Divorce, in exchange for Extermination (Shmad)

Divorce, in exchange for Extermination (Shmad)
This week will be the story of the children of Esti and Robert (fictitious names). Esti met Robert at a young age. When she was 20 years old, a relationship developed between them and they became a couple. Esti, who came from a traditional home, was bothered by the fact that that Robert is a Christian, but she thought love would conquer all: Robert was a good-looking guy, intelligent, educated, who loved her a lot. She wanted with all her heart to marry him, whatever he would choose. Robert also very much wanted to marry Esti, but he had one condition: The marriage had to take place in a church. But for the church to recognize their marriage, Esti had to convert to Christianity. Esti did not think that this procedure of changing religions had any importance at all; to convert to Christianity, she surmised, is a small change on the form, after all, a procedural action without any significance. She came from a traditional home, and what mattered was that she would continue to keep Jewish traditions. And so it was: Esti became a Christian, and the two of them were married in a church ceremony.
Three children were born to Esti and Robert. Thirteen whole years had passed since they were married, until the moment Esti decided to end the relationship. She participated in a Torah class that dealt with the virtue of Israel and the separation between Israel and the nations. The Jewish spark was suddenly awakened in Esti. She returned home from that class in turmoil, after she understood the size of the problem existing in her marriage – assimilation. A week later, she informed Robert that she wanted to get divorced. A close religious friend of Esti’s recommended that she go for help to the Lehava organization for a procedure to return to Judaism which she had already started to carry out, along with the divorce procedure. Esti did come to us, and my wife Anat began accompanying her closely.
From a technical point of view, this divorce procedure should have gone off without a hitch. Both Esti and Robert agreed to divorce. Not only that: Robert even agreed that Esti would get full custody over the children and also agreed that the children would remain Jews, as they had been during all the years of their marriage. Seemingly, no problem. But only seemingly.
Since Esti and Robert got married in a church, the divorce proceedings they began were carried out in the ecclesiastical court. When Esti’s request for a divorce was submitted to the court, with Robert’s full agreement, as was noted, the court imposed an unprecedented condition on both of them, in order for the court to be willing (!) to discuss the request: In order for us to discuss the request – said the court judges – you must first of all have the children converted to Christianity. They did not address at all, the issue that there is full agreement between the parties to divorce. Didn’t we already say “destruction”?
Esti decided to submit an appeal of the decision to the church’s high court of appeals. At Esti’s disposal, Lehava hired a lawyer expert in family law according to church law. These days, the lawyer is working on writing the appeal. We are not afraid of the long road ahead; if necessary, the case will continue to be handled and will be sent to the High Court – until it is decided that Esti can get divorced from Robert, and that her children will remain Jews.
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