London Beth Din divorce process review recommends independent complaint process

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London Beth Din divorce process review recommends independent complaint process

Maximum levels of sanctions should be possible against 'get' refusers, urges report commissioned by United Synagogue Trustees

Le Get (The Divorce), painting by Moshe Rynecki, c. 1930. (Wikipedia)
Le Get (The Divorce), painting by Moshe Rynecki, c. 1930. (Wikipedia)

London Beth Din (LBD) has recommended that the Jewish divorce process should be made clearer, stressing the urgent need to improve the overall application experience and make it easier to understand.

United Synagogue (US) Trustees commissioned the independent report at the start of 2022 which focused on improving the practical and administrative elements of applying for and facilitating a Get, or Jewish divorce.

The report also also aimed at bettering communications to tackle unresolved cases with agunot, or “chained” wives, who have been denied a religious divorce by ‘refusers’ and cannot re-marry.

At least 18 individuals were interviewed for the report, and in the executive summary documents now seen by Jewish News, its recommendations focus on good practice, governance and improved communications.

It also recommends that the LBD and US work together to decide the levels of sanctions able to be held against Get refusers as well as the maximum possible penalty.

Other recommendations include:

  • A formal complaints process established
  • A befriender should be offered and made available to all those giving or receiving a Get
  • A named friend should be allowed to attend in addition, if desired.

The London Beth Din has already implemented several recommendations, including the appointment of a part-time Get caseworker, the creation of an entirely separate LBD website and the reinstatement of its female ‘befriender’ system, which was necessarily curtailed during Covid. The US complaints procedure already applies to the Beth Din, but LBD is now addressing the recommendation of an independent complaints adjudicator.

Whilst the organisation admits criticisms of the Jewish divorce process were made by the interviewees, it says the overall experience was regarded as a positive one.

Begun in January 2022 and finalised in October 2022, the Review was undertaken by solicitor Sarah Anticoni and retired circuit judge Dawn Freedman. An All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Get Refusal was set up, on 21 May 2022.

Jewish News understands that the work to implement all the recommendations of the Review is ongoing.

A 2016 report by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research found that the Jewish divorce has risen from eight to 11 per cent over a decade, while one in six Jewish adults – 17 per cent – has been divorced; six out of 10 divorced Jews were women. Three-quarters of divorcees who had a Jewish wedding obtained a Get.

In 2021, as reported in Jewish News, Orthodox rabbis came under fire for rejecting a new law aimed at protecting “chained” women, whilst campaigners including Jewish Women’s Aid argued that refusing a religious divorce was “a form of domestic abuse.”

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