2009 Official Israeli Rabbinate Report on State of Jewish Divorce

Gadi Pickholz emails:

The Israel Father’s Rights Advocacy Council applauds the Chief Rabbinate and the National Bet Din of the Israeli Rabbinical Courts for publication yesterday of the most definitive and scientific analysis of the State of Jewish Divorce yet assembled.

Under the editorship of Av Bet Din and Head of the Rabbinical Court Rav Eli Ben Dahan, the official report submitted to the Knesset yesterday noted the following data:

* Jewish Divorces in Israel dropped in 2009 from 2008 by 2.3%, for a total of 9,986 divorces out of a population of approximately 5.5 million.

* Certain affluent Anglo Saxon communities saw significant increases in divorce, ascribed to significant downward economic mobility, including the Efrat and Ramot suburbs of Jerusalem and
the Raanana suburb of Tel Avlv. The only major urban center with a significant increase in divorce was Beer Sheva.

* Average time of adjudication of a divorce claim was 138 days uncontested, with 99% of all claims closed within 2 years time. These results are slightly better than the published averages for New York
and California. Including mandatory legal separation in certain American states prior to divorce filings, these time periods are significantly faster than many American alternatives.

* 71% of cases were contested and required adjudication, 29% were agreements by mutual consent of parties to pre-negotiated terms.

* There was a significant reduction in the number of Aguna cases declared by the Bet Din, dropping to only 44 legitimate claims from 73 in 2008, representing less than one half of one percent of the divorce cases.

* Of these 44 cases, only 10 cases required actual ruling of financial sanction by the court to secure resolution.

* The Bet Din continued to impose its “No Fault Divorce Does Not Mean No Try Marriage” posture when the marriage exceeds ten years or children are involved, usually insisting on a minimum 90 days of couples therapy before accepting the petition for divorce. Many American states have now imposed similar minimum hurdles.

* The total number of active Aguna cases remains steady at 180; the total number of cases of women refusing to accept a written Get as a strategy to secure improved financial and visitation terms from the husband (Agun, the male equivlent of an Aguna), rose to at least 201 indentified cases. This marks the fourth consecutive year that cases of women refusing to accept a written Get as a financial strategy exceeded the number of women denied a Get by the husband.

* As noted in both HaAretz and the Jerusalem Post, the multi-million dollar Aguna Industry continues to lack any and all explanation for their public relations assertions. Attorney Batya Kahana-Dror, Director of the organization Mavoi Setum, is quoted again in today’s HaAretz (p.4, Jan 27,2010) insisting that ” in contradiction to natural justice, law and halacha….thousands of women are barred from leaving failed marriages”. It is important to note, on the eve of the JOFA Conference and multi-million dollar fund raising event, the significant gap between the public relations hysteria designed to generate donations and the statistical facts of the Chief Rabbinate and the Israeli Government Central Bureau of Statistics. The gap between 44 cases nationally in a Jewish population of 5.5 million, and thousands of cases as claimed by the Aguna Industry money machine, screams for teshuva from every Rabbi who ever misrepresented these facts from his pulpit.

* While not stated by Ben Dahan, IFRAC again asserts that the suggestion that thousands of such cases exist in America and Europe, with a traditional Jewish population of only 1 million maximum, when only 44 exist in a statistical population of 5.5 million, is simply nonsensical. We hold the Diaspora Batei Din and Rabbinate in far higher regard than to suggest their incompetence exceeds the Israeli system by factors measured in the thousands. Most of the major communities are managed to minimal professional standards, and in the US and UK in particular withholding a Get is an actionable offense within the civil divorce proceedings. The statistical reality, if it could ever be measured, should be a significantly lower percentage given the power and authority of the civil courts to intervene in addition to the local Rabbinate.

* Nevertheless, both the National Council of Young Israel as well as the Orthodox Union websites, among others, gladly permit you to contribute to their coffers in the interests of helping end the Aguna Crisis. Not simply Shameful; but likely actionable.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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