It is a small but meaningful victory for Jewish women. In Bruker v. Marcovitz, 2007 SCC 54, the Canadian Supreme Court, with a majority opinion writted by Justice Rosalie Abella, ruled 7-2 in favor of Stephanie Bruker that her ex-husband, Jessel Marcovitz, owed her $47,500 for reneging on an obligation to grant her a “get.”

The story goes as follows:

Married on July 27, 1969, Ms. Bruker and Mr. Marcovitz of Montreal signed an agreement determining how they would settle matrimonial disputes if their marriage collapsed. It included a commitment to attend a rabbinical court in order to obtain a get.

However, when they did split up in 1980, Mr. Marcovitz refused to adhere to the agreement he had signed. According to Globe and Mail, he also ridiculed his wife’s devotion to her religion and accused her of restricting his access to his daughters. He said the courts could not intrude into the dispute without violating his religious freedom guaranteed under the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.

The report said that lawyers for Ms. Bruker countered that the agreement was an enforceable contract. They sought monetary damages on the basis that Ms. Bruker had been unable to remarry and any children she might have would not be seen as “legitimate” within her faith.

In 1995, Mr. Marcovitz relented, agreeing to grant a get. But by this time, Ms. Bruker was 46, unmarried and past child-bearing age.

Translation: a Jewish man divorcing his wife withheld from her the right for her to remarry as a Jewish woman for 15 years, squandering her youthful and child-bearing years. It appears, if the Globe and Mail is to be believed, that he did so out of anger and spite. He may have done it because he could. Why the hell not?!

Ms. Bruker must have been 31 years old at the time of the divorce, still young, fecund and marriageable. At 46, she may still have been marriageable but the odds of childbearing were practically nil. Marcovitz must have known this. He must have known that he was stealing her best years, but he chose to do it anyway. Did she withhold access to the children? None of the information in the articles I read expressed this but I can’t imagine that the couple could not have come to an amicable agreement had he provided the get release his wife needed.

In my humble opinion (and I stress that this is my opinion only), this man’s actions are practically criminal, but in Jewish law he was and is within his rights.

Jewish law permits a man to hold this threat and punishment over his wife for as long as he deems fit. The woman can do absolutely nothing about it. Despite rumors that sometimes rabbis will send well-meaning goons to threaten a recalcitrant husband into giving a get, in the first place there should be no need for such an action and in the second place is the fact that the goons are often unsuccessful. In many cases, the rabbis also condone the practice of withholding the get by supporting egregious buyouts by the wife’s family.

Children are also often destroyed by fathers’ vengeful acts of withholding a get because they will not be raised in a household that includes a new father or breadwinner and the anger of the original divorce hangs over their heads like a heavy rain cloud.

Actually, within Canadian law, Marcovitz also would have been within his rights had he not come into a civil contract with his wife. This is, however, not the product of Canadian civil law but rather the result of the judicial respect Canadian civic law provides to religious laws. Make no mistake that this is the only reason this case favored the wife – a civil agreement between the husband and wife. The Court, as did the lower court in Quebec before it, was able to rule that the civil agreement trumped the religious law dictating actions between the divorcing couple. However, such civil agreements do not always exist, and even if they do, the victory is hollow when it comes 25 years after the original divorce.

Justice Abella:

“The public interest in protecting equality rights, the dignity of Jewish women in their independent ability to divorce and remarry, as well as the public benefit in enforcing valid and binding contractual obligations, are among the interests and values that outweigh Mr. Marcovitz’s claim that enforcing paragraph 12 of the consent would interfere with his religious freedom.

“Despite the moribund state of her marriage, Ms. Bruker remained, between the ages of 31 and 46, Mr. Marcovitz’s wife under Jewish law, and dramatically restricted in the options available to her in her personal life. This represented an unjustified and severe impairment on her ability to live her life in accordance with this country’s values and her Jewish beliefs. Any infringement of Mr. Marcovitz’s freedom of religion is inconsequential compared to the disproportionate effect on Ms. Bruker’s ability to live her life fully as a Jewish woman in Canada.”

That part in bold is probably the precedent-setting section because it places a burden on those adhering to and ruling according to religious laws to consider the civil laws involved because they appear to trump religious laws.

Abella, who came to Canada as a child from Europe, is married to historian Irving Abella, and is the first Jewish woman to sit on the Canadian Supreme Court. Regarding this case, she further wrote:

that courts are empowered to referee religious disputes provided they “take into account the particular religion, the particular religious right, and the particular personal and public consequences – including the religious consequences – of enforcing that right.

However, two justices, both women, dissented from the majority opinion:

Judge Deschamps noted in her dissenting reasons that, under both Canadian and Quebec law, nothing prevented Ms. Bruker from remarrying if she chose to do so.

“Only her religious rights are in issue, and only as a result of religious rules,” she said. “Where religion is concerned, the state leaves it to individuals to make their own choices. It is not up to the state to promote a religious norm. This is left to religious authorities … In short, contract law cannot be relied on to enforce religious undertakings.”

and also:

“If the violation of a religious undertaking corresponds to the violation of a civil obligation, the courts can play their civil role. But they must not be put in a situation in which they have to sanction the violation of religious rights.”

My thoughts? Religious laws have no place in our society. They often stand in stark contrast to civil laws which have evolved over time, sometimes at great social cost and upheaval. The separation of church and state, or religious law and state, is a desirable and worthy goal whether referring to the USA, Canada, Israel or for that matter, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Not everybody shares the same beliefs, not everybody wishes to live under religious laws, not everybody benefits or enjoys the equality and freedoms our societies provide when they live under religious laws.

When a state sponsors, permits or accepts a secondary legal system in which individuals are judged according to different standards than those of the state’s legal system, it is enabling multiple systems of law, some of which contradict the most important precepts guiding that nation’s judicial system.

Even when an individual seeks or prefers to be guided by their religious law, they should not be permitted to do so in a secular society with its own laws. In many cases, the pressures which exist in a community can overwhelm those individuals who would benefit the most from freedom from religious laws. Essentially, the state is agreeing to restrict their options in marriage, divorce and other civil matters. If you are about to go through a divorce I would recommend you learn more about London and other locational family lawyers to support you. Overall, the state, by allowing these secondary legal systems to exist, tacitly condones the restriction of freedom of these individuals and becomes an accomplice to injustices such as this one where a woman is apparently punished by her husband until her options have entirely, uh, dried up.

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themiddle

59 Comments

  • I have a major issue with your concluding statements. What you seem to be saying is that, under absolutely no circumstances, should the religious laws I ascribe to be condoned in any matter by the government. This bothers me. If, say, I cannot afford to send my children to (or for that matter, even WANT to) a private institution, what’s telling the government not to force them to eat that ham and egg sandwich for breakfast and shrimp stew for lunch? There has to be a middle ground between religious law and civil law, and I think, initially, this couple found that by using the civil law to help with the religious law. My problem with this situation is, if he entered into such a legal contract as to state he would, upon the collapse of their marriage, grant this woman a get, why was he not forced to do so until fifteen years later? The contract should have been called upon and he should have been forced to do so or face the legal (that is, civil) obligations that occur when one does not follow through a civil contract.

    To say, however, that religious laws have no place in our modern society is ridiculous.

  • Uriah, I’m not sure what you mean by “condoned.” Condoning religious law is not the same as giving religious law authority within the civic or judicial system.

    Whether it’s Jewish law, Sha’aria or Catholic rules as determined by the Pope, these laws tend to differ greatly from the laws which exist within our legal systems. There is no “middle ground,” as you suggest, because there is no room for compromise within religious law. There may be work-arounds, but the fact is that plenty of women suffer the same fate as Stephanie Bruker precisely because there isn’t a way around these laws.

