Correcting a Travesty, Preventing Tragedy
The Agunah Advocacy Club
By now almost every student at Stern College for Women is familiar with the name Tamar Epstein. Described by Failed Messiah as "the world's most famous agunah," Epstein has been an agunahfor four years now; her husband, Aharon Friedman, has repeatedly refused to grant her a get. Students have participated in rallies, written letters to her husband's boss in the House of Representatives, and posted on Facebook in order to raise awareness about her predicament and that of other agunot like her. Many of us have started to fell personally connected to this young woman whose life has been partially frozen by her husband's refusal to grant her a Jewish divorce.
For Ahuva Yagod, the founder and president of the new Agunah Advocacy Club at YU, and known to her friends as Huvie, Tamar Epstein's struggle really is personal. Tamar is the daughter of Mrs. Epstein, one of Yagod's high school teachers. During my senior year of high school," Yagod explains, "Mrs. Epstein's husband had passed away and the whole school really felt united with the family. To hear that, on top of everything else, Aharon Friedman had refused to give a get before Dr. Epstein passed away - I wanted to help."
While many of us have felt a desire to help in the struggle to free agunot from dead marriages at some point, Yagod refused to be satisfied with mere sympathy. She became involved with the Organization for the Rights of Agunot and spent her Sundays attending rallies against recalcitrant husbands. This year, Yagod decided to spread her work to the rest of the YU student body by founding the Agunah Advocacy Club in order to raise awareness of and organize student efforts on behalf of agunotlike Tamar Epstein.
Founded earlier this semester, the Agunah Advocacy Club has already made a significant impact at YU as one of sponsors of the widely attended "Fighting the Agunah Crisis" panel. which was designed to raise student awareness about the plight of agunot and encourage the Orthodox community to have "zero-tolerance" for get-refusers. Ms. Epstein discussed communal responsibility towards the agunah and stated that "we, as a community, have a responsibility to protect her and ensure her release and we can achieve that goal if we ourselves, our institutions and our leadership accept a zero-tolerance policy on get refusal." Panelists also encouraged attendees to sign the Halakhic Prenup, a suggestion Sarah Marvin and Betzalel Bacon, an engaged couple, decided to implement immediately.
Yagod says that of all of the Agunah Advocacy Club's efforts she is proudest of the panel and the impact that it made on the YU student body. Still, the club refuses to be satisfied with its efforts thus far. When asked about future plans for the club, Yagod replies, "The challenge we face next year is keeping this issue relevant. I don't want to organize a panel only to have a meager turnout because people feel they've heard it all before. To that end, we want to create events that look at the issue of agunot from different angles." When asked about what other students can do to help, Yagod excitedly answers, "Show up to events! Agunot hear about it and it gives them so much support. I just got a Facebook message from a woman who heard from her mother how I show up to rallies and try to bring others with; she really appreciated it. Tamar was so moved by the large crowd when she spoke. And come to rallies! Every additional body makes a difference!"
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