It seems that most of what we hear today regarding agunot is what cannot be done. From heads of yeshivot to the regular person on the Internet, organizational announcements, blog posts, and Facebook statuses are full of what is wrong, unacceptable and dangerous about freeing Jewish women chained to their marriages

Doors are closed before they can even be knocked on, and many women have nowhere to turn.
The lack of options has led Jewish women to the national media to plead their cases. The stories of women trapped in marriage have been spread across the pages of American publications such as The New York Post, Newsweek, and other mainstream media. Unequal divorce laws in Judaism have become common knowledge and yet, it still seems that there is no way out in Jewish law when a man refuses to give a “get.”

Martin Friedlander of Martin Friedlander PC is a matrimonial attorney whose office is located in midtown Manhattan. He appears regularly in the US Supreme Court and family courts as well as in batei din (religious courts) for Jewish divorce cases. He is not only an attorney but has smicha from Rabbi Avrohom Yaakov Hakohen Pam. What he has seen in his over 20 years of handling divorces has prompted him into action.
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We are going to be lenient with an agunah …there is no greater emergency than a situation where a woman remains an agunah all her life, a mishap will definitely result.” Rabbi Eliyahu Mizrahi (Kushta, 15th century) rules that the absence of a solution is liable to drive desperate women to sin.

— Sheilot U’Tshuvot, Rav Eliyahu Mizrahi Siman 36

Last year, in the US, a woman whose husband had denied her a get for years was freed when a beit din (religious court) ruled that the marriage was invalid due to the husband’s deliberate failure to disclose his mental illness to his wife before their wedding. She was freed based on a halachic mechanism allowing for the annulling of a marriage, namely, that had she known, she would never have married him.

A few months ago, an Israeli beit din legitimized three generations of mamzerim (Jews who are forbidden from marrying Jews because they are children of a union of a married woman and a man who is not her halachic husband). They did this by invalidating the witnesses at the wedding of the grandmother, who had been married 50 years ago in another country.

The granddaughter, who had brought her plight to the judges, was finally married at age 45 under the auspices of the Israeli Rabbinate.

According to Jewish law, without valid witnesses, the marriage never took place. This means that the woman was actually single at the time of her child’s conception, clearing the child, and subsequent generations, of mamzer status and its accompanying restrictions.

The internet is abuzz with blog and Facebook posts about the International Beit Din headed by Rabbi Simcha Krauss. Rabbi Krauss’ beit din is dedicated to freeing women denied a get and employs the mechanisms noted above when applicable.

Some claim that this Beit Din cannot be relied upon, that the women they free are still married, and that they are creating mamzerim.

Yet, the methods Rabbi Krauss uses are valid, have been used for hundreds of years, and are still in use today.

 

 

 

Read the full article on The Times of Israel