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October 10, 2013 11:50 AM   Subscribe

"In a bizarre case involving threats of kidnapping, beatings and physical torture — including the use of an electric cattle prod— two rabbis were charged in New Jersey on Wednesday in a scheme to force men to grant their wives religious divorces."

According to Jewish law, a marriage can only be dissolved by the husband via a document called a get, regardless of the civil legal status of the marriage. Without a get, women may wind up functionally divorced, but unable to officially remarry.
posted by showbiz_liz (131 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
There's a memorable scene in For the Relief of Unbearable Urges that makes this story easier to believe.
posted by gwint at 11:59 AM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm interested to read this. I was not aware of the get. Admittedly, Judaism is a bit of a hole in my religious knowledge database.
posted by Twain Device at 12:01 PM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Tony Soprano got it done.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 12:04 PM on October 10, 2013 [8 favorites]


"Jewish Divorce Shakedown" is the name of my new progressive jam band. Look for us on tour in '14!
posted by nevercalm at 12:04 PM on October 10, 2013 [15 favorites]


To paraphrase Chris Rock 'Now I'm not suggesting that you kidnap, beat, or torture your husband to 'grant' you a divorce, but...I understand.'
posted by sfts2 at 12:09 PM on October 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


The whole idea of keeping the get away from the woman is to force her to give up her share of assets. As if haredi culture wasn't sexist enough, and now these idiots are charging women to rough up their husbands because the wives have no other course of action.
posted by Sophie1 at 12:09 PM on October 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


Back in the 90s I had some business in downtown Brooklyn. When I was done with that errand, I was walking along Court Street where I happened upon a small demonstration in front of the courthouse. The group consisted of a woman along with three, maybe four kids in traditional Orthodox gear, holding picket signs aloft and chanting "Larry so-and-so, Give A Get!."
posted by jason's_planet at 12:11 PM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


"But I thought I was auditioning for The Amish Mafia..."
posted by Behemoth at 12:12 PM on October 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is a problem specifically in Orthodox communities. And women can sue for divorce (beth din), and do; a relatively small percentage of men refuse to comply with the rabbinical court decree, leaving their wives in these impossible positions.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:12 PM on October 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


I was not aware of the get.

A Serious Man helped me with that, or at least gave me the perspective of two particular Jewish writer/directors on the get.
posted by Going To Maine at 12:13 PM on October 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


So, misogynistic asshats on one side, extortionary mob tactics on the other, with women who just want to get a divorce stuck in the middle?
posted by kmz at 12:14 PM on October 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's weird to me that you could simultaneously believe that this procedure is the only religiously acceptable way to get a divorce, and that God is fine with you beating it out of him if necessary.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 12:14 PM on October 10, 2013 [32 favorites]


Tony Soprano got it done.

beat me to it
posted by echocollate at 12:21 PM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, misogynistic asshats on one side, extortionary mob tactics on the other, with women who just want to get a divorce stuck in the middle?

Not really, no. Women who "just want to get a divorce" can just get a civil divorce like everyone else. If you are a committed orthodox Jew and you specifically insisit upon a get, this situation can arise.

And it's worth mentioning that under rabbinical law, a husband cannot divorce his wife without her consent, either.

More background on religious divorce here.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:22 PM on October 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Women who "just want to get a divorce" can just get a civil divorce like everyone else. If you are a committed orthodox Jew and you specifically insisit upon a get, this situation can arise.

I don't think this is very fair to the women in question. Their faith says that if they remarry without a get, they're committing adultery and their children are bastards.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:27 PM on October 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


Their faith says that if they remarry without a get, they're committing adultery and their children are bastards.

Which leads naturally to the question of why one would choose to believe in something that is actively hurting them, something I've never been able to understand.
posted by 1adam12 at 12:30 PM on October 10, 2013 [8 favorites]


Yeah, in orthodox communities you live with it or get ostracized. There is no acceptance of a "legal only" divorce.
posted by cmfletcher at 12:31 PM on October 10, 2013


I'm sure it's because I grew up close to this, but the paradox isn't weird to me at all.

Men who refused to grant their wives gittin (the plural) are some of the most reviled in the orthodox Jewish community. And no, it isn't always to make the wife give up her share of assets: civil divorces are often far in the past by the time it comes to these coercion methods. The withholding is often done out of pure spite, malicious hatred of a former lover. It's no skin off of the husband's back, and it ensures that his ex-wife can never marry again. Especially for men who have since left the community (since no community would tolerate someone doing this), it is a way to maintain control over their ex wives.

Obviously these guys are thugs and this shouldn't be allowed. But they are responding to a heartbreaking act of cruelty as well, and they probably have no mercy for their targets. Also, the "God is fine with you beating it out of him" framing of it is too simplified. It's a difficult situation and these guys think that its acceptable to resort to violence to resolve it.

The funny part is that the get must be given willingly. So you can't torture someone until they give a get. You have to beat him until he says "I desire to give my wife a get." heh.

In terms of how this situation can ever change: common among my "modern orthodox" friends is the rabbinic prenup, which is a legal document (not religious) that the groom signs at or before the wedding, and which says that for each day he refuses to provide a get that his wife wants, he will have to pay $LARGE_AMOUNT. This basically means that if the marriage goes south and he wants to spite his wife by withholding a get, it will be financially impossible for him to do so, enforceable by the civil courts.
posted by So You're Saying These Are Pants? at 12:32 PM on October 10, 2013 [37 favorites]


Why does it seem to me that continuing to live with a woman willing to pay $60,000 to have your ass kicked would be more torture that the actual torture?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:34 PM on October 10, 2013


A get is serious business. A Congressional aide once refused to grant his wife one, so his boss was deluged with thousands of messages and petition signatures on the issue.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 12:35 PM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hah, they don't live together at this point. They are 100% civilly divorced, just the religious marriage is still valid.
posted by So You're Saying These Are Pants? at 12:35 PM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


"So, misogynistic asshats on one side, extortionary mob tactics on the other, with women who just want to get a divorce stuck in the middle?

Not really, no. Women who "just want to get a divorce" can just get a civil divorce like everyone else."


Actually, no. Or no to Darling Bri and yes to kmz. Not that I'm a fan of the haredim AT ALL, but if you have lived your life as a haredi woman, you MUST have a get or you are considered a "chained woman". The idea that you must leave the life you have, and your family has always led (which, BTW can lead to all kinds of other hell including losing your children and being shunned) or stay with the husband or pay an extortionist or lose all of your financial stability without having any skills or usually no more than a middle school education without barely a note of secular curriculum, especially in a girls school.
posted by Sophie1 at 12:35 PM on October 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


gittin (the plural)

Gittin? You sure this isn't somewhere in south Georgia?
posted by dudemanlives at 12:37 PM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


women who just want to get a divorce stuck in the middle

It looks like the women involved here had some agency in that they chose to hire the cattle prod-wielding rabbi team.

Maybe I am misreading the fine link or what the undercover agents uncovered, but I don't see how one can ascribe victimhood to people who appear to have hired thugs to violently compel others' behaviors.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:38 PM on October 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also This
posted by dudemanlives at 12:39 PM on October 10, 2013


Which leads naturally to the question of why one would choose to believe in something that is actively hurting them, something I've never been able to understand.

Religion is very, very real to some people. My friend is Orthodox, and a few months ago he spent many, many hours arguing with a major hotel chain about the quality of their kosher food (they had either lost or didn't care about his request and gave him a kosher frozen dinner, which pissed him off). He prays three times a day, often complaining about how inconvenient it is, but he'd never give it up.

A few years ago, there was a musician in the BSO (or some other major, major symphony orchestra) giving up his one-in-a-million job to ... follow the Lord, and spread the Gospel.

It's something that many folks here totally don't get, myself included. But it's real.
posted by Melismata at 12:40 PM on October 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


but I don't see how one can ascribe victimhood to people who appear to have hired thugs to violently compel others' behaviors.

Because when you are in a completely helpless position and can't see a way out for you and your 4 children, you do whatever is necessary.
posted by Sophie1 at 12:46 PM on October 10, 2013 [12 favorites]


The funny part is that the get must be given willingly. So you can't torture someone until they give a get. You have to beat him until he says "I desire to give my wife a get." heh.

This... this is mind boggling. Rules lawyering begets [pun intended] rules lawyering begets rules lawyering.
posted by RolandOfEld at 12:50 PM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm reminded of Mayor Curley's typically sensitive, nuanced take on a similar rules-lawyering issue a while back.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:54 PM on October 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


completely helpless position

Unlike places like, say, Afghanistan, where women are mostly well and truly helpless, the United States offers a lot of civil and religious freedoms to women.

It's not 100% perfect, granted, but there is a well-defined and generally well-enforced legal structure in place (custody laws, child support payments, etc.) that aims to help protect the civil rights of divorced women and their children in ways that are not currently possible in Afghanistan-like societies.

While it might be necessary to hire goons to protect yourself if you are a woman in an Afghanistan-like situation, I'm just not convinced that violence is the first, last and only recourse available to divorcees in the United States.

