Aussie dispute rages
by: JTA - Last updated: 2007-08-21
The former chief judge of the London Beth Din will not travel to Australia to arbitrate in a bitter dispute between Adelaide's only Orthodox synagogue and its former rabbi.
Adelaide Hebrew Congregation and Rabbi Yossi Engel rejected Dayan Chanoch Ehrentreu's demands for two first-class airfares plus a week in a top hotel, estimated to cost at least £10,000.
Instead, the London judges will now receive both parties' cases in writing and then decide whether or not to rule on the imbroglio, which has virtually paralysed the embattled community of less than 1000 Jews.
The case, which has been simmering since last year, centers around whether the synagogue's board was entitled to sack Engel, a Brooklyn-born Lubavitcher who had been its spritual leader for eight years.
The board claimed Engel's contract was civil, not religious, and has been vindicated by a District Court ruling and an appeal in the Supreme Court of South Australia. But both parties later consented to a religious arbitration before the London Beth Din, preferably with a judge whose trip to Australia would be funded by the parties.
LBD registrar David Frei told the Jewish Chronicle this week: "The reason for asking for first-class flights was that Dayan Ehrentreu is 74 years old and would be expected to hear the case straight after a very long journey."
Dayan Ehrentreu's wife would also have to travel to Australia to look after him, the newspaper reported. But the estimated costs were too much for the Australians.
Meanwhile, police are close to winding up their investigation into allegations of fraud at an Adelaide school run by Engel. The school is alleged to have received around £20,000 in federal government funding for Hebrew lessons that were never administered. Rabbi Engel has also come under fire for alleged negligence in his role as kosher supervisor in South Australia.