Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Tamar Epstein Heter: Understanding the essential basis for resolving this unholy mess

Guest post[updated to include Citizens against Aharon]

Two birds of a feather: the "kidushei taos" and the "seruv"

The story of how Rabbi Kamenetsky went about searching for a rabbi to approve of the  kiddushei taos/annulment appears to resemble how the Epsteins went about finding a "beis din" to issue a purported "seruv" against Aharon. The kidushei taos and the "seruv" have similar levels of validity. Anyone questioning the kidushei taos, should also examine the circumstances of the purported "seruv."

Tamar and Aharon brought the matter to the Baltimore Beis Din, which held three hearings into the matter with the participation of both parties. Amongst the issues brought to the Beis Din for adjudication was whether there was any obligation on Aharon to give a get. Tamar was represented in Beis Din by Frederic Goldfein, an experienced toain and medical malpractice trial lawyer. In violation of both the parties’ mediation agreement, and shtar beirurin [binding arbitration agreement] to have the case decided by the Baltimore Beis Din, Tamar ultimately insisted on having the case decided in civil court. She violated the Baltimore Beis Din’s orders regarding dismissing the case from civil court both before and after the case went to trial in civil court. She successfully argued in court that her unilateral relocation of the child out-of-State should be treated as a fait accompli because Aharon had agreed to cancel an earlier civil court trial to being the matter to Beis Din.

The Baltimore Beis Din did not rule that Aharon had to give a get. To the contrary, the Baltimore Beis Din has noted that that there was no obligation on Aharon to give a get. Not liking the ruling of the Baltimore Beis Din, Tamar had the Washington Beis Din issue three hazmanos to Aharon. Aharon responded repeatedly that Tamar could not involve another beis din given that the parties had brought the case to the Baltimore Beis Din and violated that Beis Din’s orders to the severe detriment of Aharon and the child. The Washington Beis Din ruled, as Aharon had urged, that the Washington Beis Din had no right to insert itself into the case by claiming jurisdiction.

In addition, at least according to Jeremy Stern of the ORA organization of which Rabbi Hershel Schachter serves as posek, Tamar asked the Beis Din of America to intervene in the case. What is clear is that the Beis Din of America has never actually asserted jurisdiction over the case, apparently also concluding, like the Washington Beis Din, that they had no right to assert jurisdiction over the case. It is not known how many other batai din, Goldfein and possibly Rabbi Kamenetsky went to seeking their intervention in the case because they didn't like the decision of the Baltimore Beis Din.

It is outrageous that anyone would take seriously a purported "seruv" against Aharon issued by any other beis din in this case. Aharon had not refused to bring the matter to beis din. To the contrary, at great cost to himself, he had canceled a pendente lite trial in court in order to bring the matter to beis din. The parties signed a shtar beirurin at that beis din, but Tamar and the Kamenetskys disagreed with the refusal of that beis din to order that Aharon give a get. The Washington Beis Din and apparently the Beis Din of America (according to Jeremy Stern and ORA) recognized that another beis din had no authority to intervene and aasert jurisdiction. Aharon abided by halacha and brought the case to beis din, only for Tamar, with the help of the Kamenetskys, use that action, to have her abduction of the child treated as a fait accompli in court. Had there been even minimal pressure on Tamar to come to a reasonable custody arrangement, this entire matter would have been resolved many years ago. Instead, the Kamenetskys, with the help of Rabbi Schachter turned things completely upside down by starting a demonization campaign against Aharon, even before the purported "seruv."

That anyone would take seriously a purported "seruv" issued by yet another beis din, even if that beis din were a real beis din, makes a mockery of the very concept of beis din.

Note how Jeremy Stern baldly asserts that Tamar turned to a third beis din, after the first two batei din she went to refused to bow to her demands. It is as if a beis din, even one mutually chosen by the parties, can only be considered legitimate if the beis din does what Jeremy Stern (and apparently ORA's posek, Rabbi Schachter) demands. Similar reasoning underlines the kiddushei taos - it matters not how many rabbis were asked to rule that it is valid and refused to do so, so long as one rabbi eventually agreed to take Rabbi Kamenetsky's word that it was.

Anyone who wishes to resolve the current annulment crisis must start with the realization that the mockery of halacha, beis din, and the idea of communal norms, did not start with the kiddushei taos, but with public attacks on Aharon and his family even though he was the victim in this matter of unconscionable behavior led by Rabbis Kamenetsky and Schachter. The only way to start rectifying the annulment crisis is to start with the actions over the course of many years that led up to it.

A letter sent out from the Silver Springs Community in response to the above letter from the Beis Din - which baldy states that their "values" take precedence over the halacha as stated by their beis din.(omitted second page which just had signatures)


A letter written by ORA's Jeremy Stern in early January 2011

Unfortunately, the New York Times article did not accurately present the facts of the case. This is a very detailed case, but, from our perspective, it is no way a “complicated” case with regards to whether or not Aharon Friedman should issue an immediate and unconditional get. Rav Schachter and Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky remain firmly in support of ORA’s effort in advocating on behalf of Tamar. The RCA Resolution from 1991 on Agunot and Gittin ( makes it very clear that a get should never be used as leverage. No
one will deny that that Aharon Friedman is using the get as leverage. In terms of the facts of the case, Tamar has done everything kedas ukedin. I would strongly encourage anyone to call Rav Belsky and/or Rav Breitowitz, who both issued letters a few weeks ago regarding this case which seemed to be to Tamar’s detriment, and ask them if a) Tamar has offered a reasonable proposal to resolve the issues of visitation, and b) has Aharon been reasonable in resolving this matter and withholding a get. Now that Rav Belsky and Rav Breitowitz have become more engaged in the case, they both feel very differently than they did a few weeks ago.

