Ombudsman recommends firing rabbinic judge in Druckman saga

Tova Strasberg-Cohen assails unethical conduct of Rabbi Avraham Sherman.

tova strasberg-cohen 224 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
tova strasberg-cohen 224
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
In another salvo in the ongoing battle surrounding state-sponsored conversions, Tova Strasberg-Cohen, a former Supreme Court judge and ombudsman of the judiciary, called on the Committee for the Appointment of Rabbinical Judges to consider removing Rabbi Avraham Sherman from his post as judge on the High Rabbinical Court for badmouthing the head of the National Conversion Authority Rabbi Haim Druckman. Strasberg-Cohen's letter was addressed to Druckman and was a response to a complaint filed by Druckman against Sherman. "In light of the serious faults in Rabbi Sherman's conduct, I find it appropriate to recommend that the Committee for the Appointment of Rabbinical Judges consider firing Sherman," the letter said. "Sherman's behavior is not in accordance with the legal system's ethical standards nor is it in line with that system's fundamental principles. "It seems to me that Rabbi Sherman's perception of the essence of his role and obligations is flawed. My impression is that Sherman has not internalized the problematic nature of his conduct and the way he ran the case against Druckman." Strasberg-Cohen's letter comes after Sherman issued a 50-page document - half halachic decision, half diatribe - against Druckman and the Conversion Authority. The document, in which Sherman discredits Druckman as a rabbinical judge, was copied and distributed during a conference for rabbinical judges several months ago. Druckman was never given a chance to respond to the charges leveled against him, which included forgery, purposely transgressing Halacha and placing a stumbling block before the wider public. The upshot of Sherman's document was that the validity of all the conversions performed by Druckman and other religious Zionist judges was questioned. Doubt was cast on the Jewishness of literally thousands of converts and Druckman's good name was besmirched. Strasberg-Cohen's letter includes a response from Sherman. According to Strasberg-Cohen, Sherman said that the ombudsman did not have the power to judge the case since it involved halachic issues that "involved the very soul of the Jewish people". Sherman also said that his accusations against Druckman were based on classified documents that belonged to the rabbinical courts and could not be shared with others. In an official response released by the Rabbinical Courts in the name of Sherman, it was stated that the high rabbinical court judge had conducted himself in accordance with the Halacha, the law and ethical standards. "Rabbi Sherman is sorry for the pain caused as a result of the publishing of the halachic opinion," read the press release. "However, rabbinical judges are obligated to abide by the laws of the Torah as written and expounded upon by the great rabbis of each generation. "According to Torah law it is forbidden for a judge to be partial out of deference to social standing or rank, especially in a ruling that deals with maintaining the purity of the Jewish people." Strasberg-Cohen's intervention is the second time this year that the secular legal system has sided with the religious Zionist rabbinical establishment against the haredim. The first incident came earlier this year when the Supreme Court ruled that local rabbis had to allow the sale of Jewish farmers' produce grown under heter mechira, a halachic solution that permits the temporary sale of Jewish-owned land to gentiles, to permit planting and harvesting during the shmita (sabbatical) year.