Mock Jewish Divorce

It’s become almost a cliche program at American Jewish summer camps. The mock Jewish wedding teaches kids, through an interactive and improvisational experience, the many beautiful traditions that create the beginnings of a joyful Jewish marriage. Last summer, at our synagogue’s week long Vacation Torah Camp, we lived out the cliche, marrying my seven year old daughter to our senior rabbi’s eight year old son.  As is the case at Jewish camps throughout the nation, our kids took part in all aspects of the ceremony, from the
(veiling of the bride) and the signing of the ketubah to the shtick and simchah dancing at the party. It was truly a celebration to remember.

And yet this summer, our synagogue’s camp may have walked on uncharted turf as we performed what was likely the first mock divorce in Jewish summer camp history.

The idea actually came from the kids themselves. “Are we going to do another mock wedding?” they asked. “No, that was last year” we responded. “Well then what are we going to do? A mock what? A mock divorce?”

Currently in America, 50% of all marriages end in divorce.  Although divorce is not seen as a desirable end in Judaism, neither is it viewed as a shameful. Judaism understands that all marriages do not remain happy and healthy — being in relationship is tough, and as people evolve in their self identities and as well as their understandings of each other, they are sometimes no longer able to remain in a healthy marriage. It is for this reason that we have the
, or the Jewish document of divorce

Although the possibility of divorce is cautiously embraced by Judaism, the reality of the ceremony is deeply problematic. A divorce must be initiated by the man, and cannot be declared by a woman.  The reality of this can be very problematic and has left us with the situation of the
– a woman who is metaphorically “chained” to her husband and, because she has not received a get, cannot be remarried. It is for this reason that rabbis have devised prenuptial clauses to protect wives in the event that their husbands refuse to grant them a divorce. As a rabbi, I will not perform a wedding without a prenuptial clause that protects a woman from such a fate. And yet, despite the fact that I speak very honestly with couples I plan to marry about the need for this protective document, I had never thought to create a “mock divorce” as a learning experience for our campers.

Posted on September 7, 2012

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