Saturday, May 12, 2007

To The Rabbinical Judges In Israel - Justice NOW!

Rivkah Lubitch
In search of justice
Rivkah Lubitch appeals to committee appointing rabbinical judges through personal letter
By Rivkah Lebitch
May 11, 2007

To the committee on appointing rabbinical judges,

I am a rabbinical pleader and have been working for several years in the rabbinical court as the representative of agunot and women who were refused a divorce.

I am a member of the
Center for Women's Justice, where we try to promote women's status in rabbinical and family courts. I wish to remind you of what you may very well know already – the situation in the rabbinical court is dire.

Next week, you will
convene again in order to elect the people who will serve as rabbinical judges in Israel, until their retirement. You have the power to determine who will be the people that decide the fates of women, men and children. I ask you, please – open your hearts and do so this time with fairness and decency.

There's nothing you can do for M' anymore. She spent five years going from one courthouse to the next, until she finally gave up and agreed to make far-reaching concessions to her husband in exchange for a divorce.

R' refused to give up one shekel to her husband, and consequently was dragged between courts for 19 years until she was granted her long awaited divorce. You can no longer help R’, or right the wrong that was done to her and her family.

But K', who has been separated from her recalcitrant husband for 19 years, is still waiting for a just ruling. L', who has been separated from her husband for six years, is also still awaiting a ruling that would free her of her husband.

You can help the thousands of other women in Israel who seek to separate with dignity and on good terms from the husbands they no longer want to live with. You can help by electing rabbinical judges who are courageous enough to impose sanctions against recalcitrant husbands.

Sending a recalcitrant husband to jail is not enough, especially since it is rarely done; Judges should also look for creative solutions to break up the marriage that are independent of the husband's stubbornness, and prevent these problems from happening in the first place.

The public in Israel demands that you examine whether the judges you wish to appoint are not only Jewish scholars, but also posses legal education and training.

Check whether the judges you wish to appoint are not only involved in the haredi public, but are also an integral part of the general public, and feel an affinity to all the sectors in the country, including those who do not keep Shabbat.

Make sure that the candidates you support do not treat women, non-religious Jews, and non-Jews with disrespect.

Find out whether the candidates you support are willing to commit to closing cases within a limited time frame. Find out if they are willing to declare that the abuse of women and children is a cause for obligating the husband to grant a divorce.

Check whether the long separation of a couple, or a woman's claim that she is repulsed by her husband, are cause for a divorce.

To sum up, I demand that you appoint rabbinical judges who possess great courage, and who are willing to take responsibility and lead the initiative of halachic ruling in order to march the rabbinical court forward.

My criteria for the election of judges may be too demanding. It’s possible that none among the current candidates can rise up to these challenges. If this is so, maybe it's time to start searching for candidates outside the existing pool.

Rivkah Lubitch

Rivkah Lubitch is head of the Center for Women's Justice Haifa office. She is a rabbinical pleader with six years experience and has an MA in the history of the Jewish people


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