Hundreds of people, among them former agunot who were recently released from chained marriage, gathered last night (Monday) at Jerusalem's First Station for an erev shira – an evening of communal singing – centering on the theme "Freedom."
The evening was organized by Yad La'isha: The Monica Dennis Goldberg Legal Aid Center and Hotline for Agunot, part of the Ohr Torah Stone network, in conjunction with the Bubizemer communal singing initiative. In addition to a roster of popular Hebrew songs relating to freedom, several recently-freed clients of Yad La'isha chose specific songs which empowered them and symbolized their new freedom.
Some of these women took the stage to explain their song choices through telling their stories. They encouraged the audience to look to be aware and constantly look around them to see if there are women with whom they come into contact who need help; to see if there are women stuck in nightmare marriages and who cannot get out; and to learn how best to support and assist these women.
Among the participating women was Tova (26) who received her get (Jewish writ of divorce) about a month ago after two years of being refused by her husband, and Reuma (45) who pleaded for her get for three and a half years, finally receiving it four months ago after intense pressure was put on her recalcitrant husband at his place of work. Sarit (32), who also shared her story with the audience, managed to get her writ of divorce after three and a half years of intense effort throughout which her husband continued to try to bring her back to the marital home – even as the court awarded her a restraining order against him.
Pnina Omer, the director of Ohr Torah Stone's Yad La'isha, called upon the audience to take responsibility to prevent get-refusal even before marriage, through the signing of halakhic prenuptial agreements. "To avoid getting into serious situations in advance, I recommend that all engaged couples sign a prenuptial agreement to prevent future divorce refusal. The public must understand that a wedding without such an 'insurance' policy is not responsible behavior."
Refusal to grant a wife a divorce is a horrible phenomenon, said Omer. "The release of these women from being chained to marriage removes the heavy burden they carried and enables them to move on and begin to build new lives." According to Omer, the choice of an evening of song was not coincidental: "Song enables us to experience the joy of liberation and the intoxication of freedom without getting bogged down in words. Each woman who is freed has a moving story of her own; each could write a book about what she endured, but through communal singing of these freedom songs, we can experience their story, rejoice in their newfound freedom and support them as they embark upon their new lives."
Ohr Torah Stone President and Rosh HaYeshiva, Rabbi Kenneth Brander, applauded the initiative. "The phenomenon of get-refusal is an ugly and cynical misuse of Jewish religion. We must exhibit zero tolerance toward recalcitrant husbands and continue to do everything in our power to help trapped women receive their writ of divorce. This evening of song was just another way that Yad La'isha embraces chained women and helps raise crucial public awareness of this issue."