Israeli rabbinic, legal groups partner for prenup in bid to prevent agunot


A Religious Zionist rabbinic organization in Israel has launched a new prenuptial agreement to help ensure that divorcing wives will receive a religious divorce, or get.

Tzohar, along with the Israel Bar Association, introduced the agreement on Sunday that encourages a husband not to withhold a religious divorce, without which a woman cannot remarry. Wives who are not given the Jewish divorce writ are known as agunot, or chained women.

It is the first time that a major legal organization in Israel has partnered with a rabbinic organization on such an agreement, according to Rabbi David Stav, Tzohar’s chairman.

Under the Tzohar prenuptial agreement, the husband commits to paying a high sum of money daily to his spouse in the event of a separation. The word get, or religious divorce, is not mentioned in the document, he said.

In a statement, Tzohar said the agreement meets the requirements of Israeli law and policy according to state legal courts, as well as Jewish law, or halachah.

Tzohar, which said the agreement took six years and 16 versions to finalize, also said that it was “uniquely positioned” to push the agreement into widespread use, since it has members throughout the country and is one of the “main facilitators” of marriages in Israel.

“No one deserves to stay chained in a terrible marriage with a knife at their throat,” Stav said. “This agreement can and should become the norm in Israeli society to ensure that the end of a marriage and separating from your partner be treated with respect and dignity.”

Stav told JTA that there are several prenuptial agreements circulating in Israeli society that were written by individual rabbis. He said this is the first time that a major Israeli rabbinical organization has put its weight behind such an agreement.

As opposed to the United States, where a couple can be civilly divorced before they get a religious divorce, in Israel they are the same.

Agunah organizations say there are thousands of chained women in Israel, while the Chief Rabbinate claims fewer than 200 do not receive a get.

List of acceptable Diaspora rabbis does not exist, Chief Rabbinate says


Israel’s Chief Rabbinate said it does not have a list of Diaspora rabbis whose testimony it accepts on clarifying one’s Jewish or marital status.

Responding to a request made in September by the Tzohar rabbinical organization to see such a list, a spokesman for the Chief Rabbinate told The Jerusalem Post that “no list exists either hidden or public.”

According to the report, which appeared Monday, the spokesman said every request made for clarification of Jewish and marital status “is examined individually and thoroughly.”

Tzohar says an increasing number of Jewish couples from North America have had difficulty  in registering upcoming marriages with the Chief Rabbinate because the testimony of their communal rabbis was not recognized.

It had made its request under the freedom of information law, The Jerusalem Post reported after seeing the request. The request was filed on Sept. 12; the Chief Rabbinate was required to respond in 30 days.

Tzohar Chairman Rabbi David Stav told the newspaper that he recently met with Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi David Lau to discuss the issue.

The Chief Rabbinate spokesman told the Post that for a Diaspora rabbi’s criteria to be accepted, he must be ordained by a recognized Orthodox Jewish institution; he and his community must live according to Orthodox Judaism; and he must have the appropriate skills and knowledge to sign such a document.

The spokesman said the number of rabbis currently being rejected is consistent with previous years.

Meanwhile, the Knesset Caucus on Religion and State is scheduled to hold a hearing on Wednesday to discuss the Chief Rabbinate’s rejection of letters certifying the Jewishness of immigrants to Israel by North American Orthodox rabbis.

The hearing comes after a request by the ITIM organization, an Israeli advocacy group that helps Jewish Israelis obtain services for life-cycle events, that the rabbinate be required to clarify what it takes for a rabbi’s testimony to be recognized.

In a letter sent to the chief rabbis last week, ITIM called for a clear policy relating to who can certify someone’s Jewishness.

“We believe that the rabbinate should recognize Orthodox rabbis who come from established institutions,” said Rabbi Seth Farber, the director of ITIM. “It is an outrage that rabbis are being rejected based on individuals merits or demerits.”

Under a proposal floated by ITIM, institutions that have existed for more than 10 years with more than 50 members would have their members automatically accepted by the rabbinate.  The proposal also includes mechanisms that prevent abuses.

ITIM made the proposal in the wake of the rejection by the Chief Rabbinate of a letter vouching for the Jewishness of an American couple marrying in Israel written by well-known U.S. Orthodox Rabbi Avi Weiss.