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American Women’s Groups Back Petition for Removal of Religious Disabilities

At least six major American Jewish women’s organizations will be signatories to a petition addressed to rabbinical authorities all over the world, urging them to assemble to “find the means and interpretations in the Talmud and Codes” of Jewish law that will “overcome the disabilities of Jewish women” in matters concerning marriage, divorce, inheritance and other personal or family affairs.

The petition was drafted by the International Council of Jewish Women, an organization with affiliates in 22 countries, including the United States and Israel, with a total membership of more than 500,000 women. It is directed especially to relieve the hardships imposed on many women who adhere to halachic injunctions with regard to their personal lives.

According to the National Council of Jewish Women, the U.S. affiliate of the world group, the petition has been signed by the Federation of Temple Sisterhoods, Hadassah, Pioneer Women and the United Synagogue Women. It will be signed shortly by the B’nai B’rith Women’s Organization and the Women’s Division of the American Jewish Congress. Other women’s organizations are expected to add their names as well. Specific areas for which rabbinical attention is asked include Jewish divorce, “chalitzah,” required of a widow whose husband died childless and left a brother; “agunah,” a woman who cannot obtain a divorce or permission to re-marry, and inheritance rules.

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