The Eruv of metropolitan Los
Angeles is under the halachic supervision of the Rabbinical Council of
California. For complete details of the Eruv including halachic standards,
boundaries, current status, and other information, go to
Dec 16 1999
Council of California
Los Angeles Business Journal
March 31, 2003
Traditional Jewish Arbitration Panels Find
By AMANDA BRONSTAD
When Yaacov Isaacs ran into a
dispute over the financial terms of a contract, he turned to someone he
believed could resolve the issue cheaply, quickly and fairly – a rabbi.
Isaacs, owner of a Beverly Hills health care company, is one of a
growing number of Orthodox Jews who have turned to the Rabbinical
Council of California’s Beit Din, or “House of Judgment,” to
arbitrate disputes under Jewish law.
But the Beit Din isn’t just for Orthodox Jews. Driven largely by the
increased appeal of arbitration, it has become a popular option for both
non-Orthodox Jews and non-Jews attracted to its practical benefits.
“It’s a huge time difference and much more economical,” Isaacs
said. “But perhaps the most unique feature is that most of the time,
litigants come out feeling they were dealt with fairly.”
The Beit Din is an ancient concept that involves dozens of panels
throughout the world charged with resolving disputes according to Jewish
law, particularly marriages and divorces.
In recent years, the RCC’s Beit Din, the largest and most respected in
Southern California, has become a popular venue for executives under
pressure to arbitrate matters rather than battle in court.
“There are judges around who will not listen to a case unless some
attempt has been made to use some kind of alternative dispute
resolution,” said Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, a professor of Jewish
law at Loyola Law School. “The Beit Din happens to be one that works
Rabbi Avrohom Union, rabbinic administrator at the RCC, handles three to
four hearings per month, compared to monthly hearings a decade ago. He
and two other rabbis, who do not work at the RCC full time, serve on a
panel that hears disputes at the RCC’s conference room in downtown L.A.
Business cases rise
Nine out of 10 of the arbitrations heard at the Beit Din are business
conflicts, Union said. In the past year, it began hearing small claims
arbitrations, as well, such as merchandise and landlord-tenant disputes.
Almost half of those who use the Beit Din are not Orthodox Jews. In
1995, the Scottsdale Plaza Resort in Arizona took a case to the RCC’s
Beit Din in which a tour operator called Premier Passover, owned by
Orthodox Jews, was contesting $114,000 of event charges.
“The hotel owner knew his opposing litigant was Jewish and would have
a hard time turning down the Beit Din,” said Adlerstein.
The arbitration method is based on the written laws of the Torah and the
Talmud, the oral tradition passed down over thousands of years.
The laws governing the Beit Din, said Baruch Cohen, an L.A. attorney,
differ in many ways from those of secular courts. In secular court,
hearsay or evidence admitted out of court is not admitted into
testimonies, but under Jewish law, oral transactions or agreements carry
as much weight in court as do those that are written, he said.
Further, Jewish law does not recognize the statute of limitations, and
adjudications are kept private. That’s important in the tight-knit
“They don’t want to wash their dirty laundry in public,” Cohen
said. “They do not want to take this dispute to the courts and turn
it into a media circus. They’ll want it adjudicated responsibly within
the Jewish community.”
With Jews representing less than 5 percent of the L.A. population, few
others know about or feel comfortable having their disputes litigated
under a law they don’t know, said Harris Cohen, an Encino attorney.
“They have no idea what Jewish law is,” he said. “Why would you
want your dispute resolved by people with different beliefs using laws
you don’t know?”
Citing the secular
For many years, the rabbis of the Beit Din, who do not have law degrees,
did not know enough about state law, causing several people to go to
state court to get judgments reversed, said Baruch Cohen. He said he is
now often consulted on state law.
The RCC’s Beit Din is also hearing more cases from non-Orthodox Jewish
individuals who may be part of a nationwide return to Orthodox Judaism,
Cohen said. He said he many of his clients are Reform and Conservative
Jews who now consider the Beit Din a religious obligation.
Also, the Beit Din did not traditionally hear only those cases that
included arbitration agreements in contracts. “That practice opened up a
can of worms,” he said. “With the growth of arbitration law in the
courts, the Beit Din hopped on board as well.”
Some fear the rabbis will be biased because they sometimes know the
parties in dispute. But Union said either party may replace an existing
rabbi if he believes there is a conflict of interest. The Beit Din, he
said, has a pool from which to find rabbis knowledgeable in Jewish law.
“One must carefully look into the Rabbinical Council before bringing
a case to them and be convinced of the impartiality of the rabbis,”
Union said. “Once you believe they’re impartial, it’s unfair to say
you’ve been had.”
For Isaacs, who has used the Beit Din twice in two years, fairness was
not a problem. “I was amazed by the process, by the fairness of the
three rabbis and by their keenness and insight,” he said.
Legal services offered by the Beit Din:
(corporate, partnership, contract, employment disputes)
• Communal (congregational issues, rabbinic contracts)
• Familial (family business, inheritance or child support disputes)
Administration of Jewish divorces
• Issuing a Get (writ of divorce) in accordance with Jewish law
• Adjudicating financial disputes related to divorce proceedings
• Adjudicating other end-of-marriage determinations (e.g. child
• Issuing certification
of personal religious status recognized by rabbinic courts in Israel
• Issuing certification of marital status recognized by rabbinic
courts in Israel and worldwide
or an acquaintance require Beis Din services, please
phone the RCC office at (213) 489-8080 and ask for the