Israel Meir Kin is a Threat to all Jewish Women, by Yosef Kanefsky

A little over a thousand years ago, Rabbenu Gershom of Mainz, the leading scholar of Ashkenazi Jewry, enacted bold legal measures to protect Jewish women from abuse.

Last week a fellow named Israel Meir Kin poked his finger in Rabbenu Gershom’s eye, and now every Jewish woman is at risk.

In his day, Rabbenu Gershom began to notice a disturbing and outrageous trend. Husbands, who found that they now fancied another woman, were taking advantage of the Biblical law allowing them to divorce their wives unilaterally and virtually without cause. And with the stroke of a pen, and the cold delivery of a divorce document, they were shattering the lives of their wives and families. Rabbenu Gershom strode into the breach and proclaimed a ban of excommunication against any man who divorced his wife without her consent. And to insure these husbands who lusted after another woman wouldn’t simply marry their new love without divorcing their first wives, he placed the same ban of excommunication on any man who married more than one wife, effectively ending the practice of polygamy in Ashkenaz. Rabbenu Gershom was determined that Jewish women would no longer be subject to this kind of abuse at the hands of their husbands.

In our day, Israel Meir Kin has undone Rabbenu Gershom’s work. This past Thursday, as about 30 of us stood in protest, he blatantly violated Rabbenu Gershom’s ban, by marrying a second woman without divorcing his wife. As if it were not enough that for the past 9 years he has spitefully been refusing to grant a Jewish divorce to his wife Lonna (allegedly unless she were to pay him hundreds of thousands of dollars), he has now completed his journey of shame by toppling the age-old ban on polygamy. (See the articles in this past Saturday’s New York Times, and the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/22/us/a-wedding-amid-cries-of-unfinished-business-from-a-marriage.html?_r=0″ and http://www.jewishjournal.com/bloggish/item/modern_orthodox_protest_against_agunah_wedding_in_vegas”>)

Make no mistake. Israel Meir Kin’s actions are not merely outrageous and despicable. His actions threaten all of our daughters and all of our sisters. I can guarantee you that at this very moment there are men who are watching, waiting to see whether Israel Meir Kin gets away with this. And if he does, there will be more Israel Meir Kins. And every single married Jewish woman will be shorn of the protection Rabbenu Gershom had afforded women for the past millennium.

If you know Israel Meir Kin, a physician’s assistant now residing in Las Vegas, Nevada, or if you know someone who knows him, you must act now. Bring whatever legal form of social or economic pressure to bear on him that you can. This is a moment that has the potential to wreak havoc and misery for generations to come. Unless we act to stop it.

27 Responses to Israel Meir Kin is a Threat to all Jewish Women, by Yosef Kanefsky

  1. Meir Kin is doing what comes naturally to him, which is looking out for his own selfish interest. I’m not excusing the husband’s despicable conduct. He’s worse than trash and he should be kareit. But, a rally against him won’t fix the problem.

    The shanda in this is that the Orthodox rabbinate has not found a way for woman to be divorced in every situation in which the wife wishes to be divorced, without the issuance of a get by the husband. A woman should be able to go to a beit din, and receive a declaration of divorce and freedom to remarry in all cases, no questions asked, whether with our without the cooperation of the husband.

    Woman are too often victims of abuse have nowhere to turn. They are indentured to marriage. Slaves get to go free after 7 years, but not women bound in a marriage with a recalcitrant husband.

    If the Orthodox rabbinate could show courage in this, then the problem would end. We find loopholes for nearly everything; pikuach nefesh is the grand catch-all, and certainly halacha has stretched pikuach nefesh for less severe situations. (A doctor can drive to the hospital for every possible minor issue, and a woman can have an abortion because giving birth may have cause her psychological harm, but a beit din can’t rely on pikuach nefesh to order a woman free?) I’m uneducated in halacha, but surely there are plenty of other loopholes that can be found. If the Modern Orthodox community dealt with this once and for all, then I believe the Haredi community, fearful of mamzerim flooding the Jewish world, would fall into line.

    Focusing community opprobrium at recalcitrant husbands lets the rabbinate off the hook; they must be breathing a sigh of relief every time that one of these rallies at a marriage takes place – the focus isn’t on the rabbinic leadership, so they can remain machmir on the halacha. Instead of rallying at the third marriage of a recalcitrant husband, we should be rallying at the RCA in NYC and the Chief Rabbinate in Jerusalem to demand a change in the rules!

