Wednesday, January 5, 2011
From the NY Times:
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 Friedman case has become emblematic of a torturous issue in which only a husband can “give” a get. While Jewish communities have historically pressured obstinate husbands to give gets, this was a very rare case of seeking to shame the husband in the secular world.
Holding signs saying, “Do the right thing” and “Free your wife,” the crowd included religious women with their heads covered, men in skullcaps and a rabbi with a bullhorn who shouted, “Withholding a get is abusive.”
Another rabbi took the unusual step of writing to Mr. Friedman’s employer, asking that he lean on Mr. Friedman to grant the Jewish divorce.
Mr. Friedman and Ms. Epstein have been civilly divorced since April and share custody of their daughter, but they are still married according to Jewish law. And without a get neither he nor Ms. Epstein can remarry within the faith. She is considered an agunah, or chained woman.
Although the majority of men in Jewish divorces grant their wives a get with little fuss, the husbands who refuse — it is estimated there are several hundred agunot in the United States today — can provoke a clash between religious folkways and secular divorce law.
Usually these conflicts are resolved quietly, within the religious community. But Ms. Epstein’s frustrated supporters took to the streets.
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.
Read the full article here.