Should A House Member Force An Aide To Grant A Jewish “Get”?

A campaign to pressure Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., is well underway, but it is not the usual parade of industry lobbyists that run feral in the halls of Congress. Rather, Camp is facing demands that he pressure his adviser Aharon Friedman to grant a Jewish “get” to his wife who wants to divorce him. Jewish community members are seeking to pressure Friedman by pressuring Camp, but is that an appropriate matter for a Member of Congress or any employer?


Camp drew the ire of many Jewish woman by dismissing the claims against Friedman as “gossip.” This in turn has led to a broader campaign with Facebook sites and petitions targeting Camp.

Many of us find the concept of a “get” to be perfectly medieval — requiring consent of your former partner to get a religious divorce. Under Jewish law, ex-wife Tamar Epstein is forbidden from remarrying or having another child unless Friedman agrees. They were legally divorced in 2010.

First, let’s be clear. I find Friedman’s refusal to grant a get is outrageous. It is a common way for husbands to continue to control their former wives out of sheer pettiness.

However, I am not convinced that the any member should become involved in the personal religious affairs of their staff. Camp is the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and should know a few things about what is appropriate and inappropriate for members to consider. While I find the allegations deeply disturbing, it remains a religious matter. I do not know the motivations of Friedman or the religious (as opposed to the vindictive) reasons for withholding a get. The matter is between two people who subscribe to a particular religious practice. The government has already fulfilled its responsibility in granting a civil divorce.

Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, at Ohev Sholom of The National Synagogue in Washington insists that Camp is “almost condoning this behavior” by not speaking up. I do not agree. I do not know what Camp is thinking but I would find his intervention in the matter to be troubling. Members cross a dangerous line when they begin to pressure staff over their decisions of faith or personal lifestyles. How about the next demand for a member to intervene to stop an “immoral” relationship from continuing or address a staff member’s unpopular religious beliefs.

I have no problem with a public campaign condemning Friedman to pressure him to grant the get. Many insist that he is using the get as leverage on a custody dispute. Yet, both of these individuals believe in a system that gives such unilateral control over divorce — a belief that either is free to abandon or to continue to adhere to.

I do not believe that Camp should intervene in this religious matter and that members should observe a bright line rule regarding the personal lifestyles and faith of their aides. We have only recently turned the corner on a long history of members (and employers generally) forcing employees to adhere to their wishes on moral or personal choices. As compelling as an individual case may be, it does not warrant abandoning this rule. In the next case, you could see Orthodox rabbis encouraging a member to pressure a woman not to remarry without a get or a group opposing the hiring of a person who followed a church with discriminatory practices.

Calling the matter “gossip,” of course, would suggest that (if substantiated) Camp might act. It should not matter if it were gossip or substantiated, it remains a matter of faith or conscience for this man.

What do you think? Should Camp intervene in the matter?

Source: Times of Israel.

Kudos: Michael Rosen

34 thoughts on “Should A House Member Force An Aide To Grant A Jewish “Get”?”

  1. Woosty, you RULE!

    I was told (but do not know first-hand) that within an Orthodox community, if a man will not “voluntarily” give his wife a “get,” her brothers, male relatives, male friends, etc. are permitted to tie him to a tree and beat him until he “voluntarily” gives her the “get.”

    But nowadays, with all this brick and mortar and pavement and so forth, where’s a conscientious guy to find a good tree?

  2. I doubt if Camp would tolerated other types of spousal abuse by a member of his staff. How is this different? Just because Tamar Epstein doesn’t have a black eye or bruises doesn’t mean she’s not a victim of abuse.

  3. Also Mike Spindell, although I do not consider a get to be medieval I do agree with pretty much every thing you said, and we are talking religion here. This must be a first. Also, I know of Herzfeld. I am not sure if he is Orthodox, but I remember him getting worked up when a meth lab was found in a kosher butchering complex along with oodles of illegal immigrants and a dead circus clown. Just kidding on the clown.

