A special Beth Din to examine allegations of sexual abuse of women by a leading Charedi rabbi finally looked set to get off the ground with the arrival in London this week of its three rabbinic judges from abroad.
The Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations instigated the tribunal to decide whether Rabbi Chaim Halpern of the Divrei Chaim community in Golders Green is fit to serve as a rabbi.
Although he resigned his position on the Union’s own Beth Din after complaints surfaced about his marriage counselling sessions, Rabbi Halpern, who has protested his innocence, has continued to lead his congregation and teach Torah classes.
The special Beth Din was announced nearly two months ago. But it was greeted with scepticism over whether it would actually sit and whether any of the women who have complained or their rabbinic representatives would co-operate with it.
The rabbinic court will now be presided over by Rabbis Sariel Rosenberg and Yisroel Berger from Israel, and Rabbi Avraham Baruch Rosenberg from New York. Rabbi Berger, a brother of the Manchester Beth Din’s Dayan Isaac Berger, was a late replacement for Rabbi Naftoli Nussbaum of Israel, who pulled out.
Their first act was to appoint Rabbi David Cohn, of North Hendon Adath Yisroel Synagogue, as the shaliach, or “emissary” of the Beth Din.His synagogue quit the Union only weeks ago after members criticised the Union’s “inaction” over the Halpern case.
Rabbi Cohn stressed: “Our synagogue has left the Union, so it would be improper to take part if this were a Union venture. But this is an independent Beth Din and I know the dayanim very well.”
His role is to gather witness statements and arrange for evidence to be presented to the dayanim.
Rabbi Cohn said that “in no way” was it intended to take the place of any police investigation that might be conducted.
The Beth Din would “take as long as it needs to take. They will not rush it.”