The Plight Of Agunot


No one can condone the alleged actions of those accused of kidnapping and torturing Jewish husbands who refuse to provide their wives with a Jewish divorce, or get, but we cannot permit this story to overshadow the challenges a Jewish woman faces if she is unable to obtain a get (“Accused Kidnap Rabbi Known For ‘Wild West’ Rules,” Oct. 18).

Within the Jewish faith, she becomes an agunah, or a “chained women,” unable to remarry or date; her family is shunned in the community. A husband often uses his control as a form of economic coercion. Powerless, and desperate to move on with their lives, most wives either pay or walk away from a substantial settlement, including much needed child support, in exchange for the religious divorce.

Divorce reforms have made some breakthroughs in protecting these women’s rights in recent years: our courts have been more proactive in dealing with spouses who seek to withhold a religious divorce. But many women, especially those who cannot pay for an attorney to represent them in court, remain trapped.

President, New York Legal Assistance Group