Catching up on the News of Jews: Chained Melodies and Celebrities Good and Bad

Chained Melodies:

I support civil rights for Jewish women in all marital and in all ritual issues. I am surprised that the Agunah issue has become mainstream news all of a sudden in the Times and at the Jewish Channel. The Times has this, "Unwilling to Allow His Wife a Divorce, He Marries Another - NY Times" The reporter presents some of the baffling facts about the rabbinic legal jungle:
Mr. Kin, who in recent years moved to Las Vegas, has repeatedly insisted that Ms. Kin agree to binding arbitration from one particular religious court based in Monsey that is controversial and has been widely denounced by rabbinical authorities in the United States and Israel. Several leading rabbis, including the chief rabbinical office of Israel, have said they would not accept a divorce document signed by this particular court. Mr. Kin has said that the head of the beit din, Rabbi Tzvi Dov Abraham of Monsey, granted him dispensation to marry again.

“The rabbinical court system is such an ad hoc system where any man is able to call himself a rabbi and any three rabbis are able to call themselves a court, so that even if it’s not accepted by anyone, he is able to hide behind this,” said Rabbi Jeremy Stern, the executive director of the group that organized the protests against the wedding. “What empowers him to continue is the support of friend and family and community. We need everyone to say clearly we will not tolerate this kind of behavior.”
The notion that rabbis act within a legitimate system of law has always seemed to me to be a grand exaggeration at best. In the realm of rabbinic law, there is no transparent means of publishing decisions or appealing decisions. Facts are hard to come by and rumors rule. Often a rabbinic case works like this: you go to the local rabbi of your choice and he whispers his opinion in your ear. Then you go tell everyone what he said.

Speaking of rumors, I stumbled on this blog (which when asked, a reporter first told me was Kin's former husband's blog and then he changed his mind and said he was not sure that is the case): THE PHONY AGUNAH: LONNA KIN RALBAG IS A PHONY AGUNAH. The post raises issues and makes me think - did Lonna Kin ever actually go to the court to receive her get? One begins to wonder if this case is a clash of two manipulators who no longer wish to live together. Something doesn't smell right. This instance is probably not going to turn out to be the best poster case for the issue of women's rights in Orthodox Judaism, once we hear all the allegations about these two people. Too bad - the cause of women's rights overall is a just one.

Celebrities Good and Bad:

New Yorker had two fantastic profiles: one on actress Scarlett Johansson - Anthony Lane: The Unstoppable Scarlett Johansson- and the other on Paul de Man who was an acclaimed academic until he was exposed as a writer for the Nazis and all-around scoundrel - Louis Menand: Paul de Man's Hidden Past

And the Times brought us news of some wonderful New York Jews, They Kept a Lower East Side Lot Vacant for 47 Years: telling us, "Nearly four decades ago, a new assemblyman named Sheldon Silver and his young protégé escorted Edward I. Koch, then a mayoral candidate, through the Orthodox Jewish enclave on Manhattan’s Lower East Side where the two had both grown up. It was the first day of Rosh Hashana, 1977..." and going on to extol (?) the contributions of William E. Rapfogel to this neighborhood preservation effort. to recall, "Mr. Rapfogel, who led the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, was arrested last year and accused of looting the agency." I got a mailing today from the Met Council asking for a Passover donation. I'm gonna pass. You may want to shower thoroughly after reading that article.

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