If the former husband is not paying child support and not honoring visitation rights and the legal system is not defending the wife's civil rights, then I could see that as being a mitigating factor in hiring thugs. But that doesn't seem to be the case, here.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:02 PM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


There are multiple ways for religion to dominate your life, and multiple reasons.

The community one - where you've lived entirely with a strong rule system and only have strong social and family ties with others like you - is astonishingly powerful. The benefits of it are manifold: you _know_ what to do, there are very reliable support structures for most of life's happenings, there is ritual and pattern and achievable expectation. A long-lived, strongly-ruled religion will sort out your hierarchy of needs very well, and if you are suited for it you can be very happy and fulfilled. (Heaven help you if you are not suited for it: you will be miserable and empty... but the alternative life will require a huge sacrifice and has no guarantees).

That way of thinking does not fit well with Western individualism and notions - even social expectations - of personal freedom and choice. But it is a way of life, and it can be extremely durable over millennia in ways that the post-Reformation enlightenment has yet to demonstrate.

Another way is that you can get it into your head that God has called you to change to a new way of life, and suddenly things make sense that never did before. I don't know incidence or cultural determinants for such a decision, but you'll find a sprinkling of off-menu mystics all over the shop, and monastic communities culled from many individuals who just find the concept palatable. "They are broken people," said one priest of my acquaintance who worked in such a community, "but we all are broken in some way."

These are not concepts I find harder to understand than many of the others exhibited by the curious roiling mass of humanity, and in different places and different times I too would be susceptible. But dear lord, am I glad I've never had to dabble in thuggery.
posted by Devonian at 1:03 PM on October 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


So, misogynistic asshats on one side, extortionary mob tactics on the other, with women who just want to get a divorce stuck in the middle?

Don't forget the glue that binds them all - religion.

מזל טוב
posted by rough ashlar at 1:07 PM on October 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Blazecock Pileon, this is not about the woman's legal standing as a citizen. It's about her standing in her religious community. The spouses withholding a religious divorce are just doing it out of spite, so that their ex-spouses' lives will be miserable and they will be isolated within their chosen community.

Not that thuggery is ever the answer.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:07 PM on October 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


OK, let's put this into a hypothetical (that happens WAY too often):

You are a haredi woman, who has haredi parents and grandparents. You don't have relatives outside of the community. You know of no other way of life. You lived and went to school in New Square or Kiryat Joel and you have never - never, left the gates of that city. You got married at 17 to a man you had only met once and prior to that you have never touched a man other than your father, and you haven't done that since you were 10 or 11. You have never touched your older brothers. You went to school but only learned in Yiddish, you speak incredibly broken English.

You have seen non-haredi Jews, but all you know about them is that they are obsessed with sex and they all do cocaine and smoke weed (I'm not kidding here). You have seen a few women leave New Square but they are never spoken of again and their families have been considered pariahs ever since they left because there must be a sin in the family line to have someone leave the fold. The siblings, especially the girls, find it nearly impossible to get married.

Now you are divorcing the only adult male you have ever touched. You have 4 kids. You do not know anyone outside the community, much less a police officer or a lawyer. The rabbi is on your husband's side, and besides, he won't take a meeting with you because you are a woman.

What would you do? Seriously.
posted by Sophie1 at 1:14 PM on October 10, 2013 [56 favorites]


Hollywood Upstairs Medical College: "A get is serious business. A Congressional aide once refused to grant his wife one, so his boss was deluged with thousands of messages and petition signatures on the issue."

Huh. Apparently this man had a "Declaration of Contempt" where the nature of his sin is outlined -- analogous to not showing up in a civil court -- and then the woman involved "is hereby granted permission to take whatever appropriate steps are necessary to extricate herself from the chains of this agunah status."

It's interesting to note that the Council (Beth Din?) does not have the power (or does not invoke the power) to religiously nullify the marriage, but requires the man to come to that decision on his own terms. I suppose once you have an extralegal marriage, having extralegal means to nullify it aren't so unusual in a conceptual sense.
posted by boo_radley at 1:14 PM on October 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I first read this as Rabbits, not Rabbis, and my brain went here.
posted by furnace.heart at 1:17 PM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


And at least as of July this year, Friedman still hadn't grant the get. What an asshole.
posted by rtha at 1:19 PM on October 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


In Kiryat Joel, 6.2% of village residents spoke English at home and in New Square In 2005 the community's rabbinical court ruled that women should not operate cars.

Helpless indeed.
posted by Sophie1 at 1:24 PM on October 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


You do not know anyone outside the community, much less a police officer or a lawyer.

If you know people who torture others to make a living, you know there are people who chase them down for a living, too. You have agency to choose between the two options.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:27 PM on October 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Fitting and funny, or sardonic at least, that my reading up on Sophie1's link to the wiki article on New Square led me to this quote, regarding arsons to compel residents to comply with this or that requirement,

The rebbe has denounced this practice, saying, "The use of force and violence to make a point or settle an argument violates Skver’s most fundamental principles."
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:28 PM on October 10, 2013


Yeah, read Failed Messiah.com and you'll learn about the scary, scary shit that goes on in New Square and Kiryas Joel. And East Ramapo, too. Amazing what they have gotten away with.
posted by Melismata at 1:30 PM on October 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Ha RolandofEld, the venerable rabbi made that statement in response to a man having his children thrown out of school and his house being burned down by the rabbi's personal secretary for attending a shul in another town. He also wasn't allowed to sell his house and leave the town due to mob threats.
posted by Sophie1 at 1:31 PM on October 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Blazecock - they aren't allowed to have phones or computers. If the woman next door tells you about the rebbe's thug who will take care of things, at least you know things will get taken care of. With the gentile police, who knows what will happen, and again, you'll be outcast. I know it's great to say that she has agency, and at the deepest heart of it, she does; but she doesn't really know it. And using it could be life-threatening.
posted by Sophie1 at 1:35 PM on October 10, 2013 [14 favorites]


If the woman next door tells you about the rebbe's thug who will take care of things, at least you know things will get taken care of. With the gentile police, who knows what will happen

This is the logic of every self-appointed vigilante and it is no more compelling in this context than in any other.
posted by enn at 1:45 PM on October 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


And at least as of July this year, Friedman still hadn't grant the get. What an asshole.

Christ, what an asshole.
posted by Melismata at 1:45 PM on October 10, 2013 [6 favorites]


Out of curiosity, while I can understand the abhorrence of everyone castigating these women for resorting to hired violence, I am curious... what, concretely, would you have them do? Or is the answer "Nothing, suck it up and live with it"?
posted by DarlingBri at 1:49 PM on October 10, 2013 [8 favorites]


enn: "This is the logic of every self-appointed vigilante and it is no more compelling in this context than in any other."

Wikipedia's article on Agunah is fascinating here: "Practically, one of the most effective of these has turned out to be revoking a recalcitrant husband's driver's license. Even so, neither the laws nor the Israeli Rabbinical Courts' enforcement, or lack thereof, have succeeded in erasing the blight of get refusal within Israeli society. In the Diaspora, the Rabbinical Courts have no such powers."

Aside from getting somebody to travel to Israel and stand in front of a Rabbinical Court, I'm not sure there's a good way to reconcile the civic with the religious.
posted by boo_radley at 1:50 PM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


While it might be necessary to hire goons to protect yourself if you are a woman in an Afghanistan-like situation, I'm just not convinced that violence is the first, last and only recourse available to divorcees in the United States.

Not all women in America are equally privileged, no matter what the law may happen to say. Yes, these women are 'free'- to either live the rest of their lives alone, unable even to date, or be expelled from their families and communities, with their middle-school educations and limited grasp of the English language.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:56 PM on October 10, 2013 [11 favorites]


DarlingBri: Out of curiosity, while I can understand the abhorrence of everyone castigating these women for resorting to hired violence, I am curious... what, concretely, would you have them do? Or is the answer "Nothing, suck it up and live with it"?

It really raises the question of whether communities like this should be allowed to totally isolate children and create cultivated helplessness like this.
posted by Mitrovarr at 2:01 PM on October 10, 2013 [8 favorites]


Not all women in America are equally privileged

Especially when you consider that some (many?) of these women grew up in the US in name only. From their cultural standpoint, they might as well have emigrated from a country where all law enforcement is corrupt. They barely speak English, and have almost no formal education. Having agency but not knowing you have it - or what it might entail - means you might as well not have it. It's easy enough to say "They should just..." The reality is they feel they can't, which means they actually can't. Other solutions besides "They should just..." are needed, and will almost certainly have to spring from within the community to be most effective.
posted by rtha at 2:06 PM on October 10, 2013 [10 favorites]


DarlingBri: Out of curiosity, while I can understand the abhorrence of everyone castigating these women for resorting to hired violence, I am curious... what, concretely, would you have them do? Or is the answer "Nothing, suck it up and live with it"?

Even better, it's not just suck it up. It's suck it up and rely on the charity of the community to feed, shelter, and clothe your 4 kids. When what you want to do, say, is remarry to a provider who you like and trust and who's good with your kids.

