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. I see a potential religious harassment/discrimination issue of the employer attempts to pressure an employee in connection with his divorce proceedings because of his employee’s religion, but stays out of other staff members’ divorces.

  2. Ken,

    As Mike has said they are usually used to extract revenge….In say child custody or finances….. Although courts do not have the ability to enforce these…. They loath to as well…. The smart practitioners put a spring provision in the amount of support or property settlement….. That way the court can indirectly do what it cannot directly do and that is through contempt proceedings….

    The fall out is the children…… They are usually punished somehow emotionally by the bitterness that any divorce brings about….

  3. “I assume these are the same people who worry and oppose the spread of Islamic Sharia Law, the moral code and Islamic law in the United States?”

    No, you assume wrong.

    There may be an overlap, but in general you’re quite wrong. Probably you are an idiot.

  4. “Au Contraire as I stated above, however, knowing your less than enlightened views on women your answer follows the formula you’ve established. Congressmen are subject to all kinds of public pressure, on all kinds of issues many unrelated to their actual work. The congressman can choose to respond as he pleases.”

    Oh blow me.

    Rationalize your bullying of the Congressman some other way, but don’t lecture me on my views of women or marriage, at least not in this thread. Try a thread where that’s relevant.

    Try being just a partial douchebag, Mike, and stick to the actual issues.

    In the meantime, the Rabbi is absolutely wrong to pressure a congressman or any employer, that is not shaming, that is coercion.

  5. I have to admit, I have never heard of a “Jewish Get” before! I assume these are the same people who worry and oppose the spread of Islamic Sharia Law, the moral code and Islamic law in the United States? All religions are based on gynophobia, guilt and fear, they just have different holidays!

  6. Going after employers is not shaming.

    Anon,

    Au Contraire as I stated above, however, knowing your less than enlightened views on women your answer follows the formula you’ve established. Congressmen are subject to all kinds of public pressure, on all kinds of issues many unrelated to their actual work. The congressman can choose to respond as he pleases.

  7. “and shaming that person in the eyes of the community and the public is fair game”

    Going after employers is not shaming.

    Going after gov’t officials to enforce religious beliefs in your community (mine too) is reprehensible.

  8. “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.”

    The concept of a “get” is medieval, but then again so is the concept of no birth control and the head covering of females. Much of religion is medieval, yet there are those who practice it and believe in it fervently. In order to obtain a “get” in the Jewish religion the process must be initiated by the male. He goes before a panel of three Rabbi’s and gives testimony and confirms he accepts the divorce.

    The reason a “get” is significant among practicing Jews is less for the divorce since that can be done civilly, but for the possibility of re-marriage in a Jewish
    Marriage Ceremony. If one follows the faith, then one cannot be legally married as a Jew if there was no “get” from a prior marriage. This is not just an example of the Judaism practiced by the Ultra-Orthodox and the Orthodox.
    I wanted to be and was married in a religious Jewish Ceremony and doing it that way was extremely important to me.

    Obtaining a “get” has taken on greater significance in the Jewish Community i recent years as the divorce rate has risen. In the past obtaining a “get” was relatively pro-forma if both parties wanted a divorce. However, with the need to apportion property, child care and child support that are features of civil divorce the “get” has been used by males as leverage to get better divorce deals and in many cases to escape any financial penalties. This seems to be what’s happening with Mr. Friedman, who it would appear is leveraging his granting of a “get” in his divorce proceedings.

    I know nothing of this particular Rabbi, but I don’t condemn what he is doing.
    A male cannot be forced to deliver a “get” by any other means than community pressure.Their has been an effort of late, given the frequency of such occurrences to shame the male into doing the right thing. By putting pressure on the Congressman a public figure, those trying to get Mr. Friedman to act fairly are using the only available methods to get his wife relief.

    To my mind if even just one party wants out of a marriage then that union is broken beyond repair. All that needs then to be settled are the financial matters. To use one’s religious faith against them to force a better settlement is unconscionable and shaming that person in the eyes of the community and the public is fair game. Unfortunately, for now within the Jewish religion this is the only recourse.

  9. This is between the former spouses and their religious community. It isn’t even a church-state issue. All employers should stay out of it.

  10. It sounds like a bitter one to me….. Just wait until…rabbi comes and teaches us….

  11. If she want to divorce him it is her choice. It sounds like he is forceful,and demanding. When humans war they divorce themselves from the Bride which is Jesus effectively bowing to the devil. That is throwing away ones soul. Of all divorcees that is the worst. The husband is waring with the one he calls his wife. Jacob gave his two wives to Esau, and he still prevailed with God. Humans make to much of the diverse thing, and hurt humans in the process.

  12. “Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, at Ohev Sholom of The National Synagogue in Washington insists that Camp is “almost condoning this behavior” by not speaking up.”
    ———————————————–
    Isn’t the ‘get’ a religious equivalent of the divorce? If so, why would a house member be pressured as opposed to a Rebbe? And why couldn’t Rep. Camp say just that?

  13. There is one person condoning the matter: The Rabbi. So, Rabbi: you give her the “get” already! To say that the Congressman is wrong to advise the Get is wrong. Any person can advise a schmuck to get his ex wife a “get”.

  14. If she want to divorce him it is her choice. It sounds like he is forceful,and demanding. When humans war they divorce themselves from the Bride which is Jesus effectively bowing to the devil. That is throwing away ones soul. Of all divorcees that is the worst. The husband is waring with the one he calls his wife. Jacob gave his two wives to Esau., and he still prevailed with God. Humans h make to much of the diverse thing, and hurt humans in the process.

  15. It would be kind of a shitty thing if people were to wonder if JFK was more devoted to the Pope or the the Constitution, if people though Romney was member of a cult, or if people thought I was more loyal to Israel than to the United States because I was Jewish.

    And then there’s religious douchebags like Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld who think nothing of the separation of Church and State.

    So thanks a bunch, rebbe.

  16. If you don’t wanna do guilt, do be Jewish or subscribe to Catholicism….. That is all….

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