November 16, 2018

Letters to the editor: Divorce in the Jewish community

Getting a Solution 

Thank you, Ryan Torok, for your excellent coverage of the “get” story (“Till Get Do Us Part,” March 28). The “wedding” was a Chillul HaShem, a desecration of God’s name.

The protest is a Kiddush HaShem, the sanctification of the God’s name.

Those rabbis who led the protest deserve our praise, our admiration and our gratitude … Rabbi Segal has taught his students at Shalhevet a wonderful lesson in morality, responsibility and Jewish values, most especially in reverence for the halachah. He is especially deserving of praise.

The rabbis who permitted this abomination deserve our scorn.

One can be grateful that Chabad does not count him for a minyan or give him honors within the service. He should not even be allowed to enter the premises. His very presence is an abomination.

And for all of us who respect tradition must insist that Orthodox Rabbis solve this problem. There is a way; all that is missing is courage and determination.

Michael Berenbaum via e-mail

Meir Kin is doing what comes naturally to him, which is looking out for his own selfish interest. I’m not excusing his despicable conduct, 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 women 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.

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?)

Jeffrey Rabin via e-mail

For the last month, this paper has done a hatchet job on the Orthodox Jewish community. In articles on the Mizachi family, Dick and Michael Horowitz, Rabbi Ten, yeshiva students in the Israeli army and now the Kin get. This week’s parasha, Tazria, dealt with the consequence of lashon harah and so will next week’s. Whether Meir Kin gives a get to his ex-wife or not will not increase the number of Jewish children getting a quality Jewish education. It will not help bring Jews back to Judaism, have them keep kosher or get Jews to keep Shabbat. It will not help our people overcome sinat chinam or promote love amongst each other. Truly, should the Kin get be the main discussion at the Shabbat table? 

Dory Frank via e-maill

The Divorce Is in the Details

Toward the end of her recent article on agunot (“Confronting the Problem of Orthodox Divorce,” March 28), Alexandra Leichter indicated that Conservative Jews do not have this problem because the international beit din of the Conservative movement has the authority to annul marriages in which the husband has refused to give a Jewish writ of divorce (a get). I would like to add two things to what she correctly said. 

First, the authority to annul marriages is based on the Talmud’s assertion that rabbis have that power). Orthodox rabbis have refused to use this authority that the Talmud gives them, despite the agony of agunot, while we Conservative rabbis will use that authority when no other avenue is open to free a woman from her first husband. 

Second, annulling a marriage is a last resort. Before that, we Conservative rabbis, like Orthodox rabbis, will do what we can to convince the husband to issue a get. In 1968, the Conservative movement’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards issued a ruling that provides for using a prenuptial agreement. The agreement, however, is different from the one that some Orthodox rabbis are now using. The latter seeks to impose a fine on the man each day he refuses to issue a get after a rabbinic court orders him to do so, but it is frankly questionable whether rabbis have the authority to collect such a fine. The Conservative prenuptial agreement, in contrast, states that if there is a divorce in civil law and the husband has not issued a get within six months thereafter, he agrees that the marriage was not a marriage from the beginning. This does not require a court to act, whether a civil or rabbinic court; it does not involve threatening uncollectable fines; and while it transforms the couple’s acts of sex within the marriage to the legal status of licentiousness rather than sacred union, it does not affect the legal status of any children the couple had, for an illegitimate child (a mamzer) is only the product of an incestuous or adulterous union, not one that could have been sanctified in marriage. 

Rabbi Elliot Dorff, Los Angeles