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The Great Agunah Debacle – Part Two

When Joseph slandered his brothers, the commentators tell us, he didn’t lie. He just told the truth with an evil intent. Rabbi Moshe Morgenstern, head of a special court that has been freeing agunot (women chained to husbands by religious law) when all attempts to reason with their corrupt husbands have failed, has been slandered, mostly by pious hypocrites who present their sin as a good deed; they’re defending the true faith.

I wrote to Rabbi Morgenstern and asked him to answer his critics. I leave my intelligent readers to draw their own conclusions.

NOTE: Rav Morgenstern wrote about himself elsewhere that he received smicha from Mesivta Torah Vadaath and Harav Moshe Feinstein 47 years ago.  He then studied privately with Rav Finestein and Rav Piekarsky for over 30 years and received smicha on the four codes of Shulchan Aruch.


Dear Mrs. Ragen,

I did keep my first wife an agunah for seven years 42 years ago because I loved her very much and we have a son. I turned over heaven and earth to save our marriage. It was then that I went to college, Columbia University, and got a BS degree in accounting. Nothing that I tried to save our marriage helped.

It was then that I realized that you cannot force any human being – man or woman – to live with someone they do not want. I consider what I did – not to give a GET for any period of time — a crime. I was one million percent wrong. It was then that I decided that I wanted to make sure that other women did not have to suffer the way my former wife did.

I have spent the last forty years mastering the four parts of the Shulchan Aruch. I received haskoma – approbation – from Rav Piekarski, a top Rosh Yeshiva at Lubavitz in Brooklyn, NY and Halachic posek to the Lubavitzer Rebbi on the four parts of the Shulchan Aruch. All my learning has been geared to finding a solution in accordance with Halacha to free agunot.

It is precisely because Rav Rackman and I do not earn our livelihood from the Rabbinate and allied professions, that we have the independence to be honest and defy the Rabbinical mafia, whose tentacles extend across the ocean to Europe and Israel. It is our observation that there are very few Rabbis who are hard-core opponents. But it is these few who intimidate all the others.

Our greatest opponents are those who have suffered financially because of the existence of our court, which has freed many agunot from their control and blackmail. All the Rabbinical Courts link the granting of a GET to an agunah with her acceptance of their arbitration in all domestic issues. The Rabbinical courts as a rule of thumb shortchange the agunah on all issues, favoring the husband. Thus, the agunah is forced to settle for a fraction of what she needs for survival and has to agree to give up custody of her children or otherwise remain celibate for eternity.

For this service, five Rabbis each charge $200 minimum per hour: There are three rabbis in the Bet Din; a Rabbi who represents the husband and a Rabbi who represents the wife. Thus the minimum cost of the Bet Din is one thousand dollars per hour. To arbitrate all the domestic issues takes ten to fifty hours. Thus each agunah represents a source of $10,000- $50,000.

Our Bet Din for Agunot has freed over three hundred agunot and we are slowly approaching the four hundred figure. We have thus cost our critics over three million dollars in lost revenues. Rather than find a solution to the blackmail and agony of the agunah , our critics turn heaven and earth to destroy Rav Rackman and myself, hoping in that way to again put all agunot under their control and mercy.

No, not all our critics are dishonest, unreliable, irresponsible, and uncaring. But even those critics whose hands are not stained by direct collusion with blackmail and coercion of agunot are to be faulted for not only doing nothing from the point of view of Halacha to free these women, and for doing nothing against the husbands and the rabbis who are corrupt. The coercion, insults, and threats directed towards not only my reputation, but my life, have not been duplicated towards recalcitrant husbands and those rabbis who are granting these men special dispensations to remarry (heter maoh rabbonim) without first giving their wives a GET — until she settles on their terms.

The agunah has a choice to free herself from the chains crafted by these husbands and such rabbis. There are thirty or forty Halachic solutions which our Bet Din uses to free agunot who would otherwise be forced to remain celibate for eternity. The problem is particularly severe In the United States and Europe, where the Rabbinical Courts do not have police powers as they do in Israel [NOTE: Israeli religious courts rarely use these powers — N.R.]. It is therefore mandatory for an honest Bet Din to annul marriages in order to prevent the debacle that agunot face.

Our Bet Din Lebayot Agunot will move heaven and earth to free any agunah . I invite agunot to contact me at:
http://www.agunah.com and use the mail request to present her problem. She may alternatively call me at 718 793 2135 in the United States.

Mrs. Ragen, I have the greatest admiration and respect for your honesty and commitment to true Torah principles.

Rav Moshe Morgenstern

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