The Beth Din contempt verdict stays

December 20, 2018 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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The Court of Appeals in Sydney has upheld a decision by the Supreme Court finding the Sydney Beth Din contempt of court but has reduced the penalties imposed on the four rabbis involved.

Rabbi Yehoram Ulman

The rabbis are Rabbi Yehoram Ulman, Rabbi Moshe Gutnick, Rabbi Michael Chriqui and Rabbi Eli Langer.

Sydney man Reuven Barukh’s company Live Group became involved in a commercial dispute with Jesse Kuzecki’s company SalesPort.

Rabbi Moshe Gutnick

Kuzecki demanded the matter be dealt with the Sydney Beth Din who summoned Barukh who insisted to have the matter dealt as a civil case.

The Beth Din told Barukh, who is an observant Jew, that he would face religious sanctions if he failed to appear.

The sanctions mentioned were:

“He will not be counted to a minyan.

He will not be able to receive an aliyah to the Torah.

Rabbi Eli Schlanger

He will not be offered any honour in the Synagogue.

There are further sanctions that will be applied should your client maintain his recalcitrance…”

The primary judge found the Beth Din’s threat of sanctions to be contempt of court.

The four rabbis were found guilty by Justice John Sackar with three penalised $10,000 and $20,000 for Rabbi Gutnick.

In the appeal which was heard by three judges Justice Bathurst, Justice Beazley and Justice McColl the fine was reduced to $7,500 for three and $2,500 for Rabbi Schlanger.

Rabbi Michael Chriqui

The four rabbis were ordered to pay 75% of the respondents’ costs of the appeal.

Justice McColl differed with her colleagues stating: “The evidence established that the appellants, who are judges of the Sydney Beth Din, a religious court that administers Halacha, or Jewish law, were seeking to ensure the second respondent’s attendance at the Beth Din. Accordingly, neither communication constituted improper pressure which had “ha[d] as a matter of practical reality, a tendency to interfere with the due course of justice” such as to constitute criminal contempt of court.

Costs are to be determined.

J-Wire is expecting a statement from the Beth Din.



7 Responses to “The Beth Din contempt verdict stays”
  1. Rabbi Pinchos Woolstone says:

    An orthodox observant Jew would know that before a dispute over commercial matters with other Jews can be brought to a civil jurisdiction it must be heard in Beth Din.The Beth may if deemed appropriate direct one or all parties to bring the dispute to court.
    The contents of the letter send to the recalcitrant party were totally consistent with Shulchan Aruch (Jewish Law).
    The Rabbis of the Beth Din upheld their obligations as Dayanim (rabbinic Judges).

    • Mottel Gutnick says:

      Rabbi Woolstone says: “the [Beth Din] letter was consistent with Shulchan Aruch” and the rabbis … upheld their their obligation as dayanim.” The courts however found that they did not act

      • Rabbi Pinchos Woolstone says:

        The Rabbis in this case acted according to Halachah (Jewish Law), the Judges in a 2-1 decision found that the Rabbis contravened a Civil Law.

    • Mottel Gutnick says:

      Rabbi Woolstone says: “before a dispute over commercial matters with other Jews can be brought to a civil jurisdiction it must be heard in Beth Din.” However the uncontested evidence before the court (appeal judgment at [50]-[51]) was that in “a dispute between Rabbi [Moshe] Gutnick’s brother and sister … Rabbi Gutnick’s brother had resisted the dispute being determined by a rabbinical court in Israel, invoking “the famous Jewish teaching ‘dina demalchuta dina’, which means ‘the law of the land is the law’.”

      Rabbi Woolstone also says: “the [Beth Din] letter was consistent with Shulchan Aruch” and “the rabbis … upheld their obligation as dayanim.” However, the courts (both of them) found that the BD rabbis did not comply with CIVIL law, which they claim to honour and abide by: In testifying, Moshe Gutnick was asked: if the Beth Din issued a summons and then one of the sides resorted to a civil court without the BD’s permission in contravention of Jewish law, is it the BD’s practice to apply religious sanctions? “A: No. Q: Why is that? A: Because we believe in the rule of Australian law and we would never do anything outside law.” (Quoted in appeal judgment at [129], and at [130] it says “Rabbi Ulman gave affidavit evidence to the same effect …”) My suggestion: Read the judgment, then comment.

      • Rabbi Pinchos Woolstone says:

        The principle of Dina Malchusa Dina is a core concept in Halachah, nevertheless it is not open ended and has qualified application.

        • Mottel Gutnick says:

          Rabbi Woolstone, what you say about the limitations to the rule of dina demalchuta dina, is true in principle only. For a civil law to qualify as an exception to this rule, it must be applied arbitrarily or serve no legitimate government interest in the good ordering and governance of society. As a matter of practical reality, the exceptions to this dina rule are themselves so limited as to be entirely irrelevant to any Australian law. If you disagree, please cite an example of an Australian law that a halachically observant Jew cannot comply with because it is an exception to this dina rule. For anyone interested in the details, the history and parameters of this rule are comprehensively discussed here:

          Are you seriously asserting, rabbi Woolstone, that the law which the Beth Din rabbis were convicted of is an exception to dina demalchuta dina? If you are, then please provide legitimate argument in support of that view and cite at least one competent, internationally-recognised, authoritative posek who is willing to publicly state that in an official ruling (psak-halacha) to that effect. If you are not asserting that, then your statement is disingenuous and, as a reply in this discussion, it is a red herring.

          • Rabbi Pinchos Woolstone says:

            Mottel, you were the one who introduced the issue of Dina Malchusa Dina not in relationship to the case in point but rather to a totally different case which I believe occurred a number of years ago between your cousins, Joseph and his sister Pnina.
            My point was general in nature and was in no way a response to any particular case.

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