    • Josh says:

      Jeffrey: I do not disagree with you that the Orthodox rabbinate should be considering little-used (but available) Talmudic tools to solve the problem of the modern-day aguna [e.g., R. Eliezer Berkovits’s proposal for hafka’at kiddushin (annulment) or R. Emanuel Rackman’s proposal for kiddushei ta’ut (declaration that the marriage was consummated under fraudulent pretenses)], but the tone of your post bothers me. Putting our modern-day egalitarian values aside, the Torah states (and the Sages expounded) that a typical Jewish divorce can only be effected by the willing delivery of a get from a man to a woman. See Deut. 24:1 (“he [the husband] shall write for her a bill of divorce and place it in her hand”). Any approach to solving the aguna crisis has to incorporate an awareness that, under biblical law, a get is invalid unless it is given willingly by the husband to the wife. As I indicated, this may offend modern-day sensibilities, but what makes us an Orthodox community is our fealty to the heteronomous law that is the Torah. We can’t expect all segments of the Orthodox community to recognize proposed solutions to the aguna crisis as halakhically valid unless they originate from rabbis who express an appreciation of the weighty difficulty posed by biblical divorce law. While this difficulty may not be insurmountable (the Talmud is full of mechanisms for circumventing biblical prohibitions in cases of great need), you will not see haredi gedolim accepting Modern Orthodox solutions unless the proponents acknowledge the grave halakhic issues presented, instead of simply shouting that “where there is a rabbinic will, there is a halakhic way.”

      A prime example of a solution that the haredi rabbinate has, by and large, accepted (even if they do not encourage it themselves) is R. Willig’s pre-nuptial agreement, which has a 100% success rate to boot. I believe that the reasons they accept it are: (1) they agree with R. Willig’s halakhic analysis; and (2) they sense that R. Willig appreciates the arguments against making innovations into marriage and divorce procedures (e.g., some argued way back when that the pre-nup would render kiddushin conditional, which could, in turn, render the ensuing relationship extra-marital). As with many issues in halakha, the attitude of the posek is critical to the proposal’s success.

      • Lonnie says:

        Things change, people change, and rules change. You cite Torah verse, but does it not require live sacrifice? Allow you to sell you daughters? These things are nolonger practiced. Is incest allowed? It had to have been practised at the time of Adam and Eve! So let women get divorced if they want. This is the 21st century, JOIN IT!

      • Josh,

        I am, of course, aware of what the Torah states. I’ve also studied Masechet Gittin. But I also know that halacha has been interpreted in countless ways to adopt to recognized needs. Banks in Israel can originate loans, with interest, and without concern that the debts are forgiven in shmita year. And, in Israel farmers can plant crops in a shmita year. These are among many examples of direct contradictions of Torah precepts, that ultimately were completely undone by poskim of the past century and preceding. I don’t have much respect for the Haredi rabbinate; perhaps if their sons enlisted in the Israeli Army I’d feel differently. In any case, it’s time for the rabbinic leadership to step up and free the agunot.

  2. Oscar says:

    He deposited a get in monsey some years ago. His “wife” just does not like the terms so she wont accept it.

    • Yosef Kanefsky says:

      Hi Oscar
      According to all the information i have gathered, the “get” from that bet Din in Monsey would be regarded as valueless in the eyes of mainstream Batai Din, and it also has financial and custody strings attached. It changes nothing.

    • Josh says:

      Oscar: either this “certification” from the Monsey Beit din is false, or what you said in your comment is false. The certification says that Mr. Kin deposited a get at the Beit din and has rek

      • Josh says:

        (Sorry, posted too soon)

        Removed all religious barriers to divorce. You, however, said that there are “terms” under which Mrs. Kin can receive the get. Which is it? Has Mr. Kin removed all barriers to religious divorce, or has he made this divorce conditional on compliance with his “terms”?

      • Oscar says:

        I did not read the actual document, just as in Civil divorce someone usually feels “screwed” so to it appears in this case.

  3. I would suggest that the rabbi who was mesader kedushin at wedding #2 and the 100 rabbis who supposedly signed the heter are the ones who are most dangerous, much more so than Mr Kin.

  4. Dr. Saundra Sterling Epstein says:

    I continue to be fascinated and clearly horrified by how Halacha, that vast body of Jewish law in both content and spirit, is maligned by such people who yank the threads they choose to use in order to ignore the woven fabric of this complex system. Further, the correlation of such individuals with those who are so insistent that THEY KNOW BETTER in other matters of human concern — such as the fiasco involving converts in Israel, the hyper-attention to and running away with the text in considering various members of our community based on one isolated line to the exclusion of the context of that line in how we address members of our community with different gender and sexuality inclinations (think Bikkurim , chapter 4) clearly and justifiably offends and distances so many from our Orthodox community. How awful. What a Hilll HaShem!

