Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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16 Sivan 5768 - June 19, 2008 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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MK Gafni Demands Judicial Ombudsman Retract Recommendation to Remove Dayan Sherman from Office

By Yechiel Sever

In a harsh letter to the Commission for Public Grievances Against Judges MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni demanded retired Judge Tova Strasberg-Cohen retract her recommendation to remove from his post Dayan Avrohom Sherman, who headed a ruling by the Rabbinate Beis Din Godol annulling a fictitious conversion performed by Rabbi Chaim Druckman, and expressed his astonishment over the absurd arguments she presents in her recommendation.

The letter opens with Rabbi Druckman's grievance against HaRav Sherman, who serves as a dayan at the Beis Din Godol in Jerusalem, and her conclusion that extreme measures be taken to fire HaRav Sherman. "HaRav Sherman is a prominent talmid chochom and a skilled expert in his field who has been serving as a dayan for 29 years," writes Rabbi Gafni. "He is renowned for his fabulous judicial temperament, listening to the litigants patiently and not rushing them, sitting for long periods beyond the regular hours and writing carefully explicated rulings. My feeling is that the complaints made by Rabbi Druckman, which represent grave acts bordering on criminal conduct calling for such an extreme decision, cannot possibly be correct.

"I read your points and I couldn't believe my eyes. HaRav Sherman's reputation has been spotless throughout the years and never has his character been called into question chas vesholom, and his rulings, like those of his two colleagues on the bench, have been relied on implicitly. The Attorney General, the legal advisor to the rabbinical courts and even the president of the Beis Din Godol all agree that Rabbi Druckman signed conversion certificates in cases where he was not present, and these claims have not been refuted.

"A public debate over conversion is raging in Israel, the fiercest debate since our formation as a people, and it grew more heated in recent years when hundreds of thousands of non-Jews immigrated to Israel, including some from mixed families, creating pressure on the political and judicial systems to alter or "alleviate the burden" of conversion proceedings (I am not referring to the red tape and internal disputes at the Conversion Authority run by the Prime Minister's Office, which needlessly complicates conversion with matters that have nothing to do with halachic issues). The vast majority of dayanim at the regional botei din as well as the Beis Din Godol, including its president, concur that the halachic view of conversion should not be altered, otherwise we lose our uniqueness as the Jewish people, which has preserved itself throughout the annals of our history, which are filled with the blood of our people being spilled, while other larger and mightier have vanished, cast off into the dustbins of history.

"HaRav Sherman and his colleagues faithfully carry out the duty they were charged to perform by the legislature — to hand down halachic rulings based on halacha — particularly in a case of a conversion certificate signed by somebody who was not even on hand. Had this occurred in another judicial framework the individual committing such an act would have been removed from his post, as was the case with the judge at the Haifa Magistrate Court, Hila Cohen."

The letter goes on to discuss the role of the Commission for Public Grievances and Judge Strasberg's surprising decision. "In the eyes of Israel's citizens, including myself, the Commission for Public Grievances Against Judges and Dayanim serves as a powerful anchor in Israeli democracy. The executive branch is overseen by the legislative branch, the judicial branch and the public through elections. The legislative branch is subject to judicial review and elections that allow the public to alter it, but the judicial branch is not subject to any legal review. Therefore the Commission for Public Grievances allows a proper form of objective review, although not on the institution itself, but on the conduct of its members.

"Your decision to dismiss a prominent dayan at the Beis Din Godol, based on claims that are highly unlikely and would not even constitute sufficient cause for a reprimand — especially after decades of some of the most outstanding service the Israeli judicial system has known — leads me to conclude that either you, or the Honorable Commissioner, have an agenda regarding the issue of conversion that influences your decision, or else you've been swept away by the media campaign against the ruling of this Beis Din Godol panel led by HaRav Sherman. One reporter, who apparently does not have the faintest notion regarding the issue of halachic rulings, has even gone so far as to label this bench `the Taliban.'"

Rabbi Gafni concludes his letter by urging the judge to "reconsider her stance which appears totally out of proportion, unless it stems from a worldview, which you even note in your arguments, though it lies beyond your vested authority and should not influence your decision."

Torah-true Jews came out in support of the rabbonim and dayanim who expressed shock and dismay over the judge's decision, which is an extension of the incitement campaign waged in recent weeks against the Beis Din Godol panel following its ruling against Druckman's falsified conversion. Gedolei Yisroel issued a letter in support of the persecuted dayanim and their insistence on upholding Kerem Beis Yisroel by converting only candidates who genuinely commit to mitzvah observance.

Rabbonim and dayanim called on the Chief Rabbinate to back the Beis Din Godol's ruling as part of the responsibility it has to maintain halachic conversion standards, but so far the Chief Rabbinate has failed to issue a statement of support. Rabbonim and dayanim charge this failure has enabled the instigation to continue, reaching its peak with the judge's decision to dismiss HaRav Sherman, as well as an interim order from the High Court not to place the so-called convert Druckman converted on the list of pesulei chitun (people who cannot marry). In doing so the High Court joined the unprecedented smear campaign against the Beis Din Godol by the petitioners, which include religious women's organizations.


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