Rabbis not punished for what may be a crime.
Rabbis go unpunished for making mentally disabled woman sign get without her knowledge
By Tomer Zarchin, Ha'aretz
Four religious court judges (dayanim) are continuing in their posts, despite serious findings over their involvement in granting an "express divorce" to a developmentally disabled woman - without her knowledge.
The four dayanim continue to sit on panels deliberating hundreds of divorce cases a year in the country's busiest religious court, in Tel Aviv.
Only minor sanctions have been taken, and they were taken against only Rabbi Dov Domb, the instigator of the divorce ruling: Rabbinical High Court President Rabbi Shlomo Amar has delayed Domb's appointment as the head of the Tel Aviv Rabbinical Court for six months.
The story started in January 2007 when M. and S., two residents of Modi'in Ilit suffering from developmental disabilities and requiring assistance, married. The groom's father sought to dissolve the marriage five months after the wedding. He approached his wife's father, who happens to be Domb's brother-in-law, for help in receiving a get, a divorce in keeping with Jewish religious law.
The groom's father drove the couple to the Rabbinical Court in Tel Aviv. The woman, S., said her father-in-law told them a number of times that they were going to sign forms to receive public housing.
She said the court arranged the get by deceiving her, and without her knowing that it was a divorce proceeding.
The Na'amat women's organization filed a complaint with the Ombudsman's Office of the Israeli Judiciary on S.'s behalf. The Ombudsman at the time, former judge Tova Strassberg-Cohen, found Domb had opened the divorce file and even paid the court fee by personal check, and the father-in-law had given him blank forms that Domb had signed.
The ombudsman ruled this was one of the most serious cases against a judge in recent years: Domb and the rabbinical court did not examine the parties' details, or validate the signatures or the address of the couple. Had the judges checked, they would have found the couple, who live in Modi'in Ilit, were required to file in Jerusalem and not Tel Aviv.
The ombudsman's report says Domb took the case file to Rabbi Yitzhak Almaliah, the head of the court, and requested to handle the case. He then approached another judge, Rabbi Aviran Yitzhak Halevi, who invited the couple to his chambers, along with the father-in-law, and his father-in-law - Domb's brother-in-law. The ombudsman found that the rabbi took the details of the case not from the couple, as required, but from the relatives, who said the newlyweds were "shy." The father-in-law's father-in-law presented himself as the woman's uncle, and the woman had no proper representation.
Halevi handwrote out a short court transcript, which supposedly reflected the divorce agreement, and had the couple sign the form. Halevi said he did not investigate or question the parties, as Rabbi Almaliah had given him the case only to arrange the get. He also did not sign the forms. The divorce was granted without a court ruling signed by the judges and without a printed protocol.
Domb instructed the secretary to issue a ruling, an exceptional event in itself, without the case being checked or the secretary seeing what Halevi had written. Strassberg-Cohen also found that summary of the session did not match the ruling.
Domb then asked Almaliah to quickly arrange the get, and it was done that same day - even without a signed ruling.
Even though it was obvious both had special needs, "no one thought the woman needed representation." The religious judges said they relied on Domb and acted on his behalf.
The ombudsman found Halevi, Almaliah and another dayan to have acted in a strange and irregular manner, while Domb's behavior was inappropriate for a religious judge, wrote Strassberg-Cohen.
Domb was supposed to be given a disciplinary hearing, which has not taken place. Now Attorney General Menachem Mazuz will be required to decide on the matter, including possible criminal charges.