Postnup Parties Get Happily Married Orthodox Couples To Plan for Divorce

Preventing 'Chained Wives' — One Marriage at a Time

Grandpa’s Got a Postnup: Kenneth and Annabelle Chapel, the author’s grandparents, will celebrate their 60th anniversary this summer.
Hody Nemes
Grandpa’s Got a Postnup: Kenneth and Annabelle Chapel, the author’s grandparents, will celebrate their 60th anniversary this summer.

By Hody Nemes

Published February 09, 2014, issue of February 14, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Bobby and Chelle Medow are happily married — and have been for almost 50 years. Yet one Sunday evening in January, the St. Louis couple made contingency plans for a divorce. And 31 other Orthodox married couples joined them.

They are part of a small but budding movement that is being promoted by some Orthodox rabbis around the country as a way to expand protection for Jewish women. But like its precursor, the prenuptial agreement, the postnuptial agreement now spreading within Orthodoxy’s liberal wings has yet to catch on more broadly as a way to prevent the phenomenon of agunot, or chained women, in the world of the traditionally observant.

Like a prenuptial agreement, postnups are designed to help solve the issue of men who refuse to grant their wives a religious divorce during or after a civil divorce settlement. Without such a written agreement from her husband, known as a get, a religiously observant woman may not remarry.

Under a system first proposed to address this inequity in the early 1990s by Modern Orthodoxy’s largest clerical association, prospective marriage partners can sign a prenuptial agreement that requires each partner to grant his or her spouse a get upon civil divorce or face steep fines enforceable in civil courts. But even as some Orthodox rabbis embraced the concept, requiring the couples they wed to sign these forms, the Rabbinical Council of America, which first proposed this idea, has itself never made using prenups a requirement for its member rabbis.

Among Orthodox rabbis who did embrace prenuptial contracts, another issue remained: Many Orthodox couples were wed long before the prenup appeared on the scene, or were married by a rabbi who did not require it. These women, though already married, were no less subject to peril in the event of a divorce.

“This isn’t something you just get grandfathered into,” said Rori Picker-Neiss, a fourth-year student at Yeshivat Maharat, a liberal Orthodox yeshiva for women. Picker-Neiss, who works for Bais Abraham Congregation, the venue for the St. Louis event, summed up the problem succinctly: “If we changed the policy and every Orthodox rabbi tomorrow started to only do weddings with a prenup, then we could maybe solve this problem in 50 to 60 years.”

As with prenuptial agreements, the postnuptial contracts require couples to appear before a predetermined beit din or rabbinic court for religious divorce arbitration when a civil divorce takes place. If the man subsequently refuses to grant his wife a get, the beit din will require him to pay his wife $150 per day until he relents — a fine enforceable in civil court.


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!
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • Backstreet's...not back.
  • 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.