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The Maccabeats sing to promote ‘halachic prenups’ for Orthodox Jewish couples

Jewish pop music group The Maccabeats released a new short song about prenups. Screenshot from Facebook

NEW YORK (RNS) “The Maccabeats” are an endearing a cappella group of Orthodox Jewish guys that started at Yeshiva University in Manhattan a decade ago and became a YouTube sensation in 2010 with a fun, up-tempo Hanukkah-themed music video called “Candlelight” that covered the Taio Cruz hit, “Dynamite.”

“Agunot” is the Hebrew term for “chained women,” that is, women in the Orthodox Jewish community whose husbands refuse to allow them a divorce – as is permitted under a strict interpretation of Jewish law, or “halacha” – so that they can remarry.

Anger within the Jewish community over the status of the “agunot” has increased in recent years and became so intense that the Rabbinical Council of America, the main U.S. organization of Orthodox rabbis, last year mandated that its members require couples to sign a prenuptial agreement ensuring that husbands will not withhold a “get,” or Jewish writ of divorce, from their wives.

Now The Maccabeats are joining the fight against the “chained women” phenomenon by promoting what are often called “halachic prenups” with a 30-second, PSA-style video in their signature upbeat style.

The tune is to the 2016 hit by the band Train called “Play That Song,” but instead The Maccabeats sing, “Sign that form …”

“Sign that form,
Establishing healthy social norms,
As we make one of what was two,
That’s all you gotta do.”

The video was produced by GetSmartProject.org, an organization sponsored by Jewish Women International to educate Orthodox Jews about the abuse of the “get” and promote halachic prenuptial agreements.

According to an article in The Forward, advocates say a halachic prenup has worked in 100 percent of the cases they have followed over a 20 year period.

About the author

David Gibson

David Gibson is a national reporter for RNS and an award-winning religion journalist, author and filmmaker. He has written several books on Catholic topics. His latest book is on biblical artifacts: "Finding Jesus: Faith. Fact. Forgery," which was also the basis of a popular CNN series.

6 Comments

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  • This reinforces my perspective that people need to think long and carefully before entering into the sacrament of marriage. Among six siblings I am the only one never to divorce, having celebrated 31 years of marriage on May 3. My brothers’ wives divorced them, my sisters divorced their husbands. Marriage is never easy, but it’s not a throwaway process either. Personally, I think most people are merely selfish and childish, and our present culture drives that. This is not to say that spouses at risk have no recourse, but such cases are a lower percentage of overall divorce proceedings than simple “convenience.’

  • The problem isn’t necessarily religion, it’s the rigid and fundamental adherence to it that causes most problems these days. Christianity, Islam, Judaism or Hindus (killing cow-eating Muslims).

  • The refusal to grant a get is prima facie evidence that the spouse _is_ at risk.

  • I’m not so sure. It would depend on the basis of the refusal, wouldn’t it? The bible teaches that God hates divorce, well I’m right behind Him; there is small biblical sanction, as Jesus taught, for such an act. I once told my wife I didn’t care how bad it got (on an emotional level, for both of us), I would never seek nor grant a divorce, but under American law I presume that amounts to mere posturing. As an attorney you are naturally better versed than I to provide the answer, but haven’t we reached the point where the unwillingness of one spouse to grant a divorce holds no legal water? If so, the failure to obtain a get is not legally binding, and the woman in question could still obtain the divorce if she’s willing to face the opprobrium of her faith community. If my reasoning is flawed, please advise.

  • You are correct, under American law the unwillingness of one spouse to accede to the divorce does not bar the divorce, although a defendant in a divorce action can, like any other action, contest the proceedings. A woman in a Jewish marriage can file a secular divorce action whether her husband has granted a get or not. In fact, in the Mishnaic era women were permitted to petition the religious court to dissolve their marriage. Halacha [Jewish law] over the centuries determined this was impermissible. Still, as you also correctly state, the lack of a get only “chains” a woman if she cares about the consequences within the Jewish community.
    I use the term prima facie here with its American meaning: I’m sure there are circumstances where a get is refused for valid reasons. This does not include, in my view, petty recriminations, unreasonable requests concerning alimony, child support, visitation, custody etc. In your situation, your wife could seek a divorce without your consent, so it is not abusive of you to say you would never seek or “grant” one. It is not yours to grant.

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