The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies v Sydney Beth Din: a work in progress

February 16, 2021 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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The New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies has agreed with The Sydney Beth Din’s argument that “it was not given an opportunity to respond to the report, and, as a consequence, it did not have the opportunity to test and/or refute some issues and facts raised with the Working Party”.

In this week’s joint statement by the JBOD and the SBD the question of reforms suggested to the SBD attention has already been given to the following matters by the Dayanim in their constitution or in their rules but may need to be further refined:

  1. All financial matters are to be dealt with by the administrative arm of the SBD independently of the Dayanim, but, at least in terms of employment and personnel, in consultation with them;
  2. The clerical and administrative functions of the SBD are not under the direct management of the Dayanim unless it pertains to the Halachic requirements associated with Gittin, Conversion etc .
  3. A complaints and grievance procedure that is independent of the Dayanim be instituted, if not already in place.
  4. The constitution now provides for the appointment of new Dayanim and Rabbinic Associates to the Beth Din to assist the Dayanim as needed and the JBOD sees the broadening of input, whether or not by Associates or Dayanim, as important in obtaining and maintaining legitimacy, transparency and communal acceptance.

The statement further points out:

“The SBD welcomed the further offer of assistance by the JBOD and the Working Party to assist them in all the above and in particular the development of rules of procedure and suggestions for the structure and composition of  the Board of Management.

The JBOD acknowledges that the SBD has assured the JBOD that:

  1. The arbitration of commercial disputes above a certain claim size, or otherwise with the informed consent of the parties bearing in mind the cost aspect for small claims, are undertaken including a fee, which permits the Beth Din to be assisted by a legal practitioner experienced in civil litigation, and, as stated, this has occurred already.
  2. That the Dayanim of the Beth Din independently test converts at regular intervals and have dealt with complaints of the perceived conflict between the cost of the teacher and the length of the conversion process. There are also now free conversion classes conducted.”

The SBD  sees itself as a communal organisation, however, the Beth Din sees its primary obligation as being to Halacha (and to  Australian Law in accordance with the Rabbinic dictum “Law of the Land is the Law”), ensuring expertise and independence in matters of Halacha. The Beth Din  in this context must ultimately be guided by its own Halachic knowledge and Halachic advisors as well as its own legal advisors. However, it has always been prepared to work with the JBOD and will continue to do so in the reform and improvement process. Ultimately, the parties see that an appropriate level of cooperation can satisfy both visions.

The parties are to meet again after Pesach.

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