no, it's nothing to do with God. Nothing at all!"