Liza* made the difficult yet brave decision to leave her marriage. The divorce dragged on for years in court as they battled over parenting time, even though Liza was responsible for all of the child care during the marriage. Finally, years later, the divorce was finalized, but only under civil law. Liza was an agunot or chained woman because Jeffrey refused to give her a Get, or Jewish divorce. This meant that she was not allowed to remarry under the laws of her Jewish community. Despite countless efforts made by her friends, family, and rabbis, she was unable to move forward with her life.
Rabbi Yona Reiss explained during a SHALVA program for attorneys that get refusal is a form of spiritual abuse, in which religious doctrine and faith is used as a weapon of power and control in an abusive relationship. These get refusers are like modern day Pharaohs, with the power to enslave or free their former wives.
As we prepare for Passover, please remember the plight of Jewish women whose marriages have ended but whose former husbands refuse to grant them true freedom. You can join us in reciting the following prayer at your seder, asking that these resilient women be liberated from their anguish and spiritual abuse and enable them to establish peaceful homes and a new life.