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Rabbi's trial raises awareness of Jewish divorce issue

Many Massachusetts readers are aware of a high-profile criminal case in which a rabbi is accused of attempted kidnapping. Far fewer understand the complex divorce issues that are embroiled within the matter, however. The case has helped raise awareness about the particular challenges that orthodox Jewish women face when seeking a divorce.

The criminal charges come on the heels of an FBI investigation in which the rabbi and four other men are accused of using kidnapping and torture techniques to coerce Jewish husbands to grant their wives a religious form of divorce known as a "get." Obtaining a get is not a requirement for a legal divorce, but women who are unable to obtain one can encounter incredible difficulty within their religious community. They are unable to remarry, and cannot even date unless their former husband agrees to grant the get.

Because of this interpretation of Jewish law, an underground practice has arisen in which various measures are taken against reluctant husbands. In this case, it is alleged that the rabbi and his associates planned to use handcuffs, kidnapping, martial arts techniques and an electric cattle prod to force a husband to grant his wife a religious divorce. While those allegations have led to a criminal trial, some are claiming that the rabbi is nothing less than a champion of womens' rights.

As the matter heads to court, additional details may become available. The case has certainly raised awareness of the issues facing orthodox Jewish women who are seeking divorce. In such cases, it is vitally important that women in Massachusetts and elsewhere obtain a favorable divorce outcome in their legal divorce, so that they have the power to move forward in their lives in the event that they are unable to obtain a religious divorce in the years to follow.

Source: ABC News, "Rabbi Accused of Running Divorce Kidnap Team Heads to Trial", Sean Carlin, Feb. 16, 2015

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