By Yehudis Smith
Although the latest op-ed on COLlive.com about Agunahs was so atrocious that it was actually… well, funny, I still can’t shake this feeling of total disillusionment.
Today, I sat reading this sorry excuse for an op-ed by Aliza, and I felt my body respond in such a visceral way that I surprised myself. Even though I have moved on wholly and completely from my experience as a chained woman, my first instinct was to feel attacked, ridiculed, shamed.
I got married to my first husband almost 9 years ago to the day. The mistreatment started at my wedding and for the next 7 months my life was a living hell. I knew from the first day of my new life with him that my marriage was over, and yet I stayed until I couldn’t take it any longer. I still remember how I felt when I called my mother to tell her I was leaving him, and the look in his eyes when I actually left. I thought that would be the hardest moment… but I was wrong.
The next 11 months shocked my system: from my friends who couldn’t understand what went wrong… my rabbi telling me to go home and make a nice dinner and get pregnant instead… and then telling me that it was “normal and reasonable” for a man to delay in giving his wife a gett… to the bais din system failing me day in and day out. I know that I am lucky that my prison sentence only lasted about a year (and a few thousand dollars); many women are chained for quite a lot longer than that. But to all the naysayers out there, including the author of the latest article, let me explain to you how it feels to be chained to a marriage you want no part of:
Imagine being locked up in a cell, not knowing when you will be released, if ever. Living day in and day out with the fear that you’ll never be able to move on with your life, never be able to find true love, have children, have the life you always thought you’d have, and only being 22 years old. Your husband isn’t lost at sea and he’s definitely not mentally ill (he knows exactly what he’s doing). He walks by your cell daily, dangles the keys in front of you, and walks away; the up-and-down emotional roller coaster of, “maybe today is the day… or maybe I’ll die this way.”
This is how it feels to be an agunah… an “ungetted woman.” And it doesn’t matter if you’re 22, 62, or 82… whether you’re at the beginning of your life with no children, or fighting on your death bed with 6. NOBODY can tell such a woman that she has a choice, for that is the very thing that her husband has taken from her.
To all the agunos out there… all the ungetted, chained women… WE ARE HERE FOR YOU (notice the CAPS LOCK!) and we are most definitely not going anywhere. We will not be bullied and we will not allow you to feel isolated. It doesn’t matter what they call you or how they judge you, always know that you have a community here who will support you, lift you up, and do all we can to help set you free.