The ZC is proud to showcase the work of our very own Shaked Karabelnicoff as part of a summer research internship she undertook with Dr. Deidre Butler and Dr. Betina Appel Kuzmarov. Check out Shaked’s report on the work she completed – looking at Jewish divorce in Canada.

I-CUREUS Summer: End of Term Report by Shaked Karabelnicoff

This summer I had the pleasure of participating in the ICUREUS Internship Program, working as a Research Assistant on an interdisciplinary project about Jewish Divorce in Canada led by Dr. Betina Appel Kuzmarov and Dr. Deidre Butler. The research project, titled “The Troubling Orthopraxies: A Study of Jewish Divorce in Canada” is an SSHRC funded ethnographic project that addresses a lacuna of Canadian ethnographic research. The project significantly reframes the question of the Agunah (Jewish women who cannot secure a religious divorce, called a “Gett”) by placing it within the larger Jewish communal context, focusing on the particularities of the Canadian experience, and in approaching the question through an interdisciplinary lens. The general goal of the research is to provide, for the first time, a context for Gett abuse by developing an ethnographic account of Jewish divorce in Canada that describes how women, men and children actually experience the religious divorce process.

I played two main roles in the project: supporting the larger project and contributing my discipline-specific key outputs. My independent research contribution to the project is an ongoing, comprehensive media literature review of Jewish divorce in Canadian media. Through methodical, concentrated research in Jewish newspaper archives, I developed a rich database of articles that relate to Jewish Divorce and the question of the Agunah. In analyzing these articles, I was able to provide perspective on how the Canadian public views Jewish divorce in Canada, and what information was historically and contemporarily circulated regarding matters of the Agunah in the media. Through this research, I was able to identify important trends about the frequency of Agunah being discussed in the media, key years where discussion spiked, and the language and manners used to describe Jewish divorce. This research provides unique context about Jewish divorce in Canadian media which will be useful to the general project. Furthermore, my research supports the project’s overall understanding about Canadian perceptions on the problem of Agunah and provides an overview of this subject as it is represented by the media.

Additionally, my media literature review unintentionally allowed me to develop an exhaustive list of human sources, such as stakeholders, activists, rabbis, and lawyers, that were historically involved in these issues and thus were mentioned in the media. This list of sources combined seamlessly with my second main contribution to the project which was conducting interviews and recruiting interviewees. As a Journalism and Religion student, I was able to bring a unique perspective to the project. I am both knowledgeable about the religious background of Jewish Divorce and experienced in the ethics and practice of interviewing vulnerable subjects. Over the summer, I was able to begin training with Professor Appel Kuzmarov and Professor Butler to conduct interviews independently for the project. I am looking forward to staying on as a research assistant throughout the coming academic year to continue supporting the project through interviews.

In closing, I am proud of the research and outputs I have contributed to the Troubling Orthopraxies project though the ICUREUS summer internship and am grateful for knowledge and experiences I gained. This summer was certainly unique due to the global pandemic which forced our project to adapt. Nonetheless, we were able to successfully pivot and conduct research completely online. From remote interviews to regular mentorship and communication using video conferencing, the project transitioned smoothly and embraced digital tools. As the summer comes to a close, I look forward to continuing my work on this important research project over the academic year and to keep gaining more valuable skills and learning lessons along the way.