National Council of Jewish Women of Australia and Unchain My Heart Incorporated have lodged a joint submission on Gett refusal with the Australian Law Reform Commission. The ALRC is conducting the first comprehensive review into the family law system since the commencement of the Family Law Act in 1976, with a view to reforming the family law system to ensure that it meets the contemporary needs of families and effectively addresses family violence and child abuse.

The submission Gett Refusal, Jewish Divorce and Family Law defines the refusal to agree to a Gett (Jewish bill of divorce) as a tool to control, intimidate and extract concessions from women, with grave consequences if they wish to remarry because without a Gett children born in a new relationship will suffer compromised social status within Judaism, which will endure for 10 generations.

Gett refusal is a form of family violence and a violation of human rights, and should be dealt with accordingly,“ stated Unchain My Heart Chair Susie Ivany OAM. “We hope that progress will be made as a result of the submission to make it easier for Jewish women to obtain a Gett and move on with their lives within their religion”, declared NCJWA Acting National Co-Presidents Sylvia Deutsch OAM and Victoria Nadel.

The joint submission makes a number of recommendations, among them an order that the civil Decree Nisi shall not become absolute until the Court has been satisfied that both parties have taken all steps reasonably within their power to ensure that all barriers to a Jewish re-marriage have been removed.

For NCJWA the issue has been of concern for decades, with the organisation’s first national conference in 1929 pledging to advocate for Agunot (Jewish wives affected by Gett refusal, literally ‘chained’ in Hebrew) and put pressure on rabbis to find a solution. In 1970 then NCJWA NSW President (later National President) Ray Ginsburg AM and Rebbetzin Marion Apple of the Great Synagogue formed the NCJWA Status of Women in Judaism and Jewish Law Committee to inform and educate Australian lawyers on the need to push for a Gett along with a secular divorce. Other NCJWA presidents and Section leaders have also been active on this issue for many years.

Unchain My Heart Inc. is a Melbourne based not-for-profit organisation established to promote the resolution of religious divorce abuse and provide assistance to individual Agunot.

Submission authors are Talya Faigenbaum principal of Faigenbaum Family Lawyers and Dr Ann Wollner, Special Counsel at International Social Service Australia and a Clinical Psychologist in private practice. Both Faigenbaum and Wollner are executive committee members of Unchain My Heart Inc. Wollner is also Vice President of NCJWA (Victoria).

Click here to view the Submission to ALRC.

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