Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Orthodox Jewish woman launches social media campaign to convince her husband to grant her a religious divorce 

An Orthodox Jewish woman who has been unsuccessful in her attempts to secure a religious divorce from her husband has brought her case to social media, hoping to convince him to finally grant her a “get.”

With the help of family and friends, Rivky Stein, 24, created a Facebook page detailing her purportedly nightmarish relationship with hubby Yoel Weiss, 31, whom she married in a religious ceremony shortly after she turned 18 years old, in 2008.

“I want my get very badly,” she told the News. “But this is not just about me. It’s about fixing the problem so it doesn’t happen to anyone else.”

They had two children together, but Stein left Weiss after a series of alleged abuses, which she says included raping her and punching her in the stomach while she was pregnant. She says she never sought to have him criminally charged, but is now speaking to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office.

Weiss, who runs an Internet search engine optimization firm, denies abusing his estranged wife.
The couple never formally obtained a civil marriage license, both partners said.

Instead they used a Jewish marriage contract, called a ketubah , which is technically illegal but still recognized by family court.

According to strict Jewish law, a woman is considered married, locked in and unable to remarry, until her husband grants the formal divorce document. That means Stein cannot move on with her life until she gets the get .

He insists he’ll give it to her as soon as their messy custody battle is hashed out in family court.

“This is something that’s settled together,” he said. “That’s how the Jewish thing goes. Ever bought a house and moved into it without paying?”

But community leaders contend that's a poor excuse.

"Unfortunately, some people have used the get as a weapon to extract certain conditions," said Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, executive director of the New York Board of Rabbis. "The get should not be conditioned on winning the custody battle."

Weiss says the case has turned into a cash grab.

Stein, who works at a daycare center near her apartment and on weekends as a counselor for mentally disabled adults in Borough Park, has raised approximately $15,000, which she says will be used to pay her lawyers and rent a new apartment.

Meanwhile, Stein remains an agunah — or chained woman — unable to move on with her life in a community that still considers her married.

“In the year 2014 all women should have their freedom in every right,” she said.

Weiss contends this is just the latest tactic to pressure him to give her full custody of their children.

He said she had him arrested numerous times for violating an order of protection, adding that all those cases have since been dismissed.

Stein maintains she decided to bring her case to the public after two years of failed talks and family court proceedings.

The Facebook group “Redeem Rivky: Demand that Yoel Weiss Give his Wife a Get” was created last week and has 4,401 likes.

“I’m trying to open eyes in my community,” she said. “I’ve been getting so much feedback from people thanking me. I’m really here to empower women.”

On the flip side, Weiss says he’s received death threats.

“This is nothing to do with a get,” he insists. “Her cockamamie story doesn’t logically make sense.”


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