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New Hope for ‘Agunot’ Women Trapped by Separated Husbands

A new initiative will use Jewish law to help “Agunot” women, separated from husbands who refuse to grant them a divorce that would let them re-marry.
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A new independent rabbinical court to address the issue of agunot, so-called “chained women” whose husbands refuse to give them a religious writ of divorce, will be launched next year, the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance announced this week at a conference in New York.

Jerusalem Rabbi Simcha Krauss, a leading Modern Orthodox rabbi and widely respected scholar, will head the court (Beit Din), which will have no institutional affiliation and will begin operating in New York.

Rabbi Krauss told JTA that the court will utilize little-used, obscure resources in Jewish religious law to free agunot, including the ex-communication from communal prayer of their husbands and Sephardic laws that allow for greater initiative from women in divorce cases.

He said he will leave “no door unopened” in his quest to address the plight of agunot.

Eventually, Rabbi Krauss said, he wants to open an affiliate court in Israel. He also is working on attaining approval from the Israeli Chief Rabbinate, which is necessary if the court’s judgments are to be upheld under Israeli law.

“The goal of this project is to humanize the Beit Din,” Rabbi Krauss told JTA. “You can’t solve these situations with sleight of hand. But hopefully we can use the right methodology, so that even these situations get solved.”

He acknowledged that the biggest challenge facing any avowedly independent religious court is mainstream acceptance, particularly within the Hared communities.

“Nobody wants agunot,” Rabbi Kraus said. “So hopefully, if [Haredim] see that we are solving these cases, maybe they will come to us. Or maybe they will follow.”

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7 Responses to “New Hope for ‘Agunot’ Women Trapped by Separated Husbands”

  1. It is a good desicion of practising justiceseatising justice..
    I vould like to open a similar Beth Din in Siracusa for the federation of mediterranean communities,under the same dictated rules. Please contact me at :rabbisdimauro@aol.com Shalom and Blesings for a good job

  2. Anonymous says:

    I must be missing something in this article!! NYS LAW REQUIRES that a religious divorce be given to the spouse , as required< if a NY civil divorce is granted. If the spouse refuses, he can be brought up on CRIMINAL charges and fined and do jail time until the "get" is obtained.
    CHECK NYS Law about this!!!

  3. Jo Torres says:

    Good luck to these ladies.

  4. The main block in granting release of agunoth is among the Ashkenazi & Ashkenazi-influenced-Sfaradi Rabbis. Aside from Rav Moshe Feinstein za"l the only other Rabbis who dared over-ride the Baal HaShakh's hherem on releasing agunoth were Rav Shalush za"l & Maran Rishon Lession Rav Ovadia Yosef za"l (who released over 950 agunoth!).
    Also these days batei Din have become afraid to use the tools given to them by halakha to force a get of bypass the stubborn husband.

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