Rabbinical Court
Rabbinical CourtFlash 90

A Jerusalem rabbinical court is set to put a recalcitrant husband through a “shaming” exercise in an effort to persuade him to grant his wife a Jewish divorce. The practice, which is sanctioned in Jewish law and was traditionally used in Jewish communities around the world to persuade men to give their wives a get.

In Jewish law, divorce proceedings are generally initiated when there is an unbridgeable incompatibility between couples. Unable to live together any longer, the two sides go their separate ways. Women generally have a choice of receiving alimony, which they can get until they remarry, or a lump sum based on their marriage contract.

However, in order for women to receive any money at all, the husband must agree to the divorce – and there are hundreds of men in the country who prefer to remain unmarried (marrying a second wife is illegal in Israel) without paying out, either out of spite or out of hope that they can reconcile. Until the divorce is granted, the woman remains officially married; if, as sometimes happens, the husband absconds abroad, the woman can be considered an agunah, a “chained woman” who is unable to marry, and unable to receive a divorce.

The Supreme Rabbinical Court in Jerusalem received permission from the High Court for the move, after a lower Rabbinical court decided that unanimously that the couple could not be reconciled. The husband is a university professor, and the Rabbinical Court plans to inform people at his campus of his refusal to grant his wife a get.

Under Israeli law, rabbinical courts have the power to punish recalcitrant husbands, to the extent that it can issue warrants for their arrests and imprison them.