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Beth Din to name & shame refusers of gets




Pictured : Rosh Beth Din Rabbi Moshe Kurtstag… “drastic steps”.                                                                                                 

“The Beth Din is taking drastic steps and we are prepared to name and shame men who refuse to give a get,” Rabbi Kurtstag said.

Despite the Divorce Act amendment in the 1990s, when a movement spearheaded by the late Chief Rabbi Cyril Harris, zt”l, succeeded in getting the South African courts to withhold a civil divorce unless a religious divorce had been arranged, some wives have still not insisted on a get or have overlooked this and not all of them realise the gravity of not obtaining one.

A get is granted by the husband under the auspices of Beth Din judges. The wife cannot marry someone else for 92 days thereafter, in case she is pregnant from her previous husband. Also, as a divorcee, she will not be permitted to marry a Kohen.

“Should there be no get, the woman would then still be considered married in Jewish law. She is not allowed to cohabit with, or marry a Jewish man (even in a civil ceremony). Should she have children from this union, they will be labelled with the stigma of ‘mamzerim’ (bastards) and will never be able to marry within the Jewish faith,” Rabbi Moshe Kurtstag, Rosh Beth Din, told the SA Jewish Report.

“Mamzerim” results from incest or adultery and, in the absence of a get, any union between a Jewish woman and a Jewish man is considered adulterous. She is forbidden to return to her husband or her new Jewish partner even after the get.

“Sometimes a woman who does not realise the importance of a get, can be stuck for the rest of her life.”

A get should not be granted under coercion, but of free will, says Rabbi Kurtstag. In certain instances, halacha permits coercion through the Rambam’s interpretation that the free will was overtaken by the “yetzer hara” (evil inclination). Even beating the man was condoned in order to rid him of the yetzer hara and letting him see the error of not giving a get. This was not considered force.

Rabbi Kurtstag said that in Israel men were often jailed for withholding a get and some had been sitting for several years. This was not possible in South Africa, “but the Beth Din can impose cherem, effectively isolating the person from the Jewish community – preventing him from forming part of a minyan in shul, not being awarded any honours in the shul, “and even to the extent of not burying him in a Jewish cemetery.

“The Beth Din is prepared to take these steps. We need to stress the importance of a get and the consequences of not having one.”

Cherem has only been imposed by the Beth Din in South Africa on one occasion, when a husband ignored a Beth Din ruling. The High Court accepted this ruling.

Eventually the husband complied and cherem was lifted.

The Beth Din is currently faced with a difficult case in which the husband has remarried a non-Jewish woman, but still refuses to give his Jewish first wife a get, effectively allowing him to carry on with his life, but causing her to become an agunah (chained woman).

A husband, not a wife, is obligated to grant a get, as he was the one entering into the contract of marriage by giving the ring to his wife.

The Beth Din is prevailing upon the man in question to relent, as he is Jewishly married to his first wife, who cannot marry or have an intimate relationship with a Jewish man, as she would then be committing adultery and be prohibited to both of them.


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  1. David B

    Mar 31, 2016 at 6:21 am

    ‘If a husband and wife become divorced legally , it should be made automatic that a ‘get’ would be part of the process – no exceptions

    This is the modern world where woman have rights — and should never be usurped a by a recalcitrant man


  2. nat cheiman

    Mar 31, 2016 at 3:03 pm

    ‘Naming will not influence the individual, in my opinion, because if his refusal is not frivolous,and based on principle, he will stick to it.’

  3. Michelle

    Mar 31, 2016 at 3:15 pm

    ‘We have just set up Go Getters – the South African Gett Network on Facebook. Sign up with this community if you believe gett refusal should not be used for extortion or punishment. We want to share information and help agunot.’

  4. alon

    Apr 1, 2016 at 2:31 pm

    ‘Really Rabbi Kurtstag?????

    Suddenly you are so concerned about Get abuse.

    There are a lot of people that have suffered because of your past position on such matters. 

    ‘A day late and a dollar short,’ for them I suppose.

    But as another saying goes:

    ‘Better late than never!”

  5. Rena

    Apr 5, 2016 at 10:14 am

    ‘Mazel Tov!’

  6. Leslie

    Apr 13, 2016 at 7:39 pm

    ‘There should also be a ‘name and shame’ campaign against men who abandon their wives and children, usually running off to another woman and showing no shame, guilt, or concern for their welfare (emotional and financial).’

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