New Jersey court recgonizes Code of Jewish Law as legal book

New Jersey judge: Rabbi who acted in accordance with Shulchan Aruch Jewish law code acted properly.

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Ben Shaul,

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A New Jersey judge gave an unprecedented ruling last week when he ruled that the Code of Jewish Law holds legal water.

The case involved a Jew who refused to appear in a rabbinical court despite the fact that the rabbinical judges ordered him to. Meanwhile, his community rabbi begged him to appear before the rabbinical court, and when he refused, told others to consider him 'a refuser.'

In response, the man sued his community rabbi for saying that he had "acted like a stranger towards me and caused me emotional damage. Because of him, the others who attended my synagogue and place of study were forbidden to speak to me."

The rabbi turned to New Jersey' Agudat Yisrael for support. Agudat Yisrael put the rabbi in contact with attorney Ronald Coleman, who has fought in court several times for religious freedom and agreed to take the rabbi's case pro bono.

Coleman told the court that the rabbi was fulfilling his religious duties as laid out in Torah law. These duties include placing sanctions on those who refuse to appear before a Jewish rabbinical court, and the sanctions remain in place until the person chooses to appear.

The judge dismissed the case, and said that since Code of Jewish Law states that one must not have a connection with a person who refuses to appear in court, the rabbi acted properly when he told his congregants to ignore the prosecution. He also said that he fully recognizes the Code of Jewish Law as a legal book which is part of Jewish religious freedom in the US.

"We are gratified the judge did not hesitate to address explicitly the important First Amendment issue raised in the claim against the rabbi," Coleman said. "In reaffirming the rule that secular courts have no jurisdiction over a rabbi’s conduct as a congregational leader, the court strengthened the rule of law, of which freedom of religion is a pillar under the Constitution."