In Victory for ‘Chained’ Wives, Court Upholds Orthodox Prenuptial Agreement

First Ruling Beth Din of America’s 20 Year Old Contract

Thinkstock

By Paul Berger

Published February 08, 2013, issue of February 15, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

For the first time, a state court has affirmed the constitutionality of a Modern Orthodox-sponsored prenuptial agreement meant to protect agunot — Jewish women “chained” by husbands who refuse to grant them a religious divorce.

The agunah in this case, Rachel Light, may even be eligible to demand more than $100,000 from her husband under the terms of the prenup, which stipulated that Eben Light has to pay $100 for each day he refuses to grant his wife a Jewish divorce, known as a get. Light and her husband have been separated for several years.

Observers believe that the Connecticut judge’s ruling is the first published opinion on the Beth Din of America’s prenuptial contract since it was introduced about 20 years ago.

Upheld: Rabbi Shlomo Weissmann is director of the Beth Din of America. Its pre-nuptial agreement was upheld by a state court.
Odeliah Rae Photography
Upheld: Rabbi Shlomo Weissmann is director of the Beth Din of America. Its pre-nuptial agreement was upheld by a state court.

The BDA prenup was created during the early 1990s as a way to combat the phenomenon of chained wives, those who cannot remarry and whose subsequent children are considered illegitimate unless their husband grants them a Jewish divorce.

The imbalance of power has traditionally given men the upper hand when parting couples negotiate child custody, division of assets and other issues. In some cases, wives and their families have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for their husband to grant them a get.

The plight of agunot gained national attention most recently with the case of Tamar Epstein, whose husband, Aharon Friedman, a legislative aide to Dave Camp, chair of the House Committee on Ways and Means, is refusing to give her a get while the couple fight over custody of their young daughter. The couple did not sign a BDA prenup.

Susan Aranoff, a director of the advocacy group Agunah International, said the Connecticut decision is a breakthrough for women. “The unanswered question with regard to the prenup was always will it be enforceable in civil court,” Aranoff said.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • This 007 hates guns, drives a Prius, and oh yeah — goes to shul with Scarlett Johansson's dad.
  • Meet Alvin Wong. He's the happiest man in America — and an observant Jew. The key to happiness? "Humility."
  • "My first bra was a training bra, a sports bra that gave the illusion of a flat chest."
  • "If the people of Rwanda can heal their broken hearts and accept the Other as human, so can we."
  • Aribert Heim, the "Butcher of Mauthausen," died a free man. How did he escape justice?
  • This guy skipped out on seder at his mom's and won a $1 million in a poker tournament. Worth it?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.