New York – Beit Din Decision Overturned By NYS Supreme Court; Could Impact Future Verdicts


    New York – The New York State Supreme Court has overturned a decision by the Beth Din of America, shocking both the rabbinical and civil legal communities. In a Dec. 18 decision, Justice Bruce M. Balter of Kings Country Supreme Court found that a verdict concerning a teacher at the Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway, rendered by the beit din, was “irrational” and “violative of public policy.”

    Left unappealed, the ruling could impact future beit din verdicts.

    The case concerns a rebbe named Nachum Brisman. He began teaching at HAFTR in 1991 and was let go at the end of the 2005 academic year due to differences in hashkafa (religious outlook) with the school. He had received tenure over the course of his employment, though tenure was canceled school-wide in 2005. A din Torah (trial) before a panel consisting of Rabbi Mordechai Willig of Yeshiva University, Rabbi Steven Pruzansky of Congregation Bnai Yeshurun of Teaneck, and Rabbi Ronald Warburg found in Brisman’s favor and awarded him $50,000 in back pay. The beit din also doubled his salary to $100,000, reinstated his tenure and ruled that any future termination of Brisman must go through the beit din itself even though the original arbitration agreement granted such jurisdiction for just one year.

    Marvin Neiman, Brisman’s lawyer, stressed the nature of the compromise.

    “It was a good compromise because it made everyone unhappy,” Neiman told The Jewish Star. He also explained that the beit din salary award was lower than Brisman’s total 2005 compensation which, according to Neiman, was mainly built through overtime.

    A HAFTR official said that the school would have no comment about a pending legal matter.

    While Neiman believed that HAFTR would honor the beit din’s decision, he sought to confirm the award with the New York State Supreme Court, which is a common step after arbitration. The overturning of an arbitration verdict is relatively rare and considered unusual.

    While arbitration verdicts are not enforceable, the decisions are given weight in court. According to a 2006 precedent, an arbitration decision cannot be vacated, even if there is a factual error in the case, unless there is a suspicion of fraud, irrationality, or a harm to public policy.

    There is no suspicion of fraud in the case. Nonetheless, the Supreme Court refused to confirm the verdict.

    Justice Balter found that the decision should be voided on the grounds that the decision was irrational, the beit din specifically went beyond its enumerated authority and that the verdict violated public policy.

    The decision was irrational on two counts, Balter found.

    The tenure contract expired in 2005 and the beit din decision forced an “at will” private employer to employ someone against its will. The salary, set well beyond Brisman’s previous base salary, was “burdensome, unrealistic, and wholly irrational,” and would be “counterproductive to a harmonious environment.”

    Secondly, by retaining indefinite jurisdiction, the beit din exceeded limitations agreed to by both parties.

    Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the beit din’s ruling, according to Balter, violates public policy since it would set a precedent that would, in his words, “impact and limit the ability of private schools to make and enforce routine employment decisions,” and have far reaching consequences.

    However, a law professor that The Jewish Star spoke with said that this may not fall under the rubric of public policy, which is defined in arbitration as those aspects of the law in the State of New York that cannot be waived by the consensus of both parties.

    Balter noted that HAFTR had offered to pay a “chodesh l’shana” severance — the month of salary for every year worked that is mandated by Jewish law — as part of Brisman’s termination package, but Brisman had refused.

    Rabbi Shlomo Weissman, director of the Beth Din of America, declined to comment; Rabbi Basil Herring of the Rabbinical Council of America, which is affiliated with the Beth Din of America, declined to comment as well.

    The court’s decision shocked Neiman. “Normally, the court grants an arbitration award unless it’s outrageous,” he explained. “If the decision was based on Jewish law, how could the court reverse it and decide what’s irrational in the course of Jewish law?”

    Reached by phone on Tuesday morning, Rabbi Pruzansky told The Jewish Star that the most striking facet based on the judgment is that, according to Justice Balter, there is no tenure in a parochial school.

    “That’s very ominous,” he said. “Any yeshiva would have the right to say at the end of any contract — and most teacher contracts are annual contracts — even to tenured teachers, ‘you’re gone.’ I think that’s an error both according to New York law and halacha.”

    Rabbi Pruzansky praised HAFTR and said the school had acted “very admirably” in regard to abiding by the halachic psak.

    Rabbi Michael Broyde, a dayan (judge) on the Beth Din of America who is also a Professor of Law at Emory University, said that given the unusual nature of the move, Balter’s opinion will likely be subject to an appeal.

