We are excited to launch Jewishprudence: Thoughts on Jewish Law and Beth Din Jurisprudence. While most of the work of the Beth Din of America takes place behind the closed doors of the courtroom and in dayanim’s private chambers, Jewishprudence is an attempt to bring the work of the Beth Din to the public. Jewishprudence will feature discussions of beth din procedure along with substantive issues of Jewish law as it applies to the modern commercial marketplace. Jewishprudence will also publish some of the decisions rendered by the Beth Din of America (following anonymization, and with the consent of the parties).
The Beth Din of American regularly handles a large caseload of dinei torah. Our cases range from small claims to litigation involving several million dollars. Our cases include commercial disputes, such as disputes between employers and employees, landlords and tenants, partnership disputes, disputes over real property, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, investor mismanagement, defective merchandise, business interference, and unfair competition; family disputes, such as disputes over a family businesses, inheritance, division of marital property, and spousal support; and communal disputes, such as disputes over rabbinic contracts, yeshiva tuition payments and other congregational issues. All of our decisions are binding as arbitration awards and are enforceable in court.
Jewishprudence seeks to accomplish two objectives. First, we hope to make the din torah process more transparent and accessible. Jewish law requires parties to settle their disputes in beth din in a manner consistent with Jewish law. But many members of our community are unaware of the din torah process, and others are hesitant to bring a case to beth din because they don’t know what kind of decision they can expect and whether it would frustrate their reasonable commercial expectations. Through its published decisions and posts on Jewish law, Jewishprudence will provide critical access to the din torah process and give its readers insight into the kinds of decisions they can expect from the Beth Din of America.
The second objective is to create a sophisticated forum for discussions of Jewish law as it applies to the contemporary commercial marketplace. Contemporary commerce raises complex questions of Jewish law: Parties utilize ever more intricate financial and legal instruments that have no clear antecedent in Jewish law, and they do business within a framework of commercial norms and practices that forms the basis for their reasonable expectations. Jewishprudence will discuss how Jewish law conceptualizes these instruments and the extent to which Jewish law incorporates commercial customs and the law of the jurisdiction. Likewise, Jewishprudence considers how principles indigenous to Jewish law—such as the cancellation of debts on shemitah, the prohibition against taking interest, inheritance, the ketubah, etc.—apply in the contemporary marketplace and home as well as how they are treated in beth din.
Rabbi Itamar Rosensweig will serve as the editor of Jewishprudence. In addition to serving as a dayan at the Beth Din of America, Rabbi Rosensweig is a maggid shiur at Yeshiva University and the resident scholar at Congregation Ahavath Torah in Englewood, NJ. He also teaches Jewish Business Law and Ethics at YU’s Sy Syms School of Business.
In many ways, Jewishprudence continues the project started several years ago by the Journal of the Beth Din of America, which published some of the Beth Din’s decisions along with substantive articles on Jewish law. We hope that you will find Jewishprudence accessible, informative, and engaging as we embark on this project le-hagdil torah u-lehaadirah.