Sometimes what seems like perverse behavior is actually a rational response to a messed-up situation.
posted by sebastienbailard at 2:08 PM on October 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


There is actually significant precedent for this. Maimonides wrote that in a case where a woman is considered to have a right to a divorce, and the husband refuses to grant it, "he can be beaten until he says ‘I agree.’" (This relies on some kind of interesting, and very typically Maimodidean, logic about how every person's true will is to do the right thing.)
posted by ostro at 2:12 PM on October 10, 2013 [9 favorites]


So rtha is the solution then not "they should just x" but we should break up these communities so that there is no more question of isolation and cultural hegemony?

Not trying to snark, genuinely curious as it seems there isn't really much of an answer otherwise.
posted by Carillon at 2:14 PM on October 10, 2013


My parents, who are Jewish but not Orthodox, divorced when I was very small. My father fled to Israel, where he was given citizenship.

Because my mother was kinder than she was obligated to be, she took me there to visit him when I was in elementary school. Believing that he would not harm me, she allowed him to have several visits with me in the time we were there. One of those visits included my father taking me to law enforcement to alert them that because he and my mother did not have a get, they were still married and her plans to leave Israel with me were tantamount to kidnapping.

It turned out okay in the end, but in talking to her now as adults, I understand that had my mother not had evidence of what a shit he was - no child support, manipulation of other family members, plans shared with other family that he planned to keep me in Israel to punish her - I would very likely have been kept in Israel with him. My mother would have been too poor to mount an international custody battle. The thought of her having to leave Ben Gurion airport alone on that day, two tickets in hand, still brings me to tears just thinking about it.

The get system is absolute bullshit. It is built to allow men to control their wives, full stop, and mount emotional, financial, and sometimes physical abuse campaigns that cannot be rebuked. I may not agree with the above rabbi's techniques, and two wrongs don't make a right, but I'll be damned if I don't completely understand the power dynamic.
posted by juniperesque at 2:21 PM on October 10, 2013 [44 favorites]


That's not my solution, no.

I don't know exactly what the best solution would be, as I'm far from an expert in haredim communities. Someone with a background (and on-the-ground experience) with long-term international aid projects would probably have more of a clue than I.
posted by rtha at 2:21 PM on October 10, 2013


Man, when the US kidnaps and tortures folks there isn't much sympathy for the actions.... No one says "well, what do you expect the US to do, they really were forced into it".
posted by el io at 2:24 PM on October 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm reminded of Mayor Curley's typically sensitive, nuanced take on a similar rules-lawyering issue a while back.

I think that observation is absolutely nuanced-- if there's an omnipotent God, you can't trick him. If there's an omnipotent God, he's not constrained by language so you can't pull that "uh-uh, technically you said this," bullshit. Anyone who plays to that-- be they a divorce enforcer, a rabbi who takes 10,000 bucks to overlook, or a woman who pays to coerce a divorce-- is a cynical atheist. If they believed in God, they wouldn't think that they could outsmart Him.

I think God's bullshit too, but I'm honest about it.
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:25 PM on October 10, 2013 [10 favorites]


The reality is they feel they can't, which means they actually can't.

No, it means they won't, which is different. Sometimes all you have is bad choices, and all you get to do is choose.

Other solutions besides "They should just..." are needed, and will almost certainly have to spring from within the community to be most effective

Seconded.
posted by Diablevert at 2:32 PM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


It really raises the question of whether communities like this should be allowed to totally isolate children and create cultivated helplessness like this.

I can never read comments like this without noting that we rarely see anyone advocating taking down the Amish.

We allow wide scope for freedom of religious practice in the US. Not everyone likes how others practice their religions. Sometimes those practices are isolationist and protectionist. That's part of what happens when you declare yourselves to be one nation under God, with "no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Sometimes, it's not going to roll out in way that the majority approves of.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:33 PM on October 10, 2013 [6 favorites]


Serious question: How is a Jewish get different than a Catholic anulment as regards the religious body acknowledging that the marriage no longer exists? as regards the ability to remarry in the religious community/church?
posted by SLC Mom at 2:37 PM on October 10, 2013


I think that observation is absolutely nuanced-- if there's an omnipotent God, you can't trick him. If there's an omnipotent God, he's not constrained by language so you can't pull that "uh-uh, technically you said this," bullshit. Anyone who plays to that-- be they a divorce enforcer, a rabbi who takes 10,000 bucks to overlook, or a woman who pays to coerce a divorce-- is a cynical atheist. If they believed in God, they wouldn't think that they could outsmart Him.

Deceive, no. But every law has a spirit and a letter; every absolute proscription will encounter ambiguous dilemmas. Musts collide in unexpected ways, and one is forced to declare one greater than another. This is why fundamentalism of any kind is bullshit, but. If by law the man must yield and he refuses, he is in the wrong. Therefore is not compulsion in the right? Which must is greater here, to do no harm or to obey the will of God?

TL;DR: all theology is rules-lawyering
posted by Diablevert at 2:40 PM on October 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


Serious question: How is a Jewish get different than a Catholic anulment as regards the religious body acknowledging that the marriage no longer exists? as regards the ability to remarry in the religious community/church?

Don't know about Judaism, but a Catholic annulment is ruling not that you are no longer married in the eyes of the Church but that you never were married in the eyes of the Church, that there was some secret fatal flaw that prevented it from counting in the first place. This flaw is not infrequently a convenient fiction, but nevertheless that's the RCC take. When you're married you're married till death do you part; the only way to get out of it with a clean slate vis-a-vis the Church is for the marriage not to count on a technicality. The ball went in the basket but you were standing out of bounds.
posted by Diablevert at 2:47 PM on October 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


So then DarlingBri should be be accepting of the outcome here minus the kidnapping? Is it ok that their options are essentially to physically threaten or injure people? I'm not sure that I'm comfortable acceptiong that that answer, though on the other hand the alternative isn't great either.
posted by Carillon at 2:52 PM on October 10, 2013


DarlingBri: I can never read comments like this without noting that we rarely see anyone advocating taking down the Amish.

We allow wide scope for freedom of religious practice in the US. Not everyone likes how others practice their religions. Sometimes those practices are isolationist and protectionist. That's part of what happens when you declare yourselves to be one nation under God, with "no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Sometimes, it's not going to roll out in way that the majority approves of.


There are limits to what you can do in the name of your religion in the US. Generally, you are not allowed to violate state and federal law. It's not inconceivable that you might be able to at least reduce the isolation and helplessness fostered in this example by more rigorous laws regarding education, for instance, or perhaps by including requirements for socialization within the laws for child neglect. If they are not made to specifically persecute any one religion, they might pass first amendment challenges.
posted by Mitrovarr at 3:06 PM on October 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


The complicated history of marriage as a joint production between church and state makes this more than just a cut-and-dried argument over religious freedom. We obviously can't take away religious groups' preference toward insularity and exclusion of outsiders in their communities, but when the religious hierarchy is effectively holding one party in a marriage hostage, and that decision is made on the basis of gender, then I feel like the state has a compelling interest in making sure that's not allowed, or at the very least, not endorsed by the state that sanctions the civil marriage.

I'm not saying there is anything in our current legal framework that would allow for this kind of intervention by the state, and certainly any such mechanism would have its own problems of selective enforcement against certain religious groups and not others, etc. But, at some point, if your religious practices are incompatible with the basic freedoms we guarantee under the constitution, I don't think you just get to cry "religious freedom" and be done with it.

This kind of reminds me of the brouhaha over sex-segregated buses in Brooklyn a couple years ago -- what ever happened to those?
posted by tonycpsu at 3:12 PM on October 10, 2013


Can I just ask about immigrants and citizenship. People have to take instruction and swear an oath in order to become naturalised. Presumably both the Haredim and the Amish communities arrived as immigrants and had to go through that process - what about the women? Didn't they have to take the oath etc? And is that the one occasion, in general, when nationality is affirmed? Genuinely curious as to how children can go through a - mandatory? - school system that confirms their isolation.
posted by glasseyes at 3:14 PM on October 10, 2013


Most of them were born here. They're already citizens.
posted by rtha at 3:23 PM on October 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


God forbid anywhere here finds themselves in an extraordinary situation taking extraordinary measures or be completely shunned from everyone and every thing they ever knew. It really doesn't help anyone to sit back at a comfortable distance and judge the actions of an already oppressed person trying to become less oppressed. You don't want to get beat up? Don't functionally end your ex's ability to have a happy life. It's not like these guys were innocent.
posted by bleep at 3:29 PM on October 10, 2013 [6 favorites]


. Presumably both the Haredim and the Amish communities arrived as immigrants and had to go through that process

The Haredi communities have been here for up to hundreds of years. American as apple pie.
posted by griphus at 3:30 PM on October 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


Silly Rabbis, kicks aren't for gets!
posted by chavenet at 3:31 PM on October 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


A hundred. Not hundreds. Sorry.
posted by griphus at 3:32 PM on October 10, 2013


Genuinely curious as to how children can go through a - mandatory? - school system that confirms their isolation.

