Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
April 24, 2014

Staffer’s Divorce Becomes Object of Hill Protest

Demonstrations are a dime a dozen on Capitol Hill, but it’s not every day that a group shows up to protest the actions of a Hill staffer.

Yet on Thursday, a Jewish organization plans to do just that, staging a protest against Aharon Friedman, a senior aide to Michigan Republican Rep. Dave Camp.

Friedman, an Orthodox Jew, was civilly divorced from his wife, Tamar Epstein, in April 2010. However, according to the group, he’s refused to grant Epstein a “get,” or a Jewish writ of divorce. Without a get, Epstein is considered an agunah — the Hebrew term meaning “chained wife” — and is not permitted to remarry within the faith.

Rabbi Jeremy Stern, executive director for the Organization for the Resolution of Agunot, the organizer of Thursday’s protest, said get refusals are a form of abuse to Jewish women by their ex-husbands, who are usually seeking to extort alimony or pressure them into giving up custody of children.

Stern added that Thursday’s protest on Capitol Hill is ORA’s fourth against Friedman — previous protests were held at Friedman’s Silver Spring apartment in December 2010 and 2011, as well as at a conference Friedman spoke at in February 2012.

“Aharon Freidman is a pariah and not welcome in any of the synagogues in the area,” Stern said. “How he can call himself a religious Jew is beyond me. He is an embarrassment, we feel, for the Jewish community.”

Numerous reports attribute the dispute to a custody battle between Friedman and Epstein. Epstein moved with the couple’s daughter to Philadelphia following their separation, and a court denied Friedman’s request to have their daughter moved back to Maryland, where the couple lived while they were married and where Friedman still resides.

Although many prominent rabbis have come out against Friedman on the issue, the rabbinical court Shar Hamishpot issued an opinion in June 2012 siding with Friedman, saying Epstein “had no right to unilaterally relocate their daughter” to Philadelphia.

Friedman declined to comment on the matter, and Camp’s office has said in the past that it refuses to become involved in Friedman’s religious matters.

The protest will be held between 11:45 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. at the Longworth House Office Building entrance on Independence Avenue.

Clarification: Feb. 25, 2:58 p.m.

An earlier version of this article was unclear about the circumstances of the civil divorce. Aharon Friedman was civilly divorced from his wife, Tamar Epstein, in April 2010.

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