In Israel, religious law governs all family matters. There is no civil marriage or divorce, which (between Jews) are under the jurisdiction of government-sanctioned rabbinical courts. As specified in Jewish law, it is the husband who must grant a divorce Without a get, a woman cannot re-marry. She is considered an aguna, a so-called chained wife, and if she has children with another man they are regarded as mamzerim, children born of a forbidden sexual union, who will themselves be restricted from marrying any other Jew but a mamzer.
The Rackman Center annually assists some 500 women in receiving legal and psycho-social support and litigates 40 cases before the religious and civil courts in Israel, including the High Court of Justice (all pro bono). Trained volunteers run the center’s help line.
“What really distinguishes us from other centers is the unique combination and synergy between being a civil society organization of activists, together with the research, expertise and knowledge that we develop as an academic center,” explains Halperin-Kaddari, who served for 12 years as a member (and four years as vice president) of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).