NEW YORK (Nov. 3)
Growing numbers of American Jewish women are suffering hardship as a result of disabilities of women in Jewish religious law concerning remarriage and divorce, according to Dr. William Salem Fisher of New York, a rabbi who is an authority on matrimony and divorce. He is a practicing attorney specializing in divorce law.
Dr. Fisher reported today to the board of directors of the National Council of Jewish Women that since Jewish religious courts in the United States have no civil power, and therefore cannot compel a Jew to give a religious divorce (Get), American Jewish women are subject to "extreme anguish and frustration."
The NCJW, whose board has been holding its five-day annual meeting here, has endorsed an International Council of Jewish Women’s petition urging rabbinical authorities to call an assembly to consider reinterpreting Jewish Religious Law to overcome some of the disabilities for Jewish women stemming from Jewish Religious Law.
Dr. Fisher noted that growing assimilation into American life had brought growing divorce rates among Jews. He also asserted that the problem was compounded by growing intermarriage among members of different movements of Judaism.
He stated that disabilities affect all Jewish women, not just the Orthodox, since a Jewish woman desiring to remarry an Orthodox Jew must have a Get from her previous marriage. The result may be "sorrow and a breakdown of Jewish life," he said.
Citing cases where the Get was used as a weapon to obtain unfair alimony or custody provisions in civil divorce agreements, Dr. Fisher explained there was no possible relief from U.S. civil courts which insist that "separation of church and state" forbids action by them, among other reasons, in such situations. Dr. Fisher commended the NCJW for calling on rabbinical authorities of the world to meet to consider reinterpretation of Jewish Religious Law on the status of women.
The five-day NCJW meeting also heard a proposal by Mrs. Joseph Willen, its national president, urging Jews to continue their financial support of the civil rights movement, but to "step back gracefully" from leadership roles when Negroes are ready to take them over.