As a rabbinical student at Yeshiva University four years ago, Jeremy Stern noticed an announcement for a protest rally in Queens at the home of a man who had not given his wife a get (Jewish divorce). The rally was organized by the Organization for the Resolution of Agunot (ORA), an independent group based at the school.
Stern went, protested, and became active in more ORA activities. The issue of agunot, women unable to remarry until receiving a get, interested him. “I have no personal experience with agunot” in his immediate circles, he stresses.
After working as ORA’s rabbinic intern and assistant director, Rabbi Stern became executive director two years ago.
Today he supervises a staff of a half-dozen paid employees and interns, as well as pro bono legal advisers who handle the cases of several dozen women unable to get a get.
ORA (getORA.org) takes the toughest cases involving men who refuse to give a get unconditionally, Rabbi Stern says. The organization, which has played a part in obtaining 150 gets, counsels wives and works with husbands — employing persuasion, social pressure, and, when necessary, public rallies — until a get is in hand. “There is no one else doing this work,” taking all the necessary steps in the get process for such a large number of women, the rabbi says. ORA does not charge for its services. “We don’t take sides in the case,” Rabbi Stern says. “We represent the get.”
The rabbi, who spends a growing amount of time on administrative matters, still attends protest rallies, where he often leads the chants. “A rally is the last thing we want to do to resolve a case,” he says. “We do … them only as a last resort.”
Volunteer: Studying at an Israeli yeshiva in 2002, Rabbi Stern was a classmate of Glasgow native Yoni Jesner, who died in a terrorist attack. As an act of solidarity with the country, he enlisted in the Israeli Army, where, as a corporal in the armored corp, he served in Gaza as a tank gunner during the second Intifada.