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Getting a Divorce vs. Getting a Get

Civil and religious lines cross for one couple

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A ketubah, or Jewish marriage certificate.(Hanson Switzky/Flickr)

Tablet Magazine contributing editor Mark Oppenheimer has a column today sure to climb near the top of the New York Times Most E-Mailed list. It is about the dissolution of the marriage of Aharon Friedman, a prominent Republican tax-policy specialist on Capitol Hill, and Tamar Epstein. Both Orthodox Jews, though they are civilly divorced, Friedman refuses to grant Epstein a get, which would free either one to remarry under Jewish law.

The catalyst for Friedman’s untypical refusal is that a Baltimore beit din, or rabbinic court, was still deliberating when a civil custody ruling granted Friedman visitation with their three-year-old daughter only three times per month, with two of these times being outside Philadelphia (where Epstein now lives) from Friday evening to Sunday—which, given that Friedman is Orthodox and lives in Washington, D.C., effectively means on Sunday only. Friedman is reportedly angry with this ruling.

Brooklyn-based Rabbi Yisroel Belsky is persuasive when he argues, “The court decided in a bullheaded way not to respect the Shabbos.”

And Rabbi Jonathan Reiss was also persuasive when he argued, without reference to this particular case, “Even if one party acts wrongly to the other, it is never correct either for the husband to withhold a get or for the wife to refuse a get when a marriage is clearly over.”

Religious Divorce Dispute Leads to Secular Protest [NYT]

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Ms. Epstein could solve her problems if she allowed the father a better custody/visitation arrangement. But it seems she does not want that – maybe she even does not want him in his daughter’s life?

Instead of taking responsibility for her actions and the consequences thereof, she wants to blame him. She is only an agunah because she refuses to make the changes in the custody. He is using the only leverage he has. I applaud him for standing up for his relationship with his daughter!

“He is using the only leverage he has.”

Of course this begs the question: What leverage does she have?

Lisa Kaiser says:

He needs to grow up and go ahead and provide her with the get.

Seems like both parties could do things to work this out. He could to get to Philly early in the day. And why can he not visit with daughter on Sahbbat? Seems like taking care of her on Shabbat is parenting–just like all Orthodox parents take care of their young children on Shabbat.

And yes, she could be more flexible re visitation times-more often during the month.

Everybody loses in this kind of situation.

shualah elisheva says:

everybody loses – but the child especially loses.

Seems the husband is in no rush to remarry. I strongly disagree with Rabbi Belsky. The couple hired lawyers and took their case to secular court.

Now the loser husband is unhappy with the decision, so he is using the get as his Plan B.

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Ethan Halpern says:

To whom it may concern:
It appears the father / husband is not the villan afterall. If Epstein has moved to Philly and has prevented the Freidman from visitation rights then a beit-din ha no authority to overule. Even a lowly idiot such as myself can see more into this then what is being protrayed. It is for the benefit of the CHILDREN that the “get” is not beng issued. Its time the MOM grows up and get her life straight. Based on this information the MOM is not fit to have any custody. Such is justice. The Orthodox have it right. You wanna bet that the “get” is granted once the father receives his vsitation rights?
Ethan Halpern
BTW: You can share my email on this subject. I gave my wife her get immediately after the Civil Divorce was completed. We were adults. These two are children.


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Getting a Divorce vs. Getting a Get

Civil and religious lines cross for one couple

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