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News / PublicationsPressCleveland Jewish News, January 2016
News / PublicationsPressCleveland Jewish News, January 2016

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Ohio Woman Receives Orthodox Divorce Decree
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Cleveland Jewish News

Ohio Woman Receives Orthodox Divorce Decree

January 14, 2016 | By Carlo Wolff | Quotes by Andrew Zashin

Links to additional articles on "gets":
How to Get a Religious Divorce in a Secular State
Religious Agreements, Secular Courts, and Children
Seeking to Enforce Religious Agreements in a Secular Court

Andrew ZashinAdina Porat is free.
Links to additional articles about "gets" on Z&R Family Law Blog

get, which one divorce lawyer calls an anachronism. A tenet of halachic law, the get can be highly contentious. It’s the subject of “Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem,” a powerful movie that has become a staple of Cleveland screens.

The information about the case, which became a Jewish cause celebre when Shur refused to give Porat a get, comes from sources including Blau and Green Road Synagogue Rabbi Emeritus Melvin Granatstein, who attended a rally outside Shur’s house Nov. 8. Other sources are Rabbi Jeremy Stern, director of the New York-based Organization for the Resolution of Agunot; Andrew Zashin, a Cleveland divorce attorney who also writes a monthly column for the CJN; and the Dayton Jewish Observer.

“Agunot” means “chained woman,” so an unchained woman with a get is free to remarry and reproduce. The offspring of a woman lacking a get are illegitimate, or bastards known as “mamzers,” said Zashin.

In a Jewish divorce, the woman needs a get so she can remarry and reproduce, he said. If a woman has a child but no get, that child is a mamzer, “a certain Jewish status that exists forever and is passed on,” like a curse. A mamzer can only marry a mamzer, he added.

“It’s a horrible Jewish anachronism in our situation now, and that’s why Orthodox people are now demanding a prenuptial agreement that demands that at the time of divorce, the husband must give the wife a get,” Zashin added, calling the prenup the “Orthodox solution to this problem.”

The pressure is on

Rabbi Granatstein and his wife, Malka, were among 80 people, mostly from Cleveland and Detroit, to attend that early-November rally in suburban Dayton. The Granatsteins knew Adina Porat’s parents when they lived in the Cleveland area in the early 1990s.

A forum on issues surrounding the get took place in Beachwood Nov. 20-22, and ORA posted a video about Porat’s situation on its website.

“In my life, I’m stuck in a prison,” Porat said in the video. “I can’t move on. I can’t continue. The kids never had a chance to have a stepfather, a new family, and to continue with their lives.”

Shur agreed to give Porat her get after ORA agreed to take down the video, which went viral, generating more than 68,000 views. It is no longer online. Shur signed the get in late December, according to the Observer newspaper. It took effect on Jan. 7.

Granatstein said he got the news about a week ago from Naomi Tabory, Adina’s mother. Naomi and her husband, Rabbi Binyamin Tabory, live in Alun Shivod, Israel, near Jerusalem. Rabbi Tabory led a study institute, Torat Tzion Kollel, at Bet Sefer Mizrachi in University Heights in 1991-92. Bet Sefer Mizrachi is now Fuchs Mizrachi School in Beachwood.

Granatstein said Porat is a very private person, but her parents and children urged her to act. “With ORA we were really able to bring the heat to bear,” he added, noting the reach and impact of the video. “That’s the beauty of the Internet, that you can do things like this. More often than not, these things can work.” Granatstein said he and Rabbi Tabory are “friends from our Yeshiva (University) days.”

“I’m very, very happy for her and for her family,” Blau said of Porat Jan. 13. “I’m happy that she’s finally able to move on with her life and I’m particularly pleased for her father, who is very sick and really wanted to see this happen in his lifetime.”

Blau said withheld gets aren’t a “common problem” in Cleveland’s Jewish community. “Even if it happens infrequently, that’s too many times,” he added.

Blau noted gets can be used for leverage and spite.

Rabbis play two positive roles in such situations, he said: “One is providing comfort and support to the woman during the process and the second is trying to find persuasive means of moving the husband to where he needs to be.”

Here, the husband had left Israel for another country, changed his name and “wasn’t part of a religious community,” Blau said.

“In a smaller, tightknit community where the person remains in the community, social pressures are very persuasive,” he added. “But in the modern era, where people just relocate, what was heartwarming about this case is social media allowed there to be pressure even though the person had left the community.

“The combination of the demonstration, the Facebook campaign and her video going viral really made a difference. After the campaign, a week later, she got the get.”

The big get picture

According to Rabbi Jeremy Stern, who founded ORA in 2002, the Porat case is the 253rd ORA has resolved. The organization is working on 70 active agunah cases.

As for the Porat case, Stern pointed to the role of social pressure – and the power of shame. Asked what he thought turned the tide in favor of Porat, he replied in an email:

“This was a collaboration between many professionals and volunteers who worked together on Adina’s behalf. ORA’s social media campaign and peaceful demonstration outside of Dovid/Eli’s home served as a major step forward in resolving the case. Those efforts shook him up and made him infamous, so it became clear to him that he could not flee again. In my humble opinion, that forced him to finally come to face with what he had done by refusing to give a get. Adina’s attorney worked extremely hard in structuring a final resolution to the case in which all outstanding issues would be resolved and neither side would further pursue the other.”