The implosion of Aharon Friedman's marriage is getting a little more press than he likely expected. The 34-year-old tax counsel for the GOP on the House Ways and Means Committee is an Orthodox Jew—and, reportedly upset over a custody agreement, he refuses to give his 27-year-old wife a "get," or Jewish decree of divorce. He's since been blasted in the Jewish press and by fellow Jews, some 200 of whom protested outside his apartment then posted the scene on YouTube. While the New York Times notes that the act of pushing such husbands to give gets has been common throughout history, doing it in a way that shames the husband in the secular world is a rarity.
One rabbi went so far as to write a letter to the Ways and Means Committee's staff director, asking him to apply pressure. Friedman and Tamar Epstein, with whom he has a daughter, have been civilly divorced since April. But because they're still married under Jewish law, Epstein is an "agunah," or chained woman, and neither can remarry within the faith. Says a rabbi, "I don’t think the Messiah can come, as long as there is one agunah in the world."