Divorce scandal taints US haredi publishing house

Two editors temporarily resign after boycott campaign over alleged involvement in a divorce-related blackmail case.

Books 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Books 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
NEW YORK – Two editors at a prominent ultra-Orthodox publishing house in New York have temporarily resigned their positions following a boycott campaign over their alleged involvement in a divorce-related blackmail case.
Critics have blasted the rabbis, Yosaif Asher Weiss and Yisroel Weiss, for their support of Yosaif’s son Avrohom Meir Weiss, who is reported to have refused to grant his wife a Jewish bill of divorce for several years, preventing her from remarrying in accordance with Talmudic law.
Weiss is the great-grandson of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, considered one of the great ultra-Orthodox legalists of the 20th century and a noted champion of chained women.
The messy divorce scandal that has riveted New York’s haredi community since Weiss and his wife Gital Dodelson, 25, obtained a civil divorce last August.
According to Jewish law, a marriage is not considered over until the husband provides his spouse with a writ of divorce known as a “get.”
Earlier this month in an article published in The New York Post, Dodelson claimed that Weiss had demanded $350,000 as a precondition for granting a get, leaving her an aguna, or chained woman.
“On my last mission to ask for a get, a month ago, Avrohom said, ‘I can’t give you a get – how else would I control you?’ I think that’s the key to it all. He insists the marriage isn’t over until he says it’s over,” Dodelson wrote.
Following the publication of the Post article, supporters of Dodelson have taken to Facebook, calling for a boycott of ArtScroll-Mesorah “until get abuser Avrohom Meir Weiss grants his wife an UNCONDITIONAL get.”
In a letter written last Thursday and published on the Judaic publisher’s blog this week, Rabbis Yosaif Asher and Yisroel Weiss wrote that they did not wish to “distract ArtScroll-Mesorah from its holy work” and that they were leaving the company “until this situation is resolved.”
The pair accused their detractors of waging a “campaign of slander” against their families. The Dodelson family, they stated, has engendered a “heinous desecration of G-d’s name...
based on untruths and lies.”
“The Dodelson’s, not we, are preventing the get from being given,” the rabbis stated, asserting that they had accepted an arbitration agreement last May.
Supporters of an ArtScroll- Mesorah boycott called the Weiss letter “horrible” and critiqued the publishing house’s founder, Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz for a “mutually acceptable outcome.”
“There is no acceptable solution aside from Avrohom Meir Weiss granting his aguna wife an unconditional get,” a statement on the boycott page asserted. “That said the calls to boycott ArtScroll should end.”
Last month two Orthodox rabbis and two accomplices were arrested for allegedly kidnapping and beating men in order to force them to grant their wives gets.
Women unable to persuade recalcitrant husbands to grant the documents allegedly paid tens of thousands of dollars for this service.
The Organization for the Resolution of Agunot, a New York based advocacy group, condemned the use of violence, but stated that it did serve to highlight the desperation of agunot.
“The refusal to issue a get, as a pattern of controlling behavior, is a form of domestic abuse,” the organization stated.JTA contributed to this report.