    Supposedly, these laws are immutable because they come to us directly or indirectly from God. This is believed by Jews, by Muslims and by certain Christians. It’s pretty hard to debate with God, or rather with state-sponsored or state-supported “authorities” here on Earth who supposedly understand God’s expectations.

    You hit the nail smack on the head when you wrote:

    My problem with this situation is, if he entered into such a legal contract as to state he would, upon the collapse of their marriage, grant this woman a get, why was he not forced to do so until fifteen years later? The contract should have been called upon and he should have been forced to do so or face the legal (that is, civil) obligations that occur when one does not follow through a civil contract.

    The reasons the contract wasn’t called for 15 years probably include the fact that Canadian law recognizes the authority of Jewish religious law when it comes to marriage and divorce, the sympathy Canadian court show to one’s right to practice one’s faith (which is expressed by the dissenters on the Supreme Court), and my guess that this option of suing on the basis of a civil contract was probably the last option open to the wife precisely because it was an undetermined area of law.

    In other words, Jewish law states that the husband has to give a get and the wife (and her lawyer) knew that Jewish law has the full backing of the Canadian government and judiciary in this area. She was bound by her faith and the system’s support of her faith’s constrictions.

    If Canadian law did not permit religious law any authority in civic matters, then this couple would have been married by a judge and their marriage would have been broken up by a judge and the wife could have remarried immediately. While I wouldn’t wish to be married that way, I’d accept it if I had no choice and would certainly welcome it if I were a Jewish woman needing a divorce.

    As to your final statement, “religious laws have no place in our modern society is ridiculous,” I would respond that I didn’t say that. They can serve as one source or as one guide among many but my post was about their having no place as law in our societies.

  • Is the husband ALSO unable to remarry according to the same religious law?

    Can he enter into a second Ketubah, when he is in violation of a first one, by refusing a ‘get’? Polygamy was outlawed, in this same religious law, a thousand years ago. So doesn’t he have to end one marriage, before starting another one?

    That community does not countenance public flouting of marriage restrictions, meaning, it does not formally countenance visible mistresses or concubines, or children whose mother does not have a ketubah. It is true that the children of a ketubah-less second marriage might not formally be considered bastards, because their parents COULD marry properly. But still, their status would be damaged, by the lack of a ketubah.

    So HIS loneliness is the cure for HERS, no? What did HE do for those fifteen years?

  • Being ignorant, alas, of the technicalities of Jewish divorce law, but knowing that, in general, a Bet Din can and will enforce a civil contract (at least between those who have granted jurisdiction to the Court, one way or another, I wonder if it would have enforced this particular clause. Also, was this clause a part of the Ketubah? (Surely, the traditional marriage contract includes an amount that must be paid the bride in event of a divorce, so contemplation of divorce can’t be a problem.) I would hope that someone more knowledgable will answer: would a properly constituted bet din enforce the agreement between the parties and if not, why not?

  • In reading the earlier appeal court decision, there were many facts about Bruker’s behavior post-divorce that suggests her devotion to religious was self-serving at best.

    Without going into too much detail, I think you should get the whole picture before you take sides on this case. According to the appeals court ruling, Bruker had a long-term affair with a married man during her marriage with marcovitz, got pregant and had an abortion. Then after the divorce, she had multiple relationships with married men — it’s hard to imagine she was strongly devoted to religious rules around marriage.

    So while this case allows for civil contracts having some enforceability, don’t assume that Bruker was morally right and that Marcovtiz was “cimiminal”.

    Per wikipedia, you can find the whole ruling here: see the Quebec Court of Appeals Marcovitz vs Bruker (500-09-013353-032; September 20, 2005). A link to the decision database is http://www.jugements.qc.ca/ and the full decision can be found with a text search for “Bruker” under “Cour d’appel”

    In it, there are many answers to your questions of what was going on.

    — Morris.

  • Just because a Jewish man has the religious right to deny his ex-wife a get, thereby making her his hostage, it does not mean he should exercise that right and it’s about time we as a community stopped this behavior. This is not an isolated case.

    If the rabbinical courts and Jewish community won’t do anything to remedy these situations, then a woman has no alternative but to seek assistance from the community at large. Women are not chattel and should not be treated as such. And if we don’t want the state to interfere with our faith, then we have to eliminate abusive acts that are committed in the name of religion. And this is one of those acts.

    Why would a man not want to be rid of his ex-wife completely? What is the point to denying a get? What was Marcovitz’s reason?

  • Valerie is on point. I am still reading the full decision, with thanks to Morris for the information, but so far I’ve seen nothing that makes Marcovitz’s actions any less reprehensible.

    Morris, you forgot to mention that before she had an on and off affair with a childhood sweetheart while she was married to Marcovitz, the couple had been unable to conceive and their children were adopted. I wasn’t there, but this might have led to a very stressful family life and it’s possible that she found emotional sustenance at a very challenging time in this affair.

    Imagine then, her pain at finally getting pregnant – suggesting strongly that the cause of the couple’s infertility may have been on the part of Mr. Marcovitz – but having to give up her baby because of social mores and her marital obligations.

    As to having other relationships after the divorce, there is no mention in the judgement that they were married men. Perhaps you have some personal knowledge of this matter, but from what I read, it merely mentions that she had relationships with other men that were sexual.

    This isn’t that unusual considering she couldn’t remarry, or would you also take away her sexual freedoms along with her inability to remarry?

    Why isn’t Mr. Marcovitz’s sexual life laid bare in this judgement? I would think that he might have remained celibate, but I doubt it. It’s nobody’s business that she was or wasn’t having an active sexual life after their civil divorce. They were divorced, except under Jewish law thanks to Mr. Marcovitz’s decision to withhold her release. Perhaps if Mr. Marcovitz had provided a timely get, Ms. Bruker would have found a husband and not had any other relationships.

    Ms. Bruker claimed she moved to New York because there was a bigger potential pool of Jewish partners there, which suggests that she was motivated to find a Jewish husband. Imagine the irony of seeking a Jewish husband but knowing that once you find somebody, you cannot marry him under Jewish law because your ex-husband won’t release you.

    One of the terms in Hebrew for husband is “Ba’al.” That word also translates in English into “owner.” In other words, the word Hebrew uses to determine a man’s relationship to his spouse is as her superior and controller. This is precisely what the get is about. The man has to release the woman and if he does not, he remains her ba’al/owner, even if from a distance.

    Although Jewish law allows it, it is not Mr. Marcovitz’s place to determine whether he accepts his ex-wife’s behavior or intentions. That is some ancient patriarchal construct which we, as a society where more than half of college students are women, reject. She is his equal in our society, not his chattel.

    Just because he can do it, doesn’t mean he should do it. In fact, he and other divorced men should not do it at all. Jeiwsh law is not intended to provide an advantage to a Jewish husband so he can destroy his ex-wife’s chances at remarriage or bearing children. Let me add, as a personal opinion about the ethics of Mr. Marcovitz’s actions, that if the couple was infertile and she was able to become pregnant by another man as was proven by her affair, his refusal to grant his ex-wife the release that would enable her to bear children with a new husband appears to me as vindictiveness.

