3: “Freedom for Agunot” newspaper insert, 1993.

3: “Freedom for Agunot” newspaper insert, 1993.

According to halakha (Jewish law), marriages can only be dissolved if a husband grants a get (a divorce) and the wife accepts it. Women whose husbands will not grant them a get or whose husbands cannot be located are called agunot, literally “chained wives” who cannot re-marry. The term agunah (the singular of agunot) is frequently translated into English as "grass widow."

After Yentl reveals her hidden identity to Avigdor, they contemplate whether Yentl/Anshel can grant a get to Hadass, so that she will not become an agunah if and when Yentl/Anshel leaves her. In the end, Yentl/Anshel sends Hadass divorce papers.

While this scenario may seem unique to the early twentieth-century Eastern European context of "Yentl the Yeshiva Boy," it is not. Published in The Jewish Week in 1993, the newspaper insert in this resource was created by two agunah advocacy organizations, Agunah Inc. and GET. Today, activists are still working to raise awareness about the plight of agunot in Jewish communities around the world.

Suggested Activity: Discuss marriage laws and the plight of the agunah (abandoned wife) in Jewish life. What are the ethical implications of the laws? How do they affect the characters in "Yentl"? Invite the students to look at the newspaper insert. What do they find interesting about the flyer? What does it tell them about the experiences of the agunot?

Source: "'Freedom for Agunot" flyer. Agunah Inc. and GET, 1993. Accessed on Jewish Women’s Archive, October 24, 2018. https://jwa.org/media/freedom-for-agunot-flyer.