Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

In Marriage, Divorce, and Family Law


In the last decade, there has been increased awareness of human rights violations in every country. Evidence shows that women, particularly, have been denied their basic human rights. Often, the denial of women's human rights is based on religious law.

The declaration that "women's rights are human rights," which was made so eloquently at the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna in 1993 and reconfirmed in 1995 at the Beijing World Conference on Women, should now include the recognition that Jewish women's rights are human rights.

As has been well documented, Jewish women can be discriminated against in marriage and divorce under Jewish law. While ancient Jewish law was designed to protect and support Jewish women, today that same law is being used by some as a tool to deny women their rights to equality in marriage, divorce, and the founding of a family.

The Jewish community readily admits that the shameful situation of the agunah, a woman chained to an unwanted or non-existent marriage who cannot be released without her husband's consent, is unjust. It is common knowledge that some Jewish husbands withhold their consent to a religious divorce or get, in order to extort exorbitant sums of money from their wives as the "price" for the get. Nonetheless, the Jewish community, despite a high level of educational attainment, financial success, organizational skills and traditional commitment to social justice, has been unable or unwilling to find solutions to the painful problem of the agunah.

The International Jewish Women's Rights Project intends to document the human rights violations of women in Jewish communities all over the world. Thanks to the vision and generosity of the International Council of Jewish Women, we will be establishing a central data base which will include cases of women who have been denied the right to marry and to found a family from every Jewish community. Each case is a violation of a Jewish woman's human rights. As the nations of the world celebrate the 50th anniversary of the ratifying of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Jewish Women's Rights Project intends to gather information, research, and publicize the infringement of Jewish women's rights. It is our hope that our efforts will bring about the necessary changes that will eliminate such human rights violations in the Jewish community. The time has come for all Jews to act on the biblical injunction: "JUSTICE, JUSTICE YOU SHALL PURSUE".


Director, International Jewish Women's Rights Project

Sharon Shenhav, an international women's rights lawyer, has been recognized as an expert on marriage and divorce in Jewish law. She has represented hundreds of women in rabbinical courts in Israel and has been a consultant to lawyers, judges, and legislators in many countries. Ms. Shenhav is a member of the Israeli delegation to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.

Please join us and contribute to the campaign to eliminate the injustice of human rights violations of Jewish women. All contributions to IJWRP are tax-deductible.

Please make checks payable to:

  • Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 13 Tel Hai St, Jerusalem, Israel (in U.S. dollars).
  • ICJW, Marilyn Flanzbaum-Treasurer, 29 Angus Lane, Warren, NJ 07059, USA (in U.S. dollars).
  • League of Jewish Women, 24-32 Stephenson Way, London NW1 2JW, UK (in Sterling; Charity no. 261199).

A joint project of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and the International Council of Jewish Women