Samuel Corvinstein Edelman (1898 - 1983) was a devoted philanthropist, reluctant polyandrist and fervent misogynist. Born in New York City to a prosperous and highly assimilated German-Jewish banking family, Edelman at a young age demonstrated a pronounced – and, within his circle, scandalous – interest in his Jewish heritage. (One anecdote relates that a full year after his first visit to the Yiddish theater on Second Avenue, Edelman – then six or seven – would routinely spit and rend his expensive suits whenever told to eat his vegetables.)
In 1917, over his family's strenuous objections, Edelman wed Sarah Corvinstein, daughter of the great Stetenislender Rebbe, a notorious mystic and schismatic, as well as a noted tax attorney. Suspecting the rebbe's motives in promoting the union, Edelman's family hastily arranged for Samuel's substantial wealth to be placed in various trusts unreachable by Corvinstein or his daughter. At about this time the rebbe by chance hit upon a novel interpretation of the Mishnah by which a tzaddik's daughter was required to marry more than one man* – which Sarah promptly did, pledging troth to Hyman Spotnitz, a prominent member of her father's congregation and heir to the Jewish Burial Society fortune. Edelman, Spotnitz and Sarah lived together on New York's Riverside Drive until Sarah's death in 1958.
Edelman developed a close if tempestuous relationship with Spotnitz. These two, along with other invited members, formed the core of the nascent Hebrew Disputation Society (1918 - 1979), immediate predecessor to the J.M.R.G., devoted, in the words of that august body, "to the Betterment of relations among Jewish Men through Debate, Charity and Collective Hostility to Womankind." After more than a decade hosting the H.D.S. in her home, Sarah secured the Society a permanent meeting place in the Bronx and organized for her part the Unitarian Ladies' Auxiliary Brigade (founded 1929), an organization which to this day is committed to the vocal support and tacit disparagement of the J.M.R.G.
Edelman died in 1983, leaving his vast estate to fund various Jewish men's charities across the United States. Spotnitz died in 1965, a devout Catholic.
The J.M.R.G. today upholds two of the three pillars of the H.D.S. It has pledged itself as well to the amelioration of the avowedly misogynistic tendency of that flawed fraternity, a burden somewhat lightened by the eternal and benign surveillance of the U.L.A.B.
*The passage in question is Mishnayos Kiddushin 4:12 ("A man should not yityahed with two women, but a woman may mityahed with two men."). While, in the context of gemarah, lehityahed means "to be alone with" or "to be sequestered" (and thus this passage is taken as the basis of the laws concerning who may be alone with whom), elsewhere in the law the nominal form of the root of lehityahed, yihud, means "unity" or "union" in all its many senses - between God and man, between man and man, and between man and wife. To satisfy the rites of marriage, there must be the yihud (physical union) of bride and groom; some schools hold that yihud alone creates the wedlock. Thus, read in proper context, this text authorizes a woman to make yihud with two men – a scandalous law unless one infers, as Corvnistein did, that the law must assume a prior marriage between the woman and the two men.
Moreover, Corvinstein held dearly the view that "the path of righteousness is one and unswerving; along it the tzaddik turneth neither left nor right." Accordingly, for the tzaddik, the Torah contains no permissive rules: A thing is either forbidden or it is required. Where the text says "may", the righteous man reads "shall." Thus Kiddushin 4:12 did not authorize a woman to marry two men – it commanded it. And it should therefore come as no surprise that Corvinstein, as soon as he discovered this mitzvah, zealously ran to perform it.
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