Here are some of the most important facts of the case, which correct the inaccuracies of the NYT article and fill in more of the details:
1) There has been an understanding between the parties from the very beginning that, despite the fact that the court order allows for Aharon’s visitation to begin at 6pm on Fridays, Aharon has been given access to their daughter with ample time before Shabbos. Aharon has never been impeded from having access to their daughter with ample time before Shabbos. Please see the attached letter from Tamar which was sent out to the Silver Spring community regarding this issue and others.
2) Tamar has offered a very reasonable modification to the visitation schedule which Aharon has rejected repeatedly. Every rabbi who has tried to mediate between the two of them has agreed that her offer is reasonable. Aharon and Tamar met with Rav Belsky this past Sunday and Rav Belsky agreed that her offer to modify the visitation schedule was very reasonable. This offer was once again rebuffed by Aharon.
3) Going back into the history of the case, Aharon was the plaintiff in the civil court matter which decided custody and visitation. The couple signed a shtar berurin with the Baltimore Beis Din (BBD), which insisted that Aharon remove the matter from the civil courts in order to enable the BBD to arbitrate the issues of custody and visitation (among others). Tamar filed a motion for continuance, which would have pushed off the civil court date in order to allow time for beis din arbitration. Aharon filed a motion to oppose Tamar’s motion for a continuance, insisting that the matter be adjudicated in civil court, and the trial went on as planned. The BBD stated that if the civil court would issue a ruling, then they would be dismayed by Aharon’s insistence on going to civil court and thereby committing a chillul Hashem, and they would wipe their hands clean from the case. (Why they wouldn’t issue a seruv against Aharon is beyond me.)
4) Aharon and Tamar have been civilly divorced since April 2010.

5) Since the BBD [Baltimore Beis Din] had wiped their hands clean of the case, Tamar turned to the Silver Spring Beis Din (SSBD) in order to summon Aharon to beis din so that she could receive a get. After the SSBD issued three hazmanos and was working on the language of the seruv against Aharon, the BBD suddenly “re-asserted” jurisdiction and the SSBD dropped the case.

6) Now that two batei din have failed to secure a get for Tamar (and Tamar rightfully questions the objectivity of the BBD considering how they mishandled the matter), Tamar has turned to the Beth Din of America (BDA) to deal with the case. (Tamar has currently held off from  having the BDA issue their first hazmana since the negotiations with Aharon facilitated by Rav Belsky this week have been ongoing.)

7) Rav Hershel Schachter and Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky are familiar with the intimate details of the case and have been updated regularly for months. As such, both have issued letters in support of ORA’s efforts to pressure Aharon to give a get. Attached, please find one of the letters of support issued by Rav Kamenetsky and Rav Schachter.

8) Additionally, Rav Schachter has issued a psak stating that public pressure can be placed on a recalcitrant husband even in the absence of a psak from beis din as long as a responsible posek (in this case Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky) has weighed in on the matter. Please see attached.

I hope these details and attachments help provide more background for the case.


  1. The washington and silver springs batei din both agree that there is no need / no order for AF to give a get. As opposed to ORA and RHS. So this is a dispute between rabbis. Not grounds for a harrasment campaign against AF. (Perhaps grounds for a harassment campaign against the baltimore and greater washington batei din.)

    2. Copy of page two (and signatures) of this greater washington letter, please.
    Also, who is this silver springs bet din? Another made up organization? Name of principles? And even they sought fit to decline the ecase, no obligation to give a get.

  2. If goldfein is an experienced toain, he knew very well why he was wiring $60,000 to ME, in contradiction to his testimony that it was part of a property settlement. If he was an experienced toain, he knew who ME was. If he was a run of the mill attorney, he might claim it dwas a property settlement.

  3. Goldfein's $60,000 payment to Mr. Mendel Epstein was shortly before the hit on the husband Aaron F. when he was beaten outside his wife's families home, correct?

  4. He apparently lied in his testimony - if you read the transcript he was extremely nervous - he was asked if he asked ME back for the 30k that he sent him his reply was no its too complicated.

    Next are you going to ask if his wife is a run of the mill psychologist ?

    The Goldfine's make a good team.

  5. The Church of England are also doing away with their "kiddushin", I wonder if that means they need no "gett"?

  6. Regarding Goldfein's wife: is she the individual who provided RSK and son the psychological profile on AF that was sent to Memphis?

  7. He pretty much admitted the connection between the $60,000 and ME. He was given immunity to testify.

  8. “Anyone who wishes to
    resolve the current annulment crisis must start with the realization that the
    mockery of halacha, beis din, and the idea of communal norms, did not start
    with the kiddushei taos, but with public attacks on Aharon and his family even
    though he was the victim in this matter of unconscionable behavior led by
    Rabbis Kamenetsky and Schachter.”

    Yes, that is the start, the public attacks on
    the husband. It is the corner stone and foundation. The feminists
    and their supporters have their first step (never to be removed)---ostracize
    the man, banish him in every way possible, communications email whatever, especially
    to his children. I sent Susan 22 letters and made phone calls
    from Israel 1991 till the get 1993. Susan signed in 1989 that she wanted to
    live with me in Jerusalem. Susan stonewalled
    me then and since. This is their method
    of operation---ostracize the man, even in court papers. T.E. found rabbinical support, a beit din, to
    ostracize the man contrary to:

    I charged your magistrates at that time as follows,
    “Hear out your fellow men, and decide
    justly between any man and a fellow Israelite or a stranger. You shall not be
    partial in judgment: hear out low and high alike. Fear no man, for judgment is
    God’s. And any matter that is too difficult for you, you shall bring to me and
    I will hear it.” (Deuteronomy 1:16-17)


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