Jewish women in marriage law protest

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The Independent Online

Orthodox Jewish women who are being held in marriages against their will have started protests outside the home of a man who has refused to grant a religious divorce to his ex-wife for nearly 40 years.

Up to 50 women have joined the silent demonstrations outside Israel Elias's home in Golders Green, north London, on Sundays to persuade him to allow Susan Zinkin the divorce, known as a "get".

She filed for divorce on the basis of mental cruelty in 1962 and the marriage was ended by a civil judge, but Mr Elias refused to agree to a get.

Orthodox Jewish women denied a religious divorce cannot remarry in a synagogue and any descendants from a second marriage are considered illegitimate for 10 generations.

The rule does not apply to men, who are not considered to be adulterers if they remarry.

Thousands of "chained women", known as Agunot, have been fighting to get Jewish law changed, and the Agunot Campaign has been set up to promote individual cases.

Ms Zinkin, 64, a retired English teacher from Bournemouth, said she joined other women outside her former husband's home because she had tried every other means to get a religious divorce. "It was a desperate measure. I have tried to get a Jewish divorce for all these years but for a long time there was no Agunot Campaign. Times have changed now and I thought it would be good to get things sorted out properly."

Mr Elias, who is in his late seventies, could not be contacted for comment.