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What Was Said About Israel and Divorce Refugee Family at Rabbins Court

To persuade the husband into releasing his chained wife, the chief Rabbinate decided that the father of an American man who had been reduced to giving his wife a ritual divorce for almost two decades would not be allowed to be buried in Israel.

The rabbinic verdict from last week was praised by the orthodox organization Yad La’sLa’sa as a precedent-setting decision and a sign that Israel was on the women’s side.

“This shows that the State of Israel, as the state of the Jewish people, will do everything with every tool at its disposal, even unconventional ones, to help chained women,” Moriya Dayan, an attorney for Yad La’ILa’Ishald The Times of Israel.

For 19 years, Lonna Ralbag, a US Citizen who resides in Manhattan, New York, has been regarded as an agunah- literally, a shackled woman because her husband, Meir Kin, Won’Won’tnt her a religious divorce, keeping her legally wed under Jewish law. This includes the fact that she cannot and that any children she produced with a different guy would be regarded as illegitimate.

Kin did petition for a civil divorce from Ralbang and declined to grant them a religious divorce. He continued to live with Ralbang in 2014 despite still being legally wed to her, after receiving dubious and possibly fraudulent approval from a bit din or American rabbinic court, though one that is not regarded as legitimate by the vast majority of Jewish authorities, both in America and Israel. Because of this, some religious authorities have labeled Kin as a bigamist.

Rabbinical authorities in the United States have made an effort to persuade Ralbang’s Ralbang’s grant him a ritual divorce known as a get by having him excommunicated, barred from participating in prayer quorums, and otherwise barred from religious life.

Another such pressure tactic, which is highly uncommon and only employed in the most extreme situations, is to refuse to perform a Jewish funeral for the family of a stubborn husband. Nearly ten years after he was first instructed to grant Ralbang a divorce, the Californian rabbinical council used the measure against Kin in 2010, Prohibiting his mother from being buried in a Jewish cemetery when she passed away in 2019.

Instead, the mother’s body was carried to Israel by the son’s Kin and buried there. A  legal issue resulted from Ashkenazi head Rabbi David Lau’s attempt to stop the funeral in Israel after becoming aware of the case. However, because the body was already in the nation and ready for burial, and the Kin’s family had made promises to expedite the divorce, Lau eventually gave in, and the funeral proceeded as scheduled.

Dayan, the lawyer, pointed out that despite the ex-communication injunction against his mother and the rest of his family had supported him in his legal battles against Ralbang.

“The family has taken part in all of this. They are also supposed to be part of the harem, Dayan said, using the Hebrew term for ex-communication. Kin has been adamant in pursuing his fictions ex-wife, creating a frequently updated youtube website where he rails against both of them and the rabbinic authorities against him.

Kin claims that he has offered to give a get to Ralbang, but this was done through the same very shady rabbinic council that gave Kin permission to remarry. Therefore no other religious authority would recognize such a divorce.

According to reports, Kin has also asked Ralbang to give him full custody of their son and $500,000 in payment. There are also claims that certain members of the dubious rabbinic council implied that Ralbang would only get the divorce if she did them sexual favors.

Dayan claims that Ralbangs’s attorneys preemptively sought an Israeli decision on the subject to avoid a repeat of the circumstances when a body is already waiting to be buried.

“We did some legal research and determined that a burial can be prevented to obtain a get, both as a matter of Jewish and Israeli law,” one of the attorneys, Daniel Schwartz, said. “We hope these proceedings will lead  to the granting of a get.”

The council upheld Lay’s suggestion last Monday, Prohibiting Kin’s family members from being interred in Israel. However, it also stipulated that, where necessary, a second rabbinic council must approve the choice.

“The Israeli Chief Rabbinate has sent an obvious message today that the Jewish state will not be used as a haven by these evil men who wish to manipulate Jewish law and our government institutions most cynically in ways that enable them to continue to abuse their wives rather than allow them to go free,” said another of Ralbag’s attorneys, Avraham Ben Tzvi.

Ralbang thanked to the chief Rabbinate In a statement.

“I am deeply thankful to the Chief Rabbinate for this miraculous decision, which proves that I am not alone and that the people of Israel are with me. I very much hope and pray that this decision will help set me free after nearly two decades, even if the only motivation behind these actions is his desire to respect his parents and family properly and spare them from this decision’s potential consequences. I also hope this decision will help other women trapped in these situations,” she said.

As it now only applies to non-Israel residents, the precedent is probably somewhat limited, and it is uncertain if it might be utilized here in the future because Israeli courts have previously determined that the measure of refusing burial of the spouse cannot be used to push him into giving a payout.

Women in these positions need to know that there are halachic options to force the hand of these men, and this decision proves that there are brave and compassionate people who are willing to take the drastic, yet necessary, steps to show that these women will not be forgotten,” said Pnina Omer, director of Yad La’isha

Not all proponents of shackled women agreed with the verdict. The somewhat more radical center for women’s justice pointed out that the ruling ignored the underlying systems that enable obstinate spouses to enslave women.

“We hope Lonna receives the freedom she deserves and can put this painful saga behind her soon. CWJ believes we need a systemic, comprehensive solution for agunot that eliminates a woman’s dependence on her husband to leave a marriage,” the group said in a statement.

“Sanctions like these rely upon and reinforce — rather than challenge — the status quo in which a man controls his wife’s freedom. Women will not be free until we address the root of the problem.”

 

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