Rabbi: Rabbinic courts unjust, corrupt

Court stands by ruling, say they want to track down rabbi's son, who is refusing his wife a get.

Rabbinic court 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Rabbinic court 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
A Jerusalem rabbi says his family is being targeted by the Rabbinic Court Administration in a campaign of vengeance because of the actions of his son that highlights the "corruption" and "protektsia" (outside influence) in the state-appointed body. Rabbi Moshe Zalman Bryskman, leader of the Shimon Hazadik synagogue in the capital's Old Katamon/San Simon neighborhood, said last week he had fallen victim to harsh and unfair treatment by the courts due to his son Meir's ongoing divorce proceedings. In April, the rabbinic courts turned exclusively to The Jerusalem Post, saying that in an effort to track down Meir (who, they believe, has fled the country) and force him to grant his wife a get (bill of divorce) they wanted to publish his details in the secular media to "shame the family" into coming forward with information on his whereabouts. According to the information obtained by the Post, the couple had resided together in Jerusalem's Har Nof neighborhood until their separation. Later, Bryskman moved into his parents' home on Rehov Hizkiyahu Hamelech and was seen more recently in the Geula neighborhood. "The Beit Din [religious court] says it wants to bring shame on the family," Bryskman said. "How can they say such things? It's like a mafia. It's terrible, the article that you published was full of lies. All the details they gave you were false. It has caused us terrible damage and really brought shame on our family." In a written response, the Courts Administration said it stood by its original claims against Meir Bryskman and that the same tactic had been used successfully in the past to force recalcitrant husbands to comply with its rulings. "The judges' decision that Meir Bryskman must give his wife a get was made after carefully considering all the complaints and hearing all the witnesses speak," the court statement said. "He must issue a get without delay." "The rabbinic court should be considered the same as any other legal body in the State of Israel and the husband in this case is showing clear disrespect for its rulings," continued the response. "The father is trying to sabotage the course of justice in this case." The response also said the administration's legal adviser was considering filing criminal charges against Rabbi Bryskman for obstruction of justice. Bryskman said he did not know why the court would take "vengeance" against his family, but insisted that it was happening. He would also not give the Post a straightforward answer as to whether he knew the whereabouts of his son and said that whether or not he saw his son as justified in fleeing Israel was "irrelevant." "It does not matter what I think, it was not my decision," the rabbi said. "I love my son, but I have no power over his decisions - that is what the rabbinate wants me to have - but I do understand the background... as to why he does not want to appear [in court]. I don't know if he has run away from the country or from his problems; maybe he just saw that he had no room to appeal and was left with nowhere to turn." Bryskman said that several factors surrounding the three judges and their decisions raised serious questions as to the legitimacy and fairness of his son's treatment in the case, which was first heard by the lower Jerusalem Rabbinic Court in July 2005. He pointed out that ombudsman Judge Tovah Strasburg-Cohen, who deals with complaints against rabbinic judges, has already investigated his son's case and severely criticized the fact that anonymous witnesses were called, outside of the usual procedure; the fact that one of the judges had approved the decision without being at the hearing; and that one judge, Rabbi Avraham Sherman, was employing the same lawyer for his daughter who was representing Meir Bryskman's wife. "My son said all along that he is willing to give a get, he just wants to resolve the issue of custody concerning his children," said Bryskman, adding that his family had tried to contact his daughter-in-law's family directly, but that they refused to talk. But the father refused to answer why, if his son wanted custody of his children, he would leave the country, making it impossible for him to get it. Following the ruling from the lower court, Dina Bryskman (Meir's wife) appealed to the higher court in 2006, and the final judgment calling on Meir to grant his wife a divorce came last month. "He has only been refusing a get for 25 days and not for five years, as has been claimed by the rabbinic court. That is the biggest lie," said Bryskman. "Maybe his decision [to leave] was incorrect but perhaps he did it due to all the pressure and stress." "Regardless of what I think, he is 33 years old and not a child," he continued. "[Meir] makes his own decisions and they have nothing to do with me. This should be a personal issue between him and his wife. I am, of course, his father and I love him very much. I am just hurt that there is all this corruption in the system and that the media has been used to shame the family." The rabbinic court responded, however, that "the father is involved in this case intensively; from participating in hearings to making requests on his son's behalf." The spokeswoman also said that Sherman had no connection to the said lawyer in Strasburg-Cohen's report and that all the witnesses were heard following the court's normal procedure. "The Bryskman case is no different than any other that we treat throughout the year," the court said.