Women Unchained: the Struggle to Secure a Jewish Get

February 19, 2012 | Divorce, Legal Perspective

Icon for author Brian Vertz Brian Vertz

Jewish women of the Orthodox faith may encounter obstacles unknown to most women when divorcing. A new documentary film, Women Unchained (2011), explores the plight of Jewish women to obtain a religious divorce, or “get.” Women whose husbands refuse to grant them a divorce,  known as “agunot” (from the Hebrew word meaning “chained”), cannot remarry in their faith and may be ostracized from their religious communities. Their husbands have learned to exploit their advantage for financial gain or simply vengeance. This problem faces Jewish women not only in Israel, where divorces may be governed by conservative rabbinical courts, but also in the United States and elsewhere. Even husbands who have committed adultery or domestic violence hold the keys to a Jewish religious divorce.

Women Unchained reveals the struggle of Jewish women who exist in limbo after civil divorce, and suggests strategies for overcoming their dilemmas. The film was one of the most-discussed features of last year’s J-Film, the Pittsburgh Jewish Film Festival. Now it’s available for sale from the National Jewish Film Institute (click here). Shot in New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles and Israel, Women Unchained includes illuminating interviews with leading women’s rights advocates, rabbis and experts. The film provides helpful historical background on the state of women’s rights in Judaism and details of “get-o-nomics” and the outlandish extortion schemes levied against some women.

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