Navigate to News section

Getting a Divorce vs. Getting a Get

Civil and religious lines cross for one couple

Marc Tracy
January 04, 2011
A ketubah, or Jewish marriage certificate.(Hanson Switzky/Flickr)
A ketubah, or Jewish marriage certificate.(Hanson Switzky/Flickr)

Tablet Magazine contributing editor Mark Oppenheimer has a column today sure to climb near the top of the New York Times Most E-Mailed list. It is about the dissolution of the marriage of Aharon Friedman, a prominent Republican tax-policy specialist on Capitol Hill, and Tamar Epstein. Both Orthodox Jews, though they are civilly divorced, Friedman refuses to grant Epstein a get, which would free either one to remarry under Jewish law.

The catalyst for Friedman’s untypical refusal is that a Baltimore beit din, or rabbinic court, was still deliberating when a civil custody ruling granted Friedman visitation with their three-year-old daughter only three times per month, with two of these times being outside Philadelphia (where Epstein now lives) from Friday evening to Sunday—which, given that Friedman is Orthodox and lives in Washington, D.C., effectively means on Sunday only. Friedman is reportedly angry with this ruling.

Brooklyn-based Rabbi Yisroel Belsky is persuasive when he argues, “The court decided in a bullheaded way not to respect the Shabbos.”

And Rabbi Jonathan Reiss was also persuasive when he argued, without reference to this particular case, “Even if one party acts wrongly to the other, it is never correct either for the husband to withhold a get or for the wife to refuse a get when a marriage is clearly over.”

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.