Divorce is a painful process, but for Orthodox Jewish couples, it’s also complicated: After they get a civil divorce, they have to go through the Jewish court system to obtain a “get,” an official document given by the husband to the wife. If a husband refuses to give the get, then his wife can’t remarry.
Jill Robinson, a modern Orthodox woman living in Connecticut, has been waiting for her “get” for over a decade, trapped and unable to move on with her life.
“I’m single. I’m looking to date and spend my life with somebody. But there’s always that barrier that’s up that I know, it gets to a point and it can’t get any further. It’s horrible.” Her husband, she said, has no reason to withhold the get. “There’s no house or cars or jewelry or estate involved. No reason other than ‘I don't want to,’” she said.
Jill is an “agunah,” the Hebrew term for a woman who’s chained to her former marriage, and the estimated numbers of them worldwide range from the hundreds to several thousand.
VICE News spoke to Rabbi Weissman from Beth Din of America (a beth din is a Jewish court) to ask why women need a get. “We believe that the Torah is divine law. We believe that there is a reason for every commandment in the Torah even if in any given situation, it's hard for us to understand the reason. A get is required on a very simple level because the Torah requires a get.”
Enter ORA, the Organization for the Resolution of the Agunot, which works with women to determine a course of action to try to get their get. They use different tactics depending on the case, and in Jill’s case, they decided to hold a protest outside of her husband’s home in Florida.
VICE News attended the protest to document Jill’s attempt to finalize her divorce from her husband.
This segment originally aired on HBO on VICE News Tonight