U.S. Jew Disavows Divorce Deal to Have His Mother Buried in Israel

Man who has refused to divorce his wife for 15 years says he never agreed to deal announced by Israel's chief rabbi, but relatives vow to 'do everything' to persuade him

Shamgar Funeral Home, where the funeral of Israel Meir Kin’s mother started, in Jerusalem, August 20, 2019.
Olivier Fitoussi

An American Jew whose family promised that he would finally divorce his wife – so that his mother could be buried in Israel – announced on Thursday that he himself never agreed to the divorce.

Israel Meir Kin’s family promised he would grant the divorce after Israel's Chief Rabbi David Lau threatened not to let his mother be buried in Jerusalem if he didn’t. Lau announced on Tuesday that Kin, who has refused to divorce his wife for 15 years, agreed to the divorce so that his mother could be buried.

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But in a Hebrew-language video posted on Thursday, Kin said, “Chief Rabbi Lau is publishing lies about me.”

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“The rabbinate announced that I’d changed my mind and agreed to grant a bill of divorce,” he said. “This is fake news. No one from the rabbinate contacted me, and nobody agreed to this on my behalf, without my knowledge. Moreover, no money was deposited as a guarantee that the divorce would be given. That’s another lie.”

Israel's Chief Rabbi David Lau, Israel, 2018.
Emil Salman

Kin accused Lau of trying to help his wife because they are related. “On top of the usual corruption in the rabbinical courts, Rabbi Lau had a special interest, because he’s a relative of my wife,” he said.

Haaretz has determined that the woman is in fact related to Lau, but very distantly. Lau’s office said he wasn’t aware of the relationship while he was dealing with the case.

Kin also said a bill of divorce was waiting for his wife at another rabbinical court. Haaretz discovered that he did in fact deposit a bill of divorce with an American rabbinical court 11 years ago, but Lau’s office said the rabbinate doesn’t recognize the court in question.

Moreover, depositing a bill of divorce with the court isn’t enough by itself to allow the woman to remarry. In this particular case, she would actually receive the divorce only after several disputes, most of them financial, were resolved to his satisfaction.

Lau’s office said Kin remarried five years ago, after receiving special permission to take a second wife from American rabbis.

Despite Kin’s video, his relatives, who are currently sitting shiva in Israel, said they intend to abide by the promise they gave Lau. “Our word is our bond, and we’ll do everything we can to keep the promise we gave,” one family member said.

Lau’s office said the family appealed to the Supreme Rabbinical Court to permit the mother’s burial after the court president had approved a decision by an American rabbinical court to refuse to bury her until the son divorced his wife. The court finally approved the burial after the family signed a document in which they pledged to take responsibility for ensuring that Kin granted the divorce, and agreed to deposit a $20,000 guarantee.

Lau regrets that the husband “is continuing his inappropriate behavior and is now attacking the rabbinical court,” the statement added.