Local agunah case resolved

Following intense public pressure, Kettering man provides Jewish bill of divorce to ‘chained woman’ in Israel

By Marshall Weiss, The Dayton Jewish Observer

After more than eight years of waiting, Adina Porat finally received her get — a Jewish bill of divorce — in a ceremony with the Israeli Rabbinate in Jerusalem on Jan. 7.

Kettering resident Dovid Porat, known locally by the name Eli Shur, authorized the issuance of the get on Dec. 30, two months after the New York-based Organization for the Resolution of Agunot (ORA) launched an unprecedented social media campaign and held a rally near Shur’s home to pressure him to give the get.

Agunot, Hebrew for chained, refers to women in the Orthodox world whose husbands refuse to provide them with a get, a religious bill of divorce. Within Orthodox halacha (Jewish law), a divorce isn’t final until a husband provides his wife with a get. Without one, an agunah is unable to remarry.

ORA Executive Director Rabbi Jeremy Stern
ORA Executive Director Rabbi Jeremy Stern

Though ORA stages rallies and social media campaigns when behind-the-scenes negotiations don’t convince husbands to sign a get, ORA Executive Director Rabbi Jeremy Stern says this is the first time ORA has produced a video about the predicament of an agunah as part of its strategy.

“The video that we created went viral on Facebook and YouTube, followed up by the rally, and all the publicity of the rally — all of that pressure led to the issuance of the get,” Stern says.

ORA opened the website freeadina.com on Oct. 21 to announce the rally; the site featured a video interview with Adina Porat and her children about their plight. Between then and Shur’s signing of the get, the video was viewed more than 68,000 times. In addition to coverage in The Dayton Jewish Observer, Porat’s story was also reported on by the Canadian Jewish News, Detroit Jewish News, Forward, Haaretz, and Times of Israel.

More than 80 demonstrators — primarily from Orthodox communities across Ohio and Michigan — showed up for the Nov. 8 rally near Shur’s home in Kettering.

“Her (Porat’s) attorney in Israel has been involved in working out a final settlement where we took down the video, pulled the website, and we’ve promised not to rally against him,” Stern says. “And of course we put in the get (that) we dropped all claims, one against the other, and the get was issued through the Chicago Rabbinical Council.”

Stern adds that the Chicago Rabbinical Council then sent the get to the Israeli Rabbinate via UPS, which received the document in Jerusalem on Jan. 6.

According to ORA, Shur and Porat were married in Israel in 1990. He left her and their children in 2007, and refused to provide her with a get. He departed Israel for the United States a year later.

The Israeli Rabbinate ruled in 2009 that Shur was required to give his wife a get.

In 2010, Shur arrived in Dayton to serve as ritual director of Beth Jacob Congregation. He had presented himself as a single man with no children. Nearly six months into his work at Beth Jacob, volunteers with ORA showed up at one of his evening classes at the synagogue and urged him to sign a get for his wife. He refused. In short order, he was no longer employed by the synagogue.

After Shur departed Beth Jacob, the Chicago Rabbinical Council confirmed the Israeli Rabbinate’s ruling that Shur was obligated to provide his wife with a get.

A solution to the agunot dilemma that has gained traction in the modern Orthodox world — and is now making its way into segments of the haredi community — is the use of halachic prenuptial agreements to provide for a get. However the New York-based Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, a modern Orthodox organization, also advocates for changes to rabbinic law to better protect wives.

Stern says the Porat agunah case is the 253rd ORA has resolved since its founding in 2002.

Demonstrators at the Nov. 8 rally near the home of Eli Shur in Kettering. Photo: ORA
Demonstrators at the Nov. 8 rally near the home of Eli Shur in Kettering. Photo: ORA

“We usually resolve about 25 cases every year, and take on about 25 new cases every year,” he says. ORA currently has 70 active agunot cases, he adds. It has held rallies since its inception, and began leveraging social media a few years ago, which Stern says has been successful in certain cases.

Each case, he says, comes with its unique challenges. With the successful deployment of its first video, in the Porat case, he anticipates ORA will use this tactic again.

“There’s no silver bullet in any of these cases,” Stern says. “Sometimes we don’t even come to the point of a protest rally; it’s the threat of pressure which convinces the husband to give a get.”

The chances of resolving Adina Porat’s case, he says, were slim.

“We saw a miracle today. We are elated. And we are tremendously grateful to the hundreds, if not thousands of people who became active in this case — those who came to the rally and all the people who were involved in promoting this case.”

Michelle Tedford contributed to this story.


To read the complete February 2016 Dayton Jewish Observer, click here.

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