The following text was written by Ruth Schreiber.
An aguna is a woman whose husband refuses to give her a get, which is a document of Jewish divorce. The get must be given willingly by the husband to the wife in order for the divorce to be valid according to Jewish law (halacha). Without a get, the woman may not remarry.
Unfortunately, there are men who deliberately withhold the get. The man and woman no longer live together, their relationship is over, but the man refuses to give a get knowing that this will stymie the woman’s life. There are men who choose to sit in prison rather than to give a get, and many who blackmail the woman. Others wait until her child-bearing years are over and then oblige. This really is an example of evil being a matter of choice; a violence committed against a dependent, helpless woman. There is an enormous amount of material on the topic and plenty of attempts at creative work-arounds, including latterly specific pre-nuptial agreements but the horror lingers.
My art work, hand-built earthenware, painted and glazed, consists of a woman’s neck with a heavy hand-built earthenware chain repeatedly wound around it. This represents the weighty, suffocating burden that an aguna carries the entire time, chained as she is to a cruel, vindictive man.