Originally printed in In Jerusalem,  October 25, 2017 

“Don’t worry, I’ll break his legs.”

That’s what my  6’ 7” tall then-rabbi told me when I suggested to him (on advice from my future mother-in-law) that I sign a halachic prenuptial agreement before my wedding. Reassured by his blasé manner, and knowing virtually nothing of the phenomenon of get-refusal, I quickly forgot about the prenup.

Nineteen years, an intense experience of personal advocacy for a relative who had been refused her get for more than a decade, and a great deal of knowledge about agunot later, I rectified this mistake when The International Young Israel Movement in Israel (IYIM) held its second post-nuptial agreement signing in Jerusalem.

A couple holds up their Agreement for Mutual Respect

My motivation for signing was not concern for my marriage, but because with all that I have seen, and with personally knowing more than 10 women who were refused a get, (not counting the women I met through my advocacy) I believe it is incumbent upon us to ensure that the halachic prenuptial agreement (or post-nuptial, as the case may be) become the default among Jewish couples, so that those who find themselves in need of protection, have it.

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‘Jewish tradition and Halacha have become stagnant’

Many consider Nathan Lopes Cardozo a rabbi for the new millennium. He pulls no punches in telling ‘Metro’ how Judaism and the rabbinic establishment can begin to respond to the current reality, with a ‘completely different type of Halacha’ for the State of Israel’s unique needs

• By SHOSHANNA KEATS-JASKOLL   Originally published in In Jerusalem Sept 15, 2017

Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo has an unusual background for a rabbi. Perhaps that is why his thinking is so different from that of other rabbis, and why he can say the things he says. Or perhaps other rabbis feel similarly, but do not have the confidence or fearlessness that is so evident when Cardozo speaks.

Whatever the reason, his belief in the justice of Judaism, the morality with which we are charged, and the capacity we have to resolve the seemingly unresolvable gives hope that the Judaism and ethics we hold so dear can in fact work together to produce the society that many of us want to see.

Cardozo grew up in Holland. His father was a secular Jew of Portuguese-Jewish origin; his mother was a Christian who had always felt at home in the Jewish community, which had taken her in when she was orphaned.

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Nathan Englander writes that he remembers every penny thrown at him. He recalls a number of childhood instances of anti-Semitism, and speaks with pride about how this has all changed and anti-Semitism is a thing of the past, with kosher food served at ball games, and overtly Jewish kids not remotely worried about being harassed, even when rooting for the wrong team. He then laments that the events in Charlottesville have, in one fell swoop, erased the progress made in tolerance for Jews.

And, I have to say… huh? Not only did anti-Semitism never disappear, but it’s morphed into something far more insidious and thus dangerous.

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I’ve always been jealous of those who were able to directly impact people’s lives for the better. Lawyers who petition the court for people’s civil rights, religious court advocates who work to free agunot, religious court judges who facilitate a divorce with a bit less pain, and rabbis who officiate marriages and conversions. So, when Rabbi Chuck Davidson asked for volunteers to be balaniot (mikveh attendants) for a conversion that he was conducting, I jumped at the chance.

Rabbi Davidson has been promoting Orthodox conversion in Israel outside of the Chief Rabbinate for nearly a decade. He converts those who are fed up with the Rabbinate’s difficult and drawn-out conversion procedure, those who don’t want to be affiliated with the Rabbinate for political reasons, or those who want a friendlier yet still halachic conversion. He also helps people from other countries convert outside of centralized frameworks under the control of Israel’s Chief Rabbinate.

To date, he’s helped hundreds of men and women join the Jewish people.

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