The patriarch of a prominent Staten Island Jewish family has had enough of dirty laundry being aired in the media.
Rabbi Yosaif Asher Weiss of Prince's Bay defended his family against accusations by his estranged daughter-in-law, Gital Dodelson, who has taken her four-year battle for a religious divorce into the court of public opinion by posting on Facebook and other social media.
"Our family is horrified by the vitriol, lies and hate that permeate Gital's article," said Rabbi Weiss, referring to an expose in the New York Post. "It is full of misinformation and outright fabrications, as well as untruths..." he alleges.
Rabbi Weiss is the father of Avrohom Meir Weiss, formerly of Staten Island, who now lives in New Jersey, as does his estranged wife.
"This is a very, very heart wrenching and ongoing dispute," a clearly upset Rabbi Weiss said in an exclusive interview with the Advance. "We've been trying desperately to resolve this for a long time.
This has destroyed my family health wise and destroyed my family financially."
The rabbi's greatest concern is the potential impact of the dispute on a grandson who is the center of a custody battle. Rabbi Weiss insisted that despite Ms. Dodelson's claims, no attempt has been made by his son to obtain sole custody.
"We have a grandchild here, the sweetest child you will ever meet, who doesn't understand any of this, who one day is going to grow up and have to read this," Rabbi Weiss said. "We don't want him to think that we could ever say anything bad against his mother, no matter what she did."
Although the controversy centers on the Orthodox Jewish woman's alleged attempts to obtain a "get" from his son, some of the posters claim they are boycotting Artscroll religious publishing house where Rabbi Weiss has worked for many years.
The Weiss family is well-known in the Island Jewish community; an uncle of the estranged husband is Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss of Agudath Israel of Staten Island and a great-grandparent of the estranged husband is the late renowned scholar Rabbi Moshe Feinstein.
A Facebook page with the message, "Free Gital: Tell Avrohom Meir Weiss to Give His Wife a 'Get'" has over 12,500 likes. The Facebook page encourages people in cyberspace to contact not only Artscroll but lists phone numbers for her estranged husband and for the estranged husband's parents and grandparents.
Meanwhile, Twitter is buzzing with tweets from supporters for Ms. Dodelson.
According to the Facebook page and website, Ms. Dodelson first asked her husband for a 'get,' which is a Jewish bill of divorce, four years ago and their civil divorce was finalized in August 2012. Ms. Dodelson claims on her Facebook page that Weiss refuses to give her a 'get' unless she agrees to a variety of conditions.
A get is given by a husband and received by his wife in order to end a Jewish marriage. Without a get, neither party is permitted to remarry according to Jewish law. An agunah is a woman whose marriage has functionally ended, but whose husband refuses to give her a get, said the Organization for the Resolution of Agunot.
"We suspect much of Gital's disappointment stems from her reaction to the arbitrator's findings, and she has lashed out in response," said Rabbi Weiss, explaining that both families have been working with an arbitrator for several months.
"We do not wish to respond in kind, nor to jeopardize delicate negotiations by discussing them publicly, but we remain hopeful that the entire matter including the get will be resolved very soon, so that Avrohom and Gital can get on with their lives."
"If this was my mother, sister, or daughter I would do everything in my power to free her," said Scott Kalmikoff of Grant City in an email to the Advance. "I think the Jewish community has a responsibility to advocate for this woman, our Jewish sister, until she is finally free."
Kalmikoff claims many people will "criticize me for going to the SI Advance with this story. Many Orthodox Jews believe that we should keep these sorts of issues 'in house.'"
Kalmikoff attends and is on the board of the Agunah Advocacy Club at Yeshiva University and he frequently attends services at the Young Israel of Staten Island.
"This is an issue that deeply troubles me," Kalmikoff said, but he added "that a very small percentage of Orthodox Jewish men withhold gets. I don't want people to think that this is a common occurrence.
The Jewish community is doing whatever it can to help these women."
By Maura Grunlund - Silive.com