Here is the current episode of This American Life, an NPR Radio broadcast:
This is Gital Dodelson. She's an Orthodox Jewish woman, and she's what's known as an agunah. That's the word in Hebrew for a woman whose husband refuses to give her a divorce. Literally, it means a chained wife. Besides money, lots of money, Gital says her husband has a long list of demands for her to meet if she wants her get.Asking for 50-50 child custody in a divorce is normal and standard in America.
Gital Dodelson I have a four-year-old son. He wants 50-50 custody, where my son would be a week with me and a week with him.
A beis din is a group of three rabbis Orthodox Jew sometimes turn to to settle disputes outside the civil courts. When her husband wouldn't give a get, Gital tried to bring him before the beis din. But he refused to show up.So Jewish women like her hire ex-military special forces to find and torture the husband into issuing the get, and a Jewish scribe witnesses it so the wife can get remarried. This one already got the money and the kids, but that is not enough.
So the rabbis issued something called a seruv. It's basically a contempt of court. It's supposed to ostracize him in the community. Gital's brother Aryeh is a full-time scholar of Jewish law, and he says the seruv is usually an effective tool. ...
Gital, of course, could just walk away. She's already got her civil divorce. The finances are all settled. So is the child custody. But she can't get remarried. She's a 25-year-old woman. She'd like to have more kids.
And I should point out, most Jews wouldn't care. Plenty of less religious Jews would be happy to marry Gital. But in the Orthodox world, where she was raised, where her whole family is, where she wants to stay, she can't make a new life for herself.
There is some religious authority for this:
But as it happens, there's an old Jewish teaching that recalcitrant husbands should be beaten. And it wasn't some schmuck from Brooklyn who said so. It was Maimonides, the 12th century Spanish rabbi considered the greatest Jewish sage of all time.Listen to the episode for much more craziness.
Maimonides wrote that a man could be beaten until he gave his wife a get. Here was his reasoning. Deep down, he said, all of us are torn between our good inclinations and our evil inclinations. And being beaten might be just what a man needs to drive out his evil side so that he can see the wisdom of releasing his wife.
Maybe Jews should have the religious freedom to believe whatever they want, but I don't think that Jewish judges should be ruling over non-Jews. In some areas of law, judges have a lot of discretion to do what is fair or equitable or just, but that only makes sense if there are some common beliefs about underlying principles.
I wouldn't want some Moslem who believes in Sharia Law to be an American judge either.
In 2016, Barack Obama tried to appoint a fourth Jew to the US Supreme Court. This would have made the largest voting bloc on the court in a very long time. People say we have a 6-3 conservative majority on the court now, but the conservatives disagree on many issues, and do not vote as a bloc. The liberals vote as a bloc, and consistently take the leftist postition, regardless of the law in question.
Even in Israel, I think they just have Jewish judges ruling on Jewish marriages. Christians and Moslems have their own marriage courts.
I am not even sure these Jewish beliefs should be called religious, as Christians understand religion. They don't have much to do with God, or morality, or spiritual values. They are just ancient customs of unknown origin and purpose. They are enforced by creating an ethnocentric community, and shaming the violators. The whole thing is un-Christian and un-American.
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