    Dr. Saundra Sterling Epstein

  5. Yehuda says:

    Well, who said that we HAVE to follow Rabbeinu Gershom, after all anyone can see from chumash and chazal that it is permitted to have more than one wife. And after all, conditions have changed since Rabbeinu Gershom enacted his cherem…

    I don’t support the actions of this individual any more than you do, but when you approach halacha like this with regard to other issues, don’t be surprised when someone does the same thing with a result you don’t like.

    • Yosef Kanefsky says:

      Yehuda
      by all means go ahead and make the case that the cherem be set aside under present conditions.

      • Yehuda says:

        I would never do such a thing, I am as appalled as the next person at this person’s actions. I am merely stating that the more malleable halacha is, the more malleable it is for good and for bad.

    • Esti says:

      The reason we follow Rabbeinu Gershom’s ruling today, is because it was universally followed from the time he enacted it. If he hadn’t gotten a consensus, than we wouldn’t be beholden to the ruling today.

  6. Peter Faber says:

    Dear Rabbi Kanefsky: Indeed Israel Meir Kin’s actions are outrageous and despicable, but they pale in the face of those Rabbis that facilitated this event. They too must be held liable and responsible for their actions as they are the real culprit in this catastrophe.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Meir!!!!! My family was close with your family , dovela and i were born right around the same time, my mother and your mother were great friends!!! you guys were normal, wonderful people. I don’t get where everything went wrong. Why are you doing this to your family, dovela is not married, do you think he will ever find someone that won’t judge him because of your horrific behavior. Why would you do something like this to your ex wife, what possesses you to be so rotten. And your new wife, does she not realize how low this is. with all the opposition you are getting you must really be evil to allow this to continue. what is your goal???? reflect on your behavior , think about the people you have hurt in the process. Meir, i see your picture and I get a sad feeling, because under all that stubborn evil behavior , is a man who was raised by a beautiful family with great friends and great standing in the community. the worst is you pulled these wonderful people in and they stand by you. you manipulated good people to support you in your evil behavior. !!!!!! no words can describe how disappointed we all are, mortified that i ever had any ties to a person like you!!!

  8. I am considering a few options about your write up here:
    1. You are incredibly ignorant on the matter you write about.
    2. You know the facts but are choosing to play politically correct with what is the moral compass of the Majority Culture in the west ie Xtianity’s Monogomy only worldview.

    Polygamy has historically been and still is a Jewish way.

  9. It is also on record that the Italian community categorically rejected Rebenu Gershoms decree as being applied in their Jurisdiction.

    • Yosef Kanefsky says:

      Hi Yitzchak
      Though I disagree with you about polygamy, this story isn’t ultimately about polygamy. It is about one human being, Meir Kin, attempting to extort another human being. It is about his using Halacha as a tool to inflict suffering upon another person, holding her hostage, preventing her from moving on as he has moved on. It is about one person doing something very evil, and planting the idea into the minds of others. Doing evil has never historically been the Jewish way.

      • Oscar says:

        But Meir gave her a get, she may not like and chose to shop around for a better deal. While Mr Kin maybe this and that, I thought the issue was about giving a get and releasing her from marriage. I am not clear on how she is an aguna anymore if he gave her a get. Does the halacha make her an aguna if she refuses to accept the get? I am not trying to debate I am just confused. The issue is Mr Kin refusing to give a get, or is he an A******?

      • Josh says:

        Oscar: According to available information, he deposited this get in escrow and told his corrupt beis din that they could only release it to her if she paid him an exorbitant sum of money ($500,000). That’s not releasing Ms. Kin from marriage: it’s extortion.

  10. My quick thought is that Meir Kin has attacked not just Jewish women but Jewish men. His despicable action has created a barrier for any suitable Jewish man to marry the woman he divorced in civil court. If that is not an attack on every Jew, male or female, I don’t know what is.

  11. Anonymous says:

    How do we contact Meir

  12. Don Black says:

    Hello everyone,

    Admittedly, I’m very ignorant as to the specifics and nuances of Jewish law… but I’m familiar with the “Get” and 2-3 times/year I hear a story about some guy who extorts his (ex)wife in order to grant her one. Obviously, by marrying another woman, this guy has taken it to the next level… but, reading the article and all the comments here, I can’t help but be amused by what seems to me is the bigger lesson in all of this.

    Please allow me to explain:

    Everyone here adheres to the philosophy that only a man can furnish a Get (because that is Jewish canon)… but at the same time is appalled by his engagement into polygamy? So even someone as ignorant as me has to ask: why do you adhere to one part of the philosophy but are appalled by the other?

    Let me rephrase it in a more pragmatic manner:

    As humans, we have enough acumen to reject things like slavery, polygamy, selling daughters, stoning adulterers, etc… so how come our acumen doesn’t extend to civil rights? Specifically, the civil rights of our women?

    With respect,
    /F

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