Monday, January 25, 2016

Baltimore Beis Din: Apologizes for many wrongs against Aharon Friedman including their claim that he went to secular court without permission. Affirms that he has no obligation to give a Get at present That the Kaminetsky Beis Din issued a false siruv That there is no heter to publicly shame him That the actions and demonstrations against him exceeded Rabbeinu Tam

update:New signatures added of Rav Miller , Rav Saltz and Rav Reuven Feinstein

Signature added by Rav Saltz Rosh Beis Din, Kollel Even Haezer of Lakewood

Rav Reuven Feinstein added the following: (I'll put the original text on later).
================= Guest Post ===================
Although there is some new information in the letter from the Baltimore BD, many of the key points in the letter have been the Baltimore BD's position from the beginning. 
On December 22, 2010, the Baltimore Beis Din stated in the Washington Jewish Week: ”Currently, the Epstein-Friedman case remains open but dormant, as “neither party has approached” the Baltimore beit din, requesting that it reconvene, according to Rabbi Mordechai Shuchatowitz, a rabbi on the court. “Right now,” he said, “the ball is in [Epstein’s] court” because, as the party seeking the get, she is responsible for reinitiating proceedings. Since the court has yet officially to order a get, Shuchatowitz said, it’s “a bit premature” to be holding rallies and other events meant “to pressure [Friedman] because he’s not been given his day in court.” After all, “you can’t disobey something you’ve not been told to do.”
It has been the position of the Baltimore BD from the beginning that Aharon has done nothing wrong, that he is not obligated to give a get, and that it is wrong to demonstrate against him.  The Baltimore BD refused Tamar's demands to order that a get be given.  So Tamar turned to Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky, who has extremely strong and long-standing financial and personal ties to Tamar's family.  Instead of respecting the BD's position, and urging Tamar to return to BD and/or agree to a reasonable custody arrangement, Rabbi Kamenetsky abused his position as a "godol" to try and override the BD.  Rabbi Kamenetsky wrote a series of letters beginning in May 2010 purporting to rule that Tamar is an agunah and that everyone should pressure Aharon (and even pressure Aharon's family) into forcing Aharon to give a get. Rabbi Kamenetsky coordinated with the ORA organization of which Rabbi Hershel Schachter serves as posek.  Rabbi Schachter endorsed Rabbi Kamenetsky's letters, including a letter written by Rabbi Kamenetsky to encourage attendance at a public demonstration by ORA against Aharon and also against the Washington Vaad in December 2010.

As noted above, the Baltimore Beis Din publicly stated in response to the December 2010 demonstration that the demonstrations against Aharon were wrong. Again, that could have been and should have been the end of the matter.  Instead of organizing public protests and demonstrations against Aharon, all rabbis involved should have encouraged Tamar to agree to a reasonable settlement on custody or bring the matter to Beis Din where it would have been resolved.

Instead, Rabbi Schachter and Rabbi Kamenetsky doubled down on their evil -- and, as they should have realized at the time -- and counterproductive actions.  

On December 23, 2010, Rabbi Schachter responded to the Baltimore BD by writing a letter claiming that because Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky had purported to rule that Tamar was an agunah and that Aharon was obligated to give a get, the fact that no beis din had issued any such ruling was irrelevant.  Rabbi Schachter completely contradicted his own public position that one may not take any actions with regard to trying to convince someone to give a get without the involvement of the beis din that has jurisdiction of the matter. Instead, Rabbi Schachter wrote that Aharon must be pressured to give a get because Rabbi Kamenetsky had said so.  Rabbi Schachter explained that the basis of his ruling to follow Rabbi Kamenetsky was “sod hashem le’ruv” and “kvar horah zaken,” essentially meaning that Rabbi Kamenetsky’s word must be treated as the word of G-d.  Furthermore, Rabbi Schachter wrote that Aharon's situation is the same as "a slave whose master provides for him a Canaanite maidservant, that until now it is has been permissible, and now it is forbidden" who should be beaten until death. Furthermore, Rabbi Schachter specifically wrote that any person can take the law into his own hands to beat Aharon to death. 

It is important to stress that these actions by Rabbis Kamenetsky and Schachter were not just a completely unjustified attack against Aharon and his family.  The two parties signed a binding arbitration agreement before a beis din, participated in several hearings before that beis din, but one party did not like the beis din's ruling.  Because that party comes from a wealthy and well-connected family, and has strong financial and personal ties to the head of the Mo'etzes Gedolai Hatorah, that party can just overturn the Beis Din?  This constitutes corruption of the worst sort. These actions by Rabbis Kamenetsky and Hershel Schachter were a brazen attack against the Baltimore Beis Din, but even more importantly an attack on the very concept of Beis Din and din Torah. -- and that make a mockery of the mo'etzes and entire Jewish community.  

The refusal of the other rabbonim to stand up to this travesty of justice carried out by Rabbis Kamenetsky and Schachter -- outrageous behavior that only got worse over the next five years -- emboldened the Kamenetskys to believe that the annulment would be accepted.  After all, Rabbi Schachter argued that if Rabbi Kamenetsky says something, anything, it must be correct because “sod hashem le’ruv” and “kvar horah zaken.” 

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