Lady Hale, president of the Supreme Court, has praised a guide to help legal professionals understand the Jewish community.
Speaking at the launch of Jewish Family Life and Customs: a Practical Guide, produced by the Board of Deputies, Lady Hale said: “There are family law cases up and down the land and some of them are inevitably going to be Jewish.
“People need to know about such things as keeping the Sabbath, marriage, particularly the importance of getting a get at the right time.”
The non-Jewish peer, who is the first woman to preside over the Supreme Court, said the new edition of the guide, updated from its 2006 edition, included facts about Jewish life “even I did not know.
“I didn’t know this, but the book will tell you that if a Jewish couple cohabit they, too, might require a get. It was news to me and I’m sure it will be news to many of you.”
The guide is intended for lawyers and judges who are working with Jewish clients and in Jewish contexts, and has been updated to take account of changes to marriage laws and coroners’ practices over the past decade.
It covers every aspect of Jewish life, including religious observance, major life events such as birth and marriage, and rules around food and clothing.
The launch at the Supreme Court on Tuesday evening was attended by more than 100 people. Guests included senior legal professionals, parliamentarians and communal figures.
Lady Hale said that one of the Supreme Court cases that attracted most public interest was the dispute over admissions to JFS, which the court ruled on in 2009. “Many of you will be familiar with that and many of you won’t have been happy about our decision, but there you go.”
Nine judges ruled that Jewish schools could not allocate places according to whether a child’s parents were Jewish.
The decision went against JFS’s admissions policy at the time.
Lady Hale said she learnt a great deal about the various strands within the Jewish community because of that case.
Lady Hale also praised her counterparts at the Israeli Supreme Court.
“They deserve our support whenever we can give it to them”.
Also speaking at the launch were Eleanor Platt QC, chair of the Board of Deputies’ Family Law Group and a co-editor of the guide; Board president Jonathan Arkush; and vice-president Marie van der Zyl.