Amar mends bridges with Diaspora rabbis after stymieing agunot meeting

Rabbis dumbfounded by Amar's "incompetence."

Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar met Tuesday with a group of Diaspora rabbis in an attempt at reconciliation after abruptly canceling an international conference on the agunot problem. The rabbis, most of whom are rabbinic judges who deal with Jewish divorce law, had come to Jerusalem to attend the two-day conference, which was slated to begin Tuesday. Some did not know the conference was cancelled until they arrived. Others were unable to cancel their trips at such a short notice and decided to come anyway. Still others came as a show of solidarity with agunot - literally "chained women," or women who are unable to remarry because their husbands refuse to give a writ of divorce writ, or get. Amar sidestepped inquiries by the Diaspora rabbis as to the reason for the sudden cancellation. Amar was willing to say that he backed down to pressure from Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, the leading haredi Ashkenazi halachic authority. According to knowledgeable sources, Elyashiv apparently opposes discussion of solutions, such as prenuptial agreements, which he says are prohibited according to Jewish law. One of the rabbis, echoing the feelings of many rabbis who spoke with The Jerusalem Post off record, said he was dumbfounded by what he called Amar's 'incompetence.' "If you want to cancel a conference like this you give people advance notice of six weeks, not four days." The rabbi also felt Amar gave the impression he had not properly thought out what he wanted to accomplish. But Rabbi Eliyahu Ben-Dahan, administrative head of the rabbinic courts, said that Amar had a clear goal: he was planning to push ahead with prenuptial agreements. "Rabbi Amar told us that he would present different types of prenuptials to leading rabbinic authorities for their opinions," said Ben-Dahan. "But he wants to wait until things calm down." One of the rabbis who attended the meeting with Amar said the chief rabbi had voiced his concern that if a solution to the agunot problem was not reached soon, the pressure to allow civil marriages and divorces would grow. Some of the rabbis who attended the conference included Rabbi Pinchas Toledano of Britain, Rabbi Zalman Kasovsky of Switzerland, Rabbi Yosef Blau of Yeshiva University, Rabbi Michael Broyde, a member of the Orthodox Union's Rabbinic Court in New York, and Rabbi Arieh Ralbag of Brooklyn, who is also the chief rabbi of Holland. Several Israeli rabbis were present, including Sha'ar Yishiv Hakohen and Shimon Shalush, chief rabbis of Haifa, and Shlomo Dechovsky, a senior member of the Chief Rabbinate's Court.