Advocates for 'agunot' find new voice on YouTube

Advocates for agunot f

At first glance, Bubbe Bikorta's sweet smile and gentle greeting might lead you to believe that the story she is about to relay is aimed at innocent children. But, as she clutches an oversized book in her hands, the New York-accented clearly Orthodox woman launches into a sordid tale of a husband who has refused - for no particular reason - to grant his wife a "get," a divorce under Jewish law, for more than nine years. "[M]ummy came to the rabbinic court to get her get," relays the scarf-clad woman, really an actress, in an animated child-friendly voice. "But daddy, he didn't show up; he didn't show up for a year; he didn't show up for two years - daddy hasn't shown up for nine years! You see children, without daddy, we have a 'Never Ending Story.'" Bubbe Bikorta's "Never Ending Story," which is replete with bedtime lullabies, is one of five short video clips - one in English and four in Hebrew with English subtitles - aimed at highlighting the horrors of a marriage gone wrong and the unfair treatment of women in the religious judicial system in Israel that were launched on YouTube this week by the Center for Women's Justice. Created to raise public awareness of the plight of the estimated hundreds of agunot‚ "chained women" whose husbands refuse to grant them divorces, each clip is based on a true story, Susan Weiss, the center's founding director, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. "Each of these cases has happened or is still happening," she said. "It is not uncommon for a woman to have to wait nine years for a divorce." According to Jewish law, both husband and wife must consent to divorce. However, the law is more stringent regarding the wife, who cannot remarry under any circumstances until her husband gives a get. Weiss said that the video clips have already generated widespread interest, with Moment magazine embedding the link on its Web sites. More than 3,000 people have viewed the clips, which each tell the approach of the rabbinic courts in Israel to a particular divorce proceeding. In Israel, there is no separation between religion and state and all Jews get married in accordance with Halacha, although civil marriages from abroad are recognized. While the rabbinical courts are empowered by law to impose sanctions to coerce one of the sides, usually the husband, to grant a divorce, the Center for Women's Justice maintains that this process is not usually carried out. "I congratulate the cancellation of one of the most corrupt bills that the Knesset tried to advance in recent years," MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) said. "Once again the power of public protest has been proven, but the threat that Shas represents to the free public - for example the Hametz Law - remains and grows stronger."