The Wed-Locked Agunot

Orthodox Jewish Women Chained to Dead Marriages


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About the Book

The anguish endured by agunot (chained) Orthodox Jewish women trapped in unhappy or defunct marriages by husbands who refuse to give them a gett (divorce) reveals the power of religious law even when it conflicts with modern societies’ moral and legal norms. These women may be civilly divorced but must petition rabbinic courts in their quest to obtain a gett. In these courts women are subject to financial demands, pressured to drop charges of domestic violence and pedophilia against their husbands and to concede custody and visitation rights to unfit fathers.
This book takes the reader inside the rabbinic courts, into civil divorce courts and legislatures that contend with this problem and into the lives of victimized women and children. Well-versed in Jewish divorce law, the authors have counseled thousands of agunot and challenged the Orthodox rabbinate’s inaction in response to the injustices faced by these women.

About the Author(s)

Susan Aranoff is a professor of economics at Kingsborough Community College of the City University of New York. She lives in Brooklyn.
The late Rivka Haut was a Jewish Orthodox scholar, feminist and activist. She lived in Bronx, New York.

Bibliographic Details

Susan Aranoff and Rivka Haut
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 248
Bibliographic Info: bibliography, glossary, index
Copyright Date: 2015
pISBN: 978-0-7864-7967-2
eISBN: 978-1-4766-2031-2
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements ix

Preface 1

Prologue 5

Introduction 9

1. The Founding of Agunah Inc. 17

2. Our Initiation 21

3. We Take to the Streets 28

4. Surveying Batei Din 39

5. The Phantom Ketubah 52

6. Extortion: Every Man Has His Price 70

7. When the Recalcitrant Is a Rabbi 79

8. Two Thanksgivings in Parsippany 93

9. Violence and Sexual Abuse 107

10. Conferences 120

11. Child Brides 131

12. The Beit Din That Couldn’t 145

13. A Success Story 156

14. Civil Remedies: The New York State Gett Laws, or, Less Than Meets the Eye 161

15. Prenuptial Agreements 172

16. The Rackman Beit Din: A Watershed 194

Conclusion 218

Glossary 225

Pseudonyms 232

Bibliography 233

Index 235

Book Reviews & Awards

“well organized and clearly written…a must-read”—Jerusalem Post; “Susan Aranoff and the late Rivka Haut worked for three decades to liberate Jewish women from sexist Jewish divorce laws…. a heartfelt and cogently argued case for curbing the authority of rabbinic courts to arbitrate matters of divorce”—Lilith Magazine; “details the struggle that agunot (Jewish women seeking divorces) face when they attempt to leave their marriages…case studies focus on the emotional and spiritual trauma inflicted upon agunot”—ProtoView; “With a wide range of individual women’s stories and a superb discussion of the intricacies of Jewish law, this is a stupendous book on a topic of enormous significance.”—Susannah Heschel, Eli Black Professor of Jewish Studies, Dartmouth College; “Susan Aranoff and Rivka Haut have devoted their lives to fighting tirelessly on behalf of agunot and for a religious system that is just and equitable. This book chronicles the history of those battles, giving voice to the women whose suffering and whose stories have been silenced and ignored for far too long. It should be required reading for anyone who believes that we cannot stand idly by when our neighbor’s blood is being spilled.”—Rabbi Dov Linzer, Rosh HaYeshiva, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School; “Aranoff and Haut combine a balanced, sophisticated approach to real cases of Agunot with all the passion and pathos necessary to bring their harrowing experiences to life.”—Rabbi Asher Lopatin, President, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School.