The family and friends of Rena Lorkis have started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for legal fees, a private investigator to find Eli and bring him to justice, and related expenses.
According to Jewish law, a woman can’t get divorced without the permission of her husband. She can’t start a new family. She can’t move on with her life. He holds all of the power and has the ability to block her from breaking free from his grasp and moving forward. This is the situation that I find myself in today.
I grew up in Oak Park and much of my extended family still calls Metro Detroit home. I went to Yeshiva Bais Yaakov, volunteered with Summer in the City and worked as a lifeguard at the JCC.
I moved to Jerusalem in 2012 upon my marriage to Eli Pollack. Shortly after, Eli became controlling and abusive. In 2019, I gathered the courage to leave with my three small children and to petition the Israeli court for a divorce. Eli refused. At that point, I became an agunah — a woman chained by marriage to a man who will not grant her a writ of divorce known as a Get.
Being an agunah takes away my ability to choose; choice is stolen by abuse. I have three beautiful children, and I’m not sure I want more, but I don’t have the free choice to decide what to do with my body. I enjoy being independent and parenting my children on my own, but I don’t have the free choice to seek a new partner. My free choice — to find love, companionship, marriage, to have additional children, to move where I want, to be closer to my family — all stolen.
The Israeli Beit Din (high court) ordered Eli to grant me a divorce or be put in jail indefinitely; instead, he has gone into hiding in order to avoid relinquishing his control over me. Today, my children’s father is still a fugitive from the police. Running cowardly with my future clenched in his fist, thinking it makes him strong to keep me captive.
I want to hold a space in my heart for hope and faith that they will find him. I want to find space in my heart to believe that this situation could have a happy ending. Moss and darkness have been quietly growing around the corners of my heart. But beauty can grow from darkness and moss can bring about new life. I am always a Jew with a faint but unceasing light inside my heart to shine the way.
But what is the way? I can turn the music louder and dance and sing, celebrate my life — but not too loudly or too much for fear of bumping into my glass walls put in place by an abusive captor and an unjust legal system. The pain of hitting the glass and knowing my freedom has been stolen from me against my will is a pain almost too deep to acknowledge.
The What if..., Maybe I could..., What would that be like... — they have been taken from me. I try not to sit in silence watching the time tick away from me, as it has for these past three years. I try to decorate the inside of these walls as beautifully and as fully as I have the freedom to. I try to keep speaking up so I won’t also lose my voice. I speak up for all the other women in situations like mine — too many to count.
Get refusal is abuse. Eli Pollack has stolen my freedom and I deserve it back.