Chained Wives Sentenced to Marriage

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A few years ago, I saw the Israeli film Sentenced To Marriage which documents the stories and experiences of agunot, Jewish women whose husbands refuse to grant them a get (divorce contract) leaving them as "chained wives." It was rather sobering to learn about these women (religious and secular alike) whose self-determination is trumped by oppressive men, and falls prey to the less-than-sympathetic judgments of the rabbinical high court.

I was reminded of the agunot crisis when reading today about a Jewish woman's long-fought triumph to get a divorce in Canada. December 2007 marked a breakthrough ruling for the intersection of civil and religious law when the Supreme Court of Canada ordered Stephanie Bruker's ex-husband to pay $47,500 in damages for the years he denied giving her a get. He'd sworn to do so as part of a civil divorce agreement. And yet, in a last-ditch effort, Bruker's ex-husband is now asking the Supreme Court to rehear the case, an attempt to shirk his financial responsibility. You can read more about this in Women's E-News.

It appalls me that hundreds of Jewish women around the world remain "sentenced to marriage" long after their marriages have become unsalvageable. Years of domination, and of physical, emotional, and psychological abuse are lived realities for women worldwide. A number of Jewish organizations including the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance (JOFA) and Jewish Women International, have been aggressively addressing the agunot crisis and doing all that they can to support these women's struggles.

Learn about the agunot advocacy work of Orthodox feminist Rivka Haut in JWA's online exhibit Jewish Women and the Feminist Revolution.

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