We're VICE News producers Jaclyn Skurie, Lindsay Van Dyke and ORA Executive Director Keshet Starr. Lindsay and I have spent the past year speaking to Orthodox women who identify as Agunot - women who are unable to finalize their divorces due to the fact their husbands won't give them a get. A get is a required religious divorce document from Jewish court. They must have a get as well as a civil divorce in order to make it official under Jewish law. When women can't receive a get from their husbands, they are unable to remarry and move on with their lives. For our story for VICE News Tonight on HBO we documented one woman's journey to get her get and the lengths she had to go which included staging a protest with Keshet's ORA in her husband's neighborhood.

Here is a link to the story on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vkeqJ8TzIWI

Tweet story more about how this story came to be: https://twitter.com/elvandyke/status/1164246022173929472

Our instagrams https://www.instagram.com/levandyke/ https://www.instagram.com/skuraldo/

Ora website: https://www.getora.org/



Comments: 524 • Responses: 14  • Date: 

dvdwyer260 karma

How common is it for a husband to refuse a get? Outside of ORA/activism, how is get refusal perceived in Orthodox communities? Do men face social repercussions for refusal?

VICENews124 karma

Keshet here! It’s difficult to obtain clear statistics on Get refusal, because there can be many different definitions of when a case is officially a “Get refusal” case. Plus, Get refusal can have an impact on divorces even when it’s not at the level of an ORA case--for example, if a woman signs a divorce settlement that deviates from the law to her disadvantage because she is afraid of not receiving a Get, that’s a case that will not be counted in any official capacity, but where Get refusal makes a difference in the result.

In terms of perception, it really varies depending on the community. The more an Orthodox community is sensitized to issues of domestic abuse and social justice, the stronger a statement they will make against Get refusers. At ORA, we work to educate a wide range of Orthodox communities on Get refusal as a form of domestic abuse, in order to increase the social repercussions. In communities that take a strong stance against Get refusal, the social repercussions can be significant, including being barred from services, not invited to Shabbat meals, not counted in a minyan (quorum for prayer), and more.

BmoreBr039 karma

How long from the protest to Jill receiving the get take in real time? Also how come the protest was in Florida but she received the get in New York? Also thank you all for the hard work you do to shine some light on such a little known issue.

VICENews65 karma

Lindsay here - I was filming the protest in Florida which started around 10 AM, and Jill’s ex-husband Andrew showed up at a Beit Din in Florida at around 12:45 PM to begin the get giving process, this was done over Skype. Andrew was in Florida because that is where he lives now and that is also why the protest was held in Florida. Jill lives in New York and that is why she received the Get in New York!

moss-agate27 karma

how long do women typically have to wait for a get? does not granting them one prevent the men from remarriage as well?

VICENews53 karma

Keshet--Wait times for a Get can vary. Some ORA cases can go on for years (even decades in extreme cases) and some are resolved in only months. It’s often much harder to resolve a Get after many years, so we work to encourage communities to advise that a Get be given as early as possible. The Get needs to be issued and received for both parties to be eligible to remarry. However, there is one illegitimate (and widely disreputed) rabbinical court that will allow some men to remarry without issuing the Get, at a hefty fee.

Xanthyria22 karma

The men can remarry (though any Jewish community worth their salt will treat them like trash/few women will want to remarry a guy who does this). Typically it’s just a normal part of the divorce proceedings. Every once in a while you get this horrific situation, hence the organization ORA.

VICENews45 karma

From a baseline Jewish law perspective, a Get must be given and received for a man (or woman) to remarry. In some extreme cases, a man can obtain a Heter Meah Rabbonim, which is essentially a permission to marry a second wife. This is meant to be used for unique and tragic cases, such as when a woman is in a permanent vegetative state. There is a disreputable Beit Din in the New York area that will sell this permission for a price--you can reach more about it here: https://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/22/us/a-wedding-amid-cries-of-unfinished-business-from-a-marriage.html

DontAskDontMel25 karma

What was the most eye-opening part of this experience? Were there any cultural differences that seemed a little extreme at first then you began to understand more as time went on?

