Agunah not consulted in failed attempt to obtain divorce by burial delay

No formal case was opened by Chief Rabbi Lau or Supreme Rabbinical Court judge Rabbi Aharon Katz through which to conduct an agreement with the divorce refuser’s family members.

Talit (illustrative) (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Talit (illustrative)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Lonna Kin, whose struggle for more than a decade and a half to be free from her husband Meir Kin, has said that she was not consulted in any way during a radical, and ultimately failed attempt this week to obtain a divorce.
Kin’s status as an agunah – a “chained woman” – has made headlines in international publications, including when her husband obtained a rabbinical permit from a dubious rabbinical court in the US, which is not recognized as valid by the Chief Rabbinate, to take a second wife while continuing to deny his first wife a divorce.
A faint opportunity to extricate Kin from her marriage was opened up this week after the death of Meir Kin’s mother on Sunday.
Lonna Kin (Credit: Rochel Orlovsky)Lonna Kin (Credit: Rochel Orlovsky)
The Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada (UOR) in New York issued a ruling on Monday to postpone the burial of his mother, in order to pressure him to give his wife a divorce.
The Chief Rabbinate stated on Tuesday that Chief Rabbi David Lau accepted this ruling and instructed the relevant burial society not to bury the mother until her son gave a valid divorce to his wife.
At this point however, details of what transpired become very murky.
A spokesman for Lau said that a compromise was reached whereby Meir Kin’s family members gave a guarantee of $20,000, although the spokesman said he did not know with whom it was deposited, and Meir himself promised to consent to the divorce.
Kin himself did not travel to Israel for the burial – likely because of a law allowing the rabbinical courts in Israel to issue sanctions, including imprisonment, against any recalcitrant Jewish spouse, regardless of their citizenship.
Lau ostensibly gave permission for the burial to go ahead following this compromise, but Meir Kin has subsequently denied ever having agreed to give a bill of divorce in the first place.
Lau’s spokesman told The Jerusalem Post that the agreement had been reached “between a representative of the woman and the family members of the divorce refuser” in the Supreme Rabbinical Court, under the auspices of rabbinical judge Rabbi Aharon Katz.
The Post understands, however, that no case or formal legal proceedings were ever opened in the Supreme Rabbinical Court, and that everything Lau did was independent of officials in the Rabbinical Courts Administration.
Given that no formal case was opened, it is extremely unclear how any guarantee could be deposited, and with whom. 
Officials in the Religious Services Ministry have said that Lau “exceeded his authority” since he has no authority to instruct burial societies how to act, and that a petition to the High Court of Justice against his instructions would likely have been upheld.
Lonna Kim told the Post that she was never contacted in any way about the proceedings regarding her life and marital captivity, and that she had no idea who her representative had been, or even whether there had even been one.
When contacted for comment, Katz declined to speak about the issue; who Lonna Kin’s representative had been; why she had not been contacted about the proceedings; with whom any guarantee had been deposited, if at all; and why the burial had been allowed to proceed without Meir Kin first depositing a bill of divorce with a rabbinical court in the US, given his 16 years of divorce denial.
Speaking to the Post on Thursday, Lonna expressed appreciation for Lau’s efforts.
“The Chief Rabbi tried very hard to get this through, and if they [the Kin family] really would not have been able to bury her, I would have had a get [bill of divorce],” she said.
“The Chief Rabbi was trying to help me in this extreme case, and recognized the severity of the case,” Lonna said.
She added, however, that it was “outrageous” that her husband had not been made to sign a document or deliver a bill of divorce to a rabbinical court before allowing his mother to be buried.
She also said that the $20,000 guarantee that was supposedly deposited was an inconsequential amount of money to the Kin family, given that one of Meir’s brothers, Aharon, is a multi-millionaire.
And she said she was “incensed” she was never contacted during the negotiations between Katz and the family members.
“I don’t know why I wasn’t consulted. I wasn’t aware the brothers were negotiating, and had I been aware I would have wanted to have my version heard.
“I should be entitled to speak to the person representing my side, and if they’re going to claim there were two sides [negotiating], then how did it happen – because I never communicated with them. That’s disturbing to me.”
Speaking more broadly, Kin said that she believed rabbis had failed her as well as other women caught in the same situation as her.
“ I feel that the rabbis in America have failed the women because they don’t embrace the opportunities the Torah provides for allowing women to remarry. Rabbis in the 1200s gave these permits, but they don’t give them today.”
Kin herself was given a ruling by an Orthodox rabbinical court in 2017 called the International Beit Din, headed by Rabbi Simcha Krauss, which annulled her marriage on the basis that her husband had misrepresented himself while they were dating.
Lonna has, however, been reticent to find a new partner given the fact that this decision is not widely supported by other rabbinical courts.
On Thursday, Meir Kin posted a video on social media saying that he had never been contacted by the Chief Rabbinate.
“Chief Rabbi Lau published lies about me,” he said, denying that he had ever agreed to give a divorce.
“This is fake news. No one from the Chief Rabbinate contacted me, and no one else agreed to do so in my name without my knowledge.”
He said that no money had been deposited by his family members as a guarantee, saying that this was “another lie in addition to the usual corruption of the rabbinical courts.”
Kin added that “a bill of divorce has been waiting in a rabbinical court for more than ten years.”
Lonna Kin noted, however, that the Rabbinical Courts of Israel explicitly do not recognize the legitimacy of the court to which Meir Kin was referring, to arrange divorces.
She also noted that it was the head rabbi from the same court that permitted Meir Kin to take a second wife in 2014, despite having refused Lonna a divorce for a decade already at the time.
Lonna also pointed out that Meir had conditioned the divorce on her giving him $500,000, and later on having demanded several other conditions, including that The New York Times remove articles online it published about the case.
The Chief Rabbinate did not respond to a request for comment as to why a formal case had not been opened in the Supreme Rabbinical Court; with whom the $20,000 guarantee was deposited; and why Meir Kin denied having agreed to give a divorce when the Chief Rabbinate said explicitly that he had consented to listen to the rulings of a rabbinical court.