Justice, Justice, You Shall Ignore

Ynet reports on an agunah who committed suicide after waiting for a get for 6 years. The beit din, of course, backed her abusive husband.

Last week, Jerusalemite M. jumped to her death. Her body lay on the street, as her horrified neighbors gathered outside to observe the tragic end of M.’s misery, which began when she married her husband, eighteen years ago.
M. had initially requested a divorce six years ago. She had had enough of the violence and the humiliation, but her husband refused to provide a get (religious divorce papers). During six years of proceedings at the rabbinical court, the judges declined to force the recalcitrant husband to divorce his suffering wife.
Meanwhile, M.’s husband continued to physically and verbally abuse her. Although the neighbors were aware of what went on in the couple’s home, no one dared to interfere. In the haredi neighborhood where the couple lived with their four children, the unspoken rules were sacred: Don’t involve the police, and don’t air your dirty laundry in public.

Baruch Dayan Ha-Emet. What a waste, what a crime. And the Rabbanut should be held accountable.
Full story here.

16 thoughts on “Justice, Justice, You Shall Ignore

  1. ben baruch– no, it’s much more direct than that.
    a parallel ot the video game industry would be the people who promote views that only a husband knows what’s in his wife’s interest, that a shidduch or school admission for a child is more important than giving an abused woman her get.
    The rabbanut are the people who are (theoretically) supposed to help her; they interacted with her directly, and chose not to help her, but rather to side with her abusive husband.
    these things make me so so angry

  2. Absolutely! If this is being reported accurately; if she tried repeatedly to get help and they ignored her, they are guilty of murder. They are certainly culpable morally, and one could probably argue that they are guilty halakhically as well. At the very least, these men should be publicly vilified, but they won’t be – no Haredi rabbi EVER does anything wrong!

  3. Rebecca, Cipher, the article also states that she contacted the police, but they apparently didn’t help much either. Should the State also be held accountable?
    If a secular woman commits suicide because of an abusive relationship in which she felt trapped, who should we hold accountable?
    If she was murdered by her husband, it might be easier to hold someone accountable. But she chose to take her own life, rather than breach the tradition of a flawed, sexist, antiquated doctrine.

  4. Yes, Ben, the state should be held accountable, certainly. In America, the police would be in deep hot water if they failed to do everything possible to secure her safety, including arresting the husband and/or escorting the kids and her to a shelter. However, in Israel, the government is so intimidated by the Haredim that the most they were willing (or able) to do was to cooperate with the bes din.
    And, you know as well as I do that the amount of pressure in that community – here and in Israel – is overwhelming. If she had simply left, she would have lost her children, been ostracized by family and friends, and abandoned to fend for herself in a world with which she was totally unequipped to deal, in terms of education and social skills (let’s assume that she wasn’t a BT, but was born into that community).
    I’m becoming remarkably intolerant in my old age. I’ve come to feel that their autonomous fundamentalism should no longer be tolerated. Society has a responsibility to the children born into these self-perpetuating cycles of poverty and/or ignorance. Some months ago, David Kelsey (I think) posted a piece here in which he suggested that the larger Jewish community should attempt to force change within Haredi and Chassidic communities by eliminating funding, pressuring state authorities to ease them out of public/low income housing and welfare programs, etc. I realize, of course, that they aren’t all on welfare, and that it wouldn’t take care of the problem in Israel – but it’s a start.
    They’re simply incapable of solving these problems on their own. I’m put in mind of that tragic case that was reported recently involving the young Haredi father who beat his infant child to death. As soon as the state became involved – far too late – the Haredim came screaming out of the woodwork. All they could see was that the secular authorities – the “frei yidden” – were attempting to interfere. They were outraged – people who don’t spend twelve hours a day studying Torah attempting to impose their unclean values! They even threatened mass violence if the young man wasn’t released immediately. Centuries of oppression have produced an insular, “us against them” mentality. They can’t even recognize that their system, which enforces complete gender separation, then forces young people who are still functional adolescents to marry and begin reproducing immediately, causes these situations in the first place.
    I’m sorry; I’m rambling. I’ve arrived at a point at which fundamentalists – of all varieties, not merely our own – piss me off beyond my ability to contain myself. Situations like this act as triggers. But I mean what I say – this simply cannot be allowed to continue.

