Hearing the story of the world’s oldest Agunah

As part of their studies of the Lifecycle and Judaism, Year 7 students have been examining beliefs, traditions, texts and symbols associated with each stage of life, including marriage and divorce.

This week they were fortunate to hear from Doreen Beckwith, a great-grandmother of a student in the year level, who has been an ‘agunah’ for nearly 70 years. An agunah is an ‘anchored or chained’ woman who finds herself in an often painful situation of not being free to remarry due to being married under Jewish law, yet in reality her husband has not been seen for years or lives apart and will not consent to a divorce. Doreen’s husband left to pursue work in another city in 1950 and never contacted her again, leaving her to raise two young children in a very different era.

As an energetic and vivacious 97-year-old, Doreen shared her story, also recorded in her memoir, and answered students’ many questions about her experiences and long life. Doreen was featured on ABC Compass and the feature can be viewed here:

Sidra Moshinsky
Director of Jewish Life and Learning