Batei Din today

This week, we have heard of a case in Sydney was heard by a Beth din of three melbourne Rabbis. One of the Dayanim of that Beth Din, ruled that since the Sydney person who lost the case should be marginalised for not following the ruling. Apparently, as part of putting this marginalisation it was decreed that the Sydney litigant’s offspring should be denied access to a Jewish School. I’m assuming this is all true and accurate (it came from the Australian Jewish News, so I don’t know how correct it is, of course).

Next, there is the Cherem published by the Sydney Beth Din on a well known Melbourne Toen (halachic advocate) because the Toen is alleged to have besmirched (according to the Sydney Beth Din) one of their Dayanim. Toanim are paid. They can be quite aggressive and often lack the correct demeanour to make sure the process is calm, and properly dealt with, in an atmosphere of heat reduction.

Now, I’m not getting into the rights and wrongs of either case.

What has been clear to me, though, for a long time, is that if people truly want to have a Beth Din deal with a civil matter, they need to

  1. Use Dayanim outside of Australia (it’s too politicised here already)
  2. Use Dayanim who live or have lived in the western world in a real sense (eg American Dayanim, such as the Beth Din of America)
  3. Ensure that it’s an Australian court approved arbitration process so that both litigants sign that they will adhere to this form of arbitration
  4. Don’t allow any Toanim. Have it so that both litigants (and any witnesses) alone, interact with the Beth Din. If they want to have a private meeting with a Toen before the Din Torah that’s fine, but they need to keep the Toanim as simply an advisory service. In the end, the Dayanim should know what to ask and see through any halachically unsound claims.
  5. Or agree on a lone judge with impeccable halachic standing, such as Rav Hershel Schachter or Rav Usher Weiss (both of who know and interact with the western world)

At the moment, we have an unedifying situation where the honour of Rabonim in Melbourne and Sydney is besmirched. Halachic Judaism is besmirched. Public campaigns to show that some Rabbis disapprove are needed to smooth the waters in the press. It’s not what we are about. We need to restore Kavod HaTorah.

Rav Hershel Schachter
Dayan Usher Weiss, the Minchas Asher