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Seeking Progress in Conservative Jerusalem

I have been on a path of figuring out how to reclaim my life. I struggled for years to counsel my husband, stay present, and work at the relationship. Through his attacks on RC and me, I held out his goodness and his right to struggle. A time came when I had a decision to make: continue in this relationship or move on with my life. I chose me!

As we are both Conservative Jews, this meant getting a Jewish as well as a civil divorce. The Jewish system of divorce (called a get) is lopsided in favor of Jewish men. It is completely up to a Jewish man whether or not to give a woman her freedom. Many rabbis work hard to get Jewish women their gets, but it remains the man's choice. If a Jewish man wants a divorce but the woman doesn't, the beit din (Jewish court) will accept on behalf of the woman.

I had many sessions on whether or not it made sense for me to accept the get from my husband. Just because I was divorcing a 'nice guy,' should I participate in a process that oppresses many of my Jewish sisters? In session I pictured myself in prison, and someone was handing me the key. I decided I could do my Jewish sisters more good on the outside than locked into a marriage I didn't want. Another deciding factor was that my husband was agreeable to giving the get now (though at any time he could change his mind and I would be stuck).

I went ahead with it. I paid half the $325 it cost to get a paper that said we were no longer Jewishly married. The rabbi told me two male witnesses were needed. I asked why women in Conservative Judaism could be synagogue presidents, have honors from the bima (pulpit), and even be rabbis, but still could not serve as witnesses to receiving the get. I said I wanted two females to witness and sign my get! He called Philadelphia and got permission for there to be four witnesses, two male and two female. The young female was the only one who hugged me and said congratulations.

This was a small step forward for Jewish women. We need to push for the whole process to change. It will take Jewish women all over the world saying that this is not acceptable. Our Jewish brothers can also make a huge difference-not just by giving their wives gets easily, but by refusing to participate unless this system is changed.

I will be in Philadelphia this summer and plan to visit the beit din. I will use everything I have learned in RC about winning allies and changing policy to get these wonderful religious men to hear me and be my ally!

April (Kantrowitz) Katine
Tallahassee, Florida,

Last modified: 2020-07-02 14:27:35+00