Sunday, November 12, 2006

Maybe we should wear sack cloth for the Agunahs as well...

The front page of the Jewish Press has a picture of frum protestors wearing sack cloth in “mourning” over the gay pride march. The caption on the picture indicates that these are Rabbis protesting against the march by gay activists in Israel. I find it hard to feel that we need a “pride march”, in Israel, for anyone’s sexual orientation. The Torah celebrates the institution of marriage between a man and a woman (or as it is called in Hebrew – Kiddushin (sanctification) - as marriage, is of course, holy by it’s very nature). Don’t get me wrong. I am not throwing any rocks at anyone and I don’t feel that we should be judging anyone. Tolerance and respect should be the focus of our efforts. But still I am troubled by the picture, in the Jewish Press, because of something else that happened this week.

The Agunah conference was also cancelled. (An Agunah is a woman who is left in a state of “marriage-limbo” because her husband refuses – even after many years – to grant her a religious divorce. As a result the Agunah cannot remarry under Jewish law.) This conference was supposed to be an effort to address this long standing community problem.

We should be a whole lot more upset about the complacency of our community and our Rabbinical leaders in not addressing this serious issue. But yet we find that many Rabbinical leaders expect the Agunah to suffer in silence, just as they also expect the victims of Rabbinical abuse to suffer in silence as well.

Where is their sack cloth on this issue? If we sit by and allow the Agunah to suffer than we do share the guilt for not addressing this terrible problem. In the same way we also share in the guilt for not aggressively pursing Rabbis who are guilty of using their positions to sexually abuse others. Way too many cases have come to light for us to ignore this problem within our community – which is all too often covered up by the religious community. The Jewish Press continues to lie and attack those who have the courage to come forward. Rabbi Klass truly believes that we need to hold tight onto our myth that Jews are perfect and we must never admit that there are any problems in our community. He is willing to destroy other people to push this view.

I don’t honestly feel that Israel needs a gay pride march. But I am lot more upset that we are too afraid to chase after husbands who refuse to grant their wives a Jewish divorce and we are too afraid to publicize and stop the evil people who sexually abuse others (which enables them to abuse other victims). But yet once again we put on our sack cloth when it is safe and convenient to do so. When will we learn that spiritually, we need to address these issues with courage and honesty?

It should be no surprise that how we address these issues has a direct effect upon us, individually and as a community. When we learn to redeem those who are helpless we will surely see that Hashem will redeem us – please – speedily in our days.