Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Charedi World

3 Shevat 5759 - Jan. 20, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly







Director of the Jerusalem Rabbinical Courts Criticizes Av Beis Din of Jerusalem

by Betzalel Kahn

Rabbi Eli Ben Dehan, director of the Rabbinical Courts of Jerusalem, has sharply attacked the av beis din of the Jerusalem Rabbinate, HaRav Avrohom Dov Levine, due to his meticulous care in clarifying the Jewish status of those registering for marriages as well as the validity of the conversions and divorces of such applicants.

Rabbi Ben Dehan made these remarks in a secular weekly, distributed free of charge in Jerusalem. According to Ben Dehan, the Jerusalem Rabbinate beis din functions in an unauthorized manner. He says that HaRav Levine, who also presides as the director of the Marriage Department in Jerusalem, refers those who approach the department with certificates testifying to their Jewishness or with conversion certificates or gittin from regional rabbinical courts, for additional investigation in the Rabbinate beis din, which he heads.

Ben Dehan claims that HaRav Levine is unnecessarily strict regarding the granting of conversion and Jewish status certificates, and even finds invalid divorces among those issued by local rabbinical courts. The weekly also quotes a certain av beis din in Jerusalem as saying that "if those cases appeared in other regional rabbinical courts, they would be approved, but HaRav Levine acts stringently and disqualifies them."

Rabbonim and dayanim reacted sharply to Ben Dehan's remarks, and said that HaRav Levine stems from a rabbinical family which has served in the Jerusalem Rabbinate for three generations, is very close to maranan verabonon and has their trust. HaRav Levine was appointed eight years ago as av beis din of the city by the Chief Rabbis of Jerusalem, HaRav Kolitz and HaRav Mashash, with the endorsement of the Chief Rabbis of Israel. This appointment was effected after he successfully passed the test for dayanus.

During recent years, the Jerusalem Rabbinate has published five editions of halachic rulings edited by HaRav Levine, which were widely acclaimed by dayanim the world over and became guidelines in the rulings of all botei din.

"The defamatory accusations of Ben Dehan against HaRav Levine's supposed `stringencies' are, in truth, high accolades of HaRav Levine's thorough work and constitute bad marks for those rabbinical courts which are lenient, according to Ben Dehan, on those topics which are the crux of the purity of Jewish lineage and which result in assimilation," said the rabbonim and dayanim.

They claim that Ben Dehan's attack against the Beis Din for the Clarification of Jewish status, headed by HaRav Levine, stems from the fact that HaRav Levine doesn't hesitate to attack or to expose the most senior dayanim in the rabbinical court system in the event that they are too lenient in the granting of Jewish status certificates to non- Jews.

Rabbi ben Dehan replied: "The dayanim of the Beis Din for the Clarification of Jewish Status in the Jerusalem Rabbinate are not bona fide dayanim. The state has a Dayanim Law, and they were not appointed by the Committee for the Appointment of Dayanim. There is no doubt that the clarification of Jewish status must take place only in the rabbinical courts, and the Chief Rabbinate has stressed this a number of times. It has been decided on many occasions that since the large influx of immigrants from Russia, all clarifications of Jewish status must take place in rabbinical courts only."

The Vaad HaRabbonim Haolami LeInyonei Giyur, headed by HaRav Kreiswirth, sharply criticized Ben Dehan. It said: "Dayanim who are outstanding talmidei chachomim and yirei Shomayim do not need the approval of Rabbi Ben Dehan, who is a clerk on behalf of the State rabbinate. Many G-d-fearing rabbonim linked to the Rabbinate refused to sign the thousands of fictitious conversion performed every year by the Conversion Administration. But Rabbi Ben Dehan signed all of these fictitious conversions without hesitation, although they were conducted outside of the botei din by courts which include members unqualified to serve as dayanim, and even those with a minimal knowledge of how to conduct conversions according to halocho."

Regarding Ben Dehan's claims that HaRav Levine has no authority to conduct clarifications of Jewish status, the Vaad notes that the directive issued by the Chief Rabbinate on the 6th of Adar 5758, explicitly states: "A certificate of Jewish status may be given by a regional rabbinical court or by a clarification committee which will be established for this purpose by the Council of the Chief Rabbinate."

The Vaad HaRabbonim notes that the beis din of HaRav Levine is the only one authorized by the Chief Rabbinate to conduct clarifications of Jewish status, and its work is considered highly reliable and professional, in a difficult area.

Even though HaRav Levine doesn't need anyone's approval, the Vaad blessed him and his beis din that they continue in their sacred work of preventing the penetration of non-Jews into the Jewish nation. In addition, the Vaad HaRabbonim demanded that the Chief Rabbinate ask Rabbi Ben Dehan to apologize for his remarks.


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