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Sep 9, 2013

Be happy for the freed aguna or be upset about the revocation of a conversion?

Here is a conundrum.. in an unusual situation, a beis din worked hard and found a solution for an aguna.. though this specific case seems unusual. I dont know how common or unusual it is in general to find solutions for agunot - however common it might be, it is not common enough. too many women are suffering from a lack of creative solutions.

So what is the conundrum?

The beis din found the solution for the aguna by canceling the conversion of the recalcitrant husband retroactively.

So, do you praise them for finding a solution for the aguna or do you blast them for whimsically revoking the husband's conversion? A real conundrum. I am not sure what I am supposed to do here.. :-)

The story, as reported by Kikar, is:
A woman named Shachar Fuchs was abandoned by her husband two days after their wedding when she was 19 years old. He ran off to America, leaving her behind and pregnant (she was pregnant two days after the wedding? hmmm). He also took all the money from the wedding gifts with him, leaving her with nothing.

Her family located him and caught up with him and tried to persuade him to give Shachar a get. He demanded 40,000 NIS in exchange for his agreement to give the get.

The family turned to the Rabbanut beis din, explaining what happened, where they were advised to pay the extortion and let her move on with her life. The family did not agree and continued to act to persuade the husband and/or find an alternate solution, both through the Rabbanut beis din and through a private beis din of Rav Avraham Dov Levin, Rav Dov Bigman and Rav Michi Avraham (seemingly a private  Dati Leumi beis din).

The private beis din found the solution by annulling the original marriage retroactively. Because the husband was a convert "al daas beis din" - meaning his conversion was done without his own knowledge and acceptance but by beis din imposing it on him - usually meaning it was done when he was a child - and the halachic conditions were not fulfilled (the family was not religious), the beis din has the power to revoke the original conversion retroactively. It turns out the wedding was between a non-jew and a Jewish woman, which does not take effect in halacha.

Other members of the beis din had other reasons to allow the freedom of the aguna, but Rav Levin's decision about revoking the conversion is the decision that was finally upheld and the decision was based on that.

The beis din confirmed the decision, but it seems that the Rabbanut in Netanya is rejecting the private beis dins revocation fo the conversion saying they had no authority to do so.

Making the story even more dramatic is that eventually the family succeeded in gettign the husband to give the get. They still want the beis dins decision to be the deciding factor, as that would register Shachar as a single woman rather than as a divorcee. The mother plans on filing in th Supreme Court to have the private beis dins decision authorized. The mother says she fought for two ears and succeeded in saving her daughter, but now she will continue to fight for other agunot to have solutions to their cases.

So, do we get upset about the revocation of a conversion or shall we be happy about the freedom for the aguna. It is hard to be upset about the revocation of the conversion, even though when Rav Sherman did it to  one of Rav Druckman's converts the entire country was up in arms screaming he had no right and could not know if the convert had perhaps accepted for a bit, etc.. Here, there is a clear benefit in solving the aguna situation whereas there it was just a revocation with nobody else being helped. Is that enough? Is that a reason to say it is ok to revoke a conversion?

It looks good when hearing the story, but it does present a dilemma.

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  1. Been there, done that. Rav Goren did this ages ago, in this case to rule that a woman's children were not mamzerim. She didn't have a get from her first husband. But since he was a "ger," didn't keep Torah and misswoth, and attended church in Yaffo, R' Goren pasuled his conversion.

    They called him, "HaM'taher et HaTamei." Personally, I think he had what to support his case.

    Don't get me started on R' Druckman. There is SO much more to that case that the public will never be allowed to know, except by perhaps doing painstaking searches on Kikar Shabbat or Hyde Park. :-/

  2. From the story as it appears here, it sounds very much like the husband's conversion as a child was NOT an Orthodox conversion, and was never ratified by him. Therefore, it seems that he never was really a Jew. How the Rabbinate never fully investigated is beyond me. There are forms and procedures, right?? I recently had to be an eid for a young Katan from a prominent RBS family to prove that he is Jewish and has never been married... So how did this one fall through the Rabbinic cracks??

  3. Did he give the get before or after the solution was found?

  4. At this point, I wonder if they would still try to use this as leverage to force him to give a get,...min hasafeq, just for good measure. Doesn't sound like it's likely to happen, though.

    1. it seems they already got the get, later.. though they still prefer that the marriage be revoked, deeming her a single rather than a divorcee.

  5. "Making the story even more dramatic is that eventually the family succeeded in gettign the husband to give the get." Sounds like it was.

  6. So what happens to the pregnancy?

    1. she probably has the id already. I doubt she has held her pregnancy for two years...


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