Blog Archive: 2013
December 20, 2013
I have always believed, and still do believe, that Jewish Law has within it the ability to adapt to almost every situation and provide just and humane solutions to every crisis. This is how I have been able to work toward justice for agunot as executive director of ICAR — The International Coalition for Agunah Rights — for the past 10 years. I know that there are systemic solutions that would remove this ultimate power, to withhold a divorce, from the husband, thus creating a more gender equal Jewish marriage and divorce.
December 9, 2013
As an Orthodox teenager, committed and enthusiastic feminist and newly minted high school graduate from a small town, I found myself studying in Israel at a yeshiva for women for what I thought would be a year of the ultimate Jewish learning experience. I planned to immerse in rigorous study of Jewish texts in a beit midrash, study hall, filled with the voices of women.
December 2, 2013
It always fascinated me that Jewish law allows for divorce, even without cause. With all the hoopla about finding your "bashert," the one person who completes your soul, it would seem reasonable for the Torah to prohibit divorce. "Stick it out," you might think the G-d of Israel would say. "The Chosen People should know a thing or two about choosing right the first time." And yet, there is an entire Talmudic tractate called "gitti" that describes the Jewish way to get out of a marriage.
November 21, 2013
Jewish marriage and divorce ceremonies in Israel and the United States, have become news items lately. Obtaining the "get," a divorce document, given by the husband of his own "free will," is handled differently in each country but the root of the problem and its eventual outcome are often the same. It's hard to say where things are worse in these two large centers of Jewish life; one country won't get involved in religious disputes; the other country, which views religious law as the law (in these "personal status" matters only) won't enforce the law.
November 18, 2013
Last week, I participated in an interfaith panel of Jews and Sikhs at the Le Mood Festival. For those who have been to a Limmud conferences in the States, picture Le Mood as the Montreal (read: hipper, slightly "euro") version. Some of our U.S. readers may not be aware of a troubling bill which has been proposed here in Quebec. The Charter of Quebec Values would prohibit any government employee from wearing a religious garment or conspicuous religious symbol.
November 4, 2013
When Egypt's judiciary was set to announce the result of Egypt's first civilian presidential election on a warm afternoon in June 2012, I was sitting on a balcony in Berlin glued to online television channels and social media. My primary concern was that the revolution have a chance to continue. After a year of transitional military rule, I felt the revolution would be stillborn if Morsi's opponent, Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak's former prime minster, won the race. Suspicions of fraud would also have been rife. It would have been Egypt as usual; the revolution, just a momentary upswell of beautiful possibility.
October 22, 2013
Divorce is always a painful process, but Jewish divorce can have some especially painful twists because halacha gives men the control. Only the man can give the divorce, called a "get." For example, an unscrupulous husband can refuse to divorce his wife altogether, or insist that she purchase his consent. The recent arrests in New York of rabbis accused of conspiring to abduct recalcitrant men and violently coerce them to grant a divorce highlights the lengths to which some women might be tempted to go by their inability to escape their dead marriages.
October 15, 2013
On Thursday, FBI agents arrested 10 men, including two orthodox rabbis, charged with extortion and other crimes for taking fees as high as $100,000 to kidnap and torture husbands who refuse to give their wives gets. They were ordered held without bail.
September 23, 2013
We are sitting in services listening to melodies both familiar and different. The synagogue is modest with a tin roof, whitewashed walls, plastic chairs and a small ark. Inside, there is a donated Torah. Everyone participates deeply in harmonic singing and praying. We are in a small isolated village in Uganda, one of seven villages where 1,500 members of the Abayudaya community — People of Judah in the local Luganda language — make their modest homes of locally-made bricks and tin or sun-dried mud and thatch.