The Boston Agunah Taskforce is devoted to research, education and advocacy for fairness in the Jewish divorce process. We believe that withholding a Jewish divorce is a form of domestic abuse.
When couples marry in a Jewish ceremony in Boston, they create both a Jewish and a civil marriage. Should they divorce, their civil marriage is dissolved by an order of a Massachusetts court. However, they may still be married under Jewish law until the husband presents his ex-wife with a bill of Jewish divorce, called a get. In some cases, men refuse to grant the get out of spite or a desire to exert control over their ex-wife, or use it as a bargaining chip in financial or custodial negotiations. Women who remarry and have children without first receiving a get are considered to be adulterers under Jewish law. These women’s children are considered mamzerim (illegitimate) under Jewish law and may themselves be declared ineligible to marry should they seek to marry under Orthodox auspices or in the state of Israel where the Orthodox rabbinate determines eligibility to marry. Women may also refuse to receive a get, but the consequences are not as serious and Jewish law provides options to end the marriage without her consent should she persist in her refusal.
The Boston Agunah Taskforce believes that the manipulation of Jewish law in the divorce process is a form of domestic abuse whose primary victims are women and children in the Jewish community. This abuse often contributes to their impoverishment after divorce
Get refusal is not just an Orthodox issue. It can affect every segment of our Jewish community. People need a get to remarry in a Conservative synagogue in the U.S., in the state of Israel and in more Orthodox oriented Jewish communities around the world. Women sometimes wait years for a solution, and are often referred to as “agunot,” women ‘chained’ to marriages that are no longer viable. They may give up their financial resources, their child’s right to child support or even child custody in order to escape these dead marriages.