How Do LA’s Orthodox Rabbis Determine Their Moral Priorities?

All three Modern Orthodox shuls in Pico-Robertson — Bnai David-Judea, Beth Jacob and Young Israel of Century City — email their members to regularly rally outside the home of Meir Kin’s parents to protest his refusal to give a Jewish divorce (get) to his wife through the RCC.

I don’t understand this particular divorce case but it seems to me it is not a simple case of Meir Kin refusing to give his wife a get. He’s refusing to give his wife a get through the RCC, a deeply corrupt and bullying organization.

If you doubt me that the RCC loves to bully, then just look at these jpgs it is sending around through its shuls and ask yourself if this is the act of the righteous. Without knowing anything about the case, just look at the RCC’s case and see how you feel. Just imagine the RCC took the side of your ex-wife or ex-business partner in some complex and difficult dispute and encouraged the Jewish community to rally outside your home. How would you like that?

Calling for rallies outside somebody’s home makes me nervous. It feels like throwing someone to a mob. You have published a specific address and said that the people there have done something horrible and deserve to be publicly shamed.

It seems to me that if you want to shame somebody, then you write a blog. You don’t organize rallies outside their parents’ home.

If the facts of this divorce lay the fault equally between the husband and wife, then it would be only fair if those taking Meir Kin’s side rallied their supporters to protest outside the homes of those Los Angeles Orthodox rabbis pushing this jihad.

Imagine what an ugly community we’d have.

I don’t know much about this case and I haven’t spoken to any of the rabbis pushing for these rallies to better understand their case. Therefore, I feel queasy about criticizing them over this. I am sure they could articulate their case eloquently.

I can prove to you that something is deeply askew in the moral priorities of those Orthodox rabbis who encourage their congregants to rally outside the Kin home. And you don’t need to know anything about the Kin divorce to see this simple moral truth. Just ask yourself — when was the last time these rabbis asked anyone to rally outside of a home? I can’t recall.

The only conclusion I can reach is that these rabbis regard this particular withholding of a divorce through the RCC as the greatest moral blot on our community. But that is absurd. I’ve published on my blog details of far greater crimes being committed by their fellow Modern Orthodox rabbis.

Let’s talk about the case of Rabbi Aron Tendler. In the late 1980s, Aron Tendler was the head of YULA (Yeshiva University of Los Angeles) day school for girls. He was having sexual interactions (short of intercourse) with several of his students. Girls came forward with their first-person stories and the rabbis reacted strongly — by shaming the girls and protecting Aron by moving him to the YULA boys school and then to Shaarey Zedek.

For 16 years, dozens of people and numerous rabbis in Pico-Robertson in particular and Los Angeles in general, knew that they had a sexual predator in positions of rabbinic authority and they did nothing. They didn’t call for rallies outside Aron Tendler’s home or for rallies outside of his Uncle Shalom Tendler’s home (Shalom helped protect Aron).

While the Av Beit Din of the Beth Din of Los Angeles and the head rabbi of Beth Jacob, Abner Weiss, carried on affairs with various women in the community, his fellow rabbis did nothing to stop him. Today Abner Weiss is a member in good standing of the RCA, the pulpit rabbi of an Orthodox shul in Westwood and a licensed and practicing therapist. He’s also had — in the last three years — at least deeply damaging and long-running sexual relationship with one of the women he’s counseled (if you want details, ask Rabbi Steven Weil who’s done his best on this and similar matters). Why aren’t Abner Weiss’s fellow rabbis calling for rallies outside of Abner Weiss’s home?

I am not calling for rallies outside of anyone’s home. The only moral context I can see for such rallies is in cases of life and death.

America’s most famous tax cheat is a longtime honored member of Pico-Robertson Orthodox shuls — Peter Lowy. Why not rally outside his home or the homes of those close to him or at his work place?

I am not calling for this. I think it would be horrible. But I don’t see what Peter Lowy has apparently done in massive robbery of the U.S. Treasury is any less heinous than what Meir Kin is alleged to have done in his divorce.

Jews with multiple felony convictions can walk into any of Pico-Robertson’s three Modern Orthodox synagogues — all of which have banned me — and daven undisturbed. Beth Jacob, Bnai David and YICC are happy to extend membership to Jews who’ve had their medical license taken away for having sex with patients. All of them are happy to have writers and producers of R-rated movies in leadership positions. I have no objection to any of this. It just seems bizarre, however, when Pico-Robertson’s Modern Orthodox rabbinate call for protests outside the home of Meir Kin’s parents over this complicated divorce but are completely laisez-faire about equally large violations of Jewish law by their own congregants.

What is the other major moral issue Pico-Robertson’s Modern Orthodox rabbis have spoken out about in the last nine months? The need for ethics certification (Peulat Sachir) for Pico-Robertson businesses (a certification that depends entirely on the employer agreeing to abide by California labor law in six basic areas). The rabbis presented zero evidence of wrongdoing in Los Angeles in the areas they are regulating. They presented zero stories by workers in Los Angeles who’ve been mistreated in the areas the rabbis now wish to certify. I’ve yet to hear from a single worker at a Jewish-owned business in Pico-Robertson who believes this ethics certification will make their lives better.

A PERSONAL NOTE: A few weeks ago on Marc Germain’s radio show, he asked me for my favorite rabbis. Among those I named were all the pulpit rabbis of Pico-Robertson’s Modern Orthodox shuls. I love these guys. I question them here because the story demands it. My personal interests militate entirely against my publishing anything critical of them.

As for Abner Weiss, I have only had wonderful interactions with him. Not only that, but all my friends who know him have only told me about wonderful interactions they’ve had with him. It is completely against my self-interest to write anything negative about him.

Morris emails: In your article of 4 30 2009 about meir kin’s divorce, I was amazed at your accuracy of predicting the essence of the "real Truth on this matter". Apparently Lonna Kin’s cousin, the infamous rabbi aryeh ralbag from brooklyn who heads the triangle-k hashgacha, put his nose into this matter and had it arranged that his cohort corrupt rabbis will look the other way and not the truth, to harass, intimidate and prosecute the kin family. there are no rabbis in Monsey ny, where this couple had resided, that side with lonna kin, and most hancock park-fairfax rabbis oppose her due to her long history of abusive practices towards her husbands. the last time you wrote about this case , i presented damaging evidence that vindicates meir kin.the most damaging evidence was that letter from Rabbi Ginzburg, who was the 2nd in command of the bais din Agudas Harrabonim, who mustered the courage to oppose the rabbis of his Bais Din which is headed by Lonna Kins cousin,Aryeh Ralbag and stated that Mr Kin acted according to Halacha and could not attend any bais din because mrs kin had gagged him! therefore mrs kin has brought the  delay of her Get upon herself, for her selfish and cruel behavior!

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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