    “And,” he said, “I suspect that it will not survive that appeal

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    1. The teacher got what was coming to him. Why was there a need to confirm the psak with the court if the school was going to honor the psak?

      If judge Balter is a non religious Jew, this makes a lot of sense…..

    2. From reading the story it does seem that Rabbi Brisman has something wrong with his hashkafa. Rabbi brisman went to a bais din and agreed to go and same for the yeshiva in question.

      There is not disagreement according to this article that anyone was unhappy abut going to bais din. Now bais din made a ruling and now Rabbi Brisman did not like it? This is so typical of many people that go to a bais din.

      If someone goes to a bais din and does not listen to the ruling then it is worse that not going at all and going to a secular court first hand. Unless there is some halachic mistake in the first ruling I would only understand someone going to another bais din based on those facts but shopping around until you get the answer you like in a ruling is totally off and i would not want my children having a Rabbi that disregards an antire bais din. HAFTR must have had a problem with this Rabbi’s hashkofa!

      • Response #6: why do you think Rabbi Brisman did not listen to the psak of Beis Din? Maybe you should re-read the story, or ask someone else to explain it to you. Maybe if we all started to think before we speak (or act), the world would be a better place, rather than its current status.

        In addition, I was a student at HAFTR, and a talmid of Rabbi Brisman, and the callous and dishonorable way that many of the Rabbis were treated in the years that followed Dr. Daniel Vitow’s (former Principal) departure, is certainly a reason to go to a beis din. The ‘modification’ of the school’s hashkafa, and in the opinion of some, a departure from Modern ORTHODOXY to MODERN Orthodoxy, were certainly beyond the control of the Rabbinic presence there, yet the firing and letting go of the many Rabbis (in addition to its former Judaic Studies Principal, Rabbi Zvi Bajnon) in the way in which it was done, was a big disgrace and hurt many people involved.

      • This comment is by someone who doesn’t understand what happened here. He thinks that R, Brisman is appealing the Beth Din’s verdict. All that happened here is the routine request to stamp the verdict of the Beth Din as enforcible.

        • It’s amazing how many people just didn’t read the story! It’s so clear! You are so right! All that happened was, is that Beis Din ~ and this is routine ~ gave their p’sak to the court so that it becomes binding! It just adds a little more strength to Beis Din’s p’sak! Doesn’t anybody know anything about how this country has allowances for the p’sakim of our Batei Din to be strengthened? It then becomes obligatory for the defendant to pay! It’s so clear in the article! Yoish!

      • to anonymous it seems you didnt understand this story at all it would be advisable to understand things before writing and slandering a frum upstanding jew beis ruled and rabbi brisman followed the ruling now the supreme court overturns this ruling why cant you understand a simple story

    3. Here is the Joke.

      The Judge gave his (un-required) written “M”Hechan Dantuni”, logical reasoning, pointing out why the B.D. Psak was irrational, in his opinion.

      The Beis Din who IS Halachicaly required to indicate M”Hechan Dantuni, has not given any rational for its assumed irrational verdict.

      It’s true that most such cases (Beis Din’s) force the litigants to sign a waver that the Rabbonim are not required to issue their halachicaly obligated M”Hechan Dantuni.

      But this is exactly the problem and “this is where the dog is buried”.

      Once you “force” the Baaley Dinim to forfeit their right to a “M”Hechan Dantuni”, this makes Piskey Dinim, lined up for trouble as we see here the “Vayetze Haegel Hazeh”.

    4. Very odd. Sounds like HAFTR did not contest bais din award, so both parties were abiding by the decision, yet the State Supreme Court refused to confirm it. I’m with Rabbi Broyde – no way this survives an appeal!

    5. Boy most of you got it all wrong but it is the paper’s fault. Rabbi Brisman won!! The school would not pay so within one year of the p’sak din he had to go to court to confirm the award and turn it into an enforcible judgment so he could send a Sheriff to get his money. This is standard — that the winner turns his award from BD into a judgment. It is the school that was upset and asked the court to set aside the BD p’sak. Judge Balter agreed that the decision was irrational, but the Judge in Brooklyn is not up the law. I had two cases which the Appellate Court over turned a Judge in New York Supreme Court (the low court) for failing to uphold the an arbitration award, not from BD. Also last year in a case from CA which went up to the US Supreme Court, the Mattel Case, construing the Federal Arbitration Act, (yes a BD award is subject to the FAA) it is now IMPOSSIBLE to over turn even an irrational award which “manifestly disregards the law or facts.” So there is no way the good Rabbi will lose on appeal, though I agree with Judge Balter that was a whacked out case. This is the problem with BD and any arbitration even AAA or JAMS , if you get a CRAZY decision you have no right to appeal. The Rabbi’s money is safe.