Oh, and as to this: The kids aren't going to public schools. They go to private religious schools.
posted by rtha at 3:39 PM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's another religious-conceptual piece of the coercing of women NOT to do anything, not to leave their haredi US communities, no matter how severe the familial or communal abuse: Mesira, or informing to secular authorities.
The penalty for mesira, under Jewish law, is shunning, confiscation of property, or death. As mentioned above, the get/Jewish divorce-denied women are all ready endangering their *extended* family's social reputation, religious standing, in-community networked livelihoods, and educational and marriage prospects. The get-denying men rarely face the same pressures, or not the same degree; many are assisted in moving to another community to re-marry and join another synagogue. Most agunot might as well have a scarlet ayin (Hebrew letter) sewn to their clothes, before and after their divorce.
There is a strong movement to require the Lieberman Clause, an additional section in the traditional Aramaic contract that is a part of every kosher Jewish marriage. Ultra-orthodox rabbis generally refuse such modifications to ketubbot (plural of kettubah), and the clause cannot be added retroactively.
Oddly, this situation is a factor in why same-sex marriage between women is problematic under Jewish law - two people, neither of whom has standing in a Bet Din/Jewish law court, and neither of whom can initiate divorce! Male-male unions have quite different issues.
posted by Dreidl at 3:39 PM on October 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yeah, while acknowledging the litany of factors constraining the individual actors in this system, it's hard to accept something like "Yeah, that community over there occasionally needs to resort to violence to deal with some legal peculiarities, but that's really the only way."
posted by kiltedtaco at 3:40 PM on October 10, 2013


I think that observation is absolutely nuanced-- if there's an omnipotent God, you can't trick him. If there's an omnipotent God, he's not constrained by language so you can't pull that "uh-uh, technically you said this," bullshit. Anyone who plays to that-- be they a divorce enforcer, a rabbi who takes 10,000 bucks to overlook, or a woman who pays to coerce a divorce-- is a cynical atheist. If they believed in God, they wouldn't think that they could outsmart Him.
Sure, but your premise is flawed re Judaism. I appreciate and respect the logic, but you're missing the cultural conext/worldview. This notion that one is "tricking" an omnipotent God just isn't the orientation. Rabbinic Jews [so, not Karaites, I guess. And not secular humanist Jews. But all strains of Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist movements] are predicated on the notion that the Torah is the Torah, and now it's ours to interpret. Whether the written and oral torahs were handed down by God on Mt Sinai, whether divinely inspired, or just some really smart guys, this idea of interpretation being the people's on earth is universal.
There's a famous midrash [an explanatory/expanding story] in the Babylonian Talmud [Bava Metzia 59b] that explains how "the torah is not in heaven":
Essentially, a whole bunch of rabbis are arguing about something (an oven). One rabbi thinks one way, everyone else thinks another. The one rabbi (Eliezer) says that if he is correct, a tree will move. And it does. he says, if he is correct, then a river will reverse direction. And it does. etc, etc. Then Rav Eliezer says, if he is correct, God will say so. And a voice from heaven says that it agrees with Eliezer.
The rest of the rabbis don't care.
" R. Joshua stood up and protested: "The Torah is not in heaven!" (Deut. 30:12). We pay no attention to a divine voice because long ago at Mount Sinai You wrote in your Torah at Mount Sinai, `After the majority must one incline'. (Ex. 23:2)"

R. Nathan met [the prophet] Elijah and asked him, "What did the Holy One do at that moment?" Elijah: "He laughed [with joy], saying, 'My children have defeated Me, My children have defeated Me.'"
posted by atomicstone at 4:00 PM on October 10, 2013 [9 favorites]


The Haredi communities have been here for up to hundreds of years. American as apple pie.

I really wasn't insinuating anything, if that's how you read my question. It's just that surely most American communities went through the famous process at Ellis Island, and had to swear an oath, didn't they? Or have I misunderstood and that's a more recent thing than I thought? Because I had the impression that's was a major part of assuming the new identity 'American'. And I was wondering, in communities where women are socially very constrained, whether that had any effect on them, or their communities, or presented difficulties at entry.
posted by glasseyes at 4:00 PM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Another thing - a kosher, contracted-with-ketubbah Jewish marriage can be annulled by a Bet Din/rabbinical court. It is very, very rare; part of the issue is Judaism isn't centralized in any way, unlike many churches or Islamic paths. If one disagrees with the ruling of a Bet Din, it's possible to escape the judgement by moving sufficiently far away (often in another state/province or country). In cases of marriage law violations, this is usually from a developed nation to Israel, which has its own state-sponsored Orthodox rabbinical courts claiming to supersede diaspora Bet Dinim.
Nowadays, an Orthodox annulment takes the signatures of 100 rabbis of the agunah's particular flavor of Judaism. Given the tight social interconnections within each sect, and the reluctance of any rabbi to disparage a colleague's decisions, the 100 signatures are nearly impossible to fulfill. Frankly (and illegally under Halakhah/Jewish law), many rabbis demand a fee for their signature, just as the rabbis in the OP extorted the agunot for their violent "services". I'd imagine a annulment would run over $500k; most Haredi Jews are very poor, so this isn't a practical large-scale solution.
posted by Dreidl at 4:00 PM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's just that surely most American communities went through the famous process at Ellis Island, and had to swear an oath, didn't they? Or have I misunderstood and that's a more recent thing than I thought?

Most African-American, Hispanic and Asian-American communities in the United States didn't come through Ellis Island.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 4:17 PM on October 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's just that surely most American communities went through the famous process at Ellis Island, and had to swear an oath, didn't they?

But what does this have to do with the people we are talking about right now, who were born here?

FWIW, the Czech side of my family (they did not come through Ellis Island) arrived at the end of the 19th century and mostly became citizens, and the older generation mostly spent their time in Czech-speaking communities. They shopped, worked, worshipped, and business-owned in Czech. This was not, and is not, unusual in immigrant communities here. Even today.
posted by rtha at 4:20 PM on October 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I really wasn't insinuating anything, if that's how you read my question.

And I should probably wait to get home to write comments instead of shooting them off in the back of a hot, cramped bus so excuse my tone if it was shitty.

The Ellis Island experience for European immigrants is roughly the opposite of today's refined, pokey bureacracy. You had thousands upon thousands of people -- the proverbial huddled masses -- piling off boats with all their possessions in hand. If there were translators, they weren't plentiful. You showed up, they made sure you didn't visibly have typhus, transcribed your name phonetically into a book and NEXT REFUGEE. The main point was to process the people, weed out the dangerously ill, and get everyone off the island because the next day another boat with thousands of refugees was coming in. There were no civics lessons, no one spoke English, and with Jews, many did not speak the language of the country they came from. There wasn't as much the assuming of an American identity as "holy shit we're out of the pogroms let's all go move in with Uncle Yehoshua in his tenement if it hasn't burned down yet."
posted by griphus at 4:20 PM on October 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


About 20 years ago, writer Faye Kellerman (who is an Orthodox Jew) wrote a mystery novel in which problems with a get in a New York community is a significant plot point. In the novel it's suggested almost in passing that violence and other types of coercion could be used to "persuade" uncooperative husbands. I guess if mainstream fiction was referencing this phenomenon almost two decades ago, U.S. law enforcement might be arriving late to the party.
posted by fuse theorem at 4:31 PM on October 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


There's a memorable scene in For the Relief of Unbearable Urges that makes this story easier to believe.

That’s my source of information. Really interesting book.
posted by bongo_x at 4:45 PM on October 10, 2013


Point taken. I should have specified, immigrants from Europe.

I'm just thinking about nation building. From a European point of view - not that I'm entirely European - American sense of national identity and associated patriotism seems a pronounced cultural phenomenon. Also, I know recent immigrants to America and for them acculturation, acquiring a sense of being American, was officially promoted if not somewhat enforced.

So I had no idea Haredi women, for instance, might not speak English. While there are Hasidic communities in London with some older native Yiddish speakers, I don't think the language situation is at all the same. There's a paradox in the US situation: communities being able to conserve their insularity in just about the most technically advanced, culturally diverse nation there is. Then again, I think there's something about immigrant communities sometimes becoming more conservative and embattled due to being uprooted - an observation that has been made about some UK immigrant communities.

But it this is a derail from the topic of gets so I'll stop there. It was info that was new to me so I asked a question.
posted by glasseyes at 4:50 PM on October 10, 2013


Sure, but your premise is flawed re Judaism. I appreciate and respect the logic, but you're missing the cultural conext/worldview. This notion that one is "tricking" an omnipotent God just isn't the orientation.

That's interesting and informative! It seems to lead to the same place though:

1. There are rules.

2. The rules serve a purpose, or they're enforced by an authority. Otherwise there's no reason to abide by them.

3. If the rules are purposeful, and you circumvent them, they've failed. So what's the point of pretending?

4. If the rules are enforced by authority, and you disregard them, you don't really respect the authority. So what's the point of continuing to follow the religion, whether the authority is God or a mortal religious leader?

For example, your husband won't divorce you. You're aware that the divorce must be given freely to 'count.' You coerce a divorce anyway. Well, you get that divorce decreed, but you know that it doesn't count, except for appearances.

It would seem to me that in this example, the subject has shown that they only care about the appearance of piety and not actual adherence. I see that as a de facto acknowledgement that they don't actually believe in whatever's governing them.

