No one enters a marriage thinking that it will end in divorce. But sometimes, it does. And no one enters a marriage thinking that their spouse might refuse a get– the religious divorce document– as leverage for a better divorce settlement or, worse yet, simply to inflict suffering. But sometimes, they do.
With all of the press surrounding our community-wide halakhic postnuptial agreement signing event this past Sunday in St Louis, many people have been asking me, “Why did you sign the postnup?” To which my only proper response is, “Why wouldn’t I?”
Rabbi Jeremy Stern, executive director of the Organization for the Resolution of Agunot, a New York-based nonprofit that aims to resolve the issue of get-refusal, says that about 150 to 200 women a year come to them for help. In an even more staggering statistic, Rabbi Yona Reiss, a noted Torah scholar, attorney and jurist who serves as the head of the beit din (religious court) of the Chicago Rabbinical Council (CRC) and is the former director of the Beit Din of America, cites that in 100 percent of cases of marriage in which a halakhic prenuptial or postnuptial agreement was signed, the get was issued and accepted in a timely manner.
We cannot afford not to sign this document.
In October of this past year, the FBI arrested a group of men, including rabbis, as part of a sting operation to expose a plot to kidnap and torture men who refused to give their wives a get. F.B.I. agents recovered masks, ropes and scalpels together with feather quills and ink bottles. The instruments of our rituals have become mixed-up with instruments of torture.
The cost of doing nothing is simply too high.
The halakhic prenuptial postnuptial agreements are not just for those people whose marriages will end in divorce; it is for all of us. It can happen to any of us. It is happening to some of us.
This past Sunday, I signed the halakhic postnuptial agreement together with over sixty other people. I signed alongside couples who have been married for over 50 years and couples holding newborn babies. I signed alongside members of every other Modern Orthodox congregation in my community.
I signed the halakhic postnuptial agreement because I do not believe that any marriage should be without this protection. I signed because I do not want to live in a world in which there is a single agunah — a woman chained to an empty marriage because her husband refuses to grant her a get. I signed because kidnap and torture should not and cannot be our halakhic solution.
Rori Picker Neiss serves as Director of Programming, Education and Community Engagement at Bais Abraham Congregation in St Louis, MO as she completes her studies at Yeshivat Maharat.