Congressman Dave Camp (R-Michigan), Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, is under pressure from the Jewish Community for his refusal to acknowledge the emotional abuse that Committee aide, Aharon Friedman, is perpetrating.
Friedman and his former wife, Tamar Epstein, separated four years ago after a two-year marriage. They finalized their civil divorce in 2010 and settled all the custody and visitation issues in a Maryland state court. Yet Friedman refuses to give Epstein a get -- a Jewish divorce. Without a get, Epstein is an agunah -- she cannot remarry within her faith. Refusing to give a get constitutes a form of emotional abuse and is often employed as a means of extortion.
Camp has turned a blind eye to Friedman's abusive behavior, calling it "gossip." After his Facebook page was bombarded with protests, Camp disabled wall posting features.
There has been a widespread grassroots campaign asking Camp to condemn get refusal and all forms of emotional abuse including a petition, Twitter campaign under the hashtag #freetamar, Facebook group under the name Dave Camp: Stand Up Against Abuse , and an ongoing calling campaign to Congressman Camp's offices. As part of the campaign, this Thursday, March 29th, Yeshiva University will be hosting a panel on the communal agunah crisis, featuring Tamar Epstein. Politico, Foxnews, and The Jewish Week are just a few of the mainstream media publications that have been covering this issue.
Despite the mounting pressure and widespread media attention, Camp has yet to comment.
Rabbi Seth Winberg, Assistant Director of the University of Michigan Hillel, requested a meeting with the congressman on behalf of the Council of Orthodox Rabbis of Greater Detroit and the Michigan Board of Rabbis. Camp refused to meet with the rabbis. "We are disappointed," Winberg said in an interview. "It is hard to understand why a religious Catholic like Dave Camp would consider exploiting religion in order to be abusive and vindictive to be mere 'gossip'."
The Organization for the Resolution of Agunot (ORA), is a not-for-profit organization which assists divorcing couples in effectuating a timely Jewish divorce in accordance with the highest standards of Jewish law. ORA strives to eliminate the infliction of abuse within the Jewish divorce process. We work to ensure that a get (writ of divorce) is issued unconditionally and in a timely fashion by amicably facilitating the divorce process whenever possible, and advocating against the abuse which is perpetrated through get-refusal when necessary.
ORA operates under the halakhic guidance of Rabbi Hershel Schachter, rosh yeshiva at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary of Yeshiva University.