Orthodox Judaism’s war on women: the get

If you don’t know what a get is, this Times article will fully inform you: Unwilling to Allow His Wife a Divorce, He Marries Another – NYTimes.com. But read it at your peril; you might fall down on the floor screaming.

Given that I don’t exactly come from fundamentalist Jewish stock (the last religious nut in my family was a Parisian great-grandmother and one of the reasons I’m here and not there is because my grandfather sailed for America to ditch religious zealotry), I knew nothing about gets until some years ago. When I did find out, though, I went nuts. Talk about patriarchal religious sects in which a woman is legally owned and controlled by her husband. Yeah, just talk about it!

In this repulsively medieval story — so repulsive, in fact, it has managed to gather a coalition of religious Jews in protest — an orthodox Jewish marriage broke up. It happens. But in normal, non-fundamentalist life, it doesn’t happen that the wife who wants out of the marriage, or is abandoned, is dependent upon her husband granting her permission, i.e., a get, to get a religious divorce. And it certainly isn’t normal that, having refused to give his wife a get, the ex-husband decides since he is civilly divorced and has the blessing of his religion’s patriarchs he’ll just, hey, get married again!

A lot of people, and “people” is a collective noun that occasionally even wraps around orthodox Jews, are disgusted:

“What has happened here is really shameful,” said Rabbi Kalman Topp, who drove from Los Angeles to protest the wedding, along with other rabbis and congregants from Orthodox synagogues there. “Not only is he in clear violation of Jewish law, but he is utilizing and corrupting Jewish law to commit cruel domestic abuse.”

Some protesters outside the Vegas venue where this “wedding” was held (I know it’s gratuitous but take a look at the gown the “bride” is wearing. Looks like she mail-ordered it from a J.C. Penny catalog, perfect for Vegas) were yelling, “Bigamist!” at the groom. Who looks like he’s running away.

Here is what the ex-wife is facing in this screwy situation:

When she heard several weeks ago that Mr. [Meir] Kin planned to remarry, Ms. [Lonna] Kin said she felt a momentary sense of relief — it was a clear sign that he was ready to move on with his life. But his new marriage could make it even less likely he will give her the document she desperately wants.

“He’s basically a bigamist,” she said, “and basically, I’m just stuck.”

I have something to say to Ms. Kin: No, you are not “just stuck.” You should, to make a pun, get the hell out of that religion. Leave it, go, be well, make a life for yourself. You don’t need religion to live a good, happy, moral life, and you most assuredly don’t need a fundamentalist man controlling you. In fact, from what I’ve read between the lines, you are professionally more successful than your ex-husband, so you don’t “need” a husband at all.

And you surely do not need a get.

UPDATE 3/29/14. A woman rabbi, Dvora Weisberg, wrote a letter to the Times (the Times headline was “In Need of a Jewish Divorce”) about this story. It’s a heartwarming letter, too:

To the Editor:

Re “Unwilling to Allow His Wife a Divorce, He Marries Another” (front page, March 22):

I am pleased that there are Orthodox rabbis trying to help Lonna Kin obtain a Jewish divorce, through a document known as a “get.” But it seems clear that her ex-husband, having stated his intention never to grant a get and having remarried, is not responding to their pressure.

If these rabbis truly wish to free Ms. Kin, they should simply annul her marriage, something that Jewish law allows them to do when a man is utterly contemptuous of rabbinical law (and common decency).

Until some courageous rabbi exercises this option, Jewish women are left to conclude that as long as men hold all of the power, they will be at a serious disadvantage under Jewish law.

Los Angeles, March 23, 2014

The writer is director of the Rabbinical Program at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.

I’m so glad to read Rabbi Weisberg’s solution to this particular get garbage: “some courageous [male] rabbi” should annul Ms. Kin’s marriage.

Too bad Rabbi Weisberg isn’t herself “courageous” enough to have told her flock what I’m telling women trapped in the net of fundamentalist religious rules to do: get out of the religion.



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