I see that I don't have the reference frame of the driving logic, so I might have tripped up somewhere,but it seems to follow. Is there perhaps some process that I'm missing that would account for it? (I'm being earnest, in case that's in doubt.)
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:53 PM on October 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


glasseyes, in the 19th century, the (all male) US immigration authorities weren't particularly concerned about being sure new émigrés understood and respected women's rights. In any case, in general, if a family group was emigrating, the head of household (usually a man) answered questions on behalf of the whole group.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:53 PM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not women's rights. A requirement for new immigrants to show loyalty - indirectly leading to an enhanced identity as a citizen, even for women. I guess it wasn't in place then. But I think it's in place now?

Stopping for real now.
posted by glasseyes at 5:04 PM on October 10, 2013


Which leads naturally to the question of why one would choose to believe in something that is actively hurting them, something I've never been able to understand.

It really raises the question of whether communities like this should be allowed to totally isolate children and create cultivated helplessness like this.


I'd just like to note that i think at multiple points in this thread, not just these, that people are getting dangerously godwin-y close to the same shitty arguments/points i see brought up when say, people talk about headscarves in the middle east and the "oppression"* therein.

Basically, we get in to this weird zone where it's an ice cream sundae of:

1. "I have no sympathy for these people because they're choosing to be a part of this shitty system. they did it to themselves, why should i care? they could just walk away from it and refuse to play ball with that shit and their problems would instantly be solved!"

2. "This is SO wrong, we need to like go in their and inject them with justice from our FreedomLazers! we can't just sit by and watch this system continue to work, we have to bust in not even knowing the entire context or how exactly these women ended up here because as western white atheist/christian people we're obviously the arbiters of what is and isn't ok!"

And various other shit sandwich ok-for-30-seconds-on-paper-maybe-but-not approaches to this sort of thing. As was shown with the recent feminism in india FPP, and this story it's obvious that that there's people within these communities who are not only not ok with this but acting to change it.

A cattle prod might not be the most elegant solution, but it's being applied from the wronged side to the side doing the wronging. I don't think they need our help until they ask for it, or our judgement lasers.

*i'm not saying that there aren't elements of oppression here, i'm just saying that it isn't up to western white people to decide if and when it's no longer cool and whose choice it really is.
posted by emptythought at 5:05 PM on October 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


So what's the point of continuing to follow the religion, whether the authority is God or a mortal religious leader?

Because this sort of working the rules is as inherent part of Judaism as basically anything else. The actual traditions are some older, some newer, codified in different places and subscribed to by different people but I feel like you're coming at this with very sort of non-Jewish perspective where black is black and white is white and if something isn't black, it's white and end of story. That's not how it works in Judaism, and that's not how it ever worked. The process you're missing is the process you're denying, and that's the fact that, in Judaism, the law is inherently malleable and even God admits to that. Hell, the absolutism of law in Christianity is in direct opposition to tenets of Judaism.
posted by griphus at 5:05 PM on October 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


Mayor Curley, I think your argument about rules in Judaism fails at #2 or 3.

1. There are rules.

Yes, we all agree. There are rules.

2. The rules serve a purpose, or they're enforced by an authority. Otherwise there's no reason to abide by them.

The reason to abide by them is that God said so, and they're enforced (in some communities, some of the rules) by social consequences. The rules don't necessarily all have a purpose (there are arguments about the rules of kashrut, for instance).

3. If the rules are purposeful, and you circumvent them, they've failed. So what's the point of pretending?

This doesn't follow. One of the rules is "circumventing the rules is allowed and, in some ways, encouraged". Because circumventing -- or, perhaps more accurately, rules-lawyering -- the rules cleverly is being mindful of the rules and thinking about the rules, which is also important.

4. If the rules are enforced by authority, and you disregard them, you don't really respect the authority. So what's the point of continuing to follow the religion, whether the authority is God or a mortal religious leader?

But the authority is cool with rules lawyering the rules. You're not disregarding them that way. You're being respectful. It's a different version of respect than we normally imagine, but it is respecting the rules on their own ground. Rules aren't absolute like that.
posted by jeather at 5:27 PM on October 10, 2013 [10 favorites]


Dreidl, the 100-rabbis thing only works for husbands, not wives, and it's actually authority to commit polygamy.

Historically (i.e., up to about a thousand years ago) husbands could initiate a divorce for any reason whatsoever. The first attempt to deal with this was the ketubah: a formal document entered into before marriage in which the husband-to-be agreed to pay his wife a sum of money on the dissolution of the marriage. This was only partially successful for a number of reasons: polygamy was legal, so a husband could always take a second wife; the value of the (standardised) alimony was eaten away by inflation; and if a husband didn't want to pay he could always leave town or conceal his assets or whatever.

Around the year 1000 CE the famous Rabbi Gershom ben Yehuda (Rabbeinu Gershom) got the leading Ashkenazi communities to agree to a number of ordinances for the sake of social order, including banning polygamy and divorcing wives against their will. A deliberate loophole was left in these prohibitions: you could take a second wife if you could get at least 100 rabbis (who were fewer in those days) from at least three different cities to agree. The idea of this was to avoid creating a new set of problems, like the ones that women had with men who were unable or unwilling to grant divorces. The 100 rabbis thing is used today, but with constraints (see paragraphs 11, 12, and 13). Unfortunately, the same loophole does not exist on the wife's side: polyandry has never been legal in Judaism.

There are kinda-sorta ways for an Orthodox Jewish woman to have her marriage declared void. The problem with this is that these techniques are strongly discouraged because they are really a bit of rabbinic sophistry and people don't trust them unless they come with the imprimatur of the highest rabbinic authorities. It's worth keeping in mind that women who want an Orthodox divorce want one that they and other people will feel good about: they can already get civil divorces; they will not be satisfied by something that looks and sounds (and sort-of is) dodgy. So the techniques are used only in very rare circumstances, one of which was recently in the news: a woman, who was now a grandmother, discovered that her first husband had not died in the Holocaust but was very much still alive, which meant that the children of her second marriage were mamzerim. Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who just passed away) found grounds to declare that the first marriage was invalid - but few rabbis would have the moral or practical authority to do this.

The article you cite was written by Judith Hauptman (who is Conservative, not Orthodox). She is brilliant, but I don't think her argument here is especially good and even her own movement has declined to accept its implications, preferring instead to use things like the Lieberman Clause to which you refer.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:31 PM on October 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't think they need our help until they ask for it, or our judgement lasers.

Like, I understand the "non-interventionist" idea, but cattle-prodding people is a crime, and it's definitely not ok to suspend our civil ideas about what is and is not ok (particularly with respect to cattle-prodding) in order to allow the religiously-wronged to punish the religiously-wrong. So I think you're actually off the mark to allege that everyone here is in favor of just busting in unawares; I think it's pretty obvious that cattle-prodding people is not ok and needs to stop in whatever way least disadvantages the women in these situations.
posted by kiltedtaco at 6:06 PM on October 10, 2013


Mayor Curley wrote: I see that I don't have the reference frame of the driving logic [....] Is there perhaps some process that I'm missing that would account for it?

I think you need to appreciate that Jewish jurisprudence is as deep and as detailed as (e.g.) USAn law, and that things like the nature of consent and the power to form contracts have been discussed for literally thousands of years. It's not necessarily obvious to me that the husband needs to consent at all. I mean, what if he is literally compelled to sign his name to the get by someone holding his hand? What if someone is holding a gun to his head? After all, the Bible just says that he needs to write it. Even if I accept, as I do, that Jewish law says he needs to consent, is that law Biblical or Rabbinic? Because I know the text of the Biblical law (i.e.: he needs to write it) but if the rabbis added more stringent requirements they may have added an escape clause for cases like this: "he needs to consent, but if he's a jerk then you can tell him the beatings will continue until morals improve. He'll get the hint."

If I can offer a parallel, there is a serious suggestion that Barack Obama can avoid the debt crisis by minting a platinum coin for a zillion bucks and depositing it in the USAn Treasury. The President can't print money without approval from the legislature, but there is a bill to allow commemorative platinum coins of any denomination. Can he do this? Maybe. Did Congress consent to this? Well ... they did consent to him making coins "of any denomination", but they pretty clearly did not consent to him making an end-run around the budgetary process. So what is the nature of "consent" in this case? And should be do it, even if it is technically legal? That's a matter for the scholars.

The same goes for Jewish laws: in lots of cases you see arguments that seem to be minutely focused on the letter of the law. As Jeather says above, that's a feature, not a bug: it's "being mindful of the rules and thinking about the rules". Even then, you don't generally see attempts to evade the spirit of the laws. Laws were never made for the sake of the law being followed: they were made for their good effects.(*) In this case the good effects of requiring consent are negated when husbands act like jerks. We prevent this by taking a broad philosophical view of consent, while adhering to the letter of the law. Thus the spirit, and the letter, of the law are maintained.

(*) If you argue that following a law is in itself a good effect, I shall scream and throw something at you.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:11 PM on October 10, 2013 [10 favorites]


jeather, Joe in Australia-- those are both excellent explanations that moved me closer to understanding, and I thank you for them.

