On Wednesday 22nd October Hunters were honoured to host the launch of a book of rabbinic articles published to mark the retirement of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks as Chief Rabbi of Great Britain and the Commonwealth.
The focus of the evening was a discussion on the topic “Can one legal system satisfy the needs of a multi-ethnic society” by an esteemed panel of four specialists: Rabbi Lord Sacks, Professor Lord Robert Winston, Dayan Ivan Binstock, a judge of the Beth Din, the Jewish Court, and Her Honour Dawn Freedman. Joshua Rozenberg chaired the evening’s debate, inviting the panel to consider a wide range of topics, including whether the secular Courts should always have precedence over the religious court on all issues, where the line should be drawn in terms of the state restricting elements of religious practice, and how secular courts should approach religious issues, for example where there is a dispute between parents as to a child’s religious upbringing.
Each panellist brought their own specialist knowledge to the event. Her Honour Dawn Freedman spoke about the issue of the Get, the Jewish decree of divorce, which must be given by a husband, and was applauded by Rabbi Lord Sacks for her role in the bringing about of the Divorce (Religious Marriages) Act 2002 which enabled the state to refuse to grant a civil divorce where a man is withholding the Get. Lord Winston considered the challenges raised for both civil and Jewish legal systems by the issue of embryos created using the DNA of more than two parents, and other areas in which medical progress and religious belief have been felt to be in conflict. Dayan Binstock spoke about the practicalities of being a Judge in a religious court, including the use of the Arbitration Act, and the efforts made to ensure all parties are willingly before the Court. Rabbi Sacks discussed his many inter-faith experiences including speaking to the Dutch parliament when they considered banning the slaughter of animals in accordance with the requirements of Jewish law, and his meetings with the Pope, and he also praised mediation as a way of resolving disputes.
After the discussion was brought to the end, the audience and panel, inspired by the quality and range of the debate continued the conversation over canapés. Although not everyone might have agreed across the spectrum of the discussion, it was a most fascinating and enjoyable evening.
As guests left The Inner Temple they were treated to a Hunters signature green goody bag containing a copy of the book of rabbinic articles, Morasha Kehilat Yaacov, and the current copy of our biannual newsletter Law Matters (an electronic copy of which is available here).
We are grateful to the office of Lord Rabbi Sacks and the editor of Morasha Kehilat Yaacov for enabling Hunters to be part of such a special evening. We also thank all our guests who attended the event and whose lively questions and conversation made the event so memorable.