Agunah Watch: A Jerusalem Conference Explores Opportunities For Agunot in Israel
By Honey Rackman and Dr. Susan Aranoff
This past July, Sharon Shenhav, director of the International Jewish Women's Human Rights Watch and an international women's rights lawyer, convened a symposium at the Jerusalem Center f o r Public Affairs to discuss the halakhic opportunities for agunot (women whose husband refuse to grant them a Jewish divorce). Justice Menachem Eton, Rabbi Emanuel Rackman, and Professor Ze'ev Falk (z’l) joined more than a dozen prominent scholars to deliver papers on the topic.
Rabbi Eliahu Ben Dahan, the representative of Israel's religious court, defended the rabbinate's record in eliminating cases of agunot and spoke of the more than 100 files that were settled within the year. He was politely upbraided by Dr. Ruth Halperin Kaderi and Susan Weiss. Dr. Kaderi, who has written extensively on the subject of freeing agunot and Weiss, an attorney who steers women clients through the Bet Din system, pointed out that these women were no longer agunot because they had relinquished most or all of their financial rights to obtain their freedom.
A note of promise rested with Rabbi Rackman. He declared his commitment to the halakhic validity of the case law used by his Bet Din that frees agunot when the husband refuses to issue a get, even when the marriage is over. While not a display of unanimous support, the many supportive handshakes and discussions following the formal presentation of papers was heartening.
Dr. Susan Aranoff is co-founder and co-director of Agunah, Inc, and is associate professor of economics at Kingsborough Community College. Honey Rackman is co-director of Agunah, Inc.
Advocacy Group Begins Campaign
The Dead End, an advocacy group for agunot based in Jerusalem, has recently begun a campaign to recruit more members and raise funds. The group sponsored a training session for volunteers to understand the often complicated process of aiding agunot and is in the process of writing grant proposals. Contact Elana Stockman at 011-972-2-963-8187.