Woman in chains: Will anything change for Agunot
(Page 8 of 8)
A major problem for Agunah activists is that there simply is no hard evidence about the number of women in that situation. That might change through the work of Barbara Zakheim. The Washington D.C. based Zakheim is the founder of the Jewish Women’s Coalition against Domestic Abuse. She has launched a survey through 65 national Jewish organizations to determine the number and the socio-economic condition of Agunot. The impetus for the survey is sheer frustration.
“Since we seem to be going nowhere halachically, at least the community can look at it as another social issue that it has to deal with, like when we have an obligation to take care of widows, orphans, or people with disabilities,” Zakheim explained. “Here we have a halachic disability.”
Zakheim says that through her work with the Jewish Coalition against Domestic Violence she has been shocked by what she views as a “lack of compassion” from rabbis about the issue. In some cases, she saw rabbis telling wives to pay off their husbands to receive a get or women left in “dire circumstances” because of a careless beis din verdict.
Zakheim said she is looking to publish the results by Pesach and hopes that the Jewish community will react to it and at the very least, be able to help struggling Agunot. “If there aren’t so many then it’s not going to cost us so much to deal with it,” she explained. “[But] if one person is sick does it make sickness any less important?”
“The community is trying to get a resolution of it in a compassionate way that will work in Halacha,” Zakheim continued. “Halacha and compassion are not mutually exclusive.”