Dec 30, 2005
Thursday, December 29, 2005
28 Kislev 5766, the 4th day of Chanukah
For almost two years, the investigation of charges against Mordecai Tendler has been a matter of deep concern to the RCA and its membership. We have at all times sought to avoid confrontation, and travel the high road, because we have been intensely aware of the potential in this story for great Chillul Hashem, personal pain, and irreparable harm. Now, however, due to a recent ruling of a regional Jerusalem Beit Din, we have taken several recent steps to address the issues that have been raised. We also want to communicate to our membership a fuller explanation of the facts and of our position throughout these past months.
Following is an abbreviated timeline of the major Beit Din events since the expulsion.
March 15, 2005
Mordecai Tendler expelled from RCA.
April 5, 2005
Regional Jerusalem Beit Din issues injunction prohibiting RCA from harming the office and position of Mordecai Tendler without first summoning him to a Beit Din or Zabla anywhere in the world.
April 13, 2005
RCA responds to Regional Jerusalem Beit Din questioning their jurisdiction, and requesting a clarification of their position and a withdrawal of their injunction.
April 14, 2005
Regional Jerusalem Beit Din sends a clarification to RCA stating that if, in the opinion of the RCA, nothing is being done to harm the office and position of Mordecai Tendler in the RCA, then it should be considered as if the Beit Din has made no statement. The Beit Din also promises a halachik, judicial and philosophical justification of their claim of jurisdiction. No such justification was ever received by the RCA.
May 19, 2005
Regional Jerusalem Beit Din sends a hazmanah to RCA to appear before them on July 14, 2005, as Mordecai Tendler claims financial damages.
July 13, 2005
RCA responds, through its to’en/rabbinic representative, to Regional Jerusalem Beit Din denying their jurisdiction in this case based on significant halachik sources. Additionally the RCA indicates its willingness, lifnim meshurat ha-din, to adjudicate the case before the Beit Din of the Machon Le’Hora’ah in Monsey.
July 14, 2005
Regional Jerusalem Beit Din meets without RCA present, and issues a decision, communicating same to Mordecai Tendler, but not to the RCA. It is published in the newspaper even before it is sent to the RCA or the RCA to’en.
August 17, 2005
The to’en of the RCA writes to the Jerusalem Beit Din raising questions as to whether and how a decision may have been made and communicated.
August 25, 2005
As a result of the RCA inquiry, the RCA receives a fax of the July 14 decision. The decision does not address the halachik issues raised by the RCA, but instead suggests a Zabla using Rabbi Avrohom Baruch Rosenberg of the Machon Le’Hora’ah as the independent dayan (shlish) and requiring both parties to submit the name of their chosen borer/dayan within 15 days of the original decision. The decision is received after the deadline has already expired. As of August 25th Mordecai Tendler has not contacted Rabbi Rosenberg nor identified his borer/dayan.
September 1, 2005
The RCA contacts Rabbi Rosenberg of the Machon Le’Hora’ah to determine if either the Regional Jerusalem Beit Din or Mordecai Tendler have contacted him. He advises us that no one has contacted him. We indicate to him our willingness to proceed to Zabla, and that we have a borer whose name will be provided as soon as Mordecai Tendler will notify Rabbi Rosenberg of the name of his borer, as is required of the claimant (Tendler) in the first place.
September 16, 2005
RCA once again responds in writing to Jerusalem that the Regional Jerusalem Beit Din has no jurisdiction in this case. It supports its position by providing letters from three reputable Batei Din in America (copies of these are attached to this letter.) A 19 page letter detailing such a halachik position is also submitted to Rabbi Rosenthal of the regional Beit Din in Jerusalem
November 28, 2005
Regional Jerusalem Beit Din finds the RCA in defiance of an order of its Beit Din, in spite of all of the above efforts by the RCA. The notice of the Beit Din is signed by the secretary of the Beit Din in the name of only one dayan, continuing an inconsistent pattern of sometimes no dayan signing, one dayan signing, a secretary signing, printed names without signatures, etc. It is not clear who exactly is issuing these decisions.
As noted at the outset of this letter, we have recently, in the interest of avoiding machloket and further chillul Hashem, notified Rabbi Avrohom Baruch Rosenberg of Machon Le’Hora’ah in writing of our willingness to proceed to Zabla arbitration in New York. We have also provided him with the name of our borer/dayan. We have also formally notified the regional Beit Din in Jerusalem, as well as the to’en of Mordecai Tendler in Jerusalem. To this date, neither Mordecai Tendler nor his representatives have ever contacted Rabbi Rosenberg, nor has he named his borer/dayan, nor has he properly communicated his commitment to in fact proceed to Zabla. Nonetheless, we have taken the above steps in order to go to Zabla, even though:
1. The RCA as an incorporated membership organization has every right, both in civil law and in halachah, to decide without outside interference, and in accordance with its constitution and by-laws, who is fit to be accepted as a member in the first place, and who is to be expelled from membership for appropriate reason, following a mandated set procedure. The Beit Din Hakavod in its investigation followed that procedure completely.
2. Even though no outside Beit Din is necessary to evaluate the status of a member, the Vaad Hakavod always employed the halachic rules of Beit Din in its deliberations. Therefore it had the halachic status of a Beit Din, and is in fact consistently referred to in the RCA Constitution as a Beit Din Hakavod. The investigation that led to the expulsion was in fact carried out by the Beit Din Hakavod as a de facto, and de jure, Beit Din, in full conformity with the provisions of our constitution, and attested to by the participation at all times of our Av Beit Din. Thus, as a Beit Din, its decision, al pi halachah, has the status of a ma’aseh Beit Din, and is not subject to review by any other Beit Din, anywhere in the world (insofar as “Beit Din batar Beit Din lo dayki.”)
3. We continue to maintain absolutely that even if the above were not the case, no Beit Din in Israel has any jurisdiction in any matter involving two litigants in New York; that there is no historical, halachic, or legal precedent whatsoever for the involvement of an Israeli Beit Din; that any claim to the contrary violates the rules of the laws of the State of Israel and of the Israeli rabbinical courts themselves. This view has been repeatedly endorsed by a number of eminent and neutral Batei Din as well as poskim, who have agreed entirely with our position that Israeli Batei Din have no jurisdiction in this matter. Moreover our view is completely consistent with the repeated statements of all the great leaders of the RCA throughout its history, to the effect that the Israeli rabbinate and its batei din have authority regarding the RCA only in matters directly affecting Eretz Yisrael and its citizens.
4. Mordecai Tendler himself did not contest the right and the authority of the Beit Din Hakavod to judge this case, until after it ruled against him. To the contrary: he explicitly, and in writing, waived every opportunity (in the form of written invitations sent to him) to appear before the Beit Din Hakavod, and instead explicitly and in writing agreed that it should proceed and come to its decision, as it saw fit, based on his written submissions.
In sum, we have now chosen to go to Zabla, lifnim mi-shurat ha-din, beyond what the halachic requirement may be, so that our jurisdiction and the facts of the case and its history will be established once and for all. To this end, we will insist at the Zabla that the shtar berurin/rules of arbitration include the stipulation that the findings of the Zabla will be binding and not subject to appeal, neither in Israel nor in America.
In so doing, we believe that we are acting le’shem shamayim, and le’hagdil Torah, in fulfillment of the mandate and mission of the RCA, so that it will be clear that the RCA, with the full support of its membership, will have acted in the best interests of the Jewish people, and in accordance with the highest standards of truth and fairness.
We trust you will agree, and we thank you for your support and understanding throughout.
The Officers of the Rabbinical Council of America