Yad La’isha marks record-breaking number of ‘chained women’ cases resolved

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Yad La’isha marks record-breaking number of ‘chained women’ cases resolved

The ‘agunah problem’ is an ongoing Jewish legal (halachic) issue in which women wishing to get a divorce require the consent of their husbands, who may refuse.

Sarah Meizlish with her advocate
Photo of Sarah M., one of the 12 cases resolved this month by Yad La’Isha of Ohr Torah Stone.

In honor of Israel’s Yom Hamishpacha (Family Day), the Yad La’isha organization, which is part of the Modern Orthodox Ohr Torah Stone network, announced a record-breaking month of resolved agunah (‘chained women’) cases, in reference to the ongoing problem of Israeli and Jewish women being refused a religious divorce. The organization announced the closure of twelve cases which were resolved peacefully.

The ‘agunah problem’ is an ongoing Jewish legal (halachic) issue in which women wishing to get a divorce require the consent of their husbands, who may refuse, which combined the inability of Jewish religious authorities to force an annulment, leads to the creation of ‘chained women’. These women cannot get remarried according to Jewish law without a ‘gett’, making them ‘chained women.’

“The problem of women who are trapped in abusive or unviable marriages by their husbands deserves to be recognized as one of the most pressing challenges of the Jewish world,” explained Rabbi Kenneth Brander, President and Rosh HaYeshiva of Ohr Torah Stone.

According to Yad La’isha, each year over 2,400 women around the world become ‘chained women’. In many cases, the cases are resolved peacefully, but in others, women may not have the resources to handle the legal and emotional complexities involved in agunah scenarios. 

“We weep for every moment lost by the twelve women who were freed this month, but the same time we are tremendously excited that we were able to bring about their release. This month’s impressive success is the result of dedicated work, creative thinking, and exceptional expertise by our team of women advocates, lawyers and social workers who have been fighting to release chained women for over 20 years. We will continue to pursue their rights to freedom, until a full halachic solution is found,” noted Pnina Omer, Director of Yad La’isha.

While distinctions exist between Israeli Jewish women and those in the Diaspora, where there is no central Jewish authority  controlling marriage and divorce, both communities have been affected by the challenge of agunot. In Israel, since marriage and divorce is under the control of the Rabbinate, without any form of civil marriage available, secular Israeli Jewish women have also been impacted by the issue of the ‘gett.’

As noted by Yad La’Isha, some cases have also included physical violence against women. In once case, ‘I’, whose husband threatened to kill her, was arrested for violating restraining orders. In this case, she was held hostage in her marriage for six years before going to Yad La’Isha fo help. Describing the experience, ‘I’ said that “while [she] still has considerable scars from this experience, [she] feels invigorated to finally be free. [she] hopes [her] experience can give hope and confidence to other women in [her] situation to know that their day will come.”

Read this article on the Jerusalem Post website

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