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