VICENews47 karma

Lindsay here - I think for me, not knowing anything about the get or this process before working on this story, was the journey of getting to understand more about the intricacies of the divorce process and how all involved felt so strongly about their faith. There was a consistent message here that they all loved being a part of their community but this was one aspect that they hoped could change. Filming the protest in Florida was also an amazing thing to witness seeing the community come together over this issue.

I also learned, that the Beit Din (the jewish court) has a pre-nup agreement they are working with Rabbis to promote in the Orthodox community to try to avoid this issue in the future.

imayid_29122 karma

If you didn't really know about the get process what made you want to report on it?

VICENews51 karma

Jaclyn here -- As Lindsay mentioned in another answer, the way we first heard about Get refusals was a bit happenstance. One day about a year ago, Lindsay brought in a flyer to work to show me that she had found on the street. The flyer was from ORA and showed a photo of a man who was refusing to give his wife a divorce. We thought it was peculiar the flyer was in English instead of Yiddish, like most other signs in the part of Brooklyn near our office, and so we started to dig into more about ORA's work. When we met with the organization and found out about what they do to help women get divorced from recalcitrant husbands, we thought this would offer an interesting angle into an underreported area of domestic abuse.

VICENews33 karma

Jaclyn - The most eye-opening part of this experience for me was witnessing the potential way a protest can influence someone to change their mind, as happened with the protest outside of Jill’s husband’s home in Florida. Seeing people from all ages and organizations from both Florida and New York turn up for someone most of them had never met before was for me an eye-opening example of how far community members will go for each other in the Orthodox Jewish community simply because they share the same faith.

imayid_29117 karma

Why are some recalcitrant husbands that ORA has tried to make give a get are not listed on the list of recalcitrant husbands on the website https://www.getora.org/recalcitrant-husbands like Yisrael Meir Kin?

VICENews16 karma

While most active ORA cases are on our list of recalcitrant husbands, placement may vary depending on the latest developments in the case, the current strategy, and the agunah’s personal preference. For inquiries on specific cases, please email us at [[email protected]](mailto:[email protected]).

onearmed_paperhanger11 karma

What happens to them if they decide to quit being Jewish and get a civil divorce? Surely if they want to stay Jewish they should follow Jewish rules. (I also think those rules are stupid, hence not Jewish.)

VICENews39 karma

Keshet here--In general, the women we work with at ORA want to remain part of the Jewish community and don’t want only rely on a civil divorce. However, I have seen some people shift in their religious observance as a result of going through this experience. But contrary to public opinion, that shift can sometimes be towards increasing religious observance, as well.

VICENews4 karma

Hey, this is Jaclyn Skurie, Lindsay Van Dyke and ORA Executive Director Keshet Starr here to answer your questions! Send away!

VICENews2 karma

Thanks so much for the thoughtful questions and comments about our story and this process! Watch our piece for free on youtube, and leave us comments with your thoughts! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vkeqJ8TzIWI

Blazing1-1 karma

Were woman just stuck in the past or was there another way?

VICENews15 karma

Lindsay here: The get law was written a long time ago, and divorce rates inside the Jewish community and (outside of it) have gone up significantly which never used to be such a huge issue. Now that more couples are getting a divorce this has been happening more often where men are in a position to refuse a get. Right now the Beit Din of America and other Beit Dins are promoting a pre-nup to help solve this issue in the future.

VICENews14 karma

in the past

Keshet--Also, in the past Beit Dins had more enforcement power, so if someone was not cooperating with the Get, the community would be able to enforce the Beit Din’s ruling through legal and financial consequences. Today, Beit Dins are subject to the civil court system and have very little enforcement power. Also, the First Amendment makes it complicated to use the civil court system to address this issue--although the pre-nup is a great example of a successful merger of civil and religious law to address this issue.

Switchitis-16 karma

Who gives a shit and why?

VICENews16 karma

Lindsay here: One day I was walking home from work and came across a flyer from ORA on my car about a get refuser that lived on my street. I “gave a shit” because I thought it was super interesting since I had no idea what any of this meant and wanted to learn more. So I called ORA and learned more about the issue and the work that they are doing. I think it opens up an interesting larger conversation about the rights of women - a lot of whom are having problems with this situation in other parts of the Jewish community around the world. I hope that they will see this story and know that there are other people like them in this situation and there are folks working to change it.