While we agree with Rabbi Shlomo Weissmann that couples should sign a prenuptial agreement, we disagree with him about its being a solution for the agunah problem (“A Long-Term Solution To The Agunah Problem,” Opinion, Nov. 11). Contrary to what Rabbi Weissmann wrote about the efficacy of his prenuptial, we have dealt with cases in which that prenuptial did not protect agunot from being held hostage and extorted by their recalcitrant husbands. In one case involving Rabbi Weissmann’s Beth Din of America (BDA), the agunah didn’t understand how the prenuptial worked, and the BDA failed for half a year to invoke the prenuptial to protect the agunah until we got involved in the case.
How disturbing it is that Rabbi Weismann uses the Salk vaccine analogy when describing the prenuptial, likening Orthodox Jewish marriage to a dangerous disease requiring an immunization. We refuse to accept this as defining halachic marriage. We believe that marriage is a partnership of equals that both parties should have an equal right to end equitably.
Furthermore Rabbi Weissmann’s BDA is the beit din that we criticized for failing to help “Leah,” an agunah whose husband was barred by the civil court from seeing their son because of evidence that he sexually molested the child. In the Penn State University molestation case, the criminal court will mete out justice to those found guilty and prevent them from inflicting further suffering on others. Not so the BDA. Rabbi Weissmann says that the BDA won’t pressure Leah’s child-molesting husband to give the get unless Leah agrees to re-litigate a matter concerning her child in the BDA, a risk Leah is understandably unwilling to take.
The writers are longtime advocates for agunot.