Rabbi Howard Jachter
Was there anything distinctly Jewish about the suffering that resulted from the vicious Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks? Indeed, it was an undiscriminating attack on all Americans. Nonetheless, there was a uniquely Jewish facet to this horrific event. The terrorist attacks left hundreds of individuals whose remains were not found or only small remnants of their bodies were discovered. Besides families waiting for a measure of clarity that their loved ones perished in order for them to begin the formal process of mourning, the plight of the women who wish to one day remarry loomed large in the wake of the World Trade Center attacks. These women remained agunot, unable to remarry until a bet din (rabbinic court) was able to amass sufficient evidence to issue a ruling verifying the death of the husband and thereby permitting the wife to remarry. As a result of this tragedy, 15 cases of agunot were presented to batei din (rabbinical courts) in the New York metropolitan area.