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Women Propose Reforms in Religious Marriage and Divorce Laws

June 6, 1929
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A proposal to seek certain reforms in the Jewish religious laws concerning marriage and divorce so that certain customs and regulations causing hardships may be eliminated, was presented at the session of the World Jewish Women’s Conference in session here. The proposal met with protests on the part of some of the delegates, but Mrs. Rebekah Kohut of New York, presiding over the sessions, referred the matter to a special committee with which rabbis are to cooperate.

Miss Hands of England, in her paper on the status of the Jewish woman, referred to the fact that in many countries the Jewish religious marriage and divorce are not recognized by the state and as a result Jewish women are subjected to many hardships. She asked in particular that an international rabbis’ conference be convoked to abolish or to modify the religious laws concerning Chalitza, that is, the law requiring special ceremonies of release to enable remarriage of a widow whose husband dies without issue and who is survived by a brother. Miss Hands likewise asked for rabbinical reform of the law governing the status of Agunoth, women whose husbands have been lost track of, as well as the abolition of restrictions against Cohens (descendants of the ancient priesthood of Israel) which prohibits them from marrying widows or divorcees. She also asked drastic action to curb polygamy, practiced by certain groups of Sephardic Jews in the Oriental countries.

About 70 delegates are attending, 20 of whom are from the United States. A message of greetings was read from Louis Marshall, president of the American Jewish Committee. The message expressed the hope that organized Jewish womanhood will participate in the work of the extended Jewish Agency for Palestine.

Senator Cohn welcomed the conference in behalf of the Hamburg Senate and invited the delegates to attend a reception in their honor at City Hall at noon on Tuesday. Mayor Petersen welcomed the delegates at the reception, expressing appreciation of the cultural contribution of Jewish women’s work. Mrs. Kohut responded to the greetings. In the evening a reception was given the delegates by the Jewish community of Hamburg.

Papers were read at the session by Mrs. Irma L. Lindheim, former president of Hadassah, women’s Zionist organization in the United States. Mrs. Reichenstein of Poland, and Miss S. Wransky of Germany.

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