Nearly 100 Senior Dayanim from Batei Din in European countries gathered in London to discuss the dramatic consequences and developments in national laws that directly and indirectly affect halachic rulings in batei din throughout Europe.
Dayanim from Israel, London, France, Austria, the Netherlands, Hungary, Ukraine, Manchester, Belgium, and even distant Sydney, Australia, attended the conference.
The Dayanim conference was the fourth of its kind and renewed the tradition of annual conferences after the last two were postponed due to the pandemic. The conference brings together European Dayanim and serves as a rare opportunity to learn and help each other with the challenges and problems that the Dayanim face daily.
The conference was held at the Od Yosef Chai Torah Center located in the London, led by Rabbi Avraham David, the Sephardic Rav of London, and a member of the Rabbinical Centre in Europe. He spoke about genealogy investigation and the possibilities of using new resources to verify information.
Rabbi Binyamin Jacobs, chairman of the Netherlands Rabbinical Council and member of the Rabbinical Centre of Europe, opened the conference. He spoke of the extreme importance of the event, where Dayanim from all over Europe come together and make a series of decisions that affect tens of thousands of Jews across Europe.
Rabbi Yisroel Yaakov Lichtenstein, former Av Beit Din of Federation of Synagogues in London, and member of the Presidium of the Rabbinical Centre of Europe, spoke about halachic rulings concerning receiving a divorce without the husband giving it. Rabbi Avraham Baruch Pevzner, Rabbi of the Lubavitcher-Paris community, and a member of the Rabbinical Council, discussed divorce documents.
Rabbi Avraham Abba Toretzki emceed the luncheon. He introduced Rabbi Shalom Grunfeld, Rabbi of the Alexander Shul, Antwerp to speak in memory of Rabbi Dovid Moshe Liberman, OBM, Rabbi of the Shomrei Hadas community in Antwerp and member of the Presidium of the Rabbinical Centre of Europe, who passed away a few months ago. Dayan Moshe Elzas, of the Federation Beit Din in London, delivered a Dvar Torah.
The second session was opened by Rabbi Arie Goldberg, CEO of the Rabbinical Centre of Europe. He expressed his gratitude to the Almighty for being able to resume the privilege of gathering Dayanim in one location. He then expounded on the international challenges European Jewish communities deal with due to tense developments in the world.
The chairman of the second session was Rabbi Yitzhak Niazov, the Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Vienna, and a member of the Council of Rabbis in Europe, who spoke about the continuous responsibility that a Dayan has.
Rabbi Shraga Feivel Zimmerman, Av Beit Din of the Federation of Synagogues in London discussed informing to the authorities. Dayan Zimmerman presented a unique discourse explaining the essence of the issue and the halachic aspects involved. Rabbi Eliyahu Raphael Heisherik, member of the Israel’s Beit Din Hagadol, spoke about ketubah and child support. The third session was opened by Rabbi Yaakov Hotoveli, Member of the Vienna-Austria Beit Din.
Rabbi Zevadia Cohen, head of the Tel-Aviv Beit Din spoke about the importance of writing a will during one’s lifetime, especially in this generation, and the halachic validity of such a will. Rabbi Yirmiyahu Menachem Cohen, former Av Beit Din in Paris and a member of the Presidium of the RCE, spoke about appointing a second proxy for a get, and Rabbi Yonasan Hool, Dayan in the Federation Beit Din, London, spoke about fraud and misunderstandings in selling a business.
On Wednesday evening, May 22nd, after two full days of sessions and lengthy discussions, the European Dayanim conference came to a close.
Many London Rabbis and Dayanim came to attend an uplifting tribute to the sacred work done by Dayanim in the Batei Din who work with utmost devotion to provide guidance and direction through complex challenges that come up. This is especially the case in countries where there are no large Jewish communities, and they have to make weighty halachic decisions on a daily basis.
It was a formal, sit-down event, skillfully emceed by Rabbi Avraham Abba Toretzki. He honored Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Raskin, Dayan of the Lubavitch community in London, and a member of the Rabbinical Council in Europe, with making a siyum on Rambam.
Rabbi Eliezer Schneebalg, Av Beit Din of Edgewater, represented the London Rabbis and was astounded to see all the Dayanim from France, Austria, Estonia, Italy, Belgium, Germany, The Netherlands, Hungary, Ukraine, Manchester and even Sidney, Australia. He noted that the very fact that they had convened at this time, when there is a war raging and tens of thousands of Jews, with their Rabbis, communities and Dayanim have been forced to flee from their homes, is a segulah to be spared from dangerous times.
The renowned chinuch expert, Rabbi Yitzchak Reuven Rubin, head of Esh Kodesh Institutions, Manchester, and member of the Rabbinical Council, conveyed the cry of at-risk youth. The situation is especially acute now, following pandemic closures and long periods of time when educational institutions were not functioning. Now, the Rabbis must restart the system, and channel extensive energy into this cause.
Rabbi Levy Yitzchak Sudak, Rabbi of the Chabad community in Edgewater, presented an educational discourse about a Dayan’s commitment as a rabbi for his home and family.
Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchak Bixenspanner, Rabbi of the Adas Hanidon Community, Started the new cycle of learning the Rambam, and passionately described how the Torah gives guidance to deal with every situation. The role of a Rabbi and a Dayan during trying times is to be an anchor and shepherd for the community – and that applies to the present times.
The conference concluded late in the evening, and the participants expressed their gratitude and appreciation to the London Rabbis for their support.
Three additional sessions were held on Wednesday, May 24th, addressing the challenges facing Batei Din all over the world regarding the refugees from Ukraine. Issues include verifying their lineage, rewriting a ketubah for refugees whose ketubot were left behind, and more.
In depth shiurim and halachic lectures were given by the well-known Dayanim: (in chronological order) Rabbi Michael Szmerla, Av Beit Din Strasbourg and a member of the Rabbinical Council of Europe; Rabbi Yehoram Ulman, Av Beit Din Sidney, Australia; Rabbi Yehuda Asher Steiner, Av Beit Din Manchester; Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Raskin, Rabbi of the Lubavitch Community, London, and a member of the Rabbinical Council of Europe; Rabbi Hai Amram, Rabbi and member of Beit Yosef – Marseilles and a member of the Rabbinical Council of Europe; Rabbi Shimon Har Shalom, a Jewish genealogy expert serving Batei Din in Israel; Rabbi Yaakov David Schmahl, Dayan of Shomrei Hadat, Antwerp, and member of the Rabbinical council of Europe; Rabbi Yosef Pardess, member of the beit din in Vienna , Austria; Rabbi Doron Ahiel , Rabbi of the Netzach Yisrael community , London and a member of the Rabbinical Council of Europe: Rabbi Baruch Oberlander, Av Beit Din of the Orthodox community in Budapest and a member of the Rabbinical Council of Europe, and Rabbi Pinchas Padwa Rabbi and leader of Machzikaei Hadas- Belz and a member of the Rabbinical Council of Europe
As the gathering ended, the participants thanked Rabbi Menachem Margolin, Chairman of the Rabbinical Centre of Europe, for organizing the conference and giving support of hundreds of communities throughout Europe throughout the year. They also thanked CEO Rabbi Arie Goldberg and Vice President Rabbi Yosef Bainhaker for their round-the-clock efforts in organizing the conference and other activities for the sake of the Jewish communities.