NCJW Calls for Divorce Reform in Israel
March 15, 2011, Washington, DC — On the occasion of International Agunot Day, March 17, the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) today called upon the Knesset to enact divorce reform in Israel that would resolve the legal predicament of women whose husbands refuse to grant a divorce and leave their wives unable to be free of an untenable marriage. NCJW President Linda Slucker and NCJW CEO Nancy Kaufman released the following statement:
“As we mark the annual observance of International Agunot Day, we lament the persistence of this serious problem for women in Israel and worldwide. The situation of agunot — women chained to a marriage under Israeli law because their husbands refuse to grant a divorce — is an unconscionable violation of civil and human rights. The Knesset must address this issue by providing a way to end marriages that respects halachic law without compromising the legal equality of women. The ruling last month by a Tel Aviv appeals court that held a man liable for money damages to his estranged wife for his refusal to grant a get is a step in the right direction, but it should not take the pressure of a lawsuit for a woman to obtain her freedom. It should be a matter of right.
“The International Coalition for Agunah Rights (ICAR) calls for the observation of Agunot Day on the Fast of Esther in recognition of her role in saving the entire Jewish community from slaughter, while she herself was locked in an unwanted marriage. Esther’s story embodies the contradiction between women’s contributions to the Jewish community and their inferior legal status in marriage, just as modern day Jewish women contribute to society while they are still relegated to second class status in the divorce process.
“Those women denied a divorce by their husbands when a marriage is otherwise defunct cannot legally establish new relationships. Their husbands may use the denial of a divorce to obtain a more favorable financial settlement in civil court, or they may simply disappear, leaving their wives without recourse and in legal limbo.
“NCJW is proud to be one of 28 member organizations of ICAR fighting to end marriage inequality and to find legal, just, and moral solutions to this unconscionable situation.”
The National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) is a grassroots organization of volunteers and advocates who turn progressive ideals into action. Inspired by Jewish values, NCJW strives for social justice by improving the quality of life for women, children, and families and by safeguarding individual rights and freedoms.
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