Monday, February 3, 2014

On Agunah, Hillul Hashem, and Gital Dodelson

As an Orthodox Jew, woman, and feminist, agunah is an issue that is extremely important to me. Although most people outside of the Orthodox feminist community don’t really know about agunah or think much about it, Gital Dodelson’s article in the New York Post about her agunah status has brought the issue to the attention of the public at large.

Over the past several decades, there has been a lot of debate within the Orthodox feminist community about whether or not to bring agunah cases to the attention of the public. Does it make the Jews or Judaism look bad? Is it a hillul Hashem (desecration of God)? But if it helps agunot get their gets, is the cost of the hillul Hashem worth paying? I’m torn between the two sides of the argument. At the end of the day, I think that bringing agunah to the consciousness of the public may be bad and cause a hillul Hashem in the short-term, but it will effect long-term change and thereby eradicate the issue of agunah. Basically, the end justifies the means.

Orthodox feminists have fought on behalf of agunot ever since the movement began, and I am happy that this issue has been one of the top priorities of Orthodox feminism. I have always been particularly concerned with ending the prevalence of domestic violence in the world, so agunah bothers me more than many other feminist issues.

Gital Dodelson’s case hits particularly close to home for me, since I know Avrohom Meir Weiss’s family personally. It makes me so sad and upset that his family is standing by him and defending his get refusal. I know it’s weird to say this, but I feel almost betrayed by the Weiss family. I feel like I was duped into thinking that they’re all perfectly nice, normal people when they’re really facilitators of domestic abuse.

Although the case made headlines a couple months ago, Ms. Dodelson is still suffering. The Facebook page “Free Gital: Tell Avrohom Meir Weiss to Give His Wife a ‘Get’” posted a status as recently as December 23 stating that “Avrohom Meir is withholding a get until Gital acquiesces to his demands for money (six figures!) and changes in the visitation schedule.” It’s imperative that we don’t let activism for Gital’s get fall to the wayside just because her name isn’t in the papers.

How you can help Gital Dodelson:
1.     Keep the message out there that get refusal is not acceptable. It’s imperative that those of us who understand that get refusal is a form of domestic abuse make sure the rest of the world is educated on this issue.
2.     Keep up with what’s happening with Gital Dodelson’s case. An easy way is to like the Facebook page I mentioned earlier, or to just Google her every few weeks to see if there’s been any change.

How you can help agunot:
1.     Raise awareness of the halakhic prenup. If you have a friend who’s engaged, send him or her information about the importance of a halakhic prenup and urge him or her to sign one. Make sure to get a halakhic prenup yourself, too! Even married couples can obtain halakhic prenups.
2.     Talk about agunah. Women who are agunot have nothing to be ashamed of; however, there is still a social stigma around them. The only way to get rid of this stigma is to talk about agunah and normalize it. This does not mean we should make people think agunah is acceptable, because it’s a form of domestic violence and completely unacceptable.
3.     Go to anti-agunah rallies. There’s power in numbers, and if a rally that you attended encourages a recalcitrant husband to give his wife a get, that’s an amazing mitzvah (good deed) to do.

It is imperative that we end agunah, and that we do so immediately. 

UPDATE FEB 5: Gital Dodelson got her get! This is a huge victory for her personally, as well as for agunah advocates across the globe. 


  1. I agree with all this and support Mavoid Satum financially. Now, why have and been taken down? The Dodelson family had the resources for a social media push and for mainstream media placements. That's wonderful.

    Now, they should be helping all other Agunot. They say they will do so which is why I am puzzled that these sites have simply been taken offline.

    1. I'm pretty sure I read somewhere that part of the get settlement was that they would take down those pages, but I don't remember the source.