Court hunts 'wanton husband'

'Post' asked to expose details of man who refused to give wife divorce.

briskman 224.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
briskman 224.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
For the first time ever the rabbinic court system in Israel has turned to the secular media in an attempt to track down a wanton husband who is refusing to grant his wife a divorce. "From our experiences, we believe that refusing a get [divorce] is a social problem," said Rabbi Eliyah Ben-Dahan, director of the rabbinic courts. "If we reveal the identity in a public forum of those men who refuse to grant their wives a get‚ then he will stop being accepted in his immediate environment." Ben-Dahan added that even if the man in question has gone into hiding, it is likely that his close family may know his whereabouts. Publishing the man's name will bring shame upon his family, he said, hopefully prompting them to come forward with information that will ultimately free the woman in question. In the first case to be publicized in this way, the rabbinic court has turned exclusively to The Jerusalem Post to advertise the personal details of one Meir Briskman, 33. Briskman, the son of Anglo immigrants, has refused to grant his wife a divorce for the past five years, a spokeswoman for the court said. According to the information obtained by the Post, the couple had resided together in Jerusalem's Har Nof neighborhood until their separation. Later, Briskman moved into his parents' home on Rehov Hizkiyahu Hamelech and was seen more recently in the Geula neighborhood of the capital. The court believes that he may have now fled the country, leaving his wife halachically unable to move on with her life. While Briskman's wife refused to be interviewed for this article and asked not to be identified, she represents just one of hundreds of women known as agunot or "chained women" being held captive by their intransigent husbands. Many times the men refuse to cooperate out of spite or in an attempt to secure a more favorable divorce settlement. According to Jewish law, a woman cannot remarry until her husband agrees to give her a get. If agunot do marry without first receiving a get from their previous husbands, the children born of the second marriage are considered illegitimate, or mamzerim, and are forbidden to marry. "Agunot are one of our main concerns, and we are making every effort to find those husbands who have deserted them," said Ben-Dahan, noting that the court currently runs a page on its web site entitled "Wanted," which features the names and faces of runaway husbands. Asked whether the use of a public forum to shame husbands refusing divorces marks a permanent change in tactic of the rabbinic court, Ben-Dahan said the court has always made every effort to encourage husbands to cooperate. "We already use private investigators to search for missing men, but in many cases it is very difficult to find them," he said. "We really believe that this kind of advertising and article will raise public awareness and help us find them." Robyn Shames, director of the International Coalition of Agunah Rights, said she welcomed the move. "I think it's fantastic - any move by the rabbinic courts to find men in an unwanted marriage should be applauded. Efforts need to be made to encourage society to change how they relate to men who refuse to give divorces - they should be treated just like men who violently abuse their wives, because it is a form of abuse." In January, figures published by the rabbinic courts showed that 9,765 couples had divorced in 2007. The rabbinic court claims it is now imposing more sanctions against husbands who refuse to give their wives a get, such as the cancellation of drivers' licenses and exit visas, or even prison sentences. In 2007, 23 men were incarcerated for refusing to give a get, compared to nine in 2006. The court asks that anyone with information on Briskman please make contact via its web site or call (02) 658 2822.