      • Abba : You have explained the circumstances for the lay people unfamiliar with civil procedure. However, there is no mention that the school would not pay Rabbi Brisman and as a result he had to go to Court to confirm the award. You, as any competent attorney knows, that an arbitration award should be confirmed after the award is issued due to the one year limitation to confirm an award. Here, unless there are facts to the contrary, and I don’t live in the Five Towns to know any better, his attorney did the right thing seeking confirmation even if the school was abiding by the Bet Din’s award. They could change their mind after one year and Rabbi Brisman would be out of luck with his award.I am surprised by the award itself I must defer to the wisdom of this Bet Din. I know of Rabbi Willig and I know Rabbi Pruzansky personally, and his knowledge, wisdom and his experience as an attorney in private practice, lead me to believe that the decision was made by a Bet Din of unequivocal integrity.

    6. To #5

      If the judge were not religious, I would understand his disdain for Bais Din, hence his ruling.

      If the judge is religious he should have minimized Chilul Hashem and just “So Ordered” the agreed upon verdict of the Bais Din.

      If he felt that his sworn obligations to uphold the laws of the state were in conflict with his religious beliefs, he should have recused himself from the case.

    7. As an attorney and MO Jew, I never counsel a client to go to a Beis Din. Their decisions are arbitrary and without reason. I applaud Justice Balter for telling it like it is.

      • It seems you will always be a gadolwannabe and never a gadol. As an attorney and modern orthodox Jew who never counsels his clients to go to bais din, I assume you mean you only go to court. Which in English translates to: you are consistantly transgressing on “lifnai eever” and “raising your hand against the Torah of Moshe Rabbeinu” as is stated in choshen mishpat siman 26. But that’s redundant. You already said you’re modern orthodox.

        • Just what cave did you crawl out of to level this accusation at Modern Orthodox Jews. You clearly have no concept of the multitudes of Chasidim of every stripe, most recently, Zalman and Aaron and their hired hands, as well as Litvish/yeshivish individuals who pack the civil courts rows deep for their cases. You apparently believe, they too, have forsaken the Toireh of Moisheh Rabbenu.

    8. 18 says “This is the problem with BD and any arbitration even AAA or JAMS , if you get a CRAZY decision you have no right to appeal.”

      It’s the same in court if you stipulate to an agreement and the judge rubber stamps it you are stuck with it. If you don’t want to chance it, go to trial.

      I would still take AAA, JAMS, over court, anytime.

      Bais Din……. unfortunately in most instances it is a circus…..

    9. re: #18

      “Boy most of you got it all wrong but it is the paper’s fault. Rabbi Brisman won!! The school would not pay…”

      The PAPER got it wrong? How-do-ya figure that? Brisman’s attorney AND one of the overturned dayanim, R’ Pruzansky, both agree the school was acting honorably — and Brisman is currently back on HAFTR’s payroll, in accordance with the p’sak.

      You seem to have pretty questionable reading comprehension skills for an attorney. Did you have a shadow in law school?

    10. Just proves my point that there is NO POINT going to bais din. Most are corrupt, and if you do get a decent one, they cannot enforce it and you must go to court. Why waste time and money if the end result you’ll need to go to court. When moshiach comes, we can go to bais din, maybe then they will be more honest.

    11. to number 10: you are halachically wrong. A BD need not answer meheychon dantoony except to be able to send it to a senior BD. This is not applicable nowadays as no BD has senior authority.
      number 20 : you may be an attorney, you may be modern and you may be jewish but I find it hard to call you orthodox when you blatantly ignore a possuk chumash. Even if they are arbitary (which is categorically untrue) you are still not allowed to go to court.

    12. “The tenure contract expired in 2005 and the beit din decision forced an “at will” private employer to employ someone against its will. The salary, set well beyond Brisman’s previous base salary, was “burdensome, unrealistic, and wholly irrational,” and would be “counterproductive to a harmonious environment.”

      First as the article points out arbitration awards to be enforcable are submitted to the courts for their endorsment. Thereby giving the Ps’ak BD the weight of an entewred Judgment. This would be done to protect Rabbi Brisman’s rights. The fact that such awards are routinely accepted the attoreny had no reason to believe this would result.

      Seccond what seems missing is that the Judge’s problems with the P’sak seem reasonable and so why did he not consult the BD or request a brief from BD setting pout their position?

      It would seem the Judger umped the gun on this one and will most likely not survive an appeal.

