In the world of Orthodox Judaism, under Jewish law, only husbands can obtain a divorce. He has to give his wife something called a “get,” which is a document that effective says the relationship is over. Without it, those women, known as agunahs, are not allowed to date much less marry anyone else.
As you can imagine, that’s a serious problem if the wife wants to unilaterally end the relationship. Men can refuse to provide a “get” unless there are favorable conditions for him, such as child custody.
For years, women who have been unable to procure a “get” have been unable to move on with their lives. But they’re finally connecting with each other online, giving each other support to move forward no matter what Jewish law says.
Liana Satenstein, writing for Vogue, describes the phenomenon and writes about one woman named Chava who had been trying to obtain a “get” for over a decade:
“If I don’t use my platform for this, what good is it for?” said [Jewish singer Dalia] Oziel in an interview last month, speaking about her motivations. “I said to my followers: ‘I get it. This is uncomfortable. But we need to stand up for our fellow sister. She is chained to a dead marriage.’” Suddenly, the hashtag #FreeChava was being widely shared. Within the Orthodox community, it was impossible to miss.
The ripple effect of #FreeChava may be difficult to quantify, but its impact seems profound. Herman Sharbani “put a face to the whole movement,” says Yael Braun, who is working on her case. Braun, 33, who goes by @the_divorce_specialist on Instagram, says she is the only female toenes, an advocate in the Jewish court system, in the U.S. While Braun is not a lawyer within the United States justice system, she works within the Jewish courts and has long dealt with get-refusal cases. “I can’t tell you how many calls a day I get from people, women who’ve been suffering for years, but they didn’t even know they could say something,” says Braun. “They didn’t have a voice, and Chava really broke that. She broke the stigma of what an agunah is.”
When religion or basic decency won’t sway those men, public shaming may do the trick. It’s depressing that a woman has to go a man and her religion in order to get this dose of freedom. But religion is all about control. A woman who wants to take her life into her own hands is a danger to tradition; no wonder religious leaders want to make divorces as difficult as possible for them.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Brian for the link)