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A Rabbinic Court Has Already Ruled That Divorce Refusers’ Families Cannot Be Buried in Israel
In an effort to persuade the husband to release his “chained” wife, the Chief Rabbinate has decided that the still-living father of an American man who has refused to give his wife a religious divorce for almost two decades would not be able to be buried in Israel.
The rabbinic verdict from last week was welcomed as precedent-setting and a symbolic act demonstrating that Israel was on the lady’s side by the Orthodox organization Yad La’Isha, which filed an amicus brief in support of the woman.
According to Moriya Dayan, an attorney with Yad La’Isha, “this proves that the State of Israel, as the state of the Jewish people, will do everything with every tool at its disposal, including unconventional ones, to help chained women.”
Lonna Ralbag, a US citizen who resides in Monsey, New York, has been regarded as an agunah (literally, a shackled woman) for 19 years since her husband, Meir Kin, won’t grant her a religious divorce, keeping her legally wed under Jewish law. This has a number of implications, including the fact that she cannot practice Jewish remarriage and that any children she had with a different man would be regarded as illegitimate.
Kin did seek a civil divorce from Ralbag in California, even though she declined to grant a religious divorce. He obtained dubious and maybe fraudulent clearance to get remarried in 2014 from an American rabbinic court, or beit din, however one that is not regarded as valid by the vast majority of Jewish authorities, both in America and in Israel, despite him still being religiously married to Ralbag. As a result, Kin has been labeled a bigamist by various religious authorities.
In order to force Kin into giving Ralbag a ritual divorce, known as a get in Hebrew, rabbinic authorities in the United States excommunicated Kin, barred him from participating in prayer quorums, and otherwise restricted him from religious life.
Another such pressure tactic, which is extremely uncommon and only employed in the most extreme circumstances, is to prevent the family of a stubborn husband from getting a Jewish funeral. Nearly ten years after he was originally required to grant Ralbag a divorce, the Rabbinical Council of California used the measure against Kin in 2010, prohibiting his mother from being buried in a Jewish cemetery in the United States when she passed away in 2019.
Instead, his mother’s remains were carried to Israel by the Kin family, who wanted to bury her here. After learning about the situation, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau attempted to stop the burial from taking place in Israel, which resulted in a court fight. However, Lau eventually gave in and the funeral went through as scheduled because the body was already in the nation waiting to be buried and because Kin’s family had made some promises to speed up the divorce.
According to Yisrael Meir Kin, the rabbinate postponed his mother’s funeral in an effort to persuade him to grant his wife a religious bill of divorce. Dayan, Kin’s lawyer, pointed out that despite the writ of ex-communication against Kin, his mother and the rest of his family had supported him throughout his legal struggles against Ralbag.
“The family has been involved in everything. Dayan used the Hebrew word for ex-communication, the phrase “harem,” to describe them as also being a part of the harem. By putting up a frequently updated YouTube page where he rails against her and the rabbinic authorities who have ruled against him, Kin has been unrepentant in his fight against his quasi-ex-wife.
Kin claims that he has offered to give a get to Ralbag, but this was accomplished through the same extremely dubious rabbinic council that gave Kin permission to remarry, therefore it is exceedingly unlikely that any other religious authority would accept such a divorce.
Kin reportedly also asked that Ralbag give him full custody of their son and pay him $500,000. There are also claims that certain members of the dubious rabbinic council implied that Ralbag’s divorce would depend on her providing sexual favors for them.
“Israel will not be a haven” However, the matter has resurfaced because Kin’s 89-year-old father apparently has terrible health and wants to be buried in Israel as well. According to Dayan, Ralbag’s counsel prematurely requested an Israeli decision on the subject in order to avoid a repeat of the circumstance in which the legal dispute only commences when there is already a body waiting to be buried.
One of the lawyers, Daniel Schwartz, said, “We performed some legal study and found that in fact a burial can be prevented in order to acquire a receive, both as a matter of Jewish and Israeli law.” “We expect that the granting of a get will ultimately result from these proceedings.”
They brought the matter before the Israeli rabbinate, which forwarded it to the rabbinic court for resolution. The matter was remanded to the rabbinate after the rabbinic court upheld the counsel for Ralbag’s assertion that burial rejection was justified. Ralbag’s attorneys were compelled to file an appeal with the High Court of Justice when the rabbinate claimed it lacked the power to handle the situation.
As a result of hearing the arguments this summer, the High Court of Justice remanded the case to the Chief Rabbinate’s rabbinic council for further consideration. The council upheld Lau’s suggestion last week, prohibiting Kin’s family members from being interred in Israel. However, it also stipulated that, where necessary, the ruling must also be approved by another rabbinic council.
According to another of Ralbag’s attorneys, Avraham Ben Tzvi, “the Israeli Chief Rabbinate has sent a very clear message today that the Jewish state will not be used as a safe haven by these evil men who wish to manipulate Jewish law and our governmental institutions in the most cunning manner in order to enable them to continue abusing their wives rather than allow them to go free.”
After almost two decades, I fervently hope and pray that this choice will help me find freedom. Ralbag expressed gratitude to the Chief Rabbinate and expressed her hope that the decision would persuade Kin to grant her a get.
“I am incredibly grateful to the Chief Rabbinate for making this extraordinary choice, which shows that the Israeli people are with me and that I am not alone. I fervently hope and pray that this choice will aid in my release after
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