Friday, November 03, 2006


I received this press release yesterday. As a press release, it's inherently biased. However, the development it describes is hardly atypical - a similar event on a smaller scale was cancelled by the religious establishement in the last minute just about a year ago - and, well, this whole issue is deeply embarassing for Israel and a serious chillul Hashem.

Since the other organizers are planning to go ahead with the program as best they can, I think a better headline would have been "Chief Rabbi bows out of conference on agunot" not that he cancelled it. It seems the conference will go on - but has lost much of its efficacy, because without Rabbi Amar's participation, very little can be implemented.

Has anyone seen anything about this in the mainstream press today?


November 2, 2006

Chief Rabbi Cancels Rabbinical Conference on Agunot

On behalf of Jewish women around the world who are being denied a Get by their husbands, the International Council of Jewish Women (ICJW) is disappointed to announce that Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar has today cancelled the International Conference on the subject of Agunot and Mesuravot Get, which was due to take place in Jerusalem on November 7 and 8, 2006.

The Conference was convened by Israel’s Rabbinical High Court, of which Rabbi Amar is President, to discuss how halacha (Jewish law) deals with Agunot, and the various financial, religious and economic sanctions that can be imposed on recalcitrant husbands, including international cooperation between the various Rabbinical Courts around the world to enforce judgments against them. Rav Amar has given no reason for canceling the event with just 5 days notice, but we understand that his office has come under considerable pressure from the Charedi leadership in Israel. Notwithstanding the fact that Chief Rabbis and leading Dayanim from South America, Australia, Europe, Canada and the US were planning to attend next week, together with their Israeli counterparts, representing a cross-section of the Orthodox world, Rav Amar has bowed to pressure from Rabbi Yosef Shalom Eliashiv.

Attached is a list of the Rabbis who had accepted Chief Rabbi Amar’s invitation, which was issued in June – some of them have already traveled to Israel in order to attend this Conference. One of them, Rabbi Yosef Blau, of Yeshiva University, New York, was looking forward to addressing the group of Rabbanim and Dayanim and said: “The calling of the conference by Chief Rabbi Amar is in itself significant. Cooperation between different Batei Din can at least lead to (Agunot) cases being heard and will make a Seruv (injunction against a recalcitrant husband) more effective. Unfulfilled expectations can lead to people became discouraged.”

President of the ICJW, Leah Aharonov, says: “The ICJW has worked with Chief Rabbi Amar for over two years in planning this conference. We have applauded his concern for the plight of Agunot and his courage in calling for an international Conference of leading Rabbis and Dayanim to discuss this shameful problem, which affects Jewish communities worldwide. We are deeply saddened and disappointed by this cowardly last minute cancellation, which will disappoint not only Agunot worldwide and their families, but all Jews who believe in justice.”

Sharon Shenhav, who leads ICJW’s International Jewish Women’s Rights Project, works closely with Israel’s Chief Rabbi and was instrumental in helping to convene this Conference. She has decided to go forward with the event as planned on Tuesday and Wednesday next week. She says: “We will follow the Conference program drawn up by Rabbi Amar and expect the various speakers to participate and discuss the serious problem of Agunot and Mesarvei Get in his absence.”

The International Council of Jewish Women is an umbrella organization which represents 52 Jewish women’s organizations around the world and is a leading voice on Agunot and other human rights issues. It is not religiously aligned with any Jewish sector but represents all Jewish women worldwide at the United Nations, Council of Europe and other important international forums. (

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