  • From the Quebec appeals court judge:

    “The difficulty of secular courts considering the effect of factual arguments relating to religion is also apparent from at least one of Mr. Marcovitz’ affirmative defences. He alleges at paragraph 9 of his most recently amended defence that Ms. Bruker “has never been a particularly devout adherent of the Jewish faith” and that her “alleged religious attachment was never brought forward with any kind of insistence until the latter part of 1989”, that is to say when she began her legal proceedings in this case. The evidence is also replete with references to Ms. Bruker’s sexual activity after her civil divorce. In the context of examining the issue of causation, Mr. Marcovitz argues in his factum that “the essence of the sanctity of a Jewish marriage is predicated upon fidelity”, and that “the concept of fidelity is foreign” to Ms. Bruker. I appreciate that these defences flow from the nature of Ms. Bruker’s claim for damages. In my opinion, however, it is highly inappropriate for secular courts to be called upon in the context of an action in damages for breach of contract to be asked to measure the nature of a person’s conduct on the depth of that person’s religiosity, an exercise the Court would have been bound to undertake had it considered Ms. Bruker’s claim to be justiciable.”

    This is one of the reasons that will lead to the court claiming that their courts cannot interfere in a religious matter. If you throw up enough religious mumbo jumbo (to put it in our Grandmuffti’s eloquent terms), then secular courts, the writing judge states, should not have jurisdiction. The salacious details provided by the husband about the wife’s behavior are rude and have no place in court. However, he can and did claim that they bear on whether she has acted appropriately within the context of the Jewish faith. Secular courts cannot decipher the religious value of a situation and that is precisely the strategy the husband was employing in order to allow the Beth Din’s judgement to stand dominant here while removing secular courts from this fight between the divorced couple. That is convenient for the husband, regardless of his faith, and inconvenient for the wife. As such, it is a cynical use of faith to determine an outcome in the courts. She was suing him on a civil basis and he was turning around and saying civil courts should hold no sway over people when religious issues are at stake.

    This is exactly why I wrote in the post that there is no room for religious matters to have legal standing in a non-religious society. All people should stand equal under the law, but religions don’t often apply the same criteria to their members. By giving religious courts equal or greater value than secular courts, one is undermining a society’s values.

    You can read it all here.

  • Valerie, men take an interest in the composition of an ex-wife’s present household if their children are growing up in it.

    Orthodoxy has many benefits, but this is one of the costs, the hard part. Liberal Judaism is easier about this, in some ways, but has other difficulties.

    The Orthodox viewpoint is harsh, but not without rough logic. It seeks to avoid Helen of Troy stories, and has. It seeks to keep vastly cruder men than anybody posting here from fighting to the death over a woman. That can tear a community apart. Where are the Athenians? Where are the Acheans? But we’re still here. Orthodoxy sighs, and cannot help her, although it would like to.

    The Talmud recognizes, with sadness, that men can kill, and women can’t. They can’t be treated as interchangeable. Testosterone isn’t estrogen.

    Sarah and Hagar had tererible, ferocious conflict, but nobody died. Leah and Rachel had some degree of conflict, but nobody died. If they had all four been men, somebody would have died. Cain killed Abel. The brothers almost killed Joseph, left him for dead. Alas, modernity does not change this, and men are rough things, especially when a wife is involved. It’s sad but it is reality.

    If everybody were nice, there would be no need for law at all. The rules are made to contain and restrain the worst people, not the best ones.

  • Jewish Mother, the wife could have remarried, lived in a Jewish household with a new Jewish husband and given birth and raised Jewish children. How wouldn’t that benefit Orthodox or Conservative Judaism?

  • If it is true that this woman had an adulterous relationship and this can be established in a Bet Din, then she is not entitled to a Get, her husband can leave her (in fact, he’s not allowed to remain with her) and no man is permitted to marry her.

    Again, if it is true.

  • To the Middle,

    The issue of Brukers relationships with married men is mentioned in Paragraph 18 of the decision as follows: [After the civil divorce], “…Ms. Bruker continued her business activities as an interior designer in Montreal, and moved to other homes in Westmount that she purchased and refurbished. She also began seeing other men, some of whom were not Jewish and some of whom were married, and having sexual relations with many of them.”

    I think you have hit on the salient issues in your later posts.

    My point is only that Bruker was not particularly religious in issues of marital fidelity except when it suited her claims that the lack of Get prevented her from getting on with her life. I find it hard to believe that dating married men is a strategy that would lead to a successful relationship, but perhaps I’m old fashioned that way.

    What’s also telling in the decision is that Bruker *never* provided evidence that there was ever a potential suitor who wanted to marry her *except* for the absence of the Get.

    All of that said, the court ignored these issues since it was irrelevant to the justiciability of civil contract in religious matters. So in the end, we can all project our own desires an biases into this case, but it’s really about a fine point of law.

    As you can guess, I’m non-plussed with Bruker in particular. While there are many women (and men as it turns out) who are coerced by the lack of a Get, I have no sympathy for Bruker.

  • It would have indeed hugely benefitted every Jew in the world, regardless of stream or label. That loss is part of the painful price for community peace. It has to be paid, because the alternative is even worse. Lesser of two evils.

    Look, plenty of divorcing Orthodox people give, and receive, ‘gets,’ and get on with their lives.

    Divorce isn’t the hard part – you don’t have to live with him. It’s REMARRYING that can be complicated – and even that goes on all the time, smoothly.

    It’s only the cases that don’t work that we hear about.

    Good news is no news. If it bleeds, it leads.

  • Morris,

    I’m not going to repeat my reasons for having some sympathy and understanding for Bruker. It appears to me there may be many such reasons.

    I’m also not quite convinced that seeing other men after the divorce is an indication of anything negative. It really isn’t our place to judge somebody who was clearly going through an extremely difficult period. Whether or not it would lead to marriage ultimately, is also not for me to know. There are plenty of people who use JDate as a sexual-partner directory until they find a person whom they believe will make for a good spouse.

    I do take aim at your contention that “never” having a marriage suitor is relevant at all. It’s pretty hard to get a marriage suitor and anybody who may have gotten close enough to propose must have found her personal circumstances daunting. There are plenty of quite marriageable but never-married women who couldn’t provide you with a “suitor” if they had to show one in court. That does not mean she had to have a get hanging over her head and making the possibility of finding a spouse even more challenging.

    Projecting feelings about this case is not what I was going for. My point is simple, a get should not become a leverage device for any party. However, the greater burden lies with men precisely because women’s fertility diminishes and disappears with age – an issue men need not worry about to the same degree.

    Marcovitz appears to have been very angry with Bruker and he had a powerful device, conveniently provided by our faith, with which he could reach out and control his ex-wife’s life even after their marriage was over. The Quebec court deemed this to be unfortunate but determined that it did not have the authority to interfere with a religious matter. Canada’s Supreme Court, rightly – and pointedly giving the authorship of the majority opinion to a Jewish female justice – came to the conclusion that civil rules do trump religious ones in certain circumstances and was right, in my opinion, to berate Marcovitz for his behavior.

  • Morris, I understand that Ms. Bruker isn’t a sympathetic victim. But it is possible that her husband presented all kinds of salacious stuff in order to make her appear hypocritical and “not very Jewish”, matters on which he (and his lawyers) knew a secular court cannot decide. We have no way of knowing how dedicated Mr. Marcovitz is to Judaism, outside of his abuse of his right to deny to a get. And it isn’t relevant anyway. A family may not keep kosher or observe Shabbas, but that doesn’t mean their children can be compelled to participate in Christmas activities in a public school. One doesn’t have to prove one’s Jewishness or level of observance in order to seek relief under halacha or plead for compassion under it. That really isn’t a road any of us wants to travel!

    Jewish mother, I don’t understand your arguments at all. I don’t understand the reference to Helen of Troy or the relevance of your references to our matriarchs. Who said anything about killing or fighting to the death over a woman? It sounds like you’re saying bad women aren’t entitled to a get and that all women have to live with the risk of being treated as property if things don’t go well with their marriage.