    13. I would imagine that someone on the board of HAFTR, who is pushing for a more leftist ideology, exposed this psak to the court. The judge is being put into a difficult position… by a self-hating Jew who doesn’t want to support a yid who makes him squirm with his honesty and frumkeit.

      It’s not HAFTR, and It’s not the Beis Din, and it’s not the Rebbi. It’s an angry 3rd party, who thinks that the Torah isn’t good enough for modern society. He doesn’t want HIS tuition $$ going to a Rebbi who may inspire his kids to move closer to Hashem!!!

      Rabbos Machshavos B’lev Ish….
      Maybe this is the bittul Torah R’ Kanievsky was referring to, that is FUELING the missiles in Israel??? So why are those parents so angry, really?

    14. Choshen Mishpot (no. 27) criticized: number 21 (who counsels his clients never to go to Bais Din) as follows: “you may be an attorney, you may be modern and you may be jewish but I find it hard to call you orthodox when you blatantly ignore a possuk chumash. Even if they are arbitary (which is categorically untrue) you are still not allowed to go to court.”

      I am no expert in hilchos Bais Din, but I will tell you, Choshen Mishpot, that it isn’t so poshut.

      When I was involved in a very difficult divorce case a decade ago, I was directed for assistance to a well-known (chareidi) posek in my neighborhood. I wanted to do the “right thing” and go to Bais Din, but he adamantly refused to allow me to do so. He told me that tragically, there isn’t a single Bais Din in this country that is reputable…ranging from the incompetent to the corrupt. Unfortunately, my Mara D’Asra (also chareidi) disagreed and the two Rabbonim argued it out. I wound up going to Bais Din.

      I was willing to abide by the Bais Din’s decision BUT, regardless of the fact that they were indeed dishonest, incompetent, irrational and corrupt. It was the most humiliating experience of my life. My Rebbe from yeshiva (who appeared on my behalf) was so disgusted by what was transpiring and so disgustingly mistreated by one particular dayan (held by many to be a talmid chocham…but I would warn anybody not to appear before any Bais Din that he sits on) that he wanted me to refuse to continue to participate. Another nationally prominent Rov who gave me emotional support during the ordeal, appeared on my behalf and was similarly astounded by the disrespect and misconduct of both the dayanim and the other party’s toen.

      In the end the attorney for the other side sought to ratify the Bais Din’s decision in civil court, regardless of my agreement to abide by the decision. This gave me the opportunity to file an answer. I wrote such a scathing indictment of the Bais Din’s misconduct that the attorney agreed to settle the case by negotiation rather than try to enforce the decision in court.

      I was so disillusioned by the entire experience, that as a baal teshuva, it sent me reeling off the derech for quite a while. I wanted nothing more to do with Orthodox rabbis or institutions. Today, I would endorse the position of the posek who first advised me and no. 21’s position: while we are in golus, STAY AWAY FROM BAIS DIN!

      • All the stories in the world do not remove a possuk chumash. There is a story from the besh”t explaining how h-shem allows such corruption to happen based on gilgulim. However the truth remains that we must listen to the Torah and we do not lose from it. BTW divorce is even ho’ezer not choshen mishpot.

        • The Pasuk says Btzedek Tzedek Tirdoff And Loi Saker Punim

          So Just how do you justify corruption and favortisim in Bais Din???????

          Oh …I see it is retribution for Gilgulim….now the whole bais din problem makes perfect sense

          • I did not justify it. I explained how H-shem allows it to happen. The main point is two wrongs do not make a right. If a BD is corrupt they will be punished. A person must still go to BD and if he ends up being gypped, don’t worry, the world has a Boss who takes care of us and makes sure we will not lose from keeping a mitzva.

        • You missed the point of my story. I’ll say it over, short and sweet: a RAV/POSEK ruled that for all the ineptitude, conflicts of interest, and corruption, the Batei Din in America are NOT KOSHER! I am sure that there are others who disagree, but are you a posek who has the authority to rule otherwise? Tefillin are also a “possuk chumash,” but would you argue that it’s better to wear treif tefillin than none at all?

          I heard once — and someone more knowledgeable than I would need to confirm it — that Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l wrote that he himself would not sit on a Bais Din in this country because of all the inherent problems with them.

    15. Wow! People sure have selective pesukim reading comprehension. You guys only read the pesukim about not going to civil courts, and somehow forget the pesukim that talk abot bribery, corruption of judges, not leaving cases pending for ages…. and the elementary requirement that the judges be learned people who know what they are talking about.


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