Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.
Breaking News

Orthodox Rabbis’ Group Mandates Prenup To Prevent ‘Chained’ Wives

The Rabbinical Council of America will mandate its member rabbis to require couples to sign a prenuptial agreement ensuring that husbands will not withhold a get, or Jewish writ of divorce, from their wives.

The agreement, commonly referred to as a “halakhic prenup,” generally penalizes the husband financially for refusing to give the get.

Rabbi Mark Dratch, executive vice president of the RCA, a centrist Orthodox rabbis’ organization, said the organization is mandating the longstanding fix to an intractable problem now because the Orthodox community is largely aware of and comfortable with its use. According to a press release sent Wednesday by the RCA, requiring a prenup will further reduce any stigma associated with it in corners of the Orthodox community.

“We’re an organization with a thousand rabbis that also need to be trained and educated and feel comfortable with this,” he said. “We’re at a place now where the membership thought this was possible.”

According to halakha, or traditional Jewish law, a husband must give his wife the get in order for the couple to divorce. Women whose husbands refuse to divorce them — preventing them from remarrying under Jewish law — are referred to as “agunot,” Hebrew for “chained women.”

The RCA has advocated the use of the prenup since 1993, and has encouraged its use in subsequent statements throughout the years. But the document’s use is not universal, and husbands still occasionally refuse to divorce their wives. This is the first time the RCA is requiring its rabbis to have couples sign the prenup before their weddings.

Among some 200 mostly American Orthodox rabbis surveyed earlier this year by the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Association, roughly 75 percent already require couples to sign the prenup before getting married. Nearly 50 of the rabbis, however, either don’t require the prenup or actively discourage couples they are marrying from signing one.

Sharon Weiss-Greenberg, executive director of JOFA, applauded the RCA’s statement, but questioned how effective it will be.

“I hope that it becomes the reality,” she said. “I don’t know if this is a real policy that’s enforceable. I hope that they don’t need to enforce it. I hope that if they need to they do.”

Dratch told JTA that the RCA has a procedure in place for investigating and penalizing rabbis who break any of its rules, and that the group would use that procedure in this case as well. He said, however, that this resolution may be harder to enforce because member rabbis perform so many weddings.

“It’s difficult in this case because we’re not at every wedding,” he said. “But if it should come to the attention of the [RCA] executive committee, there’s a mechanism by which we can investigate and come to the decision.”

Despite her reservations, Weiss-Greenberg said the resolution may provide a real benefit to many women who could otherwise become “chained” by their husbands.

“This is the best solution for creating lasting change in a proactive manner,” she said. “The job will not be done, but the job will be infinitely smaller if everyone had the halakhic prenup.”

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.