Thursday, October 8, 2015

Tamar Epstein: Predictions of Mark Oppenheimer of NYT from 2 years ago

Blog December 20, 2013   NO, TAMAR EPSTEIN DID NOT GET A GET

Is Tamar Epstein free?

The Modern Orthodox, agunah-minded, and Jewish/religious/feminist blogospheres (a small and particular world, admittedly) were abuzz yesterday with the news that Tamar Epstein, whom I in the Times dubbed the country’s most famous agunah, or chained wife (that is, her husband has withheld from her a religious divorce) is now “free.” This news appeared on her Facebook page and in a press release e-mailed widely by activist group ORA, the Organization for the Resolution of Agunot.

But several people with intimate knowledge of the situation have confirmed for me that Epstein did not in fact receive a get, the writ of religious divorce. One could infer this from the wording that she is now ”free,” with no mention of a get. Rather — and I am a bit fuzzier on the details here — it seems that a beit din, or religious court, has anulled her marriage, ruling that it was never valid.[...] It seems that Epstein has finally found some grounds to persuade a beit din to annul the marriage. What were the grounds? Nobody is talking. [...]

This declaration could prompt a real schism between some Orthodox and other, more right-leaning Orthodox Jews. If this case sets a precedent, rabbinic courts may begin “freeing” more women, who go on to re-marry, while their husbands are convinced the old marriage is still in effect. Then, the children produced by the new marriages will be considered mamserim, or bastards — a huge stigma in Judaism. The children will be shunned, the mothers will be shunned, and the rabbis who performed the women’s second marriages will be written out of some precincts of Orthodoxy.

To which those women, and their rabbis, and their male and female supporters, could say: “Who cares?” And if they have a critical mass of support, it is they, not their ex-husbands and their supporters, who will be marginalized. I once asked a prominent Orthodox rabbi how many rabbis it would take to support new, more liberal measures to free agunot. “90 percent,” he answered. “If 90 percent of Orthodox rabbis were with us, the other 10 percent could scream ‘Mamersim!’ all they wanted, but they’d fall in line.”

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