The rabbinical court is a part of the judicial system of Israel. This court is managed by the Ministry of Religious Services. The rabbinical courts deal with a number of religious matters in Israel and the diaspora, particularly focusing on Jewish religious life. The rabbinical courts have sole jurisdiction over marriages and divorce of Jewish couples as well as with Jewish conversion. The rabbinical courts coexist with the civil courts. However, religious issues such as marriage, divorce and conversion must go through the rabbinical court in order to be considered legal in Israel. In some cases within the orthodox community, a rabbinical court may decide the outcome of civil disputes.
What Issues must be Settled in a Rabbinical Court?
As mentioned above, marriage, divorce and conversion must all be handled in a rabbinical court. However, there are many other matters that may only be settled in a rabbinical court (as opposed to a civil court). Rabbinical courts have jurisdiction over the following as well (partial list):
- Jewish death-related matters, such as burials and mourning
- The authorization of a mohel
- Overseeing the establishment of a mikveh
- Kosher certifications for restaurants, grocery stores and food manufacturers
The Members of the Rabbinical Court
The rabbinical court, or “Beit Din” which literally means “house of judgment” consists of three observant Jewish men, at least one of whom must be an expert in Jewish law. A rabbinical court may include the following officers: a Father of the Court, who is generally a rabbi of high reputation; a Head of the Court, who would be the equivalent of a senior justice in a civil court; a Rabbinic Judge, who is also known as a Dayan; and a Friend of the Court, who advises the court and typically possesses some formal education in civil law.