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Op-Ed: Divorce Is a Double-Sided Mess

by a Crown Heights Parent

A series of tragic events involving a crown heights family has started an important conversation about Agunah and the Halachic implications of a Jewish Divorce.

I have been following the articles and the comments online hoping to see a voice I related to. What I found instead was the voice of people who fought emotionally and projected their own feelings about divorce and Agunahs on this particular situation. I had been waiting to read a voice of reason and an explanation why the community at large did not support the ‘Agunah March’ last Sunday.

I wanted to bring another perspective.

Divorce brings out the absolute worst in people. During divorce, most people do things, say things, think things, and feel things that they’ve never done, said, thought, or felt before, and that they will never do, say, think, or feel in the future. Almost all of them involve at some point (usually at many points) an exchange of harsh, bitter, hurtful words.

Yes. There are some terrible men out there. There are men who withhold the Get in order to maintain control over their wives. There are real Agunahs who are or have been waiting years to be freed of their marriage. Those Agunahs we should and do rally around.

Unfortunately, the word ‘Agunah’ has been used and abused by women who are not satisfied with the direction of the divorce agreements. She calls herself an Agunah in order to to rally support with the intention of shaming and bullying the  husband in efforts to get the upper hand in the proceedings.

These women are hurt and they want to get their own back through the children, money or both. They are determined to ensure the husband is as much divorced from his children as his wife.

Most family lawyers agree that the wife holds most of the cards in a divorce case.

A divorced friend of mine found himself feeling completely powerless when his wife suddenly moved from one city to another with their two sons. ‘She did not tell me. One day she just stopped answering the phone. Until then I had been seeing my sons every weekend,’ he says.

By the time the case reached court, the kids  were  already settled in a new school. The judge admitted that what the woman had done was illegal, but because it was in the best interests of the children to be with their mother, he did nothing.

‘She had got away with kidnapping my children,’ said the father. His relationship with his sons has all but broken down. Their new home is too far for them to come to him. When he goes to see them, he has to stay in a hotel. ‘The children get bored in an hour or two,’ he says. ‘They have their friends and their sports, which they would rather do instead.’ He tells me he finds the situation ‘so painful. I try to play the role of a father – but how can I when I have been deliberately moved to the outside edge of their lives?’

According to research within two years of divorce, half of fathers lose contact with their children. The situation leaves many men distraught. They describe the loss of their children as ‘an emotional amputation.

The men are not immune. They have feelings and INNATE parental rights. Being a lousy husband does not mean you deserve to have those parental rights taken away.

Researcher reports that divorced men have higher rates of mortality, substance abuse, depression, and lack of social support. Statistics show divorced men are eight times more likely than divorced women to commit suicide.

Of course, in all this there is only one real victim – the children.

I have unfortunately seen many friends go through the process of divorce. Some were able to handle it amicably and set aside their differences for the best interest of the children. For others was just a bloody mess.

Every case needs to be judged independently.  We can’t just slap a label and jump to conclusion on any particular divorce or Get proceeding (civil or Jewish) as long as it is within the process of the courts and or Bes Din.

Women suffer in a divorce. Men too suffer in a divorce.

Just as the woman has a right to a Get, the man has a right to go through the process of dissolving the marriage and giving the get.

Every AGUNAH is our sister and every MAN going through a divorce is our brother. So long as they both are complying with the courts and Bet Din he deserves the same respect and support as the woman involved.

We are a community. We are a family.

12 Comments

  • 1. Crown Heightser wrote:

    The discussion is broader and needs to include the issue of abusive husbands and wives feeling trapped in marriage. The discussion needs to address how to help abused wives before the divorce process begins.

  • 2. well said wrote:

    After following everything written and commenting my feelings on the story (i’m on the husbands (kuppermen) side in this particular case), finally someone is putting things in perspective, not everyone that shouts i’m an aguna is actually an aguna, and not everyone that says they are a good bais din, is a good bais din to handle this sort of thing (gittin).

    Every case is different, and what through me off from the people doing the march is the quote: “THERE IS ONLY ONE SIDE TO THIS STORY” as you point out there is NEVER one side to a story!

    My biggest problem here is that the march was shrouded in controversy, they took a case that no rav, NOT ONE, put a letter against rabbi k, he was never confirmed by ANYONE LEGITIMATE to be a get refuser, even ORA who are notoriously on the woman’s side didn’t approve or join this march.

    You want to make a march for agunot? find agunot that are actual agunot backed by actual rabbonim unfortunatly there are some of those, dont do it for someone that isnt with us anymore let her rest in peace!.

  • 4. Zev wrote:

    I have a male friend who is dying to give his wife a divorce for already four years. A friend of mine went with him to the Rov (with the soon to be ex) to finalize the get. The wife showed up to the Rov. At the last second she refused to except and started making conditions.

    Funny thing. She is one of the woman claiming “agunah”. She was from the handful of Crown Heighters who participated in the protest and she is very active with the propaganda on facebook (here fb icon is that ridiculous slogan).

    Why isn’t she taking the gett?

    Because she knows that he is moving on and she cant deal with it.

  • 5. Ch wrote:

    Number 1 .. What about the abusive husband ??? .. Unfortunately no one talks about them … Many years ago the New England journal of medicine said .. That there are just as many abused men as women .. Unfortunately it goes both ways … And both sides should be treated equally .. Especially for health emotion and safety of the children

  • 6. Crown Heightser wrote:

    To #5. I shall accept that. Then due to the recent unfortunate events, the awareness should be about spousal abuse before it comes to a get and before a divorce. The community should have resources to assist husbands and wives who are being abused. Does my qualification pacify you somewhat?

  • 7. CHLEAKS.COM wrote:

    Woman: we want equality….only when it works for our benefits. When being treated as an equal doesn’t work to our advantage, then we are poor, weak etc… and victims of the other gender.

    • 8. @Leaks. wrote:

      Get that feminist logic out of here. Nobody said that here you are obsessed.

  • 10. cnl wrote:

    Just because a rov or rabbanim dont back something doesn’t mean the situation doesn’t exist, Example: sexual abuse, pedophiles etc

  • 11. Aliza BasMenachem wrote:

    Very balanced and much needed perspective.
    Thank you.

    For years now the ‘Agunah’ activists have blocked any real discussion by answering back that no one can have an opinion unless they have experienced being what they call an agunah. Often they answer back – what if it was your daughter? That will silence anyone.

    They have been able to get away with slogans like, every agunah is my sister, and, there is only one side to the story.

    I understand why no one wanted to challenge the rhetoric of super-victimhood of the so-called agunahs. I understand because I took a lot of flack for doing so. But I really feel that my article has broken the ice and opened the waters of communication for pieces like this article to be written, posted and accepted.

    Everyone fully supports the woman who really has suffered in marriage and is being denied a GETT, with no insidious side issues on her part.

    Thank you again, Crown Heights Parent, for putting a balanced perspective to this complicated matter. It is a large topic and each article takes a portion and examines it.

    I hope there is never a need for a march in Crown Heights, but if there is, I hope the organizers will disclose enough information, not to embarrass, but to let us know there is a valid cause, and not try to increase the number of attendees by making people feel guilty for not supporting super-victims.

  • 12. Great Dane wrote:

    I very similar thing happened to my daughter and me: I got an email from my ex that she had moved out of the country with my daughter. Since then I have barely been able to see my daughter. The judge ruled that my daughter moved, it would be inappropriate to move her back and my ex should go to parenting classes. Now my daughter is in a conservative school, and all in all our relationship has deteriorated. So sad for both her and me.

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