Today, Jews around the world are observing the Fast of Esther honoring Esther’s bravery in the Purim story. Esther is a Persian beauty queen who conceals her Jewish identity from King Ahasuerus and thwarts a plan by villainous Haman for Jewish genocide.
Ta’anit Esther is a unique date in the Jewish year because it is the only day that commemorates the power of a single woman to change the course of Jewish history.
Esther is the symbol of the strength that lies within each of us to change our personal and political circumstances. Today, Jewish women are using this fast day to identify suffering, address issues and empower women to work for social change.
Kolot: The Center for Jewish Women’s and Gender Studies plans programs that focus on the struggles of women around the world including programs on Afghan women, performance pieces on violence against women, and programs on body acceptance.
JOFA: the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance uses the Fast of Esther as International Agunah Day. In Judaism, when a husband denies a divorce, a get, the wife is called agunah, which means chained.
Many organizations show the 2004 film Sentenced to Marriage: Mekudeshet that follows three young married women over a period of two years as they remain trapped by religious courts because they do not have their husband’s consent to divorce.
The documentary Women Unchained follows six women in their quest to receive a get. The film interviews leading women’s rights advocates, rabbis, and experts in Jewish law. It also advocates for couples to sign a pre-nuptial agreement that agrees to the divorce rights of the woman as a solution to Agunot.
Creator of heaven and earth, may it be Your will to free the captive wives of Israel when love and sanctity have fled the home, but their husbands bind them in the tatters of their ketubot. Remove the bitter burden from these agunot and soften the hearts of their misguided captors. Liberate Your faithful daughters from their anguish. Enable them to establish new homes and raise up children in peace.
Grant wisdom to the judges of Israel; teach them to recognize oppression and rule against it. Infuse our rabbis with the courage to use their power for good alone.
Blessed are you, Creator of heaven and earth, who frees the captives.