    Judaism has all kinds of lofty concepts about women and the “feminine,” but they are philosophical and existential constructs and often don’t manifest in real life and the actual treatment of women.

    The middle… would you please post a proper link to the Civil decision? I can’t find the decision and would like to read it before I call my rabbi to discuss. Does it include details about the Beis Din decision? Was there ever a Beis Din decision or did the Beis Din involvement end when he didn’t bother to show up?

    I watched this last night. It’s very interesting and even though it’s nearly 90 minutes long, very easy and enjoyable to listen to. Discussion about the get doesn’t really start until the 59:00 mark.

    http://www.chabad.org/multimedia/media_cdo/aid/499444/jewish/The-Jewish-Court.htm

  • This is a really fascinating post. I’m going to try to read through the entire Supreme Court opinion. Of course, mine is an American bias, and as an attorney steeped in US law, with its rhetoric (often more honored in the breach) of a ‘wall of separation’ between church/temple and state, I’m inclined to side with the dissenters. Certainly the quoted language, in which a justice tries to balance the respective burdens on each party’s exercise of faith, makes me squirm a bit.

    An instance, perhaps, of hard cases making bad law…. It’s hard to quarrel with the result, even if the reasoning is troubling.

  • I’ve got two rabbinical friends that serve at a Beth Din; from what I could learn from them, women in the frum communities are in a stronger position during most divorce cases these days, not shying away from blackmail and false accusations of spousal abuse to obtain their get. There are, however, cases of spousal abuse, but both of my friends (one located in the US, the other in Europe) hinted at that often enough that accusation is used to blackmail a get out of husbands as rumours of domestic violence can easily kill one’s business and social life in those circles. We do not know the details of this case and we never really will, but if a Beth Din doesn’t get pushy on a get, there’s probably a lot more to the case than news would cover and stereotypes would explain.

  • Despite the very clever manoeuverings of Mr. Marcovitz and his lawyer Anne-France Goldwater, we need to remember that Ms. Bruker did not go to court to force her ex-husband to give her a get. She sued for damages because he reneged on an agreement made in a civil contract to give her a get. She sued for damages because he made a false promise. The state did not cross the line into religious matters because Ms. Bruker was not seeking remedies for promises made during a religious rite nor was she seeking a religious remedy.

    This case isn’t about religion, despite Mr. Marcovitz’s best efforts. It’s about violating a civil agreement. And since the court couldn’t order a get or give Ms. Bruker back the years she lost, it could only award money. The Supreme Court made the right decision.

  • For the record (and I only just found this out)… a man does not have the right to deny a get. He has the ability to deny a get, but not the right to deny one. No reputable Beis Din would allow a man to do such a thing. So the argument that Mr. Marcovitz and his legal team presented (that giving a get would have violated his conscience and freedom of religion, etc.) is bogus. There is no religious basis to his “defense.” But again, this case was not about religion. It was about violating a civil agreement.

  • Valerie, it certainly was about a breach of a civil contract, yet that contract involved religious matters. A Beth Din usually gets pushy on a hubby that denies a get; as far as I’ve read, in Israel he may get imprisoned after a certain while until he agrees to issuing the get. That this very Beth Din wasn’t persistent on helping Ms Bruker with obtaining the get is highly suspicious to say the very least, and even civil court minutes would likely not tell us what the actual reason for that was.

  • Sarah, that is wishful thinking.

    Beth dins side with husbands all the time. All the man has to say is that he doesn’t feel that it’s right to give a get and that is the end of it because a man has to give a get of his own free will. They try to persuade and sometimes they’ll apply pressure, but coercion renders the get invalid. Many times, also, they will simply side with the man. You read Shy Guy above, as soon as he read about her affair, he turned on her. The game is rigged against women.

  • TM, not so much wishful thinking as my friends told me about many a case where the Beth Din would decide in favour of the wife more or less to save the husband from unfairly imposed trouble. Don’t know whether ck’s told you about my connections to the Charedi circles, but in a nutshell, we should try to free ourselves from the stereotypical concept that women are the weaker part in relationships even in those communities. If you weren’t such a phantom, I’d email you in more detail on that.

  • How exactly does the woman have leverage?

    Here are the rules from a traditional viewpoint. Let me know where you see an opening for the woman to take advantage.

    To understand the nature of the problem and why solutions are not easily found, it is necessary to explore some of the dynamics of the Jewish law of divorce. Briefly, this law consists of the following propositions:

    A halachically-valid marriage may be terminated only by the death of either spouse, or by the husband (or his agent) delivering to the wife (or her agent) a specially prepared document known as a “get.” A civil divorce has absolutely no validity in the eyes of Jewish law.

    If a woman attempts to marry without obtaining a get, the second marriage is null and void, the relationship is adulterous, and any children born from that union are tainted with the irreversible stigma of “mamzer” (illegitimacy note that a child born out of wedlock is not a mamzer but a child born from an adulterous relationship is, and cannot marry anyone except another mamzer or a convert, and in either case their children all continue to be mamzerim.)

    A get must be authorized by the husband. Even the most eminent rabbinic court cannot (except in the rarest of circumstances) terminate, dissolve, or annul a marriage. Moreover, the husbands authorization must be without duress or compulsion. If the husbands consent was obtained by such duress, the get is termed a “get meusah” (coerced get) and is invalid (but see below).

    Under specifically defined circumstances such as abuse, abandonment, non-support, refusal to cohabit, a Jewish rabbinic court known as a beit din, pursuant to a petition or complaint filed by the wife, may order the husband to authorize the writing of the get. Note that even here, the beit din does not terminate the marriage but merely orders the husband to do so.

    If, and only if, the duly qualified beit din issues such an order, the restrictions on get meusah are inapplicable and the order may be enforced even by physical force. Thus, an identical instance of force or compulsion that would invalidate a get in one instance, i.e., no order of beit din, may be totally permissible and appropriate in another, i.e., such an order was obtained.

    In Israel, the stats I found show that between 1995 and 2000, 100 men were put in prison because of this issue and of those, 43 granted divorces. While the man may be unhappy in jail, his wife remains unreleased…and her years and eggs fritter away…

    Here is the way that rabbi from Ohr Somayach explains these circumstances:

    One may resent halacha or decline to follow it, as regrettably so many Jews have decided to do, but it is fraudulent to claim that halacha allows certain things that it simply does not. The requirement that a Jewish marriage be terminated by a get, and that a get may be authorized only by the husband, is stated explicitly in the Torah, is reaffirmed countless times in the Talmud, and is not open to legitimate debate. One may of course raise the question of why it is that only the husband can authorize the get, and here admittedly our understanding is limited. Perhaps the Torah requires that a marriage be terminated the same way it is created by the husbands giving something to his wife. Perhaps the Torah took away the womans right to divorce the man because it was more confident of her superior ability to stabilize and improve a relationship and did not want to give her a quick and easy exit. We really dont know, but to the believing Jew, this ultimately makes no difference. The Written and Oral Torah of Hashem establish the parameters within which this problem must be addressed, and any “solution” to a halachic problem that is anti-halachic is by definition illegitimate.

    Now here is the beauty of it all. This rabbi concludes the above paragraph by stating in brackets:

    (Note also that at least since the 11th century, Jewish divorce requires mutual consent, so that if a woman refuses to receive a get, a man can be in the state of igun as well.)

    The 11th Century. Is that halachic as well or did they just stumble across a new meaning for an old custom? You can see from this that the extent of the woman’s ability to make the man an “agun” or “igun” is to refuse his get. Obviously, this isn’t going to help the women who need it most.

