Letter From a Former Agunah and Stern College Alumna

POSTED ON February 11, 2014      BY admin

Dear Yeshiva University Students,

I was once a Yeshiva University student like you. I was surrounded by women getting engaged, with their doors decorated and their beautiful diamond rings, and I eagerly looked forward to the day when it would happen to me. However, I didn’t get engaged or married while in Stern. Finding my bashert didn’t come so easily to me.

Eventually I did meet someone. He wasn’t Prince Charming and was more controlling than I would have liked, but we had similar hashkafos and felt we could grow together. We dated for 3 months. I asked him for a halachic prenup. He refused. I felt uneasy about it, but I foolishly ignored it, figuring it wasn’t a big deal. I am not stupid – I made Dean’s List for four years and graduated with honors. In hindsight, I can’t understand why I didn’t leave the relationship. Desperation hinders good judgment. Ultimately, we didn’t grow together. We grew apart.

Backed by a supportive family, I was able to muster the strength to leave an abusive marriage with two small children. For a year and a half I plead for my get. At one point my ex-husband told me I would never get my get. Then he said I would get it after civil court was completed. Civil court cases can drag on for years and my ex-husband would make one excuse after another to delay proceedings. Months passed and I wasn’t getting any closer to getting my get or my civil divorce. I was living with uncertainty.

The more I reached out to people for help, the lonelier and more trapped I felt because no one wanted to get involved. I didn’t feel human anymore, rather like a caged animal. I cried incessantly, my weight fluctuated, and I couldn’t focus at work. I had lost my freedom. Then one morning, after months of intense pressure on my ex-husband’s rabbi, employer and family, I got a call from a rabbi who informed me that my ex-husband wanted to give me a get. I didn’t believe it. I went to beis din and it was true. We had the get ceremony and I walked out an hour later a free woman. It was one of the most emotional days of my life. I was in control of my life again. Hashem finally answered my tefilos. I had spent 18 agonizing months crying – on the train, at work, at home, at the dinner table, everywhere. I didn’t recognize myself anymore. I am a new person now. I am one of the lucky ones.

My story has a happy ending. Unfortunately, I know women of all ages who are being extorted for their get, or whose husbands have refused to give a get for years already. The community doesn’t do enough. These men still get aliyos and kibbudim in shul, serve on boards and are honored at dinners. Thankfully, however, we have organizations like ORA who defend Jewish women and give them strength to fight for their freedom.

I am writing this letter to prevent you from making the same mistake I made. I am advising you to go with your heart when you are dating. If it doesn’t feel right, it usually isn’t.

You must protect yourselves. You need to be prepared if, chas v’shalom, things don’t go as planned. No one thinks divorce will ever happen to them. I surely didn’t. The halachic prenup is designed to restrain a husband from withholding a get and extorting huge sums of money or concessions from his wife and her family. Don’t let anyone talk you out of getting a halachic prenup. Think of it as an extension of the kesuba. Someone who refuses to sign is refusing to put their name down that they love, care, and respect you.

No one wants to think about divorce when they are getting engaged. Go into marriage with a positive attitude, but go in with your eyes open. A halachic prenup is imperative. I wish I had known better.

Former SCW Student and Agunah

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