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The Status of Women in Jewish Law

The Status of Women in Jewish Law Committee is a continuation of the International Jewish Women's Rights Project of ICJW which was launched in March 1998,and has been documenting and challenging the human rights violations of women in Jewish communities worldwide ever since.  

Thanks to the vision and generosity of the International Council of Jewish Women, we have been gathering information on cases of women who have been denied the right to marry and to found a family from every Jewish community.

Each story cries out for action.  Each case is a violation of a Jewish woman's human rights.  Collaborating with scholars in Jewish Law, we have publicized solutions which have been used by compassionate, courageous and creative rabbis throughout Jewish history to free agunot. We have worked closely with politicians worldwide to enact civil legislation which prevents the granting of civil divorces in cases where husbands refuse to consent to a religious divorce. 

Sharon Shenhav, J.D., Chair of the Status of Women in Jewish Law Committee,has organized conferences on the plight of agunot and has lectured in 30 countries about the urgent need to find solutions. Sharon has met with rabbis in many countries to encourage them to find ways to free Jewish women from unwanted marriages. In Israel she served from 2003-2009 on the Commission to Appoint Dayanim (religious court judges). She has published articles, been featured in films and appeared widely on television and radio.  

Determined to restore fairness and justice to the Jewish divorce process, the Status of Women in Jewish Law Committee continues to gather information, research and publicize the infringement of Jewish women's rights.  

One of the solutions being promoted by the Committee is the signing of pre-nuptial agreements. These agreements have proved to be an important tool for preventing get refusal and we have urged all ICJW affiliates to organize campaigns in their communities, publicizing the need for signing such agreements and working with local rabbis to draft and/or support prenuptial agreements.  In some communities, ICJW affilliates have succeeded in convincing Orthodox rabbis to refuse to marry couples who have not signed prenuptial agreements.  

The Status of Women in Jewish Law Committee has encouraged ICJW affiliates worldwide to mark International Agunah Day which is held on the Fast of Esther each year with an event publicizing ICJW's efforts on behalf of agunot.