The media’s role in helping agunot


The Dayton Jewish Observer was the first to report last week about the plight of Adina Porat. In 1990, she married a man named Dovid Porat in Israel, and the couple would go on to have five children. But in 2007, Porat left his family and moved to the United States, where he assumed the name Eli Shur. As he set about trying to build a new identity, Adina Porat was also trying to start anew. But she couldn’t, because Shur refused to grant her a get (Jewish divorce).

For years, the Organization for the Resolution of Agunot (ORA) has tried to secure a get for Adina Porat, but to no avail. Now, ORA is appealing to the viral power of the Internet and the collective authority of community. Last week, the website Free Adina went online, containing information about the case and pictures of both parties, and promoting a Nov. 8 protest near Shur’s home.

It remains to be seen whether these latest efforts will prove successful, but they appear to indicate the emergence of a new form of public campaigning on behalf of agunot, women who are “chained” to their marriages. The Porat-Shur case is the second in two years to play out in the press, after the New York Post broke the story of Gital Dodelson, a Lakewood, N.J., woman whose husband, Avrohom Meir Weiss, also refused to give her a get. Three months after Dodelson’s story went viral, Weiss relented.

Adina Porat and the ORA clearly took notice of the satisfying ending to Dodelson’s ordeal. And they’re not the only ones: a few weeks back, I was introduced to a young woman whose Israeli husband refuses to grant her a get. When I asked her how I could help, she requested that I help her place a story about her husband in some of the major Israeli newspapers. She hoped the media might be able to shame her husband into freeing her.

Around the Jewish world, there are countless organizations and individuals working tirelessly to help agunot, and there have been a number of successes in recent years. If the media and the Internet can be harnessed to further this agenda, that can only add another powerful weapon in this essential battle.