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Marriage and Divorce in the Jewish State

Israel's Civil War

Susan M. Weiss

Publication Year: 2012

A comprehensive look at how rabbinical courts control Israeli marriage and divorce

Published by: Brandeis University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. v-vi


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p. vii-vii


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p. ix-ix

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pp. xi-xii

Everyone interested in Israel’s legal system knows that when the state was founded in May 1948, the religious establishment received the right to govern matters of personal status. That right was further embedded in the Rabbinic Courts Jurisdiction Law of 1953. The upshot of this political arrangement is that all Jewish Israeli citizens have to ...

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p. xiii-xiii

Without the women who agreed to tell their stories in print, these stories would have remained each one’s own albatross, instead of contributing in some way to what we hope will be the women’s eventual liberation, and the salvation of us all. Without the foundations and organizations that have supported the work of the Center for Women’s Justice, which ...

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Prologue: Who Are We?

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pp. xv-xix

We both grew up in Orthodox Jewish families in New York City in the second half of the past century and attended the Yeshiva High School of Queens. Housed in a dull building in a decaying neighborhood, the school had an unspoken but foremost goal to teach us to be good Jewish girls and good Jewish mothers and to identify with the State of Israel ...

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pp. 1-40

In the mid-sixteenth century a young Jewish woman in Salonika named Reina, married to a man named Avraham, became entangled in a family drama. The background to the feud was that her widowed mother wanted to remarry, and Avraham’s father opposed the match. From the writings of the brilliant scholar ...

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1. The Clueless Agunah

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pp. 41-59

Shackled hand and foot, Eitan was escorted into the Jerusalem Rabbinic Court by two wiry police officers. “Our second today,” one of the cops told Rivkah, the reserved but resolute rabbinic pleader who had orchestrated this much longed-for moment for her client, Shira, Eitan’s wife. “This is my regular beat. Me and ...

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2. The Scarlet Agunah

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pp. 60-78

Jonathan Cowan met Allison Coopersmith while scuba diving in Eilat. Jonathan, a modern Orthodox British Jew, came to Israel in the 1980s while still a student. Allison Coopersmith, also British, was in Israel on holiday. Both are children of Holocaust survivors. Jonathan, who comes from a long line of ...

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3. The Ping-Pong Agunah

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pp. 79-97

Three months into their marriage, Dalia and Ari share the easygoing freshness of mature newlyweds, smiling and finishing each other’s sentences. In their spacious and immaculate rental apartment in an old, leafy suburb of Tel Aviv, the coffee table is laden with nuts, sweets, and cookies, underscoring the welcoming feeling. A warm ...

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4. The Accidental Agunah

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pp. 98-120

Friendly, feisty, and quick to laugh, our “accidental” agunah gently rejects our suggested pseudonym. “It’s too plain,” she grimaces from the confines of her orange swivel chair in her Holon office. With amused defiance, she announces that she wants to choose a name for herself. We are pleasantly surprised. “The ...

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5. The Agunah Pawn

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pp. 121-147

Now in her early fifties, Nava Levi, a mother of four from the port city of Haifa, is a senior nurse who administers the emergency room of a busy government hospital. Her poise in confronting life and death issues, her professional aplomb, and her well-honed and intuitive nursing skills (“I have to listen to people and ...

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6. The Reluctant Agunah

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pp. 148-163

What’s astonishing about Efrat’s case is that even though she didn’t marry through the rabbinate, she nonetheless became an agunah. However briefly, reluctantly, and inadvertently, she had put herself at the mercy of the rabbis by getting married — albeit in a civil ceremony — instead of just living with the man she eventually had to divorce. Efrat Ben-David and Yoav ...

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7. Human Rights Violations in Israeli Rabbinic Courts

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pp. 164-200

The stories told in this book show that what happens in Israeli rabbinic courts consistently violates basic human rights and the rule of law. The conduct and judgments of these courts infringe on the right to freedom of conscience, the right to equality before the law, the right to privacy, the right to due process, ...


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pp. 201-210


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pp. 211-218

E-ISBN-13: 9781611683653
Print-ISBN-13: 9781611683639

Publication Year: 2012

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Divorce -- Law and legislation -- Israel -- Popular works.
  • Jewish women -- Legal status, laws, etc. -- Israel -- Popular works.
  • Agunahs -- Israel -- Popular works.
  • Divorce (Jewish law) -- Popular works.
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