In the long battle for women’s religious rights in the matter of agunot, or chained wives, a new weapon has been added to the arsenal: videos on Facebook and YouTube.
Adina Porat was freed from a recalcitrant husband in a religious court in Jerusalem on Jan. 7 after more than eight years as an agunah, according to a report in the Dayton (Ohio) Jewish Observer.
The official decree took place two months after the Organization for the Resolution of Agunot (ORA), based in New York, began a major social media campaign and held a rally near the home of David Porat (also known as Eli Shur), who left his wife and children in Israel and settled in Dayton, Ohio, saying he was a single man with no children. The crowd of about 80 demonstrators, mostly from Orthodox communities in Ohio and Michigan, were spurred by a video of Adina Porat and her children describing their plight. The video was viewed more than 68,000 times and garnered attention in Jewish media outlets around the world.
Rabbi Jeremy Stern, executive director of ORA, said that this was the first time his organization produced a video highlighting the anguish of an agunah as part of its overall strategy to publicize the problem and put pressure on husbands to give their wives a get, or religious divorce. The rabbi said the combination of the video and the rally, which attracted significant publicity, made the difference. “All of that pressure led to the issuance of the get,” he told the Dayton Jewish Observer.
According to Rabbi Stern, the Porat case was the 253rd that ORA has resolved since it was founded in 2002. That’s an impressive number, but although accurate numbers are difficult to come by, it is believed that there are thousands of agunot who are trapped in loveless marriages, dependent on recalcitrant husbands to free them. ORA does vital work but can only handle about two dozen cases a year. More must be done.
We are hopeful that increased attention to this tragic situation will help convince spiteful husbands to accede to their wives’ wishes. Moreover, we hope it will motivate rabbinic leaders who express empathy for agunot to apply their wisdom and compassion in ways that will make a major difference.