I have a gap in this, in that I can't understand the point of having rules that are on some level made to be circumvented-- the rules wouldn't seem to have any purpose except to make life more complicated. But I'm self-aware enough to realize that the problem there may very well lie with me and my personal/cultural biases. Thanks again for taking the time to shed some light on it.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:18 PM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's funny. I learned a lot about Judaism from my friends when I was a teenager. I would spend several summers working at a Jewish Federation Camp thanks to my best friend Jay. I also did a lot of studies myself.

But some of the most interesting stuff that I learned, about the Get, and the fact that the sheet with the hole in it was bullshit, was from a Rabbi that I used to smoke crack with. In a crack house. The first time that we introduced ourselves i had to ask him, what would God think of you sitting here, sucking on a crack pipe?

He said, God would understand. God would forgive him. If he couldn't help himself, God would understand. And shut up now. We won't discuss God here. That would be wrong. And so we smoked crack and talked about other things. But not God. That would be wrong.
posted by Splunge at 6:43 PM on October 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


I can't understand the point of having rules that are on some level made to be circumvented

Okay, let's take the eruv, which is the little wire around neighbourhoods that let you carry stuff outside on holidays. You're not allowed to work on these days, and one of the things that's defined as work is carrying something from a private place to a public, or vice versa.

Now, the rule of not working on the sabbath or certain very holy days is an understandable rule, with what we'd consider positive goals. There are lots of other things you can't do -- you can't spend money (no collection plates in synagogues), you can't start a fire (includes electricity), you can't tear paper (like toilet paper). So now some of these rules don't actually get to the main goal of "no work" but interfere with it. So instead you look for ways to break the rules by following them. You can't carry babies or canes from public to private? Let's expand the definition of private! You can't tear toilet paper? Let's just pre-tear it all! You can't use electricity? Hire someone to turn things on and off for you. (Now we just buy appliances that can do it.)

So you're circumventing the wording of a rule, not the rule itself a lot of the time. And if God wrote or inspired the rules, studying it very closely and figuring out exactly where it does or doesn't apply and exactly how to apply it and just thinking about it deeply is a way of showing respect, unlike following the rules without thinking about it.

It is sometimes argued that the point of a lot of the rules is just to remember that you're Jewish. This really fits with rules lawyering being a good thing.

This is totally unlike the societal conception of law, but it's pretty coherent within Judaism itself.

(Bear in mind that it's much more complicated. There will be a simple rule -- though shalt not boil a kid in its mother's milk -- and it will get expanded and expanded into "no milk products and meat which includes chicken but excludes fish within a certain amount of time from each other" -- and then there will be figuring out how to get back down from the expansions, often. Or sometimes it goes the other way and there's a simple rule and all the commentary make it less strict. Depends.)
posted by jeather at 6:52 PM on October 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


Incidentally, all this stuff is part of why I roll my eyes at the term Judeo-Christian values.
posted by jeather at 6:55 PM on October 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


My usual response when people express frustration with Orthodox Jews "rules-lawyering" God, on the grounds that they may appear to be "obeying the letter but not the spirit of the law:"

The Law is not human law. It is Divine Law. That means if there's a loophole in the law, God put it there. If God did not want what appears to be a loophole exploited, He, being the omnipotent and all-knowing Creator of the Universe, would not have put it there in the first place. There is no such thing as a loophole in Jewish law; there is only nuance.
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:50 PM on October 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


My favorite joke about halacha:1

Moshe's daughter is getting married, and he asks one of his friends to be an official witness. "Moshe," his friend says, "I would love to do it, but I can't: I'm not Jewish."

"What!" Moshe says, "How can that be? I've seen you in shul2 every morning, sat in shiurim3 with you, even taken your advice on matters of halacha!"

"Well," his friend answered, "I had some Jewish friends, went to a few services, and found I liked it. I guess I never saw the need to convert."

Moshe is aghast. "How could you do this? Don't you know the Talmud says that a non-Jew who keeps Shabbos4 is chayav misa?"5

"Oh yes," his friend says, "But I took care to carry something in my pocket so that I would discreetly break Shabbos when I walked to shul."

Moshe is nearly in tears. "But that doesn't help!" he shouts. "We have an eruv!"6

"Ah," his friend says dismissively, "I don't hold by it."7

1. Jewish law
2. A synagogue
3. Jewish study sessions
4. The Sabbath.
5. An expression that means "deserves death". It is meant as hyperbole, not a legal statement.
6. An artificial boundary marking an area in which carrying is permitted. They're usually controversial.
7. I.e., in his opinion this eruv should not be relied upon.

[Hover your mouse over this to see an explanation. ]
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:03 PM on October 10, 2013 [17 favorites]


Haredi women facebarguablyb rougher divorce law than Wahabi women in Saudi Arabia.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 10:07 PM on October 10, 2013


Joe, you made me snort.

I'm not Jewish, but I grew up in a town that mostly was, and most of my friends were Consertive or Reform, and I like to think that I carry their analytic, rules-lawyering, nitpicky legacy with me.
posted by rtha at 10:08 PM on October 10, 2013


Not women's rights. A requirement for new immigrants to show loyalty - indirectly leading to an enhanced identity as a citizen, even for women. I guess it wasn't in place then. But I think it's in place now?

The requirements for US naturalized citizenship are easily looked up and are basically residency for 3 - 5 years, lack of felony convictions, and the ability to speak English. The Oath of Allegiance requires you to be loyal to the Constitution and laws of the US. There is no requirement that you be loyal to mainstream Fox network American values, or that you eat Mac and cheese or that you own an iPhone.

But again, this is not an immigration problem. People can immigrate but that does not mean they or subsequent generations will assimilate, or that in a pluralistic society, that that is even a desirable outcome.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:00 AM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wish I'd gotten to this thread a bit earlier, as I read this article on my iPhone and was wondering about some things.

First, a few comments/questions.
1: Someone mentioned the Amish. I don't really think they have any similarities, though, because while they do have their own language, I've never heard of them being unable to speak English. They also have rumspringa, where members are encouraged, as a rite of passage, to go out and enjoy and experience the outside world so that they can make a perfectly informed choice about their lifetime commitment to it. The Amish community seems far less manipulative, far less cultish, and far less criminal than the Orthodox Jewish community in question. The one crime I can remember reading about was a bear shaving incident, for which the US government had what I felt to be a quite satisfactory response. I think it's a pretty big disservice to the Amish to compare them to this particular community.

2: Perhaps it's because I read the New York Times daily and not the Pennsylvania Times daily, but the general impression I've built up over the years of the NY Orthodox community is quite repulsive and depressing. Am I mistaken in thinking that this is the same general group of people whose moyle killed a baby by giving it herpes after putting its penis in his mouth? Same group of people who have been investigated for assault and harassment in trying to keep childhood rape victims from going to the NYPD? Who then threatened and harassed said rape victims because they refused to believe that their unlicensed counselor friend who'd been accused many times over, might, possibly in fact be a pedophile rapist?

3: An honest question: what's the opinion of the average moderate Jewish man or woman regarding the Orthodox ones? Would there not be a huge community of supporting and sympathetic religious people for someone to escape to? Preferrably with her children? Preferably without paying $60,000+ to have someone kidnapped, assaulted and tortured? Someone mentioned "muslim women with headscarves in the middle east," but I really do think it's better to compare it to "muslim women with headscarves in France." The reason I find myself with far more sympathy in a story about a rape victim being whipped for adultery in another country is that they well and truly do NOT have any form of escape. Literally. They're in jail and nobody is coming for them. If someone can escape from the Westboro Baptist family, can't someone escape from Orthodoxy into the welcoming arms of a still-Jewish community? I understand there's a lot of nuance here, but there seems to be way less than some people are arguing for.

As someone who was raised as a devout Christian and took about 18 years to break away from a poisonous situation, leaving certain family members and almost all my friends behind, I think people are giving too little credit to the strength of will that exists in people; assuming it's completely impossible or unreasonable to abandon a sexist, repressive culture just because it's all they've ever known seems fundamentally insulting. Once you choose to remain in a community and pay many many tens of thousands of dollars to have someone kidnapped, beaten and tortured, as long as you live in the United States of America, I don't really have that high an opinion of you.
posted by GoingToShopping at 1:57 AM on October 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Someone mentioned the Amish… The Amish community seems far less manipulative, far less cultish, and far less criminal than the Orthodox Jewish community in question.

Well, the "Orthodox Jewish community in question," which I read to mean the communities affected by the very real issue of agunot, range from what you'd call full-on cults, who are arguably very similar to the Amish in their insularity, etc, to communities are visibly Orthodox, but whom you may not assume are equally stringent in these basics of the law. The Orthodox communities of New York are huge. While a broad brush is actually pretty accurate in basics of Jewish Law, it's a bit much to pull out the "repulsive and depressing" for a lot of people who are living their lives, with their own struggles and triumphs, because of the worst you've read in the Times.

Not to make this a pissing contest with the Amish, but actually, many of the worst cult tendencies lead to the same things, like protection of members accused of sexual misconduct, beating on members who don't toe the line, etc. Real issues, real similarities.

