CWJ Seminar Gives Jerusalem Attorneys Insight into Impact of Mamzer on Divorce

The issue of mamzer and how it affects the complexity of divorce in Israel was the focus of CWJ’s fourth seminar in a series for legal professionals held in partnership with the Jerusalem Bar Association. The seminar was conducted by CWJ founder and director, attorney Susan Weiss, on October 27, 2013. 
According to halacha, a mamzer is a child born to a married woman as the result of a relationship with a man who is not her husband. A mamzer is only permitted to marry another mamzer or a convert, with the children of these marriages also stigmatized as mamzer. In order to carry out this restriction, the Israeli State-funded Rabbinate maintains a “mamzer blacklist.”
Eye-opening,” is how one seminar participant described the content. Referring to the silent taboo on the subject, another attorney said, “This topic isn’t taught anywhere else. It’s important to understand what the State’s policy is and its ramifications.” 
The goal of CWJ’s Legal Education seminars is to furnish legal tools and instruction in the strategy, developed by CWJ, of using civil damage suits to prevent get refusal. In addition, the training sessions include legal and halachic background relevant to the problem and its consequences. 
As CWJ works to find solutions to the agunah situation, we also address the roots of the problem, such as the issue of mamzer, which can become a bargaining chip in divorce cases. While a man can continue with his life, live with another woman and have children with her (children who won’t be mamzers), the agunah is not able to continue her life and have a new family, due to the suspicion of mamzer status. One seminar participant summed it up this way, “It’s true that the child is not to blame. And it’s true that there should not be agunot. But this terrible mess cannot be ignored - there has to be a solution.”
Israeli attorneys are gaining new knowledge and expertise that can help them better represent divorcing women thanks to the directed gifts of the Boston Jewish Community Women’s Fund, David Berg Foundation, Greater Miami Jewish Federation Women’s Amutot Initiative, Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York, Inc., and the Tikkun Olam Women’s Foundation of Greater Washington, as well as those whose general support have provided a secure foundation to advance this project.