Sisterhood Blog

'Get-o-omics': The Economics of Agunot

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen

  • Print
  • Share Share

That there are Orthodox Jewish men who hold a get, or Jewish divorce decree, over their estranged wives’ heads out of spite and to extort money from the women’s families — making the women agunot — is a sad reality. The creators of a new documentary film, “Women Unchained,” hope to shed new light on this seemingly intractable issue, and create communal pressure for change.

“Women Unchained” follows six Orthodox Jewish women in their quest to receive a get, or Jewish divorce, from their husbands. The film, directed by Beverly Siegel and co-produced by Leta Lenik, will have its world premiere in Jerusalem on March 7 at the Orthodox Union’s Israel Center and on March 8, International Women’s Day, at Jerusalem’s Cinematheque, as part of the Women and Religion Mavoi Satum Film Festival. “Women Unchained” will have its first U.S. showings at the Pittsburgh Jewish Film Festival on March 27 and at the Rockland County Jewish Film Festival on March 31. The filmmakers and experts on the issue will take part in panel discussions following the screenings.

The movie is narrated by Mayim Bialik and tells the story of women from several different Orthodox Jewish communities, from Monsey, N.Y., Brooklyn, Los Angeles and Jerusalem. It details the sad reality of “get-o-nomics,” when men demand money in exchange for a get, and includes interviews with advocates for agunot, including the late Rabbi Emanuel Rackman, who set up an innovative religious court that annulled such dead marriages, and with Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes.

“The divorce rate is over 30 percent among frum Jews. That’s why there is such a problem,” Siegel told The Sisterhood. “If you’re in America and you’re not Orthodox you may think it doesn’t affect you. But if you have a child after not getting a get and that child moves to Israel, that’s a problem because to open a marriage file there they have to prove that they’re a kosher Jew, that their status is clean.” A child born of a marriage not sanctioned by Jewish law, like one after a first marriage does not end with a kosher divorce, is considered a mamzer.

A recent court decision in Israel gives leverage to agunot there, but its reach doesn’t extend to the Diaspora.

“Our goal with this project is to educate and advocate for change,” said Siegel, who has worked as a documentary filmmaker and in public relations, and lives in Pittsburgh and Chicago. “My hope is that rabbinic leaders will use their halachic creativity to solve the problem. I don’t know what it will ultimately take, but we have to keep advocating and to keep exposing the truth.”


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Marriage, Divorce, Agunot

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • Mixed marriages in Israel are tough in times of peace. So, how do you maintain a family bubble in the midst of war? http://jd.fo/f4VeG
  • Despite the escalating violence in Israel, more and more Jews are leaving their homes in Alaska to make aliyah: http://jd.fo/g4SIa
  • The Workmen's Circle is hosting New York’s first Jewish street fair on Sunday. Bring on the nouveau deli!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.