In Divorce Protests, Orthodox Group Makes Private Matters Public

Protesters from the Orthodox Jewish group, ORA (Organization for the Resolution of Agunot) took to the streets of Gravesend early Sunday morning to demand a local resident give his wife a get (a Jewish bill of divorce). They stood across the street from his home and chanted “Shame on you” and “Stop the Abuse.”

The protestors created quite a commotion on the sleepy East 7th Street block as neighbors watched, and police officers showed up to stand guard in front of the family’s home. It was a far cry from the normally private handling of Orthodox Jewish customs on social issues, and the second time in which they’ve protested in front of this family’s home.

Protestors handed out flyers explaining the Jewish custom and the concept of Agunot, or chained wife. Though a couple may be legally divorced, the separation is not recognized within the religion until the man grants a woman a get, which is an official bill of divorce that frees the woman to remarry. Without a get, any child – even from a legal remarriage – is seen as a bastard, and the woman as an adulterer. In some cases, the right has been used abusively to extract a better divorce settlement or to spite the spouse.

The details of the couple’s situation were not on clear display at Sunday’s protest, though a member of the family did step out of their home to hang posters depicting their side of the story.

Still, that didn’t dissuade the protestors.

“We try to do everything else in order to resolve these matters,” said protest leader and Stern College student Huvie Yugod. “But in this case, there was no other recourse.”

Several prominent rabbis are also joining the cause, including Rabbi Kenneth Auman of Young Israel of Flatbush, who had protested in front of the home on a separate occasion and Rabbi Jeremy Stern of the ORA, who helped organize the event.

“Usually, these issues are worked out peacefully, but this woman has been chained for too long and this situation has gone over the edge. In this protest, we are trying to shame him in front of his community,” said another protestor.

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