The Beit Hillel conference on Agunot and Get Refusal took place on November 13, 2013 at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Scores of the organization’s rabbis and rabbaniyot participated in the conference in order to study the issues and to weigh various solutions to this problem that were presented at the conference. Senior rabbinic figures from Israel and around the world took part in the conference.
Leading Rabbanim and Rabbaniyot Lead the Discussions
Amongst the speakers were Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, Rosh Yeshiva of the Orot Shaul Yeshiva, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, chief rabbi of Efrat, Rabbanit Adv. Yardena Cope-Yossef, senior lecturer in Talmud and Jewish Law at Matan, Rabbi Shabtai Rappaport, head of the Higher Institute for Torah at Bar Ilan, Rabbi Barukh Gigi, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat HarEtzion, Rabbanit Dr. Rachel Levmore, Professor Brachyahu Lifshitz of the Hebrew University, Rabbi Yoel Bin Nun, Rabbi Zeev Weitman of Tenuva, Rabbi Adv. Tzuriel Boublil head of the center for Agunot and Rabbi Amit Kula, rabbi of Kibbutz Alumim.
During the course of the conference, the rabbis and rabbaniyot took an strong stance on the urgent need to adopt a fitting solution to the problem of Agunot and those refused a Get in light of the fact that the problem is escalating. A number of experts in the field presented the latest in research on the extent of the problem. They emphasized that in addition to the pain and suffering of those refused a Get, in the current cultural climate this situation is generating numerous illicit affairs, leading to the births of increasing numbers of mamzerim and is playing a major factor in the rising numbers of those choosing a civil marriage over a Jewish ceremony.
Evaluating Proposed Solutions
The bulk of the conference was devoted to presenting and weighing the pluses and minuses of the proposed solutions, including:
- Hafka’at Kiddushin (Kiddushin annulment)
- A community enactment by the Israeli Knesset to Retroactively Confiscate the Ring (An application of the Hafka’a concept conceived of by Prof. Brachyahu Lifshutz)
- Kiddushin (and Nissuin) with a Conditional Clause, Conditional Get (at or shortly after the wedding)
- Amendments to or additions to Israeli Legislation
- Combinations of various solutions such as introducing a “Tnai” clause and Get clause into a tri-partite prenuptial.
A previous conference of Beit Hillel dealt exclusively with the preventative monetary prenuptial (“Heskem K’dam Nisuin”) which the organization has adopted as policy.
The View From North America
The director general of the Rabbinical Council of America, the RCA, Rabbi Mark Dratch, gave an overview of the current situation in North America. He noted that in light of a recent survey of its members the RCA is working within the rabbinic ranks to insure the universal use of the preventative prenuptial solution. The president of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, YCT, Rabbi Asher Lopatin, presented a number of new suggestions currently under review at YCT including, amongst others, the idea that the at the giving of the ring effecting the Kiddishin the husband take an oath that he will not chain his wife by refusing to give a Get.
We see this conference as an extremely positive and productive contribution to the world-wide search for solutions and we call on all rabbinic leaders around the world and across the board to make the issue of Get refusal a priority, to study it in yeshivot and communities in order to find a joint solution that will be acceptable to the majority of the rabbinic world. A solution that will speedily relieve the suffering of Agunot and those refused a Get and strengthen the institution of Jewish Marriage.
We will be focusing and acting determinedly on this issue. Beit Hillel will continue to promote the universal use of prenuptial agreements and, simultaneously, search for additional systematic solutions to this painful issue.
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