SYDNEY — Two Australian groups have submitted information about religious Jewish divorce issues to a government committee.
The National Council of Jewish Women of Australia and the Melbourne-based Unchain My Heart Incorporated have lodged a joint submission on get refusal with the Australian Law Reform Commission.
A get is a Jewish bill of divorce.
The Australian Law Reform Commission is conducting the first comprehensive review into the family law system since the Family Law Act in 1976 was legislated with a view to reforming the family law system. Its goal was to ensure that the system meets the contemporary needs of families and effectively addresses family violence and child abuse.
The submission, “Get Refusal, Jewish Divorce and Family Law,” defines the refusal to agree to a get as a tool to control, intimidate and extract concessions from women, with grave consequences if they wish to remarry, because children born to a formerly married woman who has not received a get and is in a new relationship will suffer compromised social status within Judaism, which will endure for 10 generations.
“Get refusal is a form of family violence and a violation of human rights, and should be dealt with accordingly,” said Unchain My Heart Chair Susie Ivany. “We hope that progress will be made as a result of the submission to make it easier for Jewish women to obtain a get and move on with their lives within their religion,” NCJWA Acting National Co-Presidents Sylvia Deutsch and Victoria Nadel told JTA.
The joint submission makes a number of recommendations, among them an order that the civil Decree Nisi, a court order that allows a divorce to occur, shall not become absolute until the court has been satisfied that both parties have taken all steps reasonably within their power to ensure that all barriers to a Jewish re-marriage have been removed. The submission supports the Australian government’s position that “family violence is a fundamental violation of human rights and is unacceptable in any form, in any community and in any culture.”
For NCJWA the issue has been of concern for decades, with the organization’s first national conference in 1929 pledging to advocate for agunot — a “chained” woman who has been refused a get, and put pressure on rabbis to find a solution. In 1970, then-NCJWA NSW President (later National President) Ray Ginsburg and Rebbetzin Marion Apple of the Great Synagogue in Sydney formed the NCJWA Status of Women in Judaism and Jewish Law Committee to inform and educate Australian lawyers on the need to push for a get along with a secular divorce. Other NCJWA presidents and section leaders have also been active with regard to this issue for many years.