Hello again, it’s nice to be back!
Who says you can’t come home again? Life is a revolving door and one never knows what to expect. But the one thing that is certain, at least for this writer, is how heartwarming the unexpected can be.
Some of you may remember that about twenty years ago, I partnered with The Jewish Press in a daring endeavor: we introduced “The Agunah Chronicles,” a first-of-its-kind column showcasing the terrible state of affairs of the agunos in our midst.
It was a huge gamble that could have backfired, as the agunah issue was, at that time, shrouded in silent denial and shame. But something extraordinary happened. In place of the expected backlash from our communities and leaders, what emerged was the voice of women in despair, women who were suffering from the deaf ears of many Batei Din, overlooked and shunned by society at large and their individual communities. Letters began coming in at a trickle at first, written by desperate women under the cloak of anonymity, and then by the boxful, as women realized the column was their platform, their vehicle by which to broadcast the shameful and painful treatment they were suffering from. They were given a voice and they made themselves heard.
And change gradually took place by our drawing attention to the unjust treatment they and their children were suffering from, by biased and uncaring courts, both religious and secular, and by a community that preferred not to see, hear, or address the issue. In time, however, the issue of agunos in our midst was so catastrophic that there were few families not affected – directly or indirectly. And the letters poured in.
During the ten years I helmed “The Agunah Chronicles,” it branched out to include the problems faced by children of divorce, in-law involvement, grandparent issues and problems to be found during every stage of life. I answered each and every letter, either in private or in print. It was one of the best and most rewarding projects I have ever had the privilege of undertaking.
However, after ten years, life and familial responsibilities obliged me to part company with the weekly column I loved. But the letters kept coming in and I answered each and every one that came with a return address or e-mail address and I amassed a whole file cabinet of letters that, for ten years, went unpublished.
Fast forward to today, when I was invited to pick up where I left off, and readily accepted. Some things are better left in the past, so in that spirit, the new column will be called “Life Chronicles” and will be a place wherein any and all issues, problems and grievances can be aired. But the plight of the agunah will always be the cornerstone of the column, as it is close to my heart.
As before, I welcome your letters and will do my best to answer them in a fair and concise manner. Where the reach of my expertise is in question, I have a panel of professionals, including reputable rabbanim and poskim, whose thoughts and suggestions will form the basis for my reply, whenever additional resources are required. No problem is too small or insignificant, shameful or embarrassing and it will be addressed with tact and empathy and with the greatest respect for one’s privacy and anonymity.
I look forward to hearing from old friends and new ones as we launch “Life Chronicles” and I welcome your trust in helping find solutions, answers and resolutions to any of the daily problems and situations that may cause angst and stress or hinder the quality of life.