PHILADELPHIA: Tamar Epstein, chained to marriage by husband Aharon Friedman who refuses to give the “get”, gets secular support on Youtube

Tamar Epstein Aharon Friedman divorce: He refuses to give her a “get” but she gets tons of secular support; will this shame him into being more reasonable?

PHILADELPHIA: This interesting story was published in yesterday’s New York Times.  It begins this way:

This should have been a good New Year’s for Aharon Friedman, a 34-year-old tax counsel for the Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee. He spent time with his 3-year-old daughter, and could have been thinking about the influence he will have starting Wednesday, when his boss, Representative Dave Camp of Michigan, becomes chairman of the powerful tax-writing committee.

Instead, Mr. Friedman, an Orthodox Jew, finds himself scrutinized in the Jewish press, condemned by important rabbis, and attacked in a YouTube video showing about 200 people protesting outside his Silver Spring, Md., apartment on Dec. 19. They were angered by Mr. Friedman’s refusal to give his wife, Tamar Epstein, 27, a Jewish decree of divorce, known as a get.
The story of “chained” Jewish wives (women whose husbands refuse to grant a rabbinical divorce) is always fascinating to me. Just last month, we covered a story of a Brooklyn agunah (chained wife) who had to go to Israel (even though she’s American) to get the courts there to get her husband to give her a divorce or “get” which is a sort of dispensation that allows her to re-marry. (In case you are unfamiliar with this, it’s a practice within the Orthodox Jewish culture whereby a husband has the ultimate authority to dissolve the marriage by granting his wife a “get.” In states like New York, it is a requirement that all barriers to re-marriage are removed before a civil divorce judgment in signed. Still, many Jewish husbands are able to get away with not granting their wives a get.)
In any event, this story out of Philadelphia is really interesting because it is the first time that I have seen a Jewish wife garner such public support against a husband who holds her prisoner to the marriage by refusing to grant a get. And the fact that he works for someone in public office really resonates. It is his Achilles heel. It is how she will shame him into stop being a monster and giving her a divorce. Good for her.
In his defense, he seems to be angry about the custody order. Here again, a portion of the Times article:

All parties have said that Mr. Friedman is angry about the custody order, which grants him three weekends a month with his daughter, two of them in Philadelphia, beginning at 6 p.m. on Fridays. As a religious Jew, Mr. Friedman will not drive from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday — so he cannot see his daughter until Sunday.

The custody order is “a joke,” said Yisroel Belsky, a prominent Brooklyn rabbi. “The court decided in a bullheaded way not to respect the Shabbos,” or Sabbath, he said in a interview.

But the two issues should not collide. He needs to rabbinically release his wife from her chains. And he needs to petition the civil courts for a modification of the custody order that is fair, and reasonable, and is in the best interest of the child. He cannot keep his wife chained just because he’s not getting enough time with his daughter. He’s being a bully and he needs to stop. Good for her that she is getting so much support from the secular and religious groups. He’s being ridiculous and should be ashamed of himself. IMHO.

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7 Responses to "PHILADELPHIA: Tamar Epstein, chained to marriage by husband Aharon Friedman who refuses to give the “get”, gets secular support on Youtube"

  1. Andrew   January 6, 2011 at 12:33 am

    Good for him! His ex-wife moves far enough away and lets be real about this she and her team know full-well the visitation times and days put him in a straight-jacket so he can’t see his daughter. The Family Courts are biased against men and went along with what the ex-wife wants. Petitioning them is possibly a waste of time. Fathers have as much right to parent their kids as mothers.

    • Admin   January 6, 2011 at 12:40 am

      I disagree. It is not good for him. He cannot and should not chain this woman to a broken marriage. His visitation rights are well taken and he should see his daughter and I believe the visits should be timed in such a way that it does not conflict with his religious obligations. But one has nothing to do with the other and it is very bad form to refuse to give his wife a GET. Shame on him.

    • Amber   January 6, 2011 at 4:21 pm

      100000% AGREED!!!!

      • Amber   January 6, 2011 at 4:22 pm

        with Andrew that is!!!!

        • Admin   January 6, 2011 at 4:44 pm

          Amber, you must know Andrew.

  2. Michal   January 16, 2011 at 10:06 am

    The biggest question that jumps out at me from this story is: WHY is this being held up as the prototype of the unfair agunah plight? There was clearly no abuse in the marriage or it would have been mentioned in one of the many articles about the situation. The get is being used as leverage in the battle over access to their child, a relatively noble cause. Buried deep in one of the many articles, the bet din they went to in Baltimore was quoted as saying that the issue is still open, it’s premature to say he’s refusing to give a get, and the ball is currently in her court to re-initiate proceedings.

    There are so many examples of agunah situations where withholding the get is an attempt to extort money (or avoid paying alimony/child support) or simply as a means to torture her, with no other motive. It is virtually always part of a larger pattern of abuse. There are so many examples where the bet din actually demands that the husband grant a get and he refuses.

    The fact that this case is being highlighted smells very bad. On deeper research, I see that the Epstein family is very wealthy and powerful in Philadelphia and beyond. One has to ask, is that a factor in the disproportional publicity of this case?

    One more point, I find it highly irresponsible if not overtly corrupted that prominent rabbis are encouraging her to circumvent the bet din system in her attempts to obtain a get. What is the point of having a bet din involved at all if rabbis close to the wife’s family can come out with statements that the get needs to be issued unconditionally?

    The situation of the agunah is a very difficult one, and as a woman I am all for protecting women as much as possible. However, as a discerning person, I have to say that I am not sure how much sympathy this specific woman needs.

    Let her go back to the bet din, let the people who hear the case with all the details help decide the situation. The huge mobs chanting slogans, trying their best to help the underdog, may have been misled into choosing the wrong side.

    • Admin   January 17, 2011 at 1:47 pm

      Michal, I am sorry I didn’t get to this response before. First thanks for leaving such a constructive comment on this case. You have added some information I did not have before, like the wife’s family’s wealth, etc. Still, I think that as a general rule, the GET should not be a bargaining chip since it is so sexistly applied – i.e. only men have the bargaining chip. Women can’t give gets. So it’s unequal bargaining power and what it amounts to a lot of time is extortion and blackmail and bullying behavior. I have said and will continue to say that the man should see his child and if the visitation does not allow adequate time with the child, they need to revisit that issue in court. But that is no excuse for him to keep is exwife chained. Again, this was a nice comment. Thank you for leaving it.


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