(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
The Supreme Rabbinical Court has taken the unusual step of publicly ostracizing a man who has refused to give his wife a bill of divorce for years.
Oded Gaz, a doctor of physics and a former lecturer at Bar Ilan University, has refused to grant his wife a divorce for close to four years.
Unlike in many cases of divorce refusal where the recalcitrant partner demands that certain conditions be met, often of a financial nature, before agreeing to the divorce, Gaz has not issued any demands at all and has instead said he wants to reconcile with his now estranged wife.
Last week the a ruling of judicial panel of the Supreme Rabbinical Court, headed by Chief Rabbi David Lau, summoned him to court to give a bill of divorce to his wife, and said that if he failed to show up the public ostracism order would be implemented.
Gaz did not attend, and the court subsequently gave approval to publish his name and picture.
The ostracism order is an old tool used by rabbinical courts to cut off the recalcitrant party from Jewish communal life.
The court order against Gaz bans all Jews from interacting with him and from conducting business with him.
In addition, the order states that no one should host him in their home, give him food or drink, or visit him if he is sick.
He may also not be given a seat in synagogue, be called up to the Torah, or be allowed to say the mourner’s prayer. People should not ask him how he is “or give him in any honor until he reverses his stubbornness, listens to the voices of his teachers, and gives a divorce to his wife and releases her from her chains.”
Gaz appealed the ostracism oder to the High Court of Justice, claiming that the Supreme Rabbinical Court has overstepped its jurisdiction and its order is illegal, but the appeal was rejected.
Although intended to bring about a divorce as quickly as possible, the decision was criticized, with some parties saying that harsher sanctions at the disposal of the court, such as imprisonment, should be used.
Professor Ruth Halperin-Kadari, director of the Rackman Center for the Advancement of Women, which represented Gaz’s wife in the High Court, said however, that due to the particular nature of Gaz’s refusal, the ostracism order could be more effective than prison.
“The court has resorted to this tool since probably no other measures will work with this particular person,” said Halperin-Kadari.
“It seems that this individual would sit in jail and continue to refuse to give a divorce; a rabbinical court evaluation decided in this case that jail would not help.”