Thursday, November 02, 2006

Case of Jacob Binson - Domestic Violence: refusing to give a get (Jewish Divorce)

Rabbis pressure man to grant get
By Joel Goldenberg
The Suburban (Quebec, Canada)
November 1, 2006

Photo by Rob Taussig, The Suburban
Rabbis Jacobson, Steinmetz and Whitman stand at Jacob Binson’s apartment door, calling his name and urging him to respond.

Pearl Binson has been trying to get a Jewish divorce from Jacob Binson, the man she divorced civilly several years ago. But according to Jewish law, both parties must agree before a couple can be granted a divorce, called a get.

Last Friday several rabbis and some 20 members of the Jewish community protested outside the apartment building on Beaucourt Street in Côte des Neiges where Jacob Binson lives, to try and pressure him to grant his ex-wife a get.

During the protest, Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz of Côte St. Luc’s Tifereth Beth David Jerusalem Synagogue, Rabbi Michael Whitman of Hampstead’s Adath Israel Synagogue and Rabbi Asher Jacobson of Chevra Kadisha Synagogue knocked on Binson’s apartment door and loudly called his name in Hebrew and English, but there was no answer. The number on his apartment door had been changed, and his phone is out of service. The rabbis had with them a form for Binson to sign, used in extraordinary circumstances, to authorize the Jewish ecclesiastical court to write and deliver the get.

“All he would have to do is sign it in front of two witnesses, and this would be over.”

According to Steinmetz, it is time for Jewish religious authorities to consider a reform of the process to obtain a get in light of spouses who abuse the process.

According to the Jewish Virtual Library website, a marriage can only be dissolved when both parties agree to sign a get.

“Reform is something that certainly needs to be looked at very seriously, that’s a long-term issue that needs to be looked into and corrected,” Steinmetz said. “But it needs a very large [international] consensus.”

Rabbi Saul Emanuel, executive director of the Jewish Community Council of Montreal, says the Torah, the Jewish book of laws, determines the rules.

“We have to convince people and work much harder to educate them as to the importance of ensuring spouses give their wives a get. We have to fit in with Torah, Torah doesn’t have to fit in with us.”

Whitman said many local rabbis have met with Jacob Binson and his mother, and have “pleaded, cajoled, yelled, saying the same thing. There are no complexities, he just refuses to do what he’s supposed to do.”

Jacobson said he spoke to Jacob Binson and members of his family on many occasions.

“He’s very stubborn,” Jacobson said. “In his own world, he believes there’s a point of reconciliation that can take place. That’s completely unrealistic, knowing the case.”

A simultaneous protest was held in New York, at the home of Binson’s mother Esther, who the rabbis say is encouraging her son not to sign the document.

“[The mother] has threatened to kill anyone who rallies in front of her house,” Whitman said. “I’m hoping that’s an exaggeration.”

Whitman said he, with rabbis Steinmetz and Emanuel, spoke to Esther Binson when she visited Montreal.

“She yelled and screamed the most ugly, vituperative cursing insults, none of which made any sense.”

“We recognize, in divorces, it’s never perfectly beautiful and clean,” Steinmetz said. “To use what is a requirement of Jewish law as leverage in negotiations is completely unacceptable. What you are doing is using Judaism to extort and hurt another person. It’s like beating your wife with a Bible. Everyone who has any sense of connection to Judaism should be appalled by it.”

“This is definitely a form of general abuse,” said Sarah Bauer, who attended the protest. “Once rabbis get involved, they’re losing a lot of their religious rights. They [abusers] shouldn’t be part of religious quorums, serve on synagogue committees. They should be rejected by everybody.”

Emanuel said the rabbis will reconvene to determine further means of pressure.

Pearl Binson was also unavailable for comment despite several phone calls and a visit to her residence.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"According to Steinmetz, it is time for Jewish religious authorities to consider a reform of the process to obtain a get in light of spouses who abuse the process."

That's ridiculous. It's not time to change Torah, it's time to enforce it. If a man refuses to give his wife a get, he should, as the Rambam states, be beaten until he concedes.

There is already a dictate in Torah in how to handle this. Why don't people follow it?

November 03, 2006 9:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Violence is never the answer. Perhaps a woman could sue the husband in secular courts for pain and suffering. He should pay her at least $1,800 a day for each day he refuses to give the get.

November 03, 2006 9:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i cant understand what type of person (if he can be called that) would subject his wife to a life of solitude for no good reason. the rabbis should take all necessary measures to prevent this. thank you

October 29, 2007 9:32 AM  

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