A Jerusalem Rabbinic court has taken the rare step of approving publishing the name of a husband who refuses to give his wife a get.
The couple in question are American-Israelis who made aliyah from the US a few years ago. They separated after the wife claimed that the husband disappeared constantly to the US. The husband has refused to divorce his wife in a Rabbinic court in accordance with Jewish law for a few years. The court, therefore, dramatically approved that the husband’s name, Eliyahu Pollak, could be published in order to pressure him to officially divorce his wife.
Until a few years ago, 30-year-old Rachel (name has been changed for anonymity) and her husband were raising three healthy children. Yet according to an Israeli organization, “she was living a nightmare,” and “endured physical, emotional and verbal abuse at the hands of her husband since their aliyah five years ago.
Rachel and Pollak moved to Israel from the US with their three children. Their youngest child at the time was eight years old. After they moved to Israel, Rachel’s life became a nightmare.
According to the Mavoi Satum organization, Eliyahu used to travel to the US for days, cutting off all contact with Rachel and the kids.
“Eliyahu claimed that he had to travel to work because he could not find a job in Israel,” the organization told The Jerusalem Post. “Rachel had no idea what he did for a living, where he was, or when he would return. He would simply disappear and then appear.”
Mavoi Satum is a women’s organization advocating for women’s freedom from get (a document in Jewish religious law that effectuates a divorce between a Jewish couple) abuse. It works at both the personal and at national level – providing assistance to individual mesoravot get (women who have been refused a Jewish divorce), along with advocacy campaigns aiming for a broad and systemic reform in Israeli society.
Rachel explained that “As the months passed, Eliyahu isolated her from her family and friends in America,” Mavoi Satum explained and added that “he controlled Rachel through physical, emotional and verbal abuse.”
According to Jewish law, a get can only provide for a divorce initiated by the husband. However, the wife has the right to sue for divorce in a rabbinical court.
With three young children and entirely alone in Israel, Rachel built up the courage to ask for a divorce.
"Her husband refuses to give her a get," the source said. "He claims that he wants Shalom Bayit [a peaceful home], that Rachel is pretty and that he loves her." He also states that he is the only one who really knows what Rachel wants. "She says that she wants to separate but she really wants me," the organization quoted the words of her husband.
A Mavoi Satum representative said that Pollack asked that Rachel attend couples therapy for 18 months. A rabbinic court sent Rachel and Eliyahu to a mediator, a psychologist, a Rabbanit and couples therapists, and all agreed that there was no chance for reconciliation.
According to Mavoi Satum, “Pollack continued to repeat two sentences: ‘Force her to go for therapy,’ and ‘I love her, she is pretty.’”
Pollak jailed because of his refusal and still refuses
Pollak was jailed for a month, yet continued with his demands for couples therapy and reconciliation. Since the situation hasn’t been yet solved, the Rabbinical Beit Din (court) has stepped up its actions allowing the publication of Pollack’s name and photo, with the possibility of another incarceration if he does not provide the get immediately.
Rabbi Uriel Lavi, who heads the Rabbinic Beit Din in Israel, specified in his decision in August that “this decision can be published in any place where there may be benefit in publishing it; without removing the identification of the husband’s name, in order to enable the implementation of the decision.”
Rachel requested to allow the inclusion of the husband’s picture to the aforementioned publication, to increase the effectiveness of the decision.” The court approved her request.
“We hoped that he would repent over Yom Kippur,” said attorney Orit Lahav, Director of Mavoi Satum that is representing Rachel.
“However, Pollak would rather sit in prison than allow Rachel to move forward with her life. The Beit Din is prepared to put Pollack in prison, but will not do what is ultimately required; to annul the marriage,” Lahav added.
The fault does not lie with mentally ill spouses who refuse a get, Lahav explained. Rather, “the guilty parties in this horrific reality are the Beit Din and the government who provide recalcitrant husbands with the authority to continue this madness in the name of Halacha (Jewish Law). In this way of action, the Beit Din helps a violent husband to continue abusing his wife.
Attorney Shir Lavi Zinati, who is representing Rachel, stated that “Rachel has been fighting for two years for her freedom. This Beit Din realizes that Eliyahu Pollak is the worst kind of get refuser. He insists that only he knows what is good for Rachel and refuses to give her a get despite sanctions and incarceration. We are working to ensure that Eliyahu stays in jail until he releases Rachel. It’s all up to him.”
The Jerusalem Post has queried Pollack’s lawyer.