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Agunot and the Powers That Be

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Publication Date: March 2005

Publisher(s): Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance; Hadassah-Brandeis Institute

Author(s): Sharon Shenhav

Special Collection: Berman Jewish Policy Archive

Topic: Culture and religion (Religion and religious groups)
Population and demographics (Women)
Social conditions (Marriage and family life)

Keywords: Jewish Law (halacha); Orthodox Judaism; Feminism; Divorce

Type: Other


In this transcript from a discussion at the conference, "Choosing Limits, Limiting Choices: Women' s Status and Religious Life," panelists were asked to comment on the impact of the agunah (women denied a religious divorce) issue on Jewish women and on the Jewish community. Weiss presents results from a series of interviews with women pleaders in the Israeli rabbinical court and discusses their interpretive strategies for responding to the challenges that modern values pose to their religious world. Aranoff's topic is the moral quandary that the suffering of agunot creates for Orthodoxy's communities, leaders, and institutions. Joseph describes her decades of experience as an activist within the Orthodox community, and the challenges and precariousness of that position. The questions and answers section includes discussion on alternatives to kiddushin (traditional Jewish marriage), the use of rabbinically sanctioned violence to coerce a husband to give a divorce, and civil remedies.