  • TM, simply put: blackmail. The cases I’ve heard about and some witnessed hands-on, the wife blackmailed the husband she’d accuse him of domestic violence, child abuse, adultery etc. and spread the word as well. The social network there is pretty tight. Give me a name of a Chasid, and I’ll get you info on him even he wasn’t aware of. All I’d need to invest are a few minutes of my time and a few cents on phone calls. Another rabbinical friend of mine from Brooklyn put it this way when I asked him about a specific case, “Those women are highly organized, many have too much time on their hands. The public pressure their networks can put on rabbis can make rabbis lose their position.” In theory, the women may not have much of a say, but in practice, things look different often enough. There are lots of cheating hubbies, but there also are lots of cheating wives just as there are lots of happy marriages. A couple of months ago, somebody started a chat page that was promoted through emailing Yiddish speakers (the chat was strictly Yiddish-speaking). That chat was full of native speakers of Yiddish of both genders practically whoring themselves out. The oppressed frum wife is a stereotype that only holds true in a few cases, just as the oppressive frum hubby’s a stereotype that only holds true in a few cases. The majority of them are pretty normal and in their normality fantastically unexciting people. BTW, a lot of that whiny allegedly frum bloggers (male as well as female) aren’t what they claim to be. Ask ck, I gave him the specifics on one case. And if it makes you happy, I’ll call some people after the weekend to find out what influenced that Beth Din’s behaviour, but depending on what info I get, I’ll email it through ck, ok?

  • There seems to be an assumption that women are overwhelmingly victims when it come to Gets. I did some more reading in Wikipedia. It turns out it’s an equal opportunity tactic. Here’s an interesting quote from the “While it is widely assumed that the problem lies primarily in men refusing to grant the get to their wives and that it is a widespread issue, in Israel, figures released from the chief rabbinate show that men are equally victimized and that the numbers are actually a couple of hundred on each side.” see http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/123472

  • TM, thank you for publicising that the rabbi from Ohr Sameach states that a ‘get’-refusing wife can render her husband “igun” or chained. That is the male form of ‘agunah’. So, they can both chain the other! This ought to keep the man lonely too, so why doesn’t this solve the problem? Men don’t like making their own breakfasts, as is well known. They should listen to you. They don’t.

  • Morris, never use Wikipedia as a resource for anything serious.

    Using INN or Arutz Sheva as a resource for anything serious isn’t as bad, but their Right-wing and religious bias is a little worse than reading Ha’aretz with their Left-wing and secular bias because Ha’aretz at least allows for some voices from the Right and Center to appear regularly.

    As for that article to which you linked, I see it as an attempt, no different than the rabbi’s from Ohr Somayach, to smooth over the uncomfortable bumps of what is a male over female advantage inherent to Jewish law.

    Men do not become infertile and their marriage prospects are not affected to the same degree by their age or looks as women.

    Women can reject a get, according to the Ohr Somayach rabbi, but it seems to be a more recent development and it is a passive status not an active one. The man has to give the get while the woman, at best, can refuse to accept one. She cannot initiate a divorce even against an abusive husband, while he can initiate a divorce if he doesn’t like her new haircut.

    There is also a way out for men whose wives refuse to grant a get.

    “In those (rare) cases where a woman refuses to accept delivery of a Get (divorce document issued under Jewish religious law), there is a procedure available whereby a man can re-marry even though a Get has not been delivered. It requires the permission of 100 Rabbis, and is thus very rarely used.

    The Heter (permission) can also be issued in a situation where a woman is considered to be psychologically unfit or incapable of accepting delivery of a Get.

    No such advantage exists for women.

    As for Sarah’s claims that some women accuse husbands falsely of a variety of evil deeds, this has nothing to do with Jewish law or Judaism. This happens with devout Christians, Buddhists and plenty of secular couples who seek advantages in secular courts. Men do it and women do it.

    Yes, there may be networks of women who apply pressure to men, but typically it’s to try to convince a recalcitrant husband who refuses to grant a get to go ahead and give it.

    If you folks are seeking equality, look elsewhere. As long as the get has to be initiated by the husband, men have the advantage.

  • TM, this is not about equality, but trying to fathom what happened here. Why would a Beth Din, probably totally aware of such a procedure possibling terminating their career (and no, theological theories do not apply in such considerations often enough), back a husband in denying his wife a get? And no, those women’s networks do not solely apply pressure on decision makers out of desperation to obtain gets – that would be wishful thinking. All Chasidic divorces I’ve witnessed so far were seriously nasty, and more often than not the husbands were on the receiving end of the nastiness. Another thought that crossed my mind was that after a religious divorce, the husband may not see or personally interact with his ex-wife in any way, so that might be a factor as well, but I can’t rid myself of the feeling that there’s some seriously dark aspect to it, and I’ll try to get more info on the case. TM, will you bear with me till I hear more?

  • Sarah, the beth din didn’t grant the get because the husband apparently claimed that he did not feel “right” in giving it. The beth din cannot, under Jewish law, grant a get unless the husband grants it of his own free will. Since rabbis cannot see into a man’s heart, they can only go by what he says. If he says that he’s not “ready” to give a get, then they have to go by centuries of Jewish law and accept his word. Tough luck if there’s a woman involved who can’t remarry or have children with a new husband.

    In this particular case between Marcovitz and Bruker, it appears that some Canadian law changed which her lawyer put into play in their case and which may have caused some disadvantage to Marcovitz. It may be that this brought him around to granting the get. Then again, it may also be that their adopted children were finally grown up or that he knew for certain that her child-bearing years were behind her and he felt at that point more comfortable terminating the marriage.

    Finally, as for this imaginary career suicide of beth din members who don’t grant gets, I’m afraid I’ve never heard of any such instance. These networks of angry women sound like a good fiction, but nothing more.

    And yes, of course I’ll wait for any further information. I’m not trying to claim that the situation you describe doesn’t exist anywhere in the world, but it seems to me to be a way of placing the blame on women for a situation that harms them more than men. There have been attempts to find solutions to the agunah problem and leading rabbinic authorities – all male, of course – have nixed them time and again. Turning around and blaming the situation on women because they’re feeling some heat from media or organized women’s groups is not surprising. If you read the Ohr Somayach rabbi’s article, the first thing he says is that some women’s groups are over-emphasizing the problem of agunot. How convenient.

  • I’d like to know where TM’s expertise on how Beis Dins handle matters of divorce comes from.

  • Less of a good fiction than a man not granting his ex-wife a get to prevent her from having more children unless he loves her jealously IMHO. Besides, as I stated above, I didn’t think of those networks myself, but I was told about them independently from each other by reputable rabbis, several of which are part of a Beth Din in different locations. Besides, if somebody chooses a degree of religious observance, they’ve got to play along by the rules of the system they chose or go for something else. As one of my rabbi friends said on another divorce case I argued with him about, “The rules are not always fair, but if you’re Chasidic, you choose to live by them.” Catholics may not even divorce in religious terms. If a civilly divorced Catholic wants to keep a job at a Catholic institution, they may not re-marry, not even in a civil wedding. Those are the rules. I’m not claiming they are fair, but in today’s age with freedom of creed in practically any Western state, it’s your choice if you like most of the rules enough to play by those as well that you do not like as much.

  • Valerie, what expertise?

    If you’re referring to my knowledge of various cases, they come from reading numerous articles over the years, speaking to people involved in these situations over the years, and conversations with rabbis over the years. I am not an expert and am willing to have somebody teach me that this harsh reality I’m describing doesn’t exist.

    Tom, I am out of touch with the times…

    Sarah, your final statement is precisely what the dissenters on the Canadian Supreme Court stated. However, for some people what seems like a “choice” is far more than a choice. I assume that there are many Jews, for example, who wouldn’t marry a woman without a get unless they completely dismissed rabbinic authority. After all, the children are called bastards.

