Rachel Levmore’s May 11 op-ed, “Should the Government ‘Get’ Involved,” raises a multitude of questions.
Let me address just two points. Levmore errs in stating that the proposed Maryland “barriers to remarriage” law would have protected Tamar Epstein from becoming an agunah. Epstein filed for the civil divorce and has done all she can to remove barriers to her ex-husband Aharon Friedman’s remarriage. Thus even if Maryland had passed the proposed law, Epstein would rightly have been awarded the civil divorce she sought but remained an agunah.
Maryland’s proposed “barriers to remarriage” law, similar to the first New York State “Get Law,” only helps if the husband is the plaintiff in the civil divorce suit. In 99% of agunah cases, the wife, not the husband, is the plaintiff. The second NYS Get law, which allows the judge to give the agunah a larger financial award, has some teeth, but the Maryland law was not patterned on this second law.
Levmore also states that Aharon Friedman, exercising his constitutional right, has turned Epstein into an agunah, but it is the Orthodox rabbinate’s refusal to embrace available halachic remedies to the agunah problem and the communtiy that keeps these rabbis in leadership positions and adheres to their decrees who have turned Epstein into an agunah.
Director, Agunah International