The 'Get'-Refuser

Why is Aharon Friedman still insisting on imprisoning his wife as a "chained woman?"

 Ad featured in Wheaton Metro Station from Silver Spring to  (photo credit: Courtesy)
Ad featured in Wheaton Metro Station from Silver Spring to
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Regular people, Jewish or not, come up and say "I don't get it—why isn’t that guy giving his wife a get?" That guy being Aharon Friedman, advisor to Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee Congressman Dave Camp. For regular people view get-refusal as pointless; and dragging it on, totally irrational. That's in relation to a mostly private dispute when the spouses are more or less anonymous. Add to that unending publicity accompanying a high profile case of a get-refuser whose professional standing testifies to the fact that he must be intelligent; it is truly incomprehensible to the regular person – leading him or her to question the makeup of "that guy".
A full year has passed since the respected Rabbinic Court of the Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada issued a "seruv" ruling against Aharon Friedman—stating unequivocally that he was found to be in "contempt of Beth Din" for refusing to give a get to Tamar Epstein, thus turning her into an agunah. Once a ruling such as this has been handed down, it closes the rather futile discussion on which of the spouses is right or wrong. A get must be given irrespective of other issues and not held in ransom at any time of a divorce process —all the more so following rabbinic instruction.
A year has passed from the time Jewish communal sanctions were levied against Aharon Friedman by the Vaad Harabanim of Greater Washington – and still no get has been delivered. During the past year the Jewish community in Silver Spring MD., Aharon Friedman's place of residence, learned how to exclude a fellow Jew from communal prayer and affairs.
The past year was witness to a turbulent social media campaign—focused not only on Aharon Friedman, but on his employer Congressman Dave Camp. Ordinary citizens raised their voices in never-ending discussions of the moral standing, or lack thereof, of both their positions. Tens of articles appeared in major newspapers pointing an accusing finger at Aharon Friedman. Both Jews and Gentiles entered the discussions through talkbacks – spreading familiarity with Mr. Friedman's get-refusal far beyond the ordinarily cloistered confines of Orthodox Rabbinical Courts.
It is not only in virtual reality where Aharon Friedman's notoriety has blossomed. In the real world, numerous loud emotional rallies, organized by ORA (Organization for Resolution of Agunot), were held in front of Aharon Friedman's home (Silver Spring) and professional venue (Washington D.C.), as well as in front of his enabling relatives' homes (Brooklyn, New York). The voices protesting Mr. Friedman's abuse of his power over his wife and the rabbinic court continue to echo on YouTube. The week before Yom Kippur a large sign was posted in the Wheaton Metro Station near Friedman's home, prominently displaying his photo, demanding "Give a Get Now!".
The Jewish New Year through the month of Tishrei, is traditionally a time for personal accounting. When taking stock of the many negative forces directed at Aharon Friedman for his get-refusal: a rabbinic court "seruv" ruling; communal sanctions and exclusion; calls on his employer to fire him for immoral behavior; a social media campaign; unceasing publicity in the press; public rallies; and even prayers – it is no wonder that ordinary people just don't get  why Aharon Friedman doesn't give the get.
The writer has a PhD in Talmud from Bar Ilan University, and is a rabbinical court advocate as well as coordinator of the Agunah & Get-Refusal Prevention Project of the Council of Young Israel Rabbis & the Jewish Agency. She is also the author of Minee Einayich MeDim'ah on prenuptial agreements for the prevention of get-refusal.