Monday, March 25, 2019

Two articles on Jewish law in French history

Back in 2017, raldine Gudefin (American University) published two articles on Jewish law in French history. We missed these earlier. Here are some details:

(1) "Creating Legal Difference: The Impossible Divorce of Russian Jews in Early Twentieth-Century France," Nashim: A Journal of Jewish Women's Studies & Gender Issues 31 (2017), 11-36

Abstract: Much of the scholarship on Jewish divorce assumes that civil marital laws are beneficial to Jews. This article complicates that assumption by focusing on a rarely acknowledged aspect of Jewish immigration in France. As France moved towards a stricter understanding of the separation of church and state, civil courts rejected the possibility of applying religious divorce laws to foreigners. Combined with the French practice of applying foreign law in cases involving immigrants, this shift resulted in Russian Jews being denied the right to civil divorce from 1905 to the 1920s. The confessional nature of Russian divorce thus continued to shape the lives of Russian Jews even after their immigration to France. The case of Russian Jewish divorce casts light on the shifting and contradictory understand-ings of the separation of church and state in France during the early years of the twentieth century.

(2) "Reforming Jewish Divorce: French Rabbis and Civil Divorce at the Turn of the Twentieth century (1884-1907" in Martine Gross, Sophie Nizard, and Yann Scioldo-Zurcher, eds., Gender, Families and Transmission in the Contemporary Jewish Context (2017)

Excerpt from introduction: "In the months and years following the passage of the law of 1884 [restoring civil divorce in France], rabbis in France became increasingly aware of the plight of Jewish women who were denied a religious divorce. Over the next two decades, French rabbis designed myriad proposals in an effort to reform Jewish marital laws and  prevent the problem of
agunot; these rabbinical proposals became widely  publicized in the French Jewish press. This article examines the manifold suggestions for reforming Jewish divorce between 1884 and 1907, focusing particularly on the conflicting pressures faced by French rabbis. On the one hand, Jewish communal leaders were extremely influenced by French debates about civil divorce, sharing similar ideas with reformers of civil divorce about the adaptive nature of the law and the need for more  balanced gender relations. On the other hand, owing to the transnational nature of Jewish law and life, the discussion about religious divorce transcended France's national borders, thus complicating attempts at reform."

Further information is available here.