  • Sarah, isn’t ‘the rules are the rules, and if you don’t like ’em, take off’ too deferential an approach to religious authorities? They have been known to err, and even worse, actually (ugh!) interpret Scripture to come up with things like annulments. My sense of the Jewish tradition is that there’s an ongoing, age-old theological discourse about a whole host of matters, including divorce, as Middle demonstrates above.

    Even Abraham remonstrated with God, did he not?

  • Tom, not quite. Again, I discussed the very issue of on-going debates / developments in theology with one of my Chasidishe rabbi friends, and he told me that the consensus in those circles is that from a certain point in the past on, no rabbi has been divinely inspired enough to be permitted to change the traditions and that no future rabbi would be. Orhodoxy was a counter-movement to the (Jewish) Enlightment; not everything they do and keep is based on reason. There also are authorities for “less” religious people. Judaism doesn’t have a unified theological authority as Catholicism does. Annulments in Catholicism are restricted to a select few conditions (enforced marriage, no willingness to procreate, infertility, insanity, previous Canonic marriage which was kept secret from the partner, unwillingness to consumate the marriage from the start etc.) I tried to argue with that rabbi that if he believed that no rabbi could ever again be inspired to change the laws, that would imply he knew God’s plan, which in itself were a blasphemous claim or that he didn’t believe God existed anymore. It left him speechless for a bit, and then he re-affirmed that Orthodoxy believed that the laws could not be altered anymore.

  • Whether we call it “altering” the law or not, the rules are all (inevitably) subject to interpretation. “Whoever hath an absolute authority to interpret any written or spoken laws, it is he who is truly the lawgiver, to all intents and purposes, and not the person who first spoke or wrote them.” (Bishop Hoadly’s sermon, preached before King George I of England, March 31, 1717).

  • Tom, I couldn’t agree more, but the Orthodoxy has got theological, not religious studies in an academic sense in the New World (European rabbis, in my experience, are more secularly educated) and you won’t find much approval of ‘critical’ studies there, which in itself is a breach of centuries’ old Jewish study tradition, where discussing sources would lead to insights. Nowadays the norma normans is dogmatization and its extremity compares to other religions that deny critical religious studies. As I said, you’ll find more secular education among Europe-educated rabbis, which does by no way imply they’re less religious. If you try to argue with devout Charedim of the upstate NY type, you’ll argue with a person who chose to reason like a medieval person, not out of nastiness, often enough just because they were born into that system and don’t know anything besides that.

  • One point to keep in mind in respect to male versus female agunot:

    Male agunot: can have children from an adulterous relationship and their children will *not* be mamzerim. In other words, they can build a new life–just without the ceremony.

    Female agunot: any children born to them out of an adulterous relationship are mamzerim. In other words, they are trapped.

    Everyone keeps on harping about whether or not Ms. Bruker had any marriage proposals? Who cares? She could have had children on her own–with or without a husband…had Marcovitz not stolen her reproductive years.

    Actually–that is an interesting question. If an aguna has children by means of artificial insemination (assume anonymous, non-Jewish donor), are they mamzerim?

    My guess is that they are–if for no other reason than I cannot see the rabbinut as it exists now ever giving a blessing to any solution as sensible.

  • Any child born of a female agunot, even by artificial insemination, is mamzerim because the Jewish status of a child is granted by the mother. This is why a child born of intermarriage with a non-Jewish man is still Jewish.

    I think we need to get a better handle on what constitutes free will. The problem is not with the law and we can’t change one law without putting all other laws into question. The problem seems to be with the remedies that are available to women if their husband decides to play hardball.

    Rabbi Kaplan in his lecture on Jewish law (see the link I provided in one of my earlier posts) said that a man can be compelled, even through physical violence, to give a get and it is still considered to be freely given. (Perhaps because he could have agreed to continue with the beating if he was so committed to his refusal to provide a get — just as Jews have chosen death over bowing to idols — but I am speculating). So this is something that clearly needs to be investigated… how is free will defined? What are the limits?

    A man who refuses to give a get is in violation of halacha. He can be excommunicated for this violation. Apparently, there is a newsletter or newspaper in NY which lists men who have been excommunicated for this.

    I’m also going to find out if there are certain situations in which a get must be issued… I read somewhere that adultery is such a case.

    There is apparently a movement afoot to write certain conditions into the ketubah i.e., the promise to provide a get in the event of divorce which, if unmet, will nullify the entire marriage. Women are also being advised to draw up the kind of civil agreement Ms. Bruker had, which would be upheld by a Beis Din as well as by a secular court. (Mr. Marcovitz never went before a Beis Din so they never had a chance to rule).

    Perhaps we need to look at the effects of not giving a get and see what other halacha that violates. For example… is it not a form of theft because a woman is being held hostage?

    We need to get creative. But the answers to the problem are within halacha itself; they always have been and they always will be. The problem is that we don’t have the scholars we used to and too many Jews are assimilated and secularized.

  • Valerie Says:
    December 22nd, 2007 at 5:34 pm
    Any child born of a female agunot, even by artificial insemination, is mamzerim because the Jewish status of a child is granted by the mother.

    Read this article for several contrary opinions by highly regarded Poskim.

    Do not be quick on the draw to define people as Mamzerim.

    As for the issue as a whole, I see problems due to loopholes in Ketubot and a lack of enforcement, sometimes due to Batei Din themselves and sometimes due to husbands who simply disappear for their own convenient reasons.

    Pre-nups are a good creative idea to fill in the blanks, when contracted according to Halacha and not contrary to it. Unfortunately, many big Rabbanim are hesitant to admit that they’re useful or needed – or even allowed – in the first place.

    In the interim, I’d be more than happy to see Batei Din going back to the standard of beating the stuffing out of recalcitrant husbands until they scream “Rotzeh Anni!”

  • Please keep in mind, the pursuit of individual happiness is a rather modern concept brought to this world by philosophers. The orthodox versions of the major religions don’t provide for that. Judaism provides lots of different degrees of religious affiliation, you could even start your own if you wanted to. Odds of any discussions on halachah bringing about changes in interpretation are somewhat low these days (not only in regards to divorces), but you could do your own thing e.g. something “femidox”.

  • OK. There’s a whole lot of speculation on whether or not Bruker lost out on her child bearing years. I’m sorry, but in this particular case, that’s probably a good thing.

    How about some facts about Bruker’s fitness as a mother and her general approach to life.

    I did a search in Westlaw – she sues many people. Contract law and torts are popular areas where she plays.

    For starters, there is a well publicized case of Bruker v. the City of New York. In it, you’ll learn that Bruker’s daughter Eliane was removed from the Bruker home by the state due to neglect. Bruker’s other adoptive daughter, Allison, left the home at an early age. None of this promotes Bruker as a great mother. Here’s one of many rulings related to this case the offers insight:

    http://www.nysd.uscourts.gov/courtweb/pdf/D02NYSC/00-03454.PDF

    and a later ruling

    http://www.nysd.uscourts.gov/courtweb/pdf/D02NYSC/04-06848.PDF

    Once again, Bruker brings up religion as her ax to grind – this time she representing herself because she’s not so sympathetic for lawyers to take up he case (for free). She sued everyone including the foster mother who the daughter preferred to Bruker.

    And here’s a darling article from a Montreal paper where Bruker tells the reporter that she was placed into the Pineal Institute (a hospital for the criminally insane) for 30 days after an altercation with nursing home staff and police.

    http://thesuburban.com/content.jsp?sid=10923443151067635395339311435&ctid=1000000&cnid=1004832

    Like I said, I have little sympathy for Bruker, but since I’ve done a little more digging, I think Marcovitz (and anyone else on the receiving end of Bruker’s love of the courts) may have been more of the victim here.

