A former Silver Spring woman who was a central figure in the ongoing efforts to reform how the Orthodox community deals with men who refuse to grant their wives a Jewish divorce has remarried.
Tamar Epstein married Adam Paul Fleischer on Sept. 24, in a ceremony in Memphis, Tenn.
She had married Aharon Friedman in 2006. The couple had a child in November 2007. Epstein received a civil divorce from him in 2010. But according to reports, he has yet to give her a get, the religious document signifying a Jewish divorce.
Because they are still married in the eyes of Jewish law until they receive a get, such women are known as “chained” women, or agunot in Hebrew. With several religious authorities viewing a husband’s refusal to grant the document as tantamount to spousal abuse, Friedman had been banned from communal activities in several locales, including in the Washington area, pending the Silver Spring man’s granting of a get.
The process by which Epstein was allowed to remarry has come under scrutiny, according to several sources. At issue is whether her marriage to Friedman was satisfactorily annulled.
Rabbi Nota Greenblatt officiated at her wedding in Memphis. When asked how he decided Epstein was free to marry again, Greenblatt said, “I do not discuss these matters. These are very private.”
The Rabbinical Council of Greater Washington also declined to comment on whether it plans to lift its ban issued four years ago against welcoming Friedman into the community.
Several people told Washington Jewish Week that Tamar was told she was a free woman by a Philadelphia rabbi who declared that Friedman had severe mental issues that existed prior to the couple’s marriage, including paranoia and obsessive compulsive disorder, and that had she known of these conditions, she would not have married him. Therefore, halachically she could move on with her life, the rabbi declared.
David Eidensohn, a Monsey rabbi who writes the blog Torah Times, said he considers Epstein still married to Friedman and if she should have a child with Fleischer, that child would be considered a mamzer, a person born from a forbidden relationship. In Jewish law, such a person is restricted from many rites.
“That is the worst child abuse,” he said.
Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch, vice president of the Rabbinical Court in Israel, wrote a blog post in protest of Epstein’s remarriage.
A decision by some rabbis that the Epstein-Friedman marriage was over even though Epstein “had lived with her first husband for an extended period of time and she had borne a daughter from him,” is not the way it works, he said.
“I saw the [ruling] that ‘freed’ her. I hate to say this, but the [ruling] is total nonsense. Taking the approach of this [ruling], it is possible to destroy the whole framework of halachic marriage,” he wrote. “Such an approach is destructive to Judaism and uproots the basic laws governing Jewish marriage.”
According to Sternbuch, Epstein is still married to Friedman “in every respect.”
However, almost two years ago, the Organization for the Resolution of Agunot declared Epstein a free woman. “The case is resolved. It is a closed case from our end,” ORA Director Rabbi Jeremy Stern said at the time.
While ORA sent out a press release at that time noting it was “very excited to announce that Tamar is free,” the organization still has not revealed how that came to be.
Joe Orlow of Silver Spring said he contacted Rabbi Dovid Rosenbaum of Young Israel Shomrei Emunah, president of the Greater Washington RCA, to see if it would be permissible to host a minyan in his own home that Friedman could participate in. Orlow said he wanted to make sure that no one would protest at his home if he did so.
“I just wanted some kind of assurance,” said Orlow. “He refused to give me any kind of assurance.”
Friedman had attended services at Silver Spring Jewish Center for about a week a few years ago, said Rabbi Herzl Kranz.
Someone in the congregation didn’t realize who Friedman was and called him up for an aliyah, Kranz said.
“By Saturday afternoon, I had a stream of women” protesting in front of the synagogue in Kemp Mill. The women tried to stop people from entering his synagogue, he said.
Kranz, who believes Epstein must receive a Jewish divorce before she can go on with her life, called the matter “a tragedy, a really big tragedy.”