Judaism Confronts Wife-Beating

Naomi Graetz


The myth that domestic violence does not exist among Jews is currently being challenged. This essay presents the problem of wifebeating in halakha and everyday life. The law of the State of Israel gives jurisdiction in matters of personal status to Orthodox rabbinical courts; this means that all matters of marriage and divorce are adjudicated according to Jewish law. The judges, who are male and Orthodox, have it in their power to decide whether a man can be ordered to give his wife a bill of divorce. Despite past decisions to the contrary, wifebeating does not seem to serve as grounds for divorce according to modern Orthodox Judaism. Women in the State of Israel may thus find themselves tied to abusive husbands, with no legal recourse.

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