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Keshet Starr, 36, Champion of Agunot
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COMMUNITY36 Under 36 2021

Keshet Starr, 36, Champion of Agunot

@keshetstarr / facebook.com/keshet.starr/

The Jewish Week’s annual 36 Under 36 honors young leaders, entrepreneurs and change-makers who are making a difference in the life of Jewish New York. For the full list of this year’s “36ers,” click here.

What do you do?

I am the CEO of the Organization for the Resolution of Agunot. At ORA, I use my legal background to help individuals seeking a Jewish divorce, which involves everything from advocacy to support to providing key information about the process. Our work is situated at the crossroads between religious and civil law, and we help many individuals, attorneys and clergy navigate that divide. We also work to change the culture around Jewish divorce by defining withholding a get — a bill of Jewish divorce — as a form of domestic abuse and encouraging grassroots activism on the issue. I also authored two pieces of academic work that fill in missing pieces in the academic and legal conversation about this issue.

How did the pandemic impact your work?

The sharp rise in domestic abuse and divorce cases led to an unprecedented need. I worked with my team to shift ORA’s work to meet the needs of the moment, moving programs online, finding alternative ways to publicize get refusal cases when public rallies were not safe, and creating resources for agunot and single parents to find support in a deeply isolating moment. From Zoom presentations to online support groups to social media publicity campaigns, we have used online resources to continue and grow our programming, and learned a great deal about creating compelling online content.

Was there a formative Jewish experience that influenced your life path?

Growing up Jewish in Hawaii, I was always very aware of how unusual it is to be Jewish — one year my teacher decorated for Christmas and taped a dreidel to my desk! I always felt a huge responsibility to represent Judaism well. Being Jewish has often meant being different, and therefore having a responsibility to other outsiders.

What is your favorite place in New York to take an out-of-town guest?

Bryant Park

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