The Knesset Committee for the Advancement of the Status of Women and Gender Equality held a meeting on Wednesday, March 23, in honor of International Agunah Day, which is marked on the Fast of Esther. International Agunah Day is a day of solidarity with agunot, “deserted women” whose absent husbands have refused to grant them a get, a divorce document required by Jewish law for the women to be able to be considered divorced and to remarry. MK Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid), who initiated the meeting, called agunot “a worldwide Jewish problem.”
Committee Chairwoman MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Hadash – Joint List) said she will never understand a situation in which “women are imprisoned and cannot choose how they live. I’d like for there to be civil marriage in this country, but until then, the rabbinical courts must decide that they will not cause this suffering, and will act to free the women. One woman suffering is too much.”
MK Rachel Azaria (Kulanu), who is the former chairwoman of Mavoi Satum (Deadlock), an organization that helps agunot, mentioned cases in which a father rapes a daughter, and the mother could not get a religious divorce, or cases in which a husband refused to give his wife a divorce unless she gives up all of their joint assets and waives any child support payments. Rabbi Jeremy Stern, executive director of ORA – Organization for the Resolution of Agunot, pointed out that the use of halacha prenuptial agreements is becoming more common in the US, and estimated that in 10 years there will no longer be an agunah problem among Modern Orthodox Jews there.