Israeli Rabbinical Court Judges, in accordance with Orthodox tradition, are all men. These Judges wield enormous power, in accordance with Israeli civil law, granted to them by the Knesset. The law states that Israeli State Rabbinical Courts have sole jurisdiction in determining the fate of all of Israel’s residents who are Jewish or wish to become Jewish in regard to their most existential life events – marriage and divorce. Aside from that most essential jurisdiction (there is no civil marriage or divorce in Israel), Rabbinical Court Judges have far-reaching powers that impact civil liberties of the litigants who come before them: If a man refuses to give his wife a get or writ of Jewish divorce, the judges may levy restrictions on bank accounts; nullify a driver’s license or a professional license such as a license to practice medicine or law; restrain him from traveling abroad and cancel his passport; and even incarcerate a recalcitrant husband.
The scent hit me before I saw it. Sweet, suffusing, almost overpowering. I turned around, and there it was: a lush, magnificent, profusely blooming lilac. I had to stop and smell it. I was instantly transported to the backyard of my first house, the one we left when I was seven. Hanging over, and growing around the split-rail fence was a gigantic (at least to me) lilac. My big sister, Jill and I often held elaborate tea parties at the picnic table next to it, replete with miniature teacups and saucers and numerous baby dolls. At smelling, and seeing, this lilac, I was filled with sweetness and immense sadness; Jill died a few months ago at age 61.
To the young women of my generation, the movie “Mean Girls” is a modern day classic. The premise is simple: 16-year-old Cady (played by Lindsay Lohan) is dropped into a public school for her junior year after having been homeschooled in Africa. There, she falls in with the popular crowd, first as an anthropological study, and then because she becomes one of them. However, over time, the not-so-secret secret of the popular girls becomes clear. They are not popular because everyone likes them; in fact, they do not even much like each other. Instead, they are popular because they are feared. In fact, the girls who are nice are an endlessly mocked throughout the film. The message is clear. In high school, if you are a nice girl, you will finish last.
Watching a downcast Rabbi Barry Freundel being led away to face incarceration immediately after he was sentenced to six and a half years in prison on May 15 may not have healed the trauma and pain of his victims, but it marked a milestone for many of them.
“Pulpit Plus One: The Secret Lives of Rabbis’ Husbands, Partners, and Wives” features the voices and experiences of the partners of pulpit rabbis. In this interview series, “Pulpit Plus One” takes an honest and lively look into the nuances of a complex role.