Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Fathers' Rights In Divorce

March 1-- Tel Aviv-- For Immediate Release

The following open letter was sent to major pulpit Rabbis in Israel, the UK and the US today by the Israel Fathers Rights Advocacy Council, commenting on today's publication by Jerusalem based Eretz Chemda:

Lichvod HaRav

In the literally thousands of sermons and shiurim that you have given, how many public addresses related to:

* fathers rights in divorce
* grandparents rights in divorce
* the community's responsibility post divorce to both parties
* kibud av, as it relates in its intended manner of a mitzvah -- when acrimony exists, or divorce occurs; not how many angels on the head of a pin issues of standing up before one's father in public in perfectly normal and loving homes
* the kehila's responsibility to repair bonds torn between parent and child post divorce
* whether your kehilla even provides facilities for paternal visits and shabbatot to visit children after the family is divided into different homes in different communities? This is the mitzvah of Hachnasot Orachim, not inviting your best friend and her family for shabbat lunch yet again, and reciprocating at her home next month.
* the responsibility of chinuch post divorce
* Rabbis banning fathers from weddings and bar mitzvahs, at the monetary reward of the divorcee, in violation of all halachic and civil law
* Rabbis repeatedly literally committing criminal acts in the United States and United Kingdom by interfering in the civil divorce process, for profit and payment by one side, and gambling that in the closed Dati commuinity no one will bring the first major lawsuit against the Clergy (a strategy that has proven so effective for the Catholic Church)
* Rabbis repeatedly pressuring fathers with the admonition "I know what I am asking is technically against the law, but it is in the best interests of the children". If it was in the best interests of the children, it would be Dina d'Malchuta Dina as defined by the experts who are not being compensated by the Women's Bar and Interests Groups.

* have you ever publicly stated that there is more to a Jewish divorce than simply giving a Get, or have you aligned with the modern orthodox Rabbis intent on rewriting 3,000 years of halacha with the presently drafted RCA pre-nuptual agreement, drafted by RCA Rabbis and halachic consultants who are also, coincidentally, attorneys for the Women's Bar or receiving literally millions of dollars a year in charitable donations to run Womens Legal Services out of their Yeshivot -- that insists that all halachic responsibilities and requiring other than the Get be removed entirely from the process? There is a national nightmare brewing in twenty years time when these children divorce and both they and the grandparents discover they "voluntarily" waived all civil and halachic rights by signing a RCA prenup their Rabbis insisted upon as a condition of being Mesader Kedushin

Can you even cite accurate mekorot for these issues and others? Have you ever devoted one hour towards the study of these issues that now effect 20% of all new Dati marriages, and more than 50% of all new chiloni marriages?

Have you ever protested even one sentence from the pulpit on the explicit insistence of the RCA and Bet Din of America of the total exclusion of all Fathers Groups from all halachic conferences or committees involved in drafting marital and prenup agreements?

As the community drowns deeper into cheer leading self delusion of the wonders and perfection of being Dati, and instills yet more kiruv programs as self reaffirming exercises that others want to be just like us, have you devoted one single sermon out of the those thousands to the halachic issues of divorce within the community and the fact that, We Ain't What We Ought To Be?

Kol HaKavod to Eretz Chemda -- with whom we continue to disagree on the wording of their proposed prenuptual. At least they have taken the initiative and concede the problem exists, and as Rabbis they will sit with both sides of the divorce docket and address the halachic issues.

In 120 years time, to the surprise of virtually all the Rabbis on pulpits in Israel, the US and UK today, the first question they will be asked in the Yeshiva Shel Ma'alah will be how they turned they backs completely on the most important issue in the community during their tenure, literally not spending one hour out of ten thousand hours drashot and sermons, because the topic was unpleasant and not an acid bath they cared to enter. As noted in the Knesset hearings on the topic last month, the reason the Rabbis are preoccupied with brain death rather than issues of joint custody and basic grandparents rights of contact is because they have been heartless bastards for decades, if not centuries in Litta. All that is left in a RYBS or a Tendler/Lichtenstein type of Judaism is the brain.

In November 2010, I had the occasion to visit the new facility of Eretz Chemda, one of the foremost institutions of learning in Eretz Yisrael. The dean of the school, Rav Yosef Carmel, took my wife and me on a brief tour of the new facilities built for Bait Din activities. Rav Carmel pointed out that the Dayanim in most Batei Din sit on a raised platform during the deliberations. This was not the case with the construction of the Eretz Chemda Bait Din chamber. The Dayanim sit on the same level as the litigants. According to Rav Carmel, this encouragess them to more easily relate to the litigants and the problems they present for adjudication. The Dayanim must never lose sight of the need to identify with those individuals who come to their Courts and seek a solution for the concerns.

One of the areas which requires special sensitivity from our community’s Dayanim is that of Ishut. (i.e. marital status) One such area is that of the Agunah. Over the years, the Jewish community has written and discussed much about the problem of women whose husbands will not arrange for a proper Get (Jewish divorce) although the marriage has long ceased to be a viable one. Fortunately, our community has developed numerous organizations to deal with this problem, and the numbers of Agunot have been reduced over the course of time. Of course, even one Agunah is one too many. However, the problem of Agunah is being addressed and is not being ignored by our community.

There is, however, one aspect of Jewish divorce which is not being currently addressed in any organized fashion. The problem to which I allude is that divorce has become a process often accompanied by excessive bitterness and strife. In the typical divorce, attorneys battle, confrontations escalate, children suffer, and no one escapes unscathed. I refer to this problem as the lack of civility in the divorce process. (See more discussion at the website found atwww.CivilDivorceCivilGet.com .) It seems that we expect our youth to enter into marriage as Bnai Torah but have no similar expectation should the dissolution of the marriage occur. While it might be true that this lack of civility is not unique to the Jewish community, surely we must expect more from a “Mamlechet Kohanim V’Goy Kadosh”?