Photo Credit: Samia’s Studios
Jonathan Mintz

Much of the literature that has been written about agunot is focused on halachic issues. Indeed, the issue of agunot has always been a great challenge facing halachic authorities and it is one of the most complex in halachic discussions, treated in halachic literature in great detail. “Agunah responsa,” written by halachic authorities in response to questions posed by agunot who desired to be declared widows, have continuously popped up in the last thousand years of halachic literature. The limited research on this topic has mainly focused on the legal ramifications of the agunah situation.

But the psychological experience of being an agunah has never been studied. The experience of the children in this unique high-conflict divorce situation and the association between maternal trauma and the connection with the children’s emotional, social, hyperactivity and inattention difficulties has certainly never been examined. And that is exactly why Jonathan Mintz decided to explore the association between the maternal trauma and child’s outcomes within the context of an agunah situation/a high conflict divorce, as the topic of his doctoral dissertation.


“The agunah situation is an extremely understudied area, and especially since it has tremendous ramifications for those who strictly follow Jewish law, it seemed like an extremely meaningful area to explore further,” said Jonathan Mintz. “That is the reason why the project is meaningful to me. I am pursuing it because a passion and interest of mine is in familial relationships and how members of families are impacted by one another as well as by other factors affecting them. Within the context of this unique and potentially harmful situation, I believe it is important to explore the association between a mother’s experience and her child’s.”

The working title of Mintz’ dissertation is “The Interconnected Relationship between Children’s Functioning and Maternal Trauma Symptoms within the Context of a High-Conflict Divorce: Associations between an agunah and Her Family.” Jonathan Mintz is from Fair Lawn, N.J., and holds a B.A. from Yeshiva University and an M.A. in Educational Psychology from Kean University. He currently is enrolled in Kean University’s PsyD Program in Clinical and School Psychology. In his practicums and externship, Mintz has worked with children, adolescents, adults and families. For purposes of his dissertation, he has been investigating data from surveys that the Organization for the Resolution of Agunot (ORA), Sister to Sister and Tahel in Israel, sent to their members who were agunot. The surveys were developed by Dr. David Pelcovitz, chair in Psychology and Jewish Education at the Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration at Yeshiva University, with the help of his research team, of which Mintz was the project coordinator.

“Children of agunot completed surveys looking at their psychosocial functioning – the so-called ‘Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire’ (SDQ) – and their perceptions of inter-parental conflict, the so-called ‘Children’s Perception of Inter-Parental Conflict’ (CPIC).

“The agunot completed surveys that asked general and demographic information such as the number of years they were married, when they had requested a religious divorce, the number of years that have passed since their request, whether a seiruv was issued or if there was a psak beit din, etc. Additionally, the agunot completed a number of measures, among them the ‘PTSD Checklist – Civilian Version’ (PCL-C), which measured post-traumatic stress symptomology, and others,” Jonathan Mintz said.

Mintz added, “I hope that my research will be informative to those who are studying the situation of agunot and the impact of the situation on agunot and their children. Depending on the results, my research may be an impetus for and put some urgency into attempts to find solutions to this problem.”

If readers have any comments or questions concerning his dissertation that they would like to share, they can contact Jonathan Mintz at [email protected].


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