Woman says she was ‘degraded’ by rabbinic court’s order to wear a cloak to cover up

Social worker accompanying client whose husband is refusing a divorce is told her short-sleeved shirt is not modest enough to appear before judges

Social worker Tami Gross, who was instructed to cover up with a cloak at the Haifa Rabbinic Court, June 21, 2023. (Mavoi Satum)
Social worker Tami Gross, who was instructed to cover up with a cloak at the Haifa Rabbinic Court, June 21, 2023. (Mavoi Satum)

A social worker who arrived Wednesday to assist in a divorce hearing at the Haifa rabbinic court said she was told to cover herself with a cloak because her workplace attire was deemed not modest enough to appear before the panel of judges.

Tami Gross told Channel 12 she felt degraded and humiliated by the incident. Gross works for Mavoi Satum, an organization that represents women whose husbands have refused to grant them a divorce in rabbinic court, putting the women in legal limbo and exposing them to penalties if they have other relationships.

Gross was accompanying a woman whose husband has refused to end their marriage for six years. When Gross arrived, a court secretary told her that she was not dressed modestly enough and provided her with a cloak to wear over her clothes.

The court said it was investigating the incident.

A photo showed Gross wearing a short-sleeved shirt to the court, and she told Channel 12 that it satisfied regulations for appearing in the rabbinic court.

“He asked me to wear a cloak, not a jacket or a cardigan, a real cloak that covers everything, as though the whole shirt was provocative or something,” said Gross, who has worked with Mavoi Satum for two and a half years. The organization has nearly 30 years of experience in helping women in the rabbinic court system.

“The situation was very embarrassing for me and degrading, mostly because I am an Orthodox woman and I arrived to represent the organization [Mavoi Satum], and not for the first time,” she said.

Gross said she decided to not protest at the time “in order to not harm the hearing of the woman, who has waited a long time for a hearing.”

Mavoi Satum said in a statement, “We were shocked by the insulting and objectifying request of the Haifa court representative to put a cloak on social worker Tami Gross.”

“The court chose to insult and hurt an employee of the organization, a religious woman and mother of five children. For us, this is crossing a red line and we strongly condemn this behavior,” Mavoi Satum said.

In Jewish law, “chained” women, or agunot, are women whose husbands either refuse to grant them a divorce — or a get in Hebrew — or are physically unable to agree to a divorce. The situation forces the women into a state of limbo, not exactly married but not able to move on either.

In Israel, where there is only religious marriage or divorce, these women are also legally trapped, potentially facing penalties in any future divorce proceedings if they have romantic relationships with other men, as this would technically constitute adultery.

They would also be penalized for having children with other men, as those children would be considered illegitimate under Jewish law, which would bar them from marrying in almost all circumstances.

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