“It was in the days when the judges judged” Ruth 1:1 “Woe to the generation that judges its judges”(midrash)
When the working group of the BOD was formed we were of the understanding, as was published in the media, that it was to be a collaborative effort to assist the Beth Din in its own efforts to introduce reforms to ensure the Beth Din achieved the highest standards of transparency and in particular to ensure that never again would the Beth Din be at odds with the civil jurisdiction.
On that basis we entered in good faith and readily cooperated. However it is now clear, that its workings were more about finding fault with the Beth Din, (including ludicrous suggestions even in relation to where it sits), rather than helping us. In our opinion, in order to try and impose or even suggest an agenda with reforms, that the committee knows are in our view against Halacha, and against the view of world renowned Dayanim who advised us, and therefore cannot succeed, is not only not helpful and futile, but extremely divisive. Furthermore, some of them, if implemented, would lower our standing internationally.
We will not respond to each of the allegations and recommendations made in the report other than to point to the following. From the perspective of natural justice, we are only seeing many of them in the report for the first time. We were not shown them, nor were we given the opportunity to test their veracity or bona-fides. We were not asked to give any submission in response to them. Hardly the basis of what was supposed to be co-operation and in our view hardly transparent, and hardly an example of procedural fairness .
The Beth Din had two important aims, (i) the incorporation of the Beth Din with a constitution and subsequent registration with the ACNC (which has now taken place) and (ii) the development of Rules of Procedure , that together would give complete transparency to all the workings of the Beth Din and ensure that never again would the Beth Din be placed at odds with the law – clearly our primary concern and that of the community.
On both counts, despite our requests starting from the very establishment of the committee, no practical assistance was forthcoming. The committee was focused on what it wanted and its agenda, rather than on what the Beth Din (and the community) needed.
We therefore sought and received the assistance of two communal leaders, both unimpeachable experts in the law, who assisted us. We are now incorporated and registered with the ACNC. We are still working on Rules of Procedure which will be forthcoming with the assistance of legal counsel. The Beth Din fully recognises its responsibility to Australian law and will achieve the absolute highest standards in that regard.
With the greatest respect for all the good the BOD does, let us be clear. The BOD is not a judicial or statutory body. It has no standing or jurisdiction other than that given to it by its affiliates or members, and the Beth Din is not and has never been one of them. It does not have the moral right or statutory power to conduct an inquiry into anyone let alone the Dayanim and the Beth Din, in the same way it has no jurisdiction to conduct an inquiry into the operation of the Australian Jewish News or any other organisation.
How much more so beyond the pale is it for the BOD to believe it has any jurisdiction whatsoever in the make up or operation of a Beth Din or any say whatsoever in any halachic matter or halachic body. It is unfortunate that it did not recognise the limits of its jurisdiction, and it is unfortunate that we were mistaken in thinking they did, and were there to help. An opportunity for real collaboration has been lost.
The Beth Din will continue to serve the community achieving the highest Halachic standards as well as the highest standards in adherence to Australian law.