Other than the traditional get ceremony, there are a number of contemporary rituals that can mark a Jewish divorce. The Reform Movement, for example, introduced a ritual of separation for divorcing couples known as Seder P’reidah (Ritual of Release). In this ritual, both divorcing parties declare their consent to the termination of their marriage and their willingness to release each other so that they may begin new lives.
Leaders of Reform Judaism ruled in 1869 that from a Jewish perspective, civil divorce was enough to dissolve a marriage; there was no need for a get. But they introduced Seder P’reidah in 1983 to add a spiritual dimension into what is often a sterile court procedure, and to create a sacred space and time for making the difficult transition from marriage to singleness.
The need for spiritual closure at the end of a marriage has led to the development of a number of creative new Jewish divorce rituals, not linked to any particular Jewish denomination. For some divorcing individuals and couples, these new rituals are an alternative to the get ceremony. Other individuals and couples choose to have a get ceremony, but then also mark their divorce with a ritual that aims to address their feelings of loss and to remedy the male-female power imbalance inherent in traditional Jewish divorce practices.
The richest resource for innovative Jewish divorce rituals is on Ritualwell.org. Its section devoted to “Ending Relationships” includes:
- Rituals for a woman to perform with her friends; rituals for a man to perform with his friends; rituals for a divorcing couple to perform together with their community
- Rituals to perform immediately following a separation; rituals to perform a year after finalizing divorce
- Appropriate liturgy including biblical verses, poetry, and songs
- Symbolic actions such as the tearing of a sheet or pillowcase (meant to evoke sexual intimacy, the wedding canopy, the rending of clothing in mourning, and the cutting of the get)
- Rituals that draw on Jewish mourning practices
- Divorce rituals for Havdalah, a time of separation and differentiation
All these rituals were written in a DIY-spirit, and with the specific needs of specific divorces in mind. Because every situation of divorce is different, individuals or couples seeking a spiritual marker of their divorce are encouraged to adapt elements of these rituals in ways that express their own emotions and help meet their own needs. Close friends or a rabbi can also be helpful in crafting a ceremony.