[T]he general impression I've built up over the years of the NY Orthodox community is quite repulsive and depressing. Am I mistaken in thinking that this is the same general group of people whose moyle killed a baby by giving it herpes after putting its penis in his mouth? Same group of people who have been investigated for assault and harassment in trying to keep childhood rape victims from going to the NYPD? Who then threatened and harassed said rape victims because they refused to believe that their unlicensed counselor friend who'd been accused many times over, might, possibly in fact be a pedophile rapist?

Clearly, you have built up that impression. And yes, it is the same general group. Of course the same general group is divided into many different groups. Geographically, culturally, etc. I have to imagine the college-educated; Flatbush-dwelling, "Lithuanian" Orthodox Jew would have problem being judged for the actions of the non-English-speaking, Williamsburg-dwelling, "Polish" Orthodox Jew. And the distinctions are there even if you paint with slightly finer brushes, using "Ultra-Orthodox," or "Satmar," etc. I'm not familiar with the exact details, but an "Aharoni" Satmar Chossid will be very annoyed if told that a "Zaloni" spoke for him.

For what it's worth, re: the Mohel issue. Yes, the official position of every major Orthodox community is very much against DOH oversight. In my thoroughly unscientific surveys (taken in detail, when this issue was a hot topic last year, with my fellow Chabadniks, and with many Satmar and other Chassidim I work with), while many are personally happy to require that their Mohel follow the proposed NYC legislation, they'd be darned if the law actually passed. Many feel passionately that letting the government get involved with such a fundamental Jewish rite as circumcision is a bad and scary precedent – the Department of Health's mandate notwithstanding.

An honest question: what's the opinion of the average moderate Jewish man or woman regarding the Orthodox ones? Would there not be a huge community of supporting and sympathetic religious people for someone to escape to? Preferrably with her children?

I'd love to see what you define as "moderate," considering your nuanced and thoughtful use of "Orthodox."

The short answer is no. Because of the subdivisions, again, not just cultural, but geographical (the 3 miles between Crown Heights and Williamsburg, or even less than that between Borough Park and Flatbush, can be a huge psychological trip for someone brought up elsewhere), they're really entirely different communities. As you might guess, the more insular your community, the less likely it is for you to be accepting of a "lesser" community's "Jewishness" as legitimate.

I don't know: do members of the WBC attend public schools? Do they have access to any sort of outside media? Are they taught to engage with "outsiders" or ignore them? Any of those differences are why you should pity the people in these situations. It's not an easy escape, and physical jails are not the only kind.


I did hold off commenting until the basic anti-Orthodox sentiment was clearly expressed. For what it's worth, I had heard of the concept of thugs-for-hire available to Agunot, but in my local community, boycotting businesses and public shunning is the limit, as far as I know. These men are absolute scum, using Halacha for spite. I don't have any sympathy for them, although I do think that it's a bit much for straight up hiring thugs.
posted by mhz at 5:25 AM on October 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


My understanding of the rumspringa is that it's not quite as actively "go away and do what you want" as it is currently conceptualised to be, but I don't know for certain.

honest question: what's the opinion of the average moderate Jewish man or woman regarding the Orthodox ones?

It would depend. I mean, on a religious level, I think they are wrong (as they think other groups are) but that they are still Jewish (not always believed in the reverse, especially as you get stricter). But Orthodox is a huge, huge, huge group, and the Haredi are a minority.


Would there not be a huge community of supporting and sympathetic religious people for someone to escape to? Preferrably with her children?


You'd need to find a group that is religious enough for the women to escape to -- hard, the only groups like this are equally insular. And a group that can, essentially, subsidise a woman and all her children. She can't work; they haven't gone to normal schools. And if she does this, she's at legal risk for having taken her kids away from their father, and she's possibly cut herself off permanently from all her friends and family.

So, not really, no.

Again: this is a very extreme sect, not "Orthodox Jews In General", who have generally worked out other ways to deal with this (civil contracts requiring religious divorces).
posted by jeather at 5:33 AM on October 11, 2013


Which leads naturally to the question of why one would choose to believe in something that is actively hurting them, something I've never been able to understand

I wish we could stop doing this in religious threads. Many of us are separated enough from our beliefs that we can choose to believe things, but not everyone is, and it is hurtful to assume that anyone who doesn't work like this deserves what they receive.
posted by corb at 7:15 AM on October 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Obviously these guys are thugs and this shouldn't be allowed. But they are responding to a heartbreaking act of cruelty as well, and they probably have no mercy for their targets. Also, the "God is fine with you beating it out of him" framing of it is too simplified. It's a difficult situation and these guys think that its acceptable to resort to violence to resolve it.

Nope. It is all about money. These guys are getting paid. In any religious community the most powerful people are always the most cynical (and not surprisingly they are often the most wealthy because they prey on the most ignorant and trusting). If we could subject the thugs to a psychological evaluation I guarantee that deep down they know there is no god but appreciate that they have found their meal ticket.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:20 AM on October 11, 2013


As someone who was raised as a devout Christian and took about 18 years to break away from a poisonous situation, leaving certain family members and almost all my friends behind, I think people are giving too little credit to the strength of will that exists in people...

There are many ways in which this is simpler than leaving the Hasidic community. Like it or not, deny it or not, the US is a Christian country, even if not officially so. Even the Christian-fundiest, home-schooliest of educations still covers culture and life in America the way no Hasidic yeshiva would, even if they cover the basic requirements of the local Education department. Never mind the paltry education the girls receive.

Outside of New York and the surrounding areas, there ain't a whole lot of Jews, certainly not a lot of formerly Hasidic Jews sympathetic to the plight of apostates, and there sure ain't a whole lot of Jews who speak Yiddish, which may very well be the only language a woman attempting to escape the Hasidic community speaks with fluency. Someone escaping out of that community can't just roll up and get a job being a receptionist, or a restaurant sever, or a gas-pumper the way a Christian fundamentalist apostate, fluent in English and plain' ole American culture would. The community shields their members from the world so much more effectively than Christian fundamentalists do, it's not very comparable in any great respect.
posted by griphus at 7:38 AM on October 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also, replace "certain family members" and "almost all my friends" with "literally every person I have ever known" because once you are out of that community, you are out.
posted by griphus at 7:41 AM on October 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think it's a pretty big disservice to the Amish to compare them to this particular community.

GoingToShopping, I was the person who brought up the Amish. I did not compare the Amish to this Jewish community. Please read the comment and the quoted statement I was responding to again.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:23 AM on October 11, 2013


If we could subject the thugs to a psychological evaluation I guarantee that deep down they know there is no god but appreciate that they have found their meal ticket.

It is dangerous and foolish to presume that everybody who disagrees with you must be stupid, delusional or lying.
posted by Diablevert at 8:34 AM on October 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


It is dangerous and foolish to presume that everybody who disagrees with you must be stupid, delusional or lying.

Getting paid to assault people doesn't require any particular degree of piety. I was responding to a point that suggested they were acting on religious conviction or personal sympathy. The factual background laid out in the criminal complaint amply demonstrates that their motive was more pedestrian.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:02 AM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Would there not be a huge community of supporting and sympathetic religious people for someone to escape to? Preferrably with her children?

The assumption that women in these situations want to 'escape' strikes me as very paternalistic. These women are also Orthodox Jews- it's not as if the men are the only ones with religious convictions and the women are their unwilling slaves. "This religion is patriarchal and therefore every woman in it is a brainwashed sheep" is a fucked-up thing to say.

I read a blog once by a woman who was raised in a Satmar community in Brooklyn. She did consider that she had escaped from it, and would not be willing to go back even if they would have her. But she also said that for many, if not most people, including women she knew, it was a happy existence that people were not constantly chafing against. It wasn't for her, and the difficulty she had in making a new life for herself was very unfair, but it's not my place to storm in and tell them how they should live their lives, as if I had achieved the perfectly ideal manner of existence against which theirs should be measured and found wanting.

Yes, the get thing is completely fucked up, but it's not as if modern mainstream American society is all kittens and rainbows.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:26 AM on October 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Getting paid to assault people doesn't require any particular degree of piety. I was responding to a point that suggested they were acting on religious conviction or personal sympathy. The factual background laid out in the criminal complaint amply demonstrates that their motive was more pedestrian.

They were paid thugs, true dat. But the fact that were willing to take money to commit a crime says nothing about what they believe. Plenty of people believe things and then fail to live up to those beliefs. Nor does it follow that because this rabbi was a thugged-up mofo that every religious leader is a cynical hypocrite.
posted by Diablevert at 9:41 AM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nope. It is all about money.

Ok, good point. They are in it for the money. I guess what I meant was that these guys aren't Tony Sopranos: you probably wouldn't be able to just give them $50k to beat up someone you don't like. What allows them to think that the violence is okay is what they realize to be their victim's cruelty toward an ex-spouse.

Now, of course, I don't know the inner minds of these two specific folks who were arrested by the FBI. Maybe they would have been okay with a broader operation. I'm describing what I perceive to be communal attitudes that allow people in general to think this kind of thing might be appropriate.

...I guarantee that deep down they know there is no god...

lol. you haven't spent much time in the fundamentalist religious world have you? People are dead serious about their beliefs. They aren't putting on a show, even the criminals. Especially the criminals.
posted by So You're Saying These Are Pants? at 9:55 AM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


But the fact that were willing to take money to commit a crime says nothing about what they believe.

