Why Some Rabbis are Insisting: Get the Prenup Before You Marry

By Lilly Fowler
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

For some Jewish women the problem isn’t getting married, it’s relinquishing the bonds when things go sour.

That’s because an Orthodox Jewish divorce isn’t like any other.

To obtain a divorce in the Orthodox Jewish community, a wife must first secure a “get,” a letter dictated by the husband and written by a trained scribe that in essence gives his wife permission to sever the marriage and move on. Without it, she is unable to remarry and any future offspring she might have is considered illegitimate.

In other words, she is what is referred to as an “agunah,” a chained woman.

Increasingly, the agunah problem is getting the attention of Orthodox rabbis who are insisting that couples who plan to marry have a prenuptial agreement.

The agreements stipulate that in the case of a divorce, the couple will go to rabbinical court, a tribunal made up of three rabbis, and abide by whatever the judge says.

It also specifies that the wife must be paid $150 for every day she and her husband live apart but remain married.

Some Orthodox Jewish women struggling to persuade their husbands to grant them a divorce fear that if they try to carry on without one they face potential backlash from the community they yearn to be part of, as well as an uncertain future in the afterlife.

“In truly religious folk, they’re not only worried about how people are going to think about them… They’re worried about sinning. Adultery is sinning, and the Bible itself says it carries the death penalty,” said Rabbi Hyim Shafner of Bais Abraham Congregation, who also plans to sign a postnuptial agreement on Sunday.

The issue of agunah most directly affects the Orthodox community, with its strict adherence to Jewish law.

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