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Ministers back bill allowing rabbinic courts to judge monetary cases

Legislation that would permit state-run rabbinic authorities to adjudicate financial matters passes first hurdle

Knesset Finance Committee Chairman MK Moshe Gafni leads a committee meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem on December 6, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Knesset Finance Committee Chairman MK Moshe Gafni leads a committee meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem on December 6, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

State-run rabbinic courts may soon be able to judge monetary cases, according to proposed legislation which cleared its first Knesset hurdle on Sunday.

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved the bill, proposed by MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism), which would allow courts to rule in financial disputes if agreed to by both parties.

Currently the state-run rabbinic courts have jurisdiction over issues of Jewish identity and conversion, marriage and divorce, including financial settlement, and kashrut supervision. The courts rule in accordance with Jewish law.

The measure still must pass through three readings in the Knesset before becoming law, but Sunday’s vote means it will enjoy coalition support as it moves through the stages of legislation.

A spokesperson for the rabbinical courts told the ultra-Orthodox news site Kikar Hashabat that it was a “dramatic and historic move.”

Gafni told the site that “the Supreme Court ruled several years ago that the state-run courts could only rule on personal matters and were not permitted to decide on monetary cases. We tried to pass this law for many years.”

Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau also hailed the ministerial committee’s decision. “The proposed legislation that was approved today by the Committee for Legislation is right and proper. Many Jews want to have a judgment based on Torah and it doesn’t make sense that it is withheld from them,” he said.

There are many private rabbinic courts in Israel that arbitrate on monetary matters provided both parties agree to accept the final ruling.

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