  4. I respect the Professors opinion that this should remain a private or a religious matter, and the fact that he believes the man is despicable. However, I have personally mastered the rather long section of the Talmud known simply as Divorce, and while the Talmud is only legal theory, basic concepts of Jewish thought on divorce were made apparent to me. Firstly, the guy who said that women are considered the property of the man in Judaism is way off mark. The divorce must be mutual. A woman can refuse to accept a divorce, thus disallowing the man to remarry. Likewise a man can refuse to give the divorce, disallowing the woman to remarry. Whether it is fair that the man is given the role of the “giver” and the woman is the “receiver” is open to debate. I believe that studies show that it is actually the woman who initiates divorce in ~70% of cases. Most Orthodox divorces are carried out by moderators in any case and end in the get procedure. The reason for this I believe to be simple: Most people are not so depraved as to use religion as a bargaining tool. Also, in many Orthodox families, the amount of money gained through Alimony etc. is not enough to cover the 5+ average number of kids and their sky high yearly private jewish school tuition.

  5. @JH: I find it odd you should be posting this on the Internet. How did you get the access? Where did you get the computer?

    Jesus would not have had access or a computer, he gave all of his money to the poor, he lived among the poor. He rejected money lenders, he rejected retaliation, he said if a man needs your cloak give it to him and your shirt as well, because God will provide.

    You are divorced from Jesus, Jonathan Hughes, you hypocrite. If you want to be like Jesus, convert all of your possessions to cash, and live among the homeless and help in any way you can, until the money is gone and you have become one with them.

  6. Who a human should not be divorced from is Jesus. Humans not being like Jesus obviously are divorced from him. I can’t see a human denying the choice of another to be Christ like. As I have seen it religions are anti Christ in nature. They are oppressive, and demanding requiring a sacrifice of some sort. Jesus was never part of a religion, and yet humans want to connect him to religions. He is not wanting to put her away. She want to leave him. The hardness of mens hearts is the only reason we have written papers of divorcement.

    Matthew 19;8He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.
    When you have sex you cleave one to another becoming one with that person.
    Mans law also known as mans wisdom comes in, and muddies the waters. That is why God says mans wisdom is foolishness.
    K,J,V, 1 Corinthians 1:20; Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?

  7. Who a human should not be divorced from is Jesus. Humans not being like Jesus obviously are divorced from him. I can’t see a human denying the choice of another to be Christ like. As I have seen it religion are anti Christ in nature. They are oppressive, and demanding requiring a sacrifice of some sort. Jesus was never part of a religion, and yet humans want to connect him to religions. He is not wanting to put her away. She want to leave him. The hardness of mens hearts is the only reason we have written papers of divorcement.

    Matthew 19;8He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.
    When you have sex you cleave one to another becoming one with that person.
    Mans law also known as mans wisdom comes in, and muddies the waters. That is why God says mans wisdom is foolishness.
    K,J,V, 1 Corinthians 1:20; Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?

  8. I believe in the separation of Church and State. A congressman speaking to a staff member is speaking to public servant paid by taxpayer dollars, and under the doctrine of separation, a congressman should not address ANY religious matter with his staff. NONE. Absolutely anything he says, he is inevitably saying as the staff member’s boss which is necessarily in his capacity as an elected official and necessarily carries the weight of official retribution, no matter how kindly he is, no matter what protestations he may offer about speaking as a friend, he is the boss and that will always carry the implicit weight of losing favor in your job (or losing your job) if the staff member refuses to comply.

  9. Should any employer ever force any employee about a personal life matter, especially one with life long repercussions?

    That’s part of the question about requiring Catholic owned businesses to cover birth control in their employee insurance. Let’s reframe the question Could GM require contractually that all employees get a tattoo of one of the GM brand logos? Why not ?

  10. I may be wrong but lately there was note in the news that a woman in Iran divorced her husband. It seemed to be a surprise. is it one ken mcbride?
    any others
    In islam a man is said to be able to say “Idivorce you” three times, and in steps too. and then he is free. but the issue of children, property rights were not mentioned.
    Similarly, I believe no one can be accused for adultery other than by 3 unbiased witnesses of an actual act. Again, is this true.
    Not that I’m endorsing, mitigating or whathaveyou, just seeking to cast light on what can heighten our fear of islam.

    I would seem that a get was unknown by many here.

Comments are closed.