Rabbi to 'name and shame' men refusing divorce

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The rabbi at one of Britain's most high-profile synagogues announced yesterday that he intended to "name and shame" husbands who refused to give their wives a Jewish divorce.

The rabbi at one of Britain's most high-profile synagogues announced yesterday that he intended to "name and shame" husbands who refused to give their wives a Jewish divorce.

Rabbi Pini Dunner, of the Saatchi Synagogue, in west London, plans to display the names of the husbands of agunot - or "chained women", as they are known - on his synagogue noticeboard every Jewish Sabbath, and publish them, on request, on the Internet.

Under Jewish law, the former husband has sole power to grant his wife a religious divorce, without which she cannot remarry in an Orthodox synagogue. According to campaigners, the husband often refuses, even after a civil divorce has gone through, as a bargaining counter in negotiations over money, property, and children.

There is pressure to change the Jewish law, but Rabbi Dunner said that stigmatising guilty husbands was a more immediate solution. "It's time to take a moral stance against these recalcitrant husbands who hide behind Jewish law, extort money from their wives, and only grant them a divorce once they have the money," he said.

Rabbi Dunner said he was inviting any woman whose ex-husband was denying her a religious divorce to inform him of his name, address and synagogue affiliation. "I challenge every rabbi, of whatever denomination, to do the same," he told the Jewish Chronicle.

Campaigners against agunot welcomed the move and urged other rabbis to follow suit. Sandra Blackman, herself a "chained woman" for six years, even though her husband has remarried in a registry office, said: "Good luck to him (Rabbi Dunner). He's got the power of his convictions. Why don't the other rabbis do it?"

Rabbi Yitzehak Schochet, of Mill Hill United Synagogue, in north-west London, said he was willing to do the same. "If somebody submitted to me a list of men who refused to grant their wives religious divorces I would certainly be prepared to hang that list up at my synagogue."

Public humiliation was a better bet than campaigning to change the law, which was immutable, he added. "There are all these madames in Hollywood who threaten to name their clients. This is the same idea and I think, to a certain extent, it will work."

A spokesman for the Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, said he would approve the strategy when "all other avenues had been explored". However he added a note of caution: "In some cases it might make the individual more entrenched in his position."

Comments