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Support for Orthodox women

Jewish law expressly forbids personal violence and requires commitment to shalom bayit, a happy and peaceful family life.  Jewish men who commit domestic violence or abuse, are destroying shalom bayit and breaking Jewish law.

Classic Jewish source texts in this area include:

Do not stand idly by and see your neighbour’s blood spilled – Vayikra 19:16

A husband should love his wife as much as he does himself and should respect her even more than he respects himself – Gemara Yevamot 62b

Maintaining the dignity of a person is so great that it may override halacha – Gemara Brachot 19b

A man who strikes his wife commits a sin, just as if he were to strike anyone else -  Rama, Shulchan Aruch, Even HaEzer 154:3

Jewish Women’s Aid works with women across the breadth of the community and our skilled support workers and counsellors understand the issues facing Orthodox women and children affected by domestic abuse.

Our Orthodox clients sometimes come to us having experienced spiritual abusethe use of an inappropriate interpretation of Jewish law to make them do things; denying their access to Jewish authorities; making them feel like they are not a good Jewish wife, or running a good Jewish home.

We know that as a religious Jewish woman, you may be concerned about the shame and stigma of seeking help and support; you may be concerned that you won’t be believed; you may worry about your children’s shidduch prospects, and you may need a rabbi or rebbetzen to talk to about what you’re going through. At Jewish Women’s Aid, we can support you through your journey.  We work closely with a skilled, trained group of rabbis and rebbetzens who have an understanding of domestic abuse, and can offer specialist advice and support.If you would like to speak to one of them, please email ziona@jwa.org.uk.

GET REFUSAL

‘Get’ refusal, the refusal of one spouse (usually the husband) to release the other from the Jewish marriage, is a form of spiritual abuse. 

Following the civil divorce of a Jewish couple, the husband is required to give his wife a Get (the religious document of divorce) and the wife is required to receive it. This is usually effected through the Bet Din (the local religious court), as giving and receiving the Get frees them both to re-marry in a synagogue.  The process can sometimes be very distressing particularly for the woman, and the courts are increasingly trying to ensure it is as supportive as possible.

When a recalcitrant man refuses to give his ex-wife a Get, she is ‘chained’ to him even though they are divorced in the civil court. In Jewish terminology she is called an Agunah, ‘chained’ woman. In practice, this means that she may not re-marry in an orthodox Jewish wedding, although her ex-husband could do so under Jewish law. Some women are never released from this state.

Some ex-husbands attempt to extort money or make other demands from their ex-wife’s family in exchange for a Get.

Get refusal is abusive in and of itself, but it is also used by domestic abuse perpetrators as a further way of abusing their former partner.

The problem of the Agunah has long exercised women, who have campaigned for change particularly in the last 30 years. In recent years, the wider Jewish community and the Jewish courts have begun to take action to avoid women being Agunot. Many rabbis and communities are following the Jewish practice of not allowing a recalcitrant husband to be given a religious role in a synagogue service, and other methods of putting pressure on him to give her a Get.

At Jewish Women’s Aid, we can support you.