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!
  • Is it better to have a young, fresh rabbi, or a rabbi who stays with the same congregation for a long time? What do you think?
  • Why does the leader of Israel's social protest movement now work in a beauty parlor instead of the Knesset?
  • What's it like to be Chagall's granddaughter?
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • 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.