Scientist who won’t divorce wife fired from university post

Oded Guez was excommunicated by rabbinical court, declared persona non grata in synagogues until he ‘unchains’ spouse

Illustrative: A man stands outside the Jerusalem Rabbinical Court. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Illustrative: A man stands outside the Jerusalem Rabbinical Court. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

A scientist who has for years been refusing to divorce his wife was fired from his position at Bar Ilan University over the weekend, after a Jerusalem rabbinical court excommunicated the man and ordered the publication of his name, photo and personal details.

The Rabbinical High Court of Appeals last week issued a herem – a writ of banishment — against Oded Guez, a physicist at Bar Ilan University, because he had refused to give his wife a divorce, the Ynet news website reported Friday.

The university said Guez had already been suspended from working at the institute’s physics department a year ago, Haaretz reported.

The herem says Guez is not to be honored, hosted, allowed to attend synagogue or even be asked as to his health or visited at home if he is ill, among other prohibitions, “until he relents from his stubbornness and listens to his betters and he unchains his wife and gives her a get [religious divorce].”

The unusual sentence was issued after Guez failed to show up for a hearing. He had appealed against the rabbinical court’s ruling last year to publish his name but lost at the High Court of Justice.

Oded Guez (handout via JTA)
Oded Guez (handout via JTA)

In Israel, rabbinical tribunals function as family courts for Jewish citizens and are part of a general judiciary that also has Islamic Sharia courts. These religious tribunals have the authority to grant child custody and impose heavy fines and even jail sentences.

In Judaism, women who are not given a get by their husbands are called agunot or “chained women,” as they cannot remarry according to Orthodox Jewish law. Any children they have out of wedlock may not marry under religious Orthodox law. Religious judges, or dayanim, do not have the authority to nullify marriages of reluctant husbands.

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