May 14, 1999
The Rabbinical Council of America will announce at its forthcoming annual convention the formation of a special Agunah Task Force which will work with rabbis, roshei yeshiva, legal thinkers, judges and community leaders to contend with the problems of the agunah. The Task Force will aim to coordinate international efforts on behalf of agunahs, function as a clearinghouse in providing information and services, and study individual cases.
“The time has come for such an undertaking,” announced the president of the RCA, Rabbi Jacob S. Rubenstein. “ I don't think the public is aware of the degree to which the RCA, together with the Beth Din of America, has been dealing with the problem of agunahs for years and has resolved numerous cases. However, it is a volatile issue. It is charged with emotion and angst, and it behooves us to respond in a formidable and forceful approach to eliminate the confusion and misinformation surrounding the issue. We cannot abdicate our responsibility to the public or surrender the process to ad hoc, unofficial courts or spokesmen, operating without authority or international halakhic affirmation. We must create a process of forming a broad Halakhic consensus and a uniform legal procedure for alleviating the problems of agunahs. The holiness of marriage, the legitimacy of divorce and the sanctity of the Jewish family are at stake.”
“I believe we must benefit from the best minds in dealing with agunahs and giving the public a clear message of our efforts and services. In coordinating efforts, the RCA Agunah Task Force will collaborate with members of a variety of organizations, who will bring their respective expertise to bear.
The RCA, which represents over eleven hundred rabbis in North America and the international scene, is an appropriate body for such an industrious undertaking. It behooves the rabbinate, which is responsible for setting the halahkic standards of marriage and divorce, and whose rabbis guide the public in matters of marriage and divorce, to take the lead in addressing problems,” said Rabbi Rubenstein.
Among the items to be discussed are: establishing halahkic consensus on agunah issues and annulments, creating a uniform procedure for alleviating the problem of the agunah, working with international Batei Din and authorities in establishing standards with halahkic unanimity and the coordination of services, orienting the rabbinate to the problems resulting from divorce litigation, formalizing institutional and communal commitment to the use of the Prenuptial Agreement, formulating procedures for harnessing community pressure and influence in addressing recalcitrant spouses, and the education of the public on facts and services.