Thursday, November 17, 2011

A $430,000 Chilul Hashem

Guest post by Hayitochen:
I was most disappointed to read in last week's Jewish News about Elwood Shul and the Yesodei Hatorah college battling it out in the Supreme Court of Victoria, with the report that the Shul has already spent $430,000 on the case!

Both sides are supposed to be Torah-observant organisations, so how come they didn't do the proper Torah thing and go to a Din Torah?

Whilst I am unsure on who the religious authority currently is for Yesodei, it was established by a group of frum Jews headed by Rabbi D Nojowitz of Beth Hatalmud with the approval of the late Rabbi Chaim Gutnick and offers a Charedi agenda and curriculum. Similarly Elwood Shul, has always been Orthodox and currently lead by Rabbi Mordechai Gutnick, who heads the Melbourne Beth Din and Melbourne Kashrut.
How is it then possible that such groups defy the stern and unambiguous Halacha of not bringing our arguments  to the secular courts? Rashi states that this is a Chilul Hashem - which as we know is one of the greatest Aveiros and about which our Sages say that במקום שיש חילול השם אין חולקין כבוד לרב.
And what lesson does the average Halacha-abiding Jew learn from this? If Shuls (in this case one whose rabbi is the acting head of Beth Din!) and religious schools shun Din Torahs why should he be any different?

Additionally, one may ask, is Elwood Shul truly so flush with money? Can they really afford to squander half a million dollars fighting another Jewish institution? And what about Yesodei?How much have they spent on lawyers?

I  have no inside knowledge of the case, but from what I read and heard, the case is nowhere near the end. Isn't there anyone in the community who can knock some sense into both sides?


  1. Mr Hayitochen: You obviously have NO IDEA what is going on in this town. There are many cases amongst frum Yidden being dealt with by the Supreme and other courts. I know of at least involving well-known families.

    It is terrible. True in this case where the rabbi of the shul involved in head of the beth din, the Chilul Hashem is magnified. But all cases are a pure Chilul Hashem

  2. Sure I know of several cases (probably the same ones that you referred to).

    And idneed, when people discuss this they ask "why didn't they go to a din torah?"

    Well, now we have an answer.

    If prominent religious groups can scorn the halacha and disregard massive Chilul Hashem concerns, why should the average Yossel be any different?

    As for those court actions, I know that in at least one case certain rabbis were placing huge pressure on the sides not to go to court. As I understand, it didn't help when overseas batei din got involved.

    Strangely in the Yesodei - Elwood case, we haven't heard of any rabbinical pressure to get them to a din torah.

    What does this say about our rabbis?

  3. So when can we expect the RCV, to come out publicly condemning the colossal chilul Hashem by these people?

    I mean, isn't Chilul Hashem on par with soft matzos?

    Oh, sorry, I forgot Meir Rabi isn't on par with Elwood shul and Yesodie. Far easier to attack an individual with no connections (or money).

  4. I am the defendant party in the court action that obviously is referred to in the comments by Hayitochon. My case is well known and I could publish a book about my sad experiences.
    The Beis Din process is meant to offer a double benefit. One is to avoid chilul hashem and the other is to bring about harmony amongst the litigants with a non adversarial approach. In my case it could have saved 2 families from being destroyed emotionally and spiritually.The amount of money lost in our case makes the Elwood Shule v Yesodei look like small change and there is still no resolution after 4 years.
    I found that politics and self interest by the rabbis prevents any proper pressure being effectively applied.
    Therefore, I am not surprised that these 2 institutions who know and understand that basic truth don't even bother with Din Tora.
    Furthermore, they know that if one side is not satisfied with the outcome then they will just appeal it in the courts as is evidenced by the results of the arbitration between Yesodei and Elwood.
    It is an indictment on the institution of Rabbinic Authority and also the communities in general who do not apply pressure on their respective Rabbis to pool their resources and have one effective Beis Din as they have in South Africa.
    I think that my visions are all a pipe dream but maybe, sometime, somewhere my experiences and knowledge could spark a movement towards change.
    I will impart one interesting comment expressed by a judge,who is not Jewish. she said "why do you come to court which is not the solution as everybody is a loser.You have a wonderful community and it would be better if you use those resources to resolve the issues" .
    If any one is interested in trying to establish a movement that will demand a stop to this terrible situation I would be more than happy to give my input. I believe an effective group must consist of Rabbis and lawyers to attempt to have these changes implemented. It could look at Hatzolah as being the shining example of an organisation established for the communities benefit and it would be hard for anyone of us to imagine what life was like without that wonderful organisation operating tirelessly in our midst.
    feel free to email me in order to discuss the above ideas on
    Moshe Ephraim Deutsch

  5. I have BH no experience in din torahs or courts, but if Mr Deutsch is correct then maybe it is time for the RCV and the COSV to urgently look into this matter - and maybe send their representatives to South Africa to see how their system works.

    While it is wonderful that the RCV is getting involved in issues like family violence and abuse, isn't it more their duty to ensure that we have a sensitive, respected and incorruptible Beth Din which will not only save the community hundreds of thousands of dollars but also put an end to the terrible chilul Hashem.

  6. I am a sometime mispalel in Elwood. I agree taht the shul could make much better use of its money than trying to get rid of a genuine torah institution. They shoul dbe proud that they can host a good Jewish school, rather than be owners of an empty building as was the case for decades.

    I am disappointed that Rabbi Gutnick doesn't get involved and lay down the (Jewish) law to his board.

    His late father, who invited and welcomed Yesodei to Elwood - at a time when Beth Rivkah was also interested - would never have allowed such action to be taken.

    It isn't too late yet,( though I hear that Yesodei has been offered a fantastic deal in a anotehr location - which could bring the whole matter to an end).

    Whatever, Rabbi Gutnick holding the various important positions that he does (Elwood shul, Beth Din, Kashrut) should be far more 'agressive' in showing the 'lo sigara bifnei ish'

  7. Mr Deutch, the now-defunct Jewish Observer published a *brilliant* article on the subject, titled "reaching for tzedek u'mishpat". I think you would find it fascinating. They had some very interesting observations and solutions to the issues which bedevil many modern batei din. Do take a look at it, if you can get your hands on a copy.


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