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‘Get’ Proposal Unanimously Approved by the New York Board of Rabbis

The New York Board of Rabbis unanimously approved a resolution calling on its members representing every trend in Judaism in the U.S. to encourage their congregants, in the event of civil divorce, to obtain a Jewish divorce, a "get."

The resolution was drafted by Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, Board president, and its approval is believed to be the first such action ever taken by a major rabbinic group comprising Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist rabbis.

The resolution states: "On moral and humanitarian grounds, we find it abhorrent when one spouse refuses to participate in the ‘get’ process after a civil divorce and when the other spouse desires a ‘get’." The measure urges all rabbis and congregations and the entire community "to deny all privileges of membership to a person who holds another Jew captive in such a manner."

The resolution recommends that the rabbis urge all couples to sign a prenuptial agreement pledging both partners to cooperate in arranging for a "get" before a rabbinic tribunal should their marriage terminate in divorce. Lookstein has done this for some time at his synagogue, Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun in Manhattan.

Lookstein said the resolution "represents a major step forward in solving one of the most troublesome and divisive problems in Jewish family — the religious divorce." He noted that "there are literally thousands of men and women, mostly women, who have obtained a civil divorce but who are prevented from remarrying because of a vindictive former spouse who refuses to cooperate in the ‘get’ process."

Copies of the resolution are being sent to rabbinic organizations throughout the country.