New York – Orthodox Jewish Groups Asking Appellate Court To Defend Viability Of ‘Beth Din’ Court System


    New York – Today, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America (the “Orthodox Union”), through its Institute for Public Affairs, joined with Agudath Israel of America and Torah U’Mesorah in filing an ‘amicus curiae brief’ with the New York State Appellate Division asking that court to defend the viability of the Jewish ‘beth din’ court system. The issue before the appeals court arises from the case of _Brisman v. Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns & Rockaway_ (“HAFTR”).

    Rabbi Brisman was a religious studies teacher at HAFTR and was dismissed from his position due to a dispute over hashkafa (religious philosophy). Pursuant to an arbitration agreement, Brisman sued HAFTR in an action brought to the Beth Din of America for reinstatement and back pay. The Beth Din ruled in favor of Brisman. The decision was brought by Rabbi Brisman to New York state court for affirmation and a judge deemed the Beth Din’s ruling to be “irrational” and overturned it in favor of HAFTR. That ruling is now before the Appellate Division.

    The brief filed by the Orthodox Union and its /amicus/ partners explicitly states it is not taking a position on merits of the underlying dispute between Rabbi Brisman and HAFTR, does make the following arguments to the appellate court as to why the New York trial judge’s ruling should be overturned:

    [1] The trial court unconstitutionally interfered in a religious dispute between a religious school and a religious studies instructor; [2] The trial court incorrectly ignored the parties’ arbitration contract which provided that their dispute would be settled in the Beth Din; [3] If the secular court is to review the “rationality” of the Beth Din’s decision, it must do so measured against the principles of Jewish Law with regard to teacher tenure; [4] Should the trial court’s decision stand, it will undermine the viability of the Jewish Beth Din system, and thus infringe upon the Free Exercise rights of Orthodox Jews and burden secular courts with additional caseload. The full text of the brief is available here:

    Nathan Diament, public policy director of the Orthodox Union stated:

    The Orthodox Union believes the lower court’s ruling in this case undermines the long-established and appropriate relationship between secular and ecclesiastical courts. Members of the Orthodox Jewish
    community, and other communities of faith, are often obligated to resolve disputes within their religious institutions. Without the assurance of non-interference by secular courts and the reliable,
    religiously neutral enforcement of arbitration proceedings, such religious liberty and autonomy is undermined.

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