  • Morris,

    The likelihood of your being a dispassionate observer about this case is pretty low. You gave us detailed, negative information about Bruker’s sex life, offered a Wikipedia article where there was a dispute among authors, told us that she’s litigious and now come to us with the information that she may not be a fit mother.

    Then you write,

    “There’s a whole lot of speculation on whether or not Bruker lost out on her child bearing years. I’m sorry, but in this particular case, that’s probably a good thing.”

    Holy cow, what a shitty thing to say without any basis.

    I have just read the two judgements you offered us and in her shoes I would have sued just as she has done. The treatment Bruker and her family received from the social workers in NYC was horrific and definitely improper.

    In a nutshell, Ms. Bruker sued the CWA and a string of organizations involved in taking over the raising of her adopted daughters because these daughters were taken away from her and one was never returned. These cases arrive in court when the older daughter is essentially lost to her mother because she’s seventeen and then eighteen.

    To make matters worse, the CWA placed the older daughter, against the mother’s requests and demands, in a Catholic woman’s home. Later, they reneged on an agreement to return the daughter, to nullify a charge against the mother, and after being forced to move her to a Jewish foster agency moved her into a Catholic one where she was sent to a Catholic school and raised a Catholic. After she turned 18, the daughter officially became Catholic.

    So yes, Bruker’s claims were legitimate and her attempts to sue were justified. That you would state “Bruker brings up religion as her ax to grind” when she was seeking a Jewish home and environment for her daughter who was stripped away from her after a nasty divorce and the obvious family disruptions that ensued, is pretty shitty of you.

    On June 11, 1992 the Family Court commenced a hearing
    pursuant to N.Y. Family Court Act § 1028 to determine whether
    Elianne and Allison should be returned to Bruker’s custody
    pending the outcome of the neglect proceeding. On June 17, the
    court determined that returning the girls to Bruker’s custody did
    not pose an imminent risk to their safety or health and ordered
    that the girls be returned. The CWA appealed this ruling, and
    the Appellate Division stayed the Family Court’s order pending
    the appeal. Bruker and the CWA subsequently agreed that the CWA
    would withdraw the appeal and return Allison to Bruker’s custody,
    provided that Bruker consented to Elianne’s continued remand.

    This court order was appealed and stopped by the CWA while the daughter was in the home of a Catholic woman. Later, the CWA would have this woman claim that she was providing the daughter with a Jewish environment but according to the court, she was deemed woefully ignorant about Jewish laws. The girl was permitted (and perhapd encouraged) by the CWA to keep visiting this woman, who had told the CWA she preferred to raise a Catholic girl, for years, including the period when she was receiving psychiatric treatment. A couple of years later, the CWA would place the daughter in a Catholic home called “Boystown” where she apparently received a proper Catholic education being sent to the Catholic school. Here is part of that school’s mission statement,

    Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School is a Catholic high
    school drawing its Christian perspective from the
    Diocese of Brooklyn and the three-hundred year
    Lasallian tradition of the Brothers of the Christian
    Schools. This tradition values . . . the development
    of caring relationships grounded in Christian values.
    This tradition holds central the appreciation of each
    student’s uniqueness and views the teacher as a
    minister of the Gospel. . . . Loughlin attempts to
    awaken in its students a set of values which is
    markedly Christian and challenges the materialistic
    values of today’s society.

    This was a girl from an Orthodox Jewish family, whose mother claimed to have been Conservative and who kept a kosher home. As the court case to which you linked (the second one) shows, Bruker did everything in her power to settle things with the CWA, with the courts, with her daughter and made a strenuous effort to provide for her daughter’s Jewish upbringing even when the daughter was no longer in her household. I find that admirable but you, strangely, find this to be information that “doesn’t promote Bruker as a great mother” and that she “brings up religion as her ax to grind.”

    The CWA offered an affidavit from
    Perry [the social worker in charge of Elianne and this case]
    in which she stated that Elianne threatened to run away if
    she was transferred from Savoca’s home, and that Elianne and her
    foster parent were attending synagogue and observing Jewish
    dietary laws. After a hearing, Judge Martinez ordered that
    Elianne be transferred to an agency run by persons of the Jewish
    faith as required by New York law. The judge found that Savoca
    “unfortunately displayed a woeful lack of knowledge with respect
    to Jewish dietary laws.” In re Elianne Marcovitz, N–6300-1/92,
    at 4 (Sept. 24, 1992). The court also determined that the foster
    mother’s testimony “clearly indicates that she has not received
    proper follow up guidance from Catholic Home Bureau nor from CWA
    to support the preservation and protection of the child’s
    religious faith.” Id. at 10. The court noted that after it
    became clear, contrary to Perry’s claims, that Savoca was not
    following Jewish dietary practices, the CWA argued that “it is
    not realistic or practical for this foster mother to keep a
    Kosher home because ‘she is a Christian and she is simply doing
    her job.’” Id. at 9. A follow-up order indicates that the court
    determined that Perry had intentionally submitted a fraudulent
    affidavit when she affirmed that Elianne was following Jewish
    practices. The court also noted the animosity Perry had
    displayed toward Bruker.

    I sense a similar animosity on your part, Morris.

  • I was more concerned about the physical and emotional trauma of Elliane, but I suppose keeping koshber is more important to the middle. Hey, what ever’s most important to you. I really wonder what kind of parenting you prefer: preventing neglect and other signs of physical abuse (bruises and scrartches) , vs. keeping a kosher kitchen….

    Do you really think that New York Social services, and the courts, all sided against Bruker on her custody because she was doing a good job? I’m just reacting to what I read. Why are you so keen to apologize for her?

  • Because injustice pisses me off. Your defense of the injustices this woman faced is also pissing me off.

    It’s not suprising that the older daughter had emotional issues after what appears to have been a very difficult break-up and post-break-up of the parents’ marriage. I’m sure you noticed the father, Marcovitz, was not even mentioned in either judgement.

    It’s possible the mother was a bad mother, but reading the case you brought up as an example of her litigiousness, unfitness for motherhood and cynicism about religion, I came out believing that she was a caring mother who found herself in a Kafka novel. She appears to have been a good person in a difficult situation who watched as one angry, incompetent or simply mistaken social worker took her daughter away at a fragile moment in her life and put her in the home of a woman who would turn this girl’s and mother’s lives in new and irrevocable directions.

    Essentially, this bureaucrat appointed herself god over this girl and her mother and, against the mother’s wishes, put the daughter in a household that would combine rejection of her parents’ faith and teaching of the foundations of another faith as the basis for escape from whatever was troubling her life. It’s not hard to guess what would happen, and according to the judge’s report about the social worker’s behavior, it may well be that she knew exactly what she was doing.

    From that point on, it is downhill for the mother who obviously did everything in her power to care for the daughter who was taken away and to preserve the right to get the other daughter back. Once the cycle begins, it was impossible for Bruker to turn it around in time to get her daughter back. The power of the CWA over her and her daughter’s deteriorating condition – deteriorating while under the CWA’s authority, not the mother’s – was too great for her to fight.

    This woman you consider unfit, Bruker, obviously went to great lengths to try to help her daughter get psychiatric help, be properly cared for by her foster families, enable the bureaucrats to do the job they weren’t doing and keeping lawyers on the case. She spent years fighting the bureacracy and lost because of technicalities. For example, the charge of neglect was going to be removed by the CWA but because of the daughter’s lawyer’s interference, it was not. Why would a neglectful mother spend years trying to help her daughter? This is not even a biological daughter but it’s clear she’s using all her resources to fight the system that is making life worse for her daughter.

