Rescuing the Jewish Family, One Divorce at a Time: An Israeli Take on the “Jewish Continuity Crisis” Debates

Tanya Zion-Waldoks*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

This paper contributes to current debates over the “Jewish continuity crisis” and its paradigmatic status, by broadening the scope to include the Israeli context, shifting the focus from reproduction and intermarriage to struggles over Jewish divorce, and challenging gendered assumptions about the nature of the crisis and its solutions. Based on a qualitative study of agunah activists’ narratives and Israel’s rabbinic courts’ rulings, it demonstrates how both religious-feminist activists and conservative judges frame their actions as caring for the collective. They aim to rescue not only Jewish families, but “the Jewish family” writ large, entangling national, gendered, and religious politics in supposedly private divorce disputes. This paper argues that Israeli marriage and divorce is a central, intractable battlefield shaped by overlapping “wars.” Understanding it as (also) a site of contention over Jewish continuity clarifies the field’s affective dynamics of anxiety, urgency, and risk, and challenges dominant scholarly constructions of a single binary conflict. Juxtaposing the North American and Israeli continuity debates allows for critical reflection on how each political, social, and academic context shapes the issues similarly and differently. Specifically, this study broadens the possible political and theoretical implications of the “Jewish continuity” frame, arguing that agunah activists’ family-centered logic and commitment to Jewish continuity bridge autonomy and collectivism to advance feminist politics.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)61-84
Number of pages24
JournalContemporary Jewry
Volume42
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature B.V.

Keywords

  • Agunah
  • Feminism
  • Gender
  • Israel
  • Jewish continuity
  • Orthodoxy

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