Break The Chains
Detroiters join Ohio rally to support wife denied a religious divorce.
More than 80 demonstrators stood along Far Hills Avenue in Kettering, Ohio, a suburb of Dayton, as passing cars slowed to read their signs: “Eli Shur. Free Adina Now.”
The Nov. 8 rally drew supporters from Ohio and Michigan, including 19 from Metro Detroit. The demonstration was organized by the New York-based Organization for the Resolution of Agunot (ORA). Agunot is a halachic term for women whose husbands refuse to provide them with a get, a religious bill of divorce. Agunot means “chained” or “anchored” in Hebrew.
Rabbi Jeremy Stern, ORA executive director, said the rally is part of ORA’s increasing attempts to pressure Kettering resident Eli Shur, also known as Dovid Porat, to grant a get to his wife. Adina Porat lives with their five children in Israel.
The couple were married in Israel in 1990. According to ORA, in 2007, Shur left his wife and their five children; he moved to the United States a year later. He has refused to provide his wife with a get.
According to Halachah (Jewish law), which is central to Orthodox observance, a divorce isn’t final until a husband provides his wife with a get. Without one, the agunah is unable to remarry. In Israel, only religious marriages are performed.
“In my life, I’m stuck in a prison,” Adina Porat says in video made by ORA and shown on its www.freeadina.com website. “I can’t move on. I can’t continue. The kids never had a chance to have a stepfather, a new family and to continue on with their lives.”
Through ORA, she declined to be interviewed.
“My dad left, he abandoned us when I was 16 years old,” says 24-year-old daughter Rachel in the video. “But ever since I was 10 or 11, all he could speak about was the fact that he hated being a father, he hated being tied down by family, he hated the fact that the money he earned went to feeding his kids … ”
In agunot cases, it’s not unusual for husbands to attempt to extort wives and their families for money or property in exchange for a get. In Adina’s video, she says Shur hasn’t asked for anything.
“He told the children before he left the country, and he told various people [that] among all the years he has not given a get, the only reason he is not giving the get is for revenge,” Adina says in the video.
“He has never asked for anything in eight years.”
According to ORA, in 2009, the Israeli rabbinate ruled that Shur must give his wife a get.
“In Israel, they would have put him in jail; and that’s one of the reasons he fled,” Stern says in an Oct. 28 Dayton Jewish Observer story. “But America, thank God, has a separation of church and state, and that’s a very good thing, but the downside in this situation is that they’re unable to enforce Jewish law.”
In 2010, Shur arrived in Dayton to serve as ritual director of Beth Jacob Congregation. He had presented himself as a single man with no children, according to the Observer story.
Nearly six months later, the story said, volunteers with ORA showed up at one of Shur’s evening classes at the synagogue and urged him to sign a get for his wife. He refused. Soon afterward, Shur and the congregation parted ways.
Shur is the owner of Shur Wellbeing and works as a life, leadership, health and fitness coach.
Repeated attempts by the Observer newspaper to reach Shur have been unsuccessful.
Yonatan Klayman, ORA’s assistant director of advocacy and legal strategy, says ORA’s decision to hold a rally and promote it widely is a rare tactic in its agunot cases.
“This is the last resort for us,” he told the Observer. “Adina felt it was really about time to try to up the pressure.”
The demonstration was fervent but respectful. It included a march past the white brick home where Shur lives.
“We have very few options for what we can do,” says Stern, whose organization annually works on about 60 agunah cases and conducts about two dozen demonstrations. “This is what we can do: assert our First Amendment rights of freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and state factual information that he’s refusing to give his wife a get. It’s a form of domestic abuse. It’s shameful.”
Stern says one goal of the demonstration is shaming Shur and informing his neighbors in hope they will participate in pressuring Shur to grant the get.
Stern, Rabbi Howard Zack of Congregation Torat Emet in Columbus, Ohio (about 70 miles east), and Rabbi Yechiel Morris of Young Israel of Southfield approached the house during the demonstration.
“Our goal was to have him sign a document authorizing a beit din [rabbinical court] to draft a get on his behalf to deliver it to his wife,” Morris said in an email to his congregants after the demonstration in Dayton. “He did not answer the door.”
It is not clear to the demonstrators if Shur was, in fact, at home at the time.
Attendees had various motivations for participating. Morris organized a group of 19, mostly from YIS and Akiva Hebrew Day School in Southfield. Morris said Shur and his wife taught at Akiva in the late 1990s.
“Students who once looked up to him as a role model now see him acting this way,” Morris said. “We believe withholding this get is a form of domestic abuse.”
Menachem Roetter of Oak Park joined the trip to help all agunot — including his mother, he says, who has been waiting 13 years for her get.
“The agunot need to know we support them, otherwise they won’t have the courage to come out for help. As long as there are people like this,” he said of the demonstrators, “there’s hope.”
Education was an objective of the weekend, which began with teaching sessions at Torat Emet, a Modern Orthodox shul in Columbus. ORA conducted holy matrimony classes and endorsed the use of halachic prenuptial agreements to ensure the granting of a get if the marriage ends.
Aviad Tabory from the Israeli town Alon Shevut attended the demonstration to thank the attendees for their support of his sister, Adina. According to Morris, Tabory also assured them the family did not seek revenge nor wish Shur any harm.
“To see so many people come together and help one another, it’s a very old Jewish ideal that is alive today,” Tabory said.
Morris, in his email to congregants, said he believed the demonstration heightened awareness and increased pressure on Shur to give his wife a get. It also provided strength and comfort to Adina Porat. And through the experience, he also learned of the plight of Roetter’s mother.
Already he has spoken to several rabbis involved in the matter. “I hope to add new energy and a fresh perspective to help resolve this case,” he wrote.
“I hope this has educated all of us and our children that if and when a marriage must come to an end, a husband may never use the get as a tool for abuse, money and control,” Morris wrote in his email. “It is simply unacceptable. That message needs to be made clear.”
ORA’s Stern said that his organization is considering its next actions against Shur.
“There has been a lot going on behind the scenes and, due to the pressure of the rally, we have started to see important progress toward resolving the case,” he said. “We will continue to pressure Eli as effectively as possible until he finally gives Adina a get.”
By Michelle Tedford,Dayton Jewish Observer, Dayton Jewish Observer Editor Marshall Weiss and JN Story Development Editor Keri Guten Cohen contributed to this report.