CWJ Supreme Court Petition Challenges Rabbinic Court Inquiry into Sexual Intimacy in Amicable Divorce


The Center for Women’s Justice submitted a petition to the Supreme Court today on behalf of a woman and several organizations including Kolech, Mavoi Satum, and the Rackman Center for the Advancement of Women’s Status. The respondents to the petition are the Rabbinic Court of Jerusalem and the High Rabbinic Court.

The petitioners have asked the Court to rule that rabbinic courts should not have authority to inquire into the sexual lives of women in cases where  a couple has filed for an uncontested divorce. In addition,  they have requested that the Court order the rabbinic courts to expunge any reference from their registry which restricts a woman from marrying her alleged lover  (i.e., the prohibition of “baal and the boel”) when the matter of a wife’s infidelity was not raised and adjudicated in a case of contested divorce. The petition further requests that the Court issue an interim order preventing the rabbinate from imposing such restrictions in similar cases until the petition has been decided.

The petition states that rabbinic courts should not have authority to conduct a hearing and investigation into the sexual mores of litigants when such investigation is not necessary to reach a decision in their case; and moreover, that the jurisdiction of rabbinic courts must be defined in ways that donot violate the basic rights of Israeli citizens: to privacy, to marry in the future according to their own free will, and to equality under the law.

The woman named in the petition was divorced in a Jerusalem Rabbinic Court after signing a divorce agreement with her husband. Although the divorce was routine and amicable, the rabbinic court imposed the “ba’al and boel” prohibition on the woman. This is a halachik designation that prohibits a woman from ever marrying the man named as her suspected lover when she was married. The petitioner has requested that this restriction be removed from her record. In addition to her claim that the rabbinic courts lacks the jurisdiction to record this restriction and that such restriction is a blatant infringement on her basic rights, the petitioner also claims that, in the case at hand, the rabbinic court violated her rights to due process: the decision was made without a proper quorum of judges, after the get was given and without allowing the petitioner to argue her claim prior to the judgment.

Attorney Susan Weiss, Director of Center for Women’s Justice: “It is the duty of all courts in Israel to protect the dignity of the litigants before them, to ensure their privacy, and to respond with empathy, flexibility and sensitivity to the exigencies of modern times. As a Jewish and democratic state, the rabbinic courts’ authority to conduct probing and potentially harmful investigations in cases such as the “ba’al and boel” (“the husband and the lover”) should be strictly limited to only those cases where it is relevant to the dissolution of the marriage, if at all. Moreover, the Israeli rabbinic courts should take example from rabbinic courts in the Diaspora which refrain entirely from adjudicating these matters.”