By Rabbi Yair Hoffman
Dahlia Oziel is a singer, songwriter, and Instagram influencer who has started a revolution in how the Jewish community responds to agunos. The terrain has now changed, and it is not a good time for people to be withholding a get, (if there ever was a good time). Some rabbis believe that the chillul Hashem involved now in chaining a woman is not warranted even in situations where there is alleged alienation. These rabbis feel that a get should not be used as a threatening tool at all and that it is a grave chillul Hashem to do so.
I had the privilege of interviewing Dahlia to learn more.
RYH: There are so many agunah movements here. Save Chava, Save Elizabeth, Save etc. Were there men present at the Save the Elizabeth rally as well, or was it just women?
DO: Yes, there were. This has been a phenomenon that first started with women, but men and rabbis as well have jumped on board. This is now a klal Yisrael thing.
RYH: Who thought of the mantra, “NO GET, NO PEACE!”?
DO: I do not know, actually.
RYH: How do you explain how this went viral?
DO: I think it is because people see that there were just regular normal people involved in this, just regular people out of nowhere. This caused many other people to be involved. Then when everyone started speaking up, it motivated more and more people. People then started getting involved themselves.
RYH: Is it true that you are also involved in kiruv work, and do you think that this had an effect in your involvement here?
DO: Yes, I do so in the summers, and also I give concerts for kiruv organizations. As far as whether this had an effect, while there was no direct connection per se, it clearly has to have one. You have to have your heart open to everyone and when one of the agunos called, how could you say no? How can you not help, especially since there was a psak from the beis din to spread it.
This is no longer about Free Chava. It transformed into Free Agunos because everyone knows someone.
RYH: When was the first time you came across an agunah?
DO: It was years ago, and we did not even know she did not have a get. This was someone who was going on ten years.
RYH: Are there other influencers involved in this?
DO: Yes, they are all involved in it. The big ones came on board first. Then even smaller ones with between 200 and 1,000 followers came on board. But once again, this is all of Klal Yisrael being involved.
RYH: How do you ensure that you are not backing the wrong side?
DO: This is a very hard question. What we are doing is relying on the batei din in terms of issuing a seruv and the rabbanim of that beis din to authorize our going public yet.
RYH: What about the secular media?
DO: We do our best not to involve the secular media. We have already refused interviews with top media on this. There is a reason that we are keeping this to Jewish influencers. Some are disagreeing with us on this because the secular media is so effective in getting a get. True, this may get out to the secular press—but we aren’t doing it. We are following the psakim of the batei din about putting it on social media.
We are focusing on the desired outcome. It is definitely a chillul Hashem. But it is on the person who is refusing to listen to the beis din. The fact that there are abusers is the chillul Hashem. This is abusing the Torah. Us witnessing this chillul Hashem is what is motivating Klal Yisrael to speak up and react.
RYH: What was your proudest moment recently, after this movement went so viral?
DO: The fact that there was a woman who was an agunah for 17 years and then the person went ahead and married another woman. That second wife was encouraged to come forward when the husband physically abused wife number two and at least one child. Anyway the family is safer now because of this movement and the first wife got her get. To see these results are truly emotional.
RYH: Are there repercussions beyond these individual cases? Are you seeing a sea change in attitudes?
DO: Baruch Hashem, there are. There is a word called synergy which means one plus one equals three. It means two people being able to lift together more than either of them could have lifted alone added up together. That is what is happening here. The power in numbers is unbelievable. This is not just women now, it is a number of men as well. People are seeing the power of social media now.
RYH: What are your thoughts on the fact that this Free the Agunah Movement is coming from women?
DO: I do want to point out that it may have started with the women, but there are so many men and rabbanim on board now. It may have started with women, but this is no longer the case.
Also, there are so many midrashim that point out how women took the first step and encouraged men to get on board too. There is the wife of Ohn Ben Pelet who tried to get her husband out of the rebellion of Korach. And that worked. That is why his name is mentioned in the beginning of Parshat Korach, but not later on. There is Avigayil who convinced Dovid HaMelech to change his mind and he saw that she was right.
RYH: Do you think that there are men who are chaining their ex-wives that are running scared now?
DO: Each case is very different. But definitely, before the “Storming of Social Media” that has been transpiring here, there was no social pressure. Now there is. And a lot of people are running scared that they will be next.
RYH: Is there a team here or is it mostly just one or two people?
DO: There is definitely a team and they are interviewing and going through cases one by one. I want to mention Shira from Monsey whose work here is so integral, and there are so many other people too.
RYH: Are there any words that you want to say to the other agunos out there?
DO: Yes, definitely. First of all, you should all know that there is an expression in the slichot that says, “yeshu’at Hashem k’heref ayin—Hashem saves us in the blink of an eye.” So continue davening. Everyone should be davening and saying Tehillim because a tefillah is never wasted. The tears you shed now could help you and they could help another agunah. But also you should know that Klal Yisrael, all of Klal Yisrael—women and men—are looking out for you. It is so wrong when people try to take advantage of Torah halachot to extract money and revenge on others. We know of so many Gedolim who tried to help past agunot. There is a famous story with Rabbi Akiva Eiger—ask your rav about it.
RYH: Well thank you so much.
DO: Thank you!
The author can be reached at Yairhoffman2@gmail.com. Read more of Rabbi Hoffman’s articles at 5TJT.com.