The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

From Halachic Issue to a Public Concern: Agunot, 1851–1914

The paper will demonstrate how the Agunot problem ceased to be a pure legal issue, and became a openly discussed public issue. This paper is based on researching more than 8,000 cases of known Agunot between 1851 and 1914. The main claim proposed here is that though we know much more on 19th and early 20th century Agunot, we cannot say that there were more agunot since the mid-19th century. The vast volume of information is since the phenomenon began to be discussed in the public sphere rather than the close quarters of the Beit din. The enter of journalism to the Jewish public arena made the change. However, not only did the plight of the Aguna enter the public domain, but as we shall see, rabbis began putting such considerations into their rulings.