Case casts shadow across com­mu­nity

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY DEB­O­RAH LEVY

THE CASE of Miriam Kliers is not as straight­for­ward as it might seem.

On first read­ing, one is left with the im­pres­sion that this was sim­ply about an op­pressed Jewish woman who won a di­vorce case. In fact, the case ex­poses il­le­gal prac­tices within the Cha­sidic com­mu­nity. It is also a keen re­minder that lit­tle may have changed since life por­trayed in Chaim Po­tok’s novel, My name is Asher Lev.

The fam­ily home in Stam­ford Hill had been pur­chased in the name of Mrs Kliers’ brother, Mordechai, who held the prop­erty on trust, with 75 per cent for Mrs Kliers and 25 per cent for her hus­band, Shlomo. Mordechai had claimed that he wholly owned the prop­erty.

The prop­erty had been pur­chased in 2004 as part of an il­le­gal ar­range­ment, which the judge said Mrs Kliers had come un­der cul­tural pres­sures to en­ter into. Un­der the agree­ment, Mordechai took on a mort­gage to fund the pur­chase so that the couple could take on a ten­ancy agree­ment and fraud­u­lently claim hous­ing ben­e­fit.

When the mar­riage broke down in 2012, Mrs Kliers sought her share of the prop­erty, which her brother de­nied; she there­fore had lit­tle choice but to dis­close the wrong­do­ing and the cash owed to the lo­cal au­thor­ity.

Mrs Kliers had claimed in ear­lier hear­ings that while she ac­cepted the il­le­gal­ity of the trans­ac­tion, she had come un­der the sway of com­mu­nity lead­ers.

Mr Kliers tried to have the case trans­ferred to the fam­ily court. It is well known that the fam­ily courts have a much wider dis­cre­tion than the chancery di­vi­sion. They also have a greater range of fi­nan­cial or­ders at their dis­posal.

The hus­band had failed to com­ply with a num­ber of or­ders through­out the pro­ceed­ings and had there­fore been de­barred from de­fend­ing. The judge con­cluded that the ap­pli­ca­tion was a ploy to de­rail the pro­ceed­ings to dis­ad­van­tage his wife.

It is very dif­fi­cult to square the prac­tices of any re­li­gious com­mu­nity when un­fair­ness is per­pe­trated and il­le­gal acts are un­der­taken in the name of re­li­gion. It can also em­bar­rass those who shy away from such be­hav­iour and treat oth­ers with re­spect.

While re­cent pho­to­graphs seem to show that Mrs Kliers has bro­ken free of the con­straints un­der which she was liv­ing, there are many for whom that is not the case. It must also not be for­got­ten that Mordechai too seems to have come un­der pres­sure to con­form.

If part of the ba­sis of re­li­gion is to im­pose a code of ethics and moral­ity and to re­duce suf­fer­ing, I am left won­der­ing whether when that fails, re­course to the law is the only op­tion.

The pair fraud­u­lently claimed hous­ing ben­e­fit

Deb­o­rah Levy is a Con­sul­tant at Ir­win Mitchell Pri­vate Wealth

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