“Splitting the Baby” Symposium Attracts Some 100 Attorneys


rav-dovid-cohenThe program’s title promised Solomonic wisdom but Shlomo Hamelech, of course, remains the wisest of all men. Much insight and information, however, was conveyed at the inaugural event in a continuing speaker series sponsored by Agudath Israel Legal Support Services in conjunction with J-Link: a workshop for attorneys entitled “Splitting the Baby.”

Approximately 100 lawyers attended the symposium, which focused on issues of religion in custody cases in the Jewish community. Religious concerns, organizers note, have become increasingly invoked in such cases. The topic was vividly explored through a mock enactment of a custody case, which was followed by a lively discussion.

An impressive faculty led the interaction. It included: Eugene Balloun, Partner, Shook, Hardy, & Bacon (who also received an award at the gathering for his service to Agudath Israel Legal Services); Rabbi Dovid Cohen, Chief Rabbinic Advisor, OHEL Children’s and Family Services; Dr. Hindie Klein, Director of Tikva at Ohel; New York Supreme Court Justice Esther M. Morgenstern; and Sylvan Shaffer, of counsel, Jackson and Lewis, a lawyer and clinical psychologist specializing in children’s issues.

Mitchell Silk Esq. Partner, Allen and Overy, and chairman of the Agudath Israel Legal Support Services, served as host for the symposium.

The workshop was the first in a series that will address the interface of law and halacha in contemporary communal issues. Future topics envisioned for the series include the challenges posed by financial insolvency in the present economic climate; religious freedom in the workplace; and the convergence of halacha, medicine, and law with regard to end-of-life issues. CLE credits will be awarded, as they were to those who attended the recent seminar, to all participants in future ones.

“The mock trial was a creative and engaging way of presenting important issues that lawyers in our community can expect to encounter,” says Mrs. Leah Zagelbaum, Director of Constituent Services for Agudath Israel of America. “With the increasing number of cases in which religious and legal issues intersect, we feel that it is incumbent upon us to create avenues that will allow professionals to explore the underlying questions and identify the optimum means for resolving them.”

Agudath Israel of America Legal Support Services, the symposium sponsor, mobilizes the Orthodox legal community to provide time and expertise to help others in the community. By doing so, it helps provide effective and timely delivery of legal support services to individuals and organizations in the community on a wealth of issues, including but not limited to: employment discrimination, child custody, immigration, debtor/creditor matters and medical/end of life questions.

Lawyers interested in becoming part of Agudath Israel of America Legal Support Services, says Mrs. Zagelbaum, can contact Agudath Israel associate general counsel Rabbi Mordechai Biser at 212 797-9000 ext. 310 or at mbiser@agudathisrael.org .

{Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. is this only for lawyers or should the Toyanim be there as well. Hopefully we are all dealing with Botei Dinim befroe going to secular courts (with permission to go from the Bais Din) so it seems that making this available for Toyanim would be wise move.

  2. Custody cases halachicly must be decided upon based on Jewish law, by a Beis Din. Not based on goyish law, decided by a corrupt secular court.

  3. #1 & 2,

    I hope you’re refering to the honest Botei Din (they also exist). Thing is, real Botei Din may not need this, as they follow the Torah.

  4. Torah law is that a nursing child is under the custody of the mother while the child is nursing.

    Non-nursing children, under Torah law, are under the father’s custody.

  5. There’s a case taking place right now where a childless couple adopted a newborn infant and went their merry way. The birth mom claims the baby was bamboozled out of her and she never wanted to give it up. She has huge backing from all leading gedolei hador but the adoptive couple nebech can’t handle it and doesn’t want to hear from anything. No bes din. No arbitration. They’re so broken its tragic. The mother wants her child back and will not let go. This is what you call splitting the child. Hashem yerachem on both of them.

  6. I know of a recent case where the wife refused to come to bais din and they got the secular court to give mother the custody of the child and then forced the husband to give a get under threat of jail for contempt of court This is the sad state of affairs.