Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Thoughts | Agunot

This ones a little different today, but I have decided to write about my dissertation topic. This might seem like a crazy idea considering the amount of time you spend on your dissertation already. However, it is a surprising issue within Judaism that is still incredibly relevant today and something I am quite passionate about. I remember learning about it initially in my "Defining Judaism" module last year and being shocked that something like Agunot was still an issue today.

An Agunah (Agunot in the plural) is a Jewish woman who is chained by Halakhah (Jewish Law) within her marriage. In Judaism, a man must issue a get, or a bill of divorce, to his wife for the couple to be divorced under Jewish Law. This can be for a number of different reasons; the husband is dead but there is no proof of his death - this was a big issue after the holocaust and 9/11, the husband is mentally impaired and cannot divorce the woman or purely that the husband does not want to give the woman the get. Its a very complex issue which has been discussed by many rabbis, scholars , and people over the years but I do believe more attention needs to be paid to this issue. The religious implications of Agunot is massive; if a woman decides not to wait for the get to be given, regardless of whether the husband can give it or not, she will be known as an adulteress. If she then remarries, and has children, these will be known as Mamzerim, or bastards, as they are considered to be illiterate. The problem encompasses more than just the woman herself, it affects her whole family and community around her.

I never would have learnt about it if it wasn't for my degree and I do think that is a shame. I think more attention needs to be put onto the problem of Agunah; its a serious issue when those who are within Judaism are fighting something that is in their teachings; you know it is not right. Although it is hard to find a solution, providing people with more knowledge of the problem means that more people know about it and can be searching for a solution, or even just ways to help these Agunot. This is definitely one of the reasons why I wanted to write my dissertation on this topic. It is such an unfair and complicated issue which barely anyone has heard of. I think more people need to know about it so we can help these poor women, even by just knowing about their situation. There are also rallies in the US which some of you might be able to take part in if that is something you wish to do.

Some really good websites to check out if you are interested in this issue and would like to know more are:

ORA
Manchester Agunah Research Unit
JOFA

I would really urge you to have a look at this issue further. I  think being in the know about these types of issues is so important. Have you ever heard of the Agunah problem?



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