Dear Aharon Friedman, It has been approximately five years since you separated from your then wife, Tamar Epstein, and three years have passed since your civil divorce was granted. And yet, although you profess yourself to be a religious Jew, you have refused to grant Tamar her get, her religious divorce that would allow her to remarry according to the dictates of Jewish law and tradition.
So, on July 11, several dozen of your neighbors, including local rabbis, high school and college students, government workers on their lunch breaks, and other concerned community members came to rally outside your office at the Longworth House Office building where you work for Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Ways and Means Committee. By day, you work on Capitol Hill on important legislation regulating taxes, trade or Social Security. You speak to important people, and impact the lives of many citizens.
At home, you are persona non grata in your community, unwelcome at any neighborhood synagogue, not invited to friends’ houses for a Shabbat meal, excluded from taking your young daughter to play with other children and their parents. You severely impact the life of one woman, Tamar Epstein, preventing her from going on a date, from marrying, from moving on with her life. She is waiting, stuck and, although you may not admit it to yourself, so are you.
So, we stood outside of your office, chanting slogans such as “Aharon Friedman, stop the abuse; Aharon Friedman, free Tamar now.” We chanted, shouted and even prayed. Did you hear? Your colleagues did. As we stood, sweating in the heat, chanting angrily, numerous faces popped out of their office windows, staring at your picture on our signs, regarding protesters who came down to Washington, D.C., not because of crises in Syria, Egypt, or Iran, not because of world hunger or nuclear stockpiling, but because of the actions of one person — you. The public heard, too. Countless passersby in town to lobby, work or tour, picked up fliers detailing your stubborn, spiteful treatment of Tamar, asked us for more information, shouted to us words of encouragement and good luck.
Mr. Friedman — is this how you want to be known? As a man whose community is angry enough to send 50 or so representatives to protest his actions at work? Do you really want people to Google your name and find information not about your professional profile, not about your political accomplishments, but instead about your personal life and your community’s contempt for you?
Mr. Friedman, it is never easy to change, to break a pattern you have been stuck in for months and years. But at this point on the Jewish calendar, as we finish the season of mourning the destruction of the Temple, which was caused by the spread of baseless hatred, and as we begin the season of preparation for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the High Holy days of repentance, as we all take the opportunity to reflect on and change our personal and national failings, will you take the opportunity to break the destructive, fruitless pattern you have become stuck in?
It is never too late to change, and there is no better time to give Tamar her get than now. Until then, unfortunately, we will continue rallying, pressuring and protesting. We will not give up until Tamar is free from this terrible, chaining, waiting game.
Atara Siegel from Silver Spring is a member of Yeshiva University’s Agunah Advocacy club. Her email address is [email protected]
Dear Atara Siegel, It has now been several years that you have hounding Mr. Friedman, with no results. It is never easy to change, to break a pattern that you have been stuck in for months and years. But at this point in the Jewish calendar, as we finish the season of mourning the destruction of the Temple, which was caused by the spread of baseless hatred, and as we begin the season of preparation for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the High Holy days of repentance, as we all take the opportunity to reflect on and change our personal and national failings, will you take the opportunity to break the destructive, fruitless pattern you have become stuck in?
It is never too late to change, and there is no better time to encourage Tamar to give her husband access to their daughter. Until then, unfortunately, Mr. Friedman will not give a get. He will not give up until he has regular access to his child.
Ms. Siegel makes a heartfelt plea. Unfortunately, there is another source of failure for her community and the community that has failed other women in similar straits. This is the community that continues to fail Tamar Epstein for so many years: the community of traditional Judaism.
These women should simply stand outside of their synagogues yelling “shame” at their own rabbis. These rabbis are simply the latest generation of learned people who choose to ignore the problem instead of reacting in a more appropriate way. Yes, they can always point to the lack of an appropriate body of Judaism that can be authorized to change Jewish traditions.
Perhaps when Jewish communities were more self-governing the old rules could be enforced. It’s obvious that they can’t. Perhaps Ms. Epstein should simply give up on the traditional organizations and become a member of a congregation affiliated with the Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist or unaffiliated movements. The traditional community has failed on this issue for 2000 years and is incapable of responding.
For the record, a Get is not a means of extortion. Whatever his complaint, withholding the Get is not an acceptable means to attain his objective. Withholding a Get is domestic abuse. Period. Withholding a Get is a perversion of Torah. It is pathetic and abominable. This holds true for Friedman and all the other sociopaths, including Meir Yisrael Kin in Las Vegas, who are using Torah to abuse their wives and children.
Is there no way that these two can come to an agreement? Is it not possible that a custody or visitation agreement can be worked out that would allow Mr. Friedman access to his daughter while in exchange for him granting the ‘get’? What is the impasse?
Settlement, the secular court gave Mr. Friedman visitation rights to his daughter. As often happens in divorce, Ms. Epstein moved to another city, and Mr. Friedman chose to stay put. That makes it more difficult for him to see his daughter, but it was his perhaps difficult choice.
Colin, both Mr. Friedman and Ms. Epstein continue to practice Orthodox Judaism, in which there is a way out of Tamar’s dilemma: Aharon should follow the religion’s and the rabbis’ direction and give Tamar a get.
A man shouldn’t have a veto on the Get, but if religion allows him such veto, why would one push him to give up ?
On the other hand, the wife got her civil divorce, and this should be enough for her. She can remarry in a civil wedding.
The Beatles are right: “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one ..”