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Recognizing Shame On International Agunah Day


Have the rabbis not felt the necessity of developing deep halachic reasoning and mechanisms, thus taking action to prevent their own daughters from becoming agunot? Apparently denial is a stronger force than shame.

Nevertheless, there is one type of shame to which Orthodox rabbis and their followers are sensitive: the shame of chillul Hashem – desecration of God’s name.

Add the ongoing media coverage – with people of all religions (and unaffiliated Jews whom Orthodoxy wishes to attract) witnessing the plight of the agunah – to the shame of the Orthodox Jewish community’s inability to resolve that human tragedy.

How tragic this compounding of shame before the eyes of the people of the world! But is it shameful enough to cause the rabbis to take back power from the truly shameful get-refusers?

Rachel Levmore, a Ph.D. in Jewish Law from Bar Ilan University, is a rabbinical court advocate; coordinator of the Agunah and Get-Refusal Prevention Project of the Council of Young Israel Rabbis in Israel and the Jewish Agency;and author of “Min’ee Einayich Medim’a” on prenuptial agreements for the prevention of get-refusal.

About the Author: Rachel Levmore (Ph.D. in Jewish Law from Bar Ilan University) is a rabbinical court advocate, coordinator of the Agunah and Get-Refusal Prevention Project of the Council of Young Israel Rabbis in Israel and the Jewish Agency, and author of "Min'ee Einayich Medim'a" on prenuptial agreements for the prevention of get-refusal.


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It began in the United States with the Yiddish newspaper the Forward in the first half of the 20th century. The galeriye fun farshvundene mener (gallery of vanished husbands) appeared regularly, listing names and photos of men who had disappeared leaving their wives as agunot, chained to a Jewish marriage. The Jewish Press followed in the latter decades of the century, launching its own weekly seiruv list.

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