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RCV’s new president oversees own contract at MBD

September 3, 2014 – 1:33 pm11 Comments

By Yaron Gottlieb:


In the last month the Rabbinical Council of Victoria (RCV) elected a new president – Rabbi Mordechai Gutnick, and was announced with the usual run of press releases and congratulatory articles in the AJN.

So what?

Well, they all seemed to miss the elephant in the room: Rabbi Gutnick is also a senior judge (dayan) on the Melbourne Beth Din (MBD).

The MBD was reformed a few years ago following some serious allegations of corruption (and worse). The new Beth Din was set up with many checks and balances that if they would be more than window dressing would be the best practice the world over. There is an appeals board, an independent board and no tenure for the dayanim.

It is in this last point that the problem arises: the contract of the dayanim has to be renewed every two years by two organisations – the COSV and the RCV.

That’s right – a judge on the Beth Din is president of the organisation that has the responsibility to renew his contract.

Now I know that there are many other things that the RCV do between the biennial meeting to renew contracts, and I do not think it would be necessary for the dayanim that sit on the RCV to resign, so long as they absent themselves from that particular meeting.

But to have one of the senior dayanim of the MBD sit as president of the RCV constitutes a major conflict of interest.

If a situation like this existed in the secular courts the public would be beating down the doors in protest, and it would be likely that any judges would have to resign from one of the two organisations. But in the Jewish community there is not a peep.

And this is where the scariest part of this comes in. I have mentioned this to several people. In all but one case the response ranged from resignation to irrelevance, and in the odd case the response was anger. No shock or disbelief.

We have reached the point where nepotism and conflict of interest is expected in our rabbis, and even accepted. This is the profession that is supposed to give us moral guidance, and they should be the best of us, but now we are happy to accept a lower standard than we would expect from the wider secular community.

Heaven help the world if we are indeed a light unto the nations and this is the direction we are giving.

And people wonder why I reject the title rabbi for myself.

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