The Torch explores gender and religion in the Jewish community. Named for Deborah the Prophetess, "the woman of torches," the blog highlights the passion and fiery leadership of Jewish feminists, while evoking the powerful image of feminists "passing the torch" to a new generation. Disclaimer: All posts are contributed by third party authors. JOFA does not assume responsibility for the facts and opinions presented in them.
Last Sunday, March 22nd, a march was held in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, NY in order to raise awareness of the ever growing agunah crisis in our communities. I was honored to be one of the speakers at the march. Before I discuss whether or not the march was a success, I’d like to talk about why I spoke.
Thirteen years ago, when I was only seven years old, my parents got a civil divorce. To this day, my father has still not given my mother a
, a religious divorce. His reasons for withholding a gett have changed over the years—he wants a different custody agreement, more money, he still loves her–but his attitude has not. Growing up, my siblings and I were constantly caught in between our parents. My mother tried very hard to never speak ill of my father when we were nearby. My father on the other hand, would go out of his way to put our mother down when we were with him. There were several times my father was even overheard threatening our lives if my mother continued to fight for full custody! Becoming involved with the Agunah march, and defiantly speaking out against my father, was probably the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.
So why did I agree to speak? I agreed because it was necessary. The world needs to understand that gett refusal is a real issue, and we can’t keep sweeping it under the rug. I agreed to speak so that other agunot, chained women, will find the courage to reach out for help. I agreed so that other children of agunot will know that they are not alone, that there are others like themselves, who can help them make the right choices, especially when they are difficult choices to make.
Initially, many, many people seemed to be against the actual march, arguing that we were only marching to further our “personal agendas.” Well, they were actually correct. Since all Jews are brothers and sisters, if one Jew is in pain, it becomes every Jewish person’s personal agenda to relieve him or her of said pain. The challenge is that people don’t enjoy stepping out of their “happy little bubble” to see that there is pain. They would rather sweep it all under the rug, and pretend it doesn’t exist.
I, along with many other brave people, realized that the rug has gotten too small for all the dirt. So we organized a march to bring awareness to the agunah crisis. To force people to understand that it cannot continue, to “pop the bubbles” so to speak. And to do it all in a nice, peaceful way. Maybe the march was the right way to go about it, maybe it wasn’t. But it was something. That is all that mattered.
Did it succeed the way we expected, or hoped, it would? No, it didn’t. We hoped to have hundreds of men, women, children, and rabbis marching together as one. We hoped the march would be broadcasted on all the news stations. We hoped every single Jew would hear our voice and join us. Unfortunately, that did not happen. For a while, it seemed like we had failed in our mission.
However, we did not fail! We succeeded in more ways than we could have possibly imagined. It was because people fought us every step of the way that we managed to make global news. We succeeded in making every person who is interested in truth, able to hear our voice. We succeeded in making sure every Chabad rabbi is now aware of the crisis among us. We succeeded in informing the younger generation about the solution of the halakhic prenup, a document couples can sign before their wedding that prevents the agunah crisis.
Since last week’s march, many other agunot have gathered the amazing courage to reach out and ask for help. Since my speech went viral, two couples have already contacted me, (probably more without my knowledge) telling me they will look into signing the prenup.
For the reasons stated above, I would say that our march was a complete success, even if we achieved it through ways we did not anticipate. God runs the world, and we are only God’s messengers. No one can predict how something will happen. We can only try our best and hope God grants us success, even if that path was not the one we had intended to march.