People are dead serious about their beliefs.

Con men that lose sight of the con rarely have the longevity to rise to the top. Of course the plebes believe; that's the nature of the scheme.

Nor does it follow that because this rabbi was a thugged-up mofo that every religious leader is a cynical hypocrite.

I'm not reasoning from the former to the latter; the latter has already been demonstrated throughout the world for numerous centuries.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 10:52 AM on October 11, 2013


Con men that lose sight of the con rarely have the longevity to rise to the top. Of course the plebes believe; that's the nature of the scheme.

Stick with an argument, please. Is the fact that they took money evidence of their lack of belief or not? Or are you not appealing to logic, but merely asserting that you can read the minds of these particular thugs, and determine whether or not their faith be true?

I'm not reasoning from the former to the latter; the latter has already been demonstrated throughout the world for numerous centuries.

What's the rap on St. Francis of Assisi, then?

The most dangerous religious leaders are quite often the most ardent believers. Megalomaniacs aren't lying, that's what makes them crazy. And appealing.
posted by Diablevert at 11:10 AM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is the fact that they took money evidence of their lack of belief or not?

Taking money from deeply ignorant people to assault a former spouse as part of an elaborate rules-lawyering exercise suggests cynicism; it is difficult to reconcile that cynicism with a sincere and unnecessary belief in the imaginary. They might actually be that stupid, but it's unnecessary to presume that and they appear relatively less ignorant than the people they exploit.

What's the rap on St. Francis of Assisi, then?

A bullshit peddler like so many others.

Megalomaniacs aren't lying, that's what makes them crazy.

Somebody can be both crazy and deliberately misleading others about their beliefs - although I don't think most members of the current crop of religious minor oligarchs are crazy. I think they just know where the next paycheck comes from, as above.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 12:11 PM on October 11, 2013


Do you really think that no religious leaders ever actually believe in their own religions? Like, not ever? Why the hell wouldn't they?
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:12 PM on October 11, 2013



as if I had achieved the perfectly ideal manner of existence against which theirs should be measured and found wanting.

Sorry, but it doesn't require that secular society be the most ideal way to live, it just requires it to be closer to the ideal than whatever cult you compare it against.. All of these religions can be put up against secular society and be found wanting in many, many more ways than the reverse. I have no problem saying modern secular society is better than orthodox religious society in aggregate, and that I would weep no tears if all of these cults disintegrated.
posted by smidgen at 12:15 PM on October 11, 2013


A bullshit peddler like so many others.

Not sure how much about this guy's life you've read, but if that was a deliberate deception, St. Francis deserves a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award for method acting.

It's very easy and simple to think that people who subscribe to religion and then violate its code are just paying it lip service. But everyone who subscribes to a religion violates its code at some point or another. Not a single religion exists -- that I know of -- where asking for forgiveness from god for trespassing is a wholly foreign concept. And who is to say where the dividing line is? Someone eats pork, someone else commits adultery, a third beats people up for money. Why doubt their belief just because they commit an acknowledged sin? They're not the first, they won't be the last, and the personal gravity of the sin is utterly subjective.
posted by griphus at 12:17 PM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's very easy and simple to think that people who subscribe to religion and then violate its code are just paying it lip service.

I don't think the relevant test is violating a code - I think the relevant test is personally benefitting (primarily in financial ways, although also with attention to one's legacy and social standing) from manipulating others ostensibly in the service of religious belief. Religion is not the only place this occurs - think of the sociopathic middle manager who makes an ostentatious display of drinking the corporate Kool-Aid to advance at work.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 12:21 PM on October 11, 2013


Do you really think that no religious leaders ever actually believe in their own religions? Like, not ever? Why the hell wouldn't they?

If they are powerful and intelligent, why would they? Of course, one could be naive, even in that postion, but the fact that whatever religion they follow was written/created by men tells you all you need to know. To take the most positive view, I think most believe that it's easier to control people's (and their own) base instincts using religion and tradition rather than with reason, but especially at the highest levels, they do not "believe" or take any of it at face value.
posted by smidgen at 12:23 PM on October 11, 2013


So by the logic the two of you are proposing, every single Pope since St. Peter has been an atheist pulling the wool over the eyes of the Catholics of the world?
posted by griphus at 12:26 PM on October 11, 2013


So by the logic the two of you are proposing, every single Pope since St. Peter has been pulling the wool over the eyes of the Catholics of the world?

I'm comfortable with that description, especially in the case of the Vatican, where even the mid-tier guys live quite comfortably. The only better example would be L. Ron Hubbard.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 12:29 PM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'd love to see some proof of these assertions, but I suspect you might be... taking it on faith?
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:34 PM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't think the relevant test is violating a code - I think the relevant test is personally benefitting (primarily in financial ways, although also with attention to one's legacy and social standing) from manipulating others ostensibly in the service of religious belief.

This is absurd. You're saying that one cannot seriously believe in a principal if one personally benefits from the application of that principle. I think it rude when someone snipes a parking spot in front a waiting car. Must I be lying about the fact that inthinknthis is rude in general if it also pisses me off when it happens to me? It seems to me perfectly possibly that one could genuinely think that Jewish marriage law in general is valid, that the spiteful husband in particular is in the wrong, and still want $20 large for your part in solving the problem in order to cover expenses in case you end up in chokey for your part in the assault.


Religion is not the only place this occurs - think of the sociopathic middle manager who makes an ostentatious display of drinking the corporate Kool-Aid to advance at work.

I worked at a large law firm, for a time. This was just after college; I was a peon. One of the things that surprised me most about working there was how firmly and truly the vast majority of the attorneys came to believe that their clients were not only within the law but in the right, when it came to their clashes with their own shareholders or former clients. Loyalty is a powerful thing, and a real thing, a felt thing. To be attacked, to be insulted, and to be forced to defend cultivates adherence and partisanship. Even among thise trained for years to be professional sophists. Most people don't enjoy feeling like cynical bastards. They like to believe better of themselves than that. And so they slip into partisanship like a warm blanket...

I think most believe that it's easier to control people's (and their own) base instincts using religion and tradition rather than with reason, but especially at the highest levels, they do not "believe" or take any of it at face value.

That's the secularist version of "there are no atheists in foxholes" and just as blinkered. They can't really believe what the profess to believe because if they did, they would be immune to the power or the One Truth, which we and all who read Richard Dawkins have been blessèd to receive.
posted by Diablevert at 12:49 PM on October 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hell, simpler than that, the conjecture that "organized religion" is a conscious fraud in the minds of the individuals in control of the assorted and warring religious factions of the world, and that it is actively perpetrated on the masses by the rich and powerful, for millenia, strictly for their own benefit requires a lot more faith than the idea that a single person of wealth and privilege could genuinely believe in a higher power and still be a piece of shit.

I mean, maybe there is a race in the universe that can pull off a grand conspiracy like that, but if there's one thing history proves, it is that humans sure ain't it.
posted by griphus at 1:08 PM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


You're saying that one cannot seriously believe in a principal if one personally benefits from the application of that principle.

No, I'm saying that lying to people about an invisible, unverifiable thing is a classic con artist tactic (see: psychics) and when distinguishing after the fact between the con men and the rubes it behooves us to look for the pile of money.

I mean, maybe there is a race in the universe that can pull off a grand conspiracy like that, but if there's one thing history proves, it is that humans sure ain't it.

There doesn't need to be any grand conspiracy (although smaller-scale conspiracies such as Scientology, various lesser cults, etc. are hardly improbable). All that needs to happen is for self-interested people to find a niche that can be exploited. They may or may not consciously work together (they may often think that they are the only person in on the scheme) but that hardly lessens the effect. Con artists, mafiosi, and assorted criminals find major inroads into every other type of human activity; what strikes me as truly fantastic is the idea that religious organizations are an exception.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 1:54 PM on October 11, 2013


I mean, maybe there is a race in the universe that can pull off a grand conspiracy like that, but if there's one thing history proves, it is that humans sure ain't it.

It's cats. It's always cats.
posted by rtha at 2:24 PM on October 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Harry was walking down Regent Street and stepped into a posh gourmet food shop.
An impressive salesperson in a smart morning coat with tails approached him and politely asked, “Can I help you, Sir?”
“Yes,” replied Harry, “I would like to buy a pound of lox.”
“No. No,” responded the dignified salesperson, “You mean smoked salmon.”
“OK, a pound of smoked salmon, then.”
“Anything else?”
“Yes, a dozen blintzes.”
“No. No. You mean crepes.”
“Okay, a dozen crepes.”
“Anything else?”
“Yes. A pound of chopped liver.”
“No. No. You mean pate.”
“Okay,” said Harry, “A pound of pate then and I’d like you to deliver all of this to my house on Saturday.”
“Look,” retorted the indignant salesperson, “we don’t schlep on Shabbos!”
posted by Splunge at 7:35 PM on October 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


Do we actually know that they intended to assault the husband? It's not like you can go to police and say "Yeah, I paid these guys to commit a felony and they didn't go through with it."
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:18 AM on October 12, 2013


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