    I read that as dedication and love, not to mention deep caring. She may not have been able to prevail over the judge for technical reasons, but there’s no doubt who had justice on her side. I’m surprised that we both read the same cases but you conclude that it’s okay that the social services took a Jewish girl and turned her Catholic in 4 short years and a judge concluded that as long as the CWA made a “reasonable” effort, they were in the clear even if they botched their job entirely.

  • Ok, having lived through this nightmare myself, I can’t bear to read all the postings on it, but I did speed read it some of it.

    Jewish Mother said something really naive and antiquated that women can’t kill. Apparently she has no clue of the number of dead Orthodox babies there are from “Sudden Infant Death Syndrome” or hasn’t visited a women’s penitentiary lately (“Oh, but those none of those vicious woman could possibly be JEWISH????”) However, naive and antiquated is the usual and customary response from our dear Jewish Mother.

    I believe that there is a Halaka that in a “conflict of laws” situation, the law of the land rules supreme. I may be wrong about this. However, I also beleive that if you choose to live in a DEMOCRACY, which Canada and the U.S. presumably are, then their CIVIL laws should override the Torah laws.Unfortunately, there is no country today, including Israel, which is a THEOCRACY in which Torah law governs.

    “Someday when Moshiach will come, the world will be joyous and peaceful, the Nations will learn from Hashem and Torah will then be the law of all men” as the sweet song I used to sing to my children goes. Whether women will have any rights when Moshiach comes remains to be seen, but I suppose in the time of Moshiach, there will be no need for divorce as we will all have peace.

    5 1/2 years after receiving my Get I can tell you with 100% certainty that I STILL would not have it today had not my Ex’s Civil Divorce lawyer not said to him “The Civil Judge will not look upon you kindly upon in his final decision if you do not give the Get” and so, after waiting 2 years , I was no longer his chattel.
    Not one Rabbi stepped up to the plate. In fact, they found some legal loopholes to say that if I refused to go toBait Din then whatever happenedt with the Get was my fault. I was advised by Rabbis not to go to the Bait Din he picked and not to allow him to chose “Zabla ” (not to be confused with “Pon Far” which is the Vulcan Mating Ritual) where he picks a Rabbi and pick and then a 3rd comes from somewhere.

    As to the “dried up” remark…Middle man…I expect more class from you than that.

    And as for me, sometimes you just gotta say “what the fuck”.

  • As far as I know, regulations are comparable to over here, which means children may only be taken away from their caregivers at a very late point in a conflict when the children’s life is considered to be at risk. Violence towards a child is unacceptable. The decision to put the child with a Catholic family may not have been the most considerate one, but a girl of that age won’t turn Catholic in such a short timespan (four years are a short timespan) if intially the roots of her faith had been planted well. We don’t even know if an adequate Jewish foster family had been available. Besides, many Catholics and Anglicans in Britain adopted (often very young) Jewish children during the Third Reich that had escaped on special transports. Even though many nominally took on the faith of those that had saved them (out of gratitude, not force!), they still considered themselves Jewish at heart. A prominent example of those kids is Prof. em. Meier Schwartz (HUJI). Bruker’s fighting the CWA’s decision was inevitable to avoid charges of child abuse being pressed against her. To me this reads like calculation, not caring. Had she cared about her daughter before, the child wouldn’t have shown symptoms of physical abuse. No difficult situation you may find yourself in can suffice as an excuse to get violent towards children.

  • Sarah…please write to me at cloaked@optonline.net …I have a paying international private job for you.

    Middle…you know by now know that it is impossible to offend me and there is nothing I love more than being offensive! I found your analysis of the issues discussed to be fair and balanced as usual.

  • I’m willing to pay for information that I’m sure you could find easily…looking forward to your help. Thanks.

  • Well… after reading such a spirited and passionate justification for all that is Bruker, I would suggest an alternative perspective for The Middle to consider:

    That Bruker is not a victim of circumstance, the system, men or others. Instead, she’s prone to conflict and the source of much misery.

    I found over 30 court cases with her name on it. That’s a lot of legal time for a decorator. Considering that the court system is usually a last resort in a conflict, I can only image how many other serious fights she’s gotten into that didn’t make it into a court docket.

    My last word on this subject is that I felt that the your point of view was clouded by your siding with Bruker vs. her ex husband, no matter the harm she caused other women (in her documented adultery), her children (in her documented abuse and neglect), or Judaism (in who’s name she argued her more notorious cases).

  • Whatever. My point of view about this couple is clouded by my lack of direct interaction with any of these people, not to mention lack of information about what happened before and after the marriage of Bruker and Marcovitz.

    Your point of view is clouded by your personal stake in this story, whatever that might be.

    I go by what I read, and in the cases you provided, the court was clear that the CWA’s social worker took the daughters from Bruker in a manner inconsistent with the CWA’s own rules, put one in a Catholic woman’s home, used the other daughter as leverage to keep the first one out of Bruker’s reach, apparently lied about these actions in court (and may have had the Roman Catholic foster mom lie about it as well), and misrepresented facts to both Bruker, the lawyers and the court. The CWA ultimately handed the girl to a Catholic foster program which then sent this Jewish girl to study in a Catholic high school. The daughter converted to Roman Catholicism within 4 years of the CWA’s interference and consistently asked not to return home to her mom. Oh, and the CWA was willing to drop the “neglect” charge against Bruker.

    According to you, Bruker should have shut her mouth and allowed the CWA to convert her daughter, turn the daughter against her (or do you think that troubled 14 year olds actually make wise decisions on their own?) and ensure she’d never have the daughter back. To reject this outcome and challenge it, according to you, is a sign that Bruker is prone to conflict. She’s too litigious for your liking.

    Well, she was right to sue the CWA and every individual involved in what happened to her daughter, and she was right to persist in fighting Marcovitz through the courts.

    Despite your undisguised attempt to convert this discussion into one about Bruker’s fitness to function in our world, this post is actually about Marcovitz and his terrible behavior towards Bruker.

    This post is about what happens when men use their power of withholding a get to ruin their ex-wives’ lives, opportunities to remarry and chances at having children. Even if Bruker were the most litigious person in North America, there is still no reason whatsoever for Marcovitz to have withheld the get. Even if he were trying to use the get as leverage over things like custody, alimony or child support, that ship had sailed long before he finally consented to grant the get. Even if Bruker was an unfit mother, something I personally doubt, it’s not Marcovitz’s place to make that determination – especially since they obviously had infertility problems that may have affected their marriage.

    Marcovitz, like many other men who don’t give their exes their freedom, should have just given her the get and walked away. None of the information you provided indicates that he pursued custody of the daughters or sought to help them in any way when the CWA was destroying their lives. Instead, he seems to have moved on entirely. He just didn’t permit his wife to move on as well.

    In my opinion, your personal anger toward Bruker is what’s clouding your judgement. Perhaps you would allow the fog to clear for a bit to consider whether the downward spiral that became Bruker and her daughters’ lives would have happened had the marriage and especially the divorce to Marcovitz been different? It’s sad that you’ve entirely ignored Marcovitz in your comments but have focused on Bruker’s personal weaknesses. What’s your point, that she’s the wrong person to have had this victory in court? Actually, she’s exactly the person you want to win in court. This case was not about being a woman or wife who is acceptable to the rabbis or the husband or the person on the Internet pretending not to have a personal stake in the story. This is about granting women the freedom that our evolved religion should be giving them automatically and just like it does to the men once their marriages fail.

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