Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Husband a no-show at planned meeting to finally free estranged wife with religious divorce 

A Borough Park woman and her family hoped Wednesday would be the day she finally would obtain the freedom she sought to move on with her life.

Rivky Stein, 24, has been trying for two years and counting to convince her estranged husband to grant her a Jewish divorce, and he indicated this week that he was ready.

But Yoel Weiss, 34, was a no-show at a Jewish court convened Wednesday in Marine Park, reneging on a very public promise he made to give his wife a the formal divorce, called a “get.”

“This is just another form of abuse,” said Stein, who was waiting in a room full of rabbis eager to draw up the religious document and end the much-publicized saga.

Weiss told the Daily News he was willing to give his wife what she wanted, so long as the same three rabbis who started the divorce process, handled it — but one of those rabbis could not be there on Wednesday.

The stipulation has no precedent in Jewish law, rabbis said.

“Any duly constituted Jewish court of law comprised of three members conversant in Jewish laws can oversee the procedure,” said Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, executive director of the New York Board of Rabbis.

Nonetheless, two of the three original rabbis and several white-bearded willing substitutes waited more than an hour for Weiss to appear. The other rabbi on the original panel was in Israel following his mother’s death.

“We try to solve this problem according to Jewish law, said scribe Joshua Goodman. “But in this case, (Weiss) seems like he doesn’t want to show up.”

Stein held back tears as the scribe and the other rabbis began to leave the synagogue.

“I’m going to fight as hard as I can for my freedom and the outcome is up to God,” she said.

In June, Stein launched a courageous public online campaign in an attempt to shame her husband to give her a Jewish-sanctioned divorce.

With the assistance of family and friends, she created a Facebook page detailing the purportedly nightmarish relationship she had with her hubby, whom she married in a religious ceremony shortly after she turned 18 years old in 2008. They were never formally obtained a civil marriage license.

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. Prosecutors declined to comment, saying they do not confirm or deny investigations.

Weiss, who runs an Internet search engine optimization firm, has denied Stein’s abuse claims.

Meanwhile, Rivky, who works at a daycare center near her Borough Park apartment remains an agunah — or chained woman, unable to move on with her life and date other religious Jewish men because she is still considered married according to strict Jewish law.

He insists that he’ll give her the divorce as soon as their messy custody battle is resolved.

But community leaders maintain the get should not be used as leverage.

“It’s very simple: just give the get,” Stein said. “This is not the Torah way. It doesn’t allow a get to be used as extortion.”


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