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The Plight of Jewish Deserted Wives, 1851–1900: A Social History of East European Agunah (Paperback)
An exploration of the plight of a diverse range of Jewish women prevented from remarrying in nineteenth-century Eastern Europe.
Agunot are women who are not allowed to remarry according to Jewish law, which holds that a woman can only be released from marriage under specific conditions. The Agunah phenomenon was a major concern for East European Jewry in the nineteenth century and features prominently in Hebrew and Yiddish media and fiction.
This book identifies seven variations of Agunot in nineteenth-century Eastern Europe: deserted wives, women who refused to receive or were not granted a divorce writ, known as a Get; widowed women whose brothers-in-law refused to grant them permission to remarry; women whose husbands’ remains were not found, women who received improperly or incorrectly written Gets; women whose husbands became mentally ill and were not competent to grant a Get; and women refused a Get by husbands who had converted to Christianity or Islam. The book then explores the reasons for desertion and the plight of the left-alone wife. Key to that examination is the change from a legal issue to a social one, spurred by changes in attitudes to philanthropy and public opinion. A statistical database of about five thousand identified Agunot is available in a separate companion volume.
About the Author
Haim Sperber is head of the Multi-Disciplinary Studies Department at Western Galilee College.