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INTERNATIONAL DIVORCE NEWS: Jewish “Get” scandal hits France
And you thought this stuff only happened in shady Beth Dins in Brooklyn, New York. It turns out that it happens all over the world. Jewish divorces are not always wholly legal and ethical affairs. Case in point, recently in Paris, a rabbi who was acting as an interim head of the Beth Din (on account of fraudulent activities of the previous rabbi) was allegedly caught on video in a “get” scandal and extortion plot. He is basically accused of having demanded $120,000 from a woman in order to secure a Jewish divorce or “get.” The woman got the get but then she went to the police and has demanded a return of the check she paid the rabbi. Says the Jérusalem Post:
Paris Chief Rabbi and interim Chief Rabbi of France Michel Gugenheim denied allegations that he had helped extort $120,000 from a woman who needed his signature to get a religious divorce.
The family of the woman, who was not identified, filed on March 18 a deposition containing the allegation against Gugenheim and two members of his rabbinical court at a police station in Paris’ 19th arrondissement, L’Express weekly reported on May 8.
The family of the 28-year-old woman had made a secret video recording of their March 18 appearance at a Paris rabbinical court presided by Gugenheim, the interim chief rabbi of France, L’Express reported.
In the recording, Gugenheim endorsed the ex-husband’s demand that the woman pay him a little over $40,000, according to L’Express, and was heard saying: “This is the price of her freedom.”
One rabbinical judge asked the woman’s family to write a check for $120,000 as a donation to the Sinai religious institution, explaining the French tax authority would reimburse 66 percent of their donation in keeping with Sinai’s charity status, L’Express said.
According to the arrangement, Sinai would transfer €30,000 ($41,310) to the husband and keep the remaining amount.
As you may be aware, in the Orthodox Jewish community, a woman cannot legally remarry without a “Get.” She is called an “agunah” or “chained wife” until her husband releases her from the marriage. He does so by giving her a “get.”
But around the world, men are using the get as blackmail and financial duress to extort money from their wives. This is an international problem. And they are doing so often with the heads of their synagogues and beth dins, as seen in this case. It works both ways really. Either the husband refuses until he shakes the wife down for big bucks; or the wife’s family shakes down the husband using violence to secure the “get.”
But the “get” either way you cut it is a way to get yourself into serious legal and ethical quagmires in the Jewish community it seems. I wonder what the Jewish community can do to stop this? It’s kind of embarassing.