  5. Well, the community were all in violation of at least one of the 613 mitzvot by standing by idly when a human life is in danger (Lev. 19:16)
    Suicide is also strictly forbidden by Jewish law.
    And “Of the 613 commandments, only the prohibitions against murder, idolatry, incest and adultery are so important that they cannot be violated to save a life.” I’m assuming this includes suicide.
    For a community of people defined by a religious code, they sure don’t follow the rules very well. She just chose the wrong rule to break to solve her problem.

  6. Unfortunately, cipher, I don’t think the authorities in the U.S. get in enough hot water when they turn a blind eye on cases of obvious abuse and neglect. It is especially troubling when the institutions of our society perpetuate the environment that allows such abuse to happen, as was the case with this woman. It’s out and out morally reprehensible when friends, family, and neighbors do not intervene when they see an obvious problem. Shame on her family.
    I think the Rabbanut is accountable, I think her husband is accountable, I think her family is accountable, and I think the secular authorities are accountable for what happened to this poor woman. If suicide seemed like the best option, this woman must have been tragically ill-equipped to save herself from this situation.

  7. thanks for bringing this to my attention, such a shame this is still happening in this day and age. this is also a problem in the diaspora with the beth din in the communities not doing enough to help the agunot, in australia anyway…

  8. Cipher –
    With you all the way. You put it very, very well. My reaction to any form of fundamentalism is the same… such evil gets done in God’s name! Whether they be Jerry Falwell, a crazy Imam, or some Haredi “rabbi.”

  9. I thought the ‘safety net’ of the get was that the rabbis would do absolutely everything in their power to ensure compliance from the husband, including a variation of shunning.

  10. no, man, when a dude won’t give a get, you take him out back and beat him till he does. that’s what should have been done in this case.
    and no i’m not joking.

  11. BS”D
    Thank you, shmuel. If the Rabbis prevent women from acting for themselves & insist on representing them, then it is their responsibility to take great care of the people who they have chosen to disempower.

  12. Absolutely, Aviel! I couldn’t agree more. And, while I agree with rb that all of the authorities involved are to blame, the Rabbis bear the greatest responsibility, as, in their world, they are the ultimate –and often the sole – authority. That this could happen once is disgusting. That the circumstance that led up to it go on all the time – that is, as some of you would say, a Chillul Hashem.
    And Ben – I wouldn’t describe this woman’s suicide as a “choice” to “break a rule”. It was an act of desperation, committed after years of abuse. You can’t know the state of her mind, the level of pain inflicted upon her. She may very well have been in agony, experiencing a greater pain than either you or I could have endured. We’re men, and we operate in the wider culture; we have no experience with the kind of subjugation with which these women live every day. To describe it as “choosing to break a rule”, to express it in such authoritarian terms, seems very callous indeed.

  13. And shmuel is correct – the rabbis advocated the threat of flogging for a man who refused to give his wife a get. Also, as I recall, there was one story (I can’t remember whether or not it was in the Talmud) involving a rabbi who threatened such a man with divine retribution – and he dropped dead on his way out of the rabbi’s study!

  14. Maybe I’m out of touch with the halachic world/halachic change world, but aren’t we somehow losing our perspective when a bunch of sane people (i.e. some of y’all here) think it’s a grand idea to beat a guy to death – maybe we shouldn’t give a system that leaves that as the only option so much power over our precious lives – over which we have ultimate responsibilty? That said, this is certainly a hideous tragedy.

  15. We’re not saying beat him to death – just until he gives in.
    And, I agree with you – I think that it’s ridiculous to relinquish control of our lives to such an archaic system. The point is – this is precisely what they do in the Haredi world. Soferet expressed it best – they insist upon disempowering these women, and then refuse to protect them.
    A woman in that position would never accept the decree of a civil court that her marriage had been dissolved. She’s been programmed only to accept the verdict of a rabbinic court, and that court won’t free her from an abusive situation unless the husband agrees to it.
    So, yeah – I have no problem smacking this guy around for a while. Sometimes you have to use a little persuasion…

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