Tak­ing lib­er­ties with the law

The Jewish Chronicle - - Comment & Analysis - Ge­of­frey Al­der­man

and not a civil na­ture, and for which the Act was, in any case, never in­tended.

There is much that I agree with in Mr Green­berg’s anal­y­sis. In­deed, he might have gone fur­ther. He in­stanced re­li­gious pres­sure brought to bear “within the Ortho­dox world” to con­tain, within the ju­ris­dic­tion of a Beth Din, what amounts to the de­lib­er­ate breach­ing of plan­ning laws, and re­minded us that build­ing with­out plan­ning per­mis­sion is il­le­gal and (there­fore) a crim­i­nal mat­ter.

He did not in­stance re­li­gious pres­sure to con­ceal cases of pae­dophilia and sex­ual and phys­i­cal abuse, all of which are like­wise crim­i­nal of­fences. Over the years, I have been asked to in­ter­est my­self in sev­eral such cases. One that springs to mind was that of a Charedi lady who had ac­cused her hus­band of sex­u­ally abus­ing their eight-year-old daugh­ter.

She had in fact re­ported this to the po­lice, but tremen­dous pres­sure was — suc­cess­fully — brought to bear upon her, to per­suade her to per­mit the lo­cal Beth Din to deal with the mat­ter, which of course it never did, as the over­rid­ing pri­or­ity of the dayanim was sim­ply to keep the mat­ter out of pub­lic view and pre­vent the lady from ever open­ing her mouth again on this sub­ject.

But we should note that this way of think­ing, which pri­ori­tises com­mu­nal im­age (and in­deed sup­posed com­mu­nal pri­or­i­ties) above the law of the land, ex­tends be­yond ac­tiv­i­ties which might be cat­e­gorised as fun­da­men­tally crim­i­nal.

Last sum­mer, I was asked to ad­vise on sev­eral cases in­volv­ing ap­peals against the de­ci­sions of tax­payer-aided Charedi schools to deny places to in­tend­ing pupils. The par­ents of these chil­dren had the right, given to them by the law of the land, to ap­peal to what is es­sen­tially a sec­u­lar tri­bunal.

Once again, pres­sure of a dis­taste­ful, quasire­li­gious na­ture was brought bear not to in­voke this right; one fa­ther, who sig­nalled his in­ten­tion to with­stand this pres­sure, was ac­tu­ally him­self sum­moned to a Beth Din to an­swer the charge that, by in­sist­ing on his legal rights, he was guilty of hav­ing com­mit­ted a grave re­li­gious in­frac­tion.

Be­fore any Charedi an­a­lyst starts putting fin­ger to word-pro­ces­sor to con­demn me for sin­gling out his or her com­mu­nity, let me add that this mind-set ex­tends well be­yond the Charedim.

In 2008, I was priv­i­leged to ad­dress, at the Re­gent’s Park Mosque, a con­fer­ence hosted by the Is­lamic Sharia Coun­cil of the UK. I was asked to talk to the con­fer­ence on the in­ter­face be­tween Jews, Ju­daism and English Law.

I shocked my au­di­ence by point­ing out that, dur­ing the 1970s, the Board of Deputies per­suaded the gov­ern­ment to per­mit it — the Board — to es­tab­lish pan­els that were em­pow­ered to vet Jewish ap­pli­cants for Sun­day trad­ing reg­is­tra­tion, con­duct the most search­ing in­quiries and, if thought fit, deny a Jew the right to trade on a Sun­day in “non-ex­empted” goods.

In my pro­fes­sional judg­ment, the man­ner in which these (now abol­ished) pan­els op­er­ated was, in gen­eral, dis­grace­ful. But why had the Board es­tab­lished them? Frankly, in or­der to pro­tect the com­mu­nal im­age and pre­vent cases of Jews flout­ing the ar­chaic Sun­day-trad­ing laws from reach­ing the pub­lic courts.

Re­li­giously based tri­bunals — Mus­lim or Jewish (or, for that mat­ter, Anglican) — have their place. They can use­fully com­ple­ment the law of the land. But they must never be per­mit­ted to re­place it.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.