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Aguna- Chained Woman

Aguna (Chained Woman) 

Watercolor, charcoal 52x37cm


An aguna is a woman whose husband refuses to give her a get, which is a document of Jewish divorce. The get must be given willingly by the husband to the wife in order for the divorce to be valid according to Jewish law (halacha). Without a get, the woman may not remarry.

Unfortunately, there are men who deliberately withhold the get. The man and woman no longer live together, their marriage is over, but the man refuses to give a get knowing that this will stymie the woman’s life. A woman in this position is called an Aguna.

Many women who in previous generations would have put up with a loveless marriage nowadays- thanks perhaps to feminism and to women being financially more independent- are prepared to fight for their freedom. There are several organisations dedicated to helping them, socially, materially, and in the Jewish (Beth Din) and secular courts.

There is an enormous amount of material on the topic and plenty of attempts at work-arounds, e.g. specific pre-nuptial agreements; annulling the original wedding contract if any small flaw can be found in it; and the new creative International Beit Din; but the horror lingers for many.

My watercolor reminds us that this problem is still with us, arguably with a higher profile now than in former times and generating more widespread sympathy and understanding. My work relates to ‘Spinoza, Marrano of Reason’ as an expression of the entangled relationship between old and new, traditional and modern- shining a light on the many wonderful and dedicated Rabbis, lawyers and supporters of Agunot nowadays on the one hand, but also on the ongoing nature of this tough battle, on the other.

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