An important event in the history of Torah learning worldwide occurred in London in November 2016 with the opening of the first academically structured programme of study designed to extend knowledge of the laws of Ishut (marriage), Gittin (divorce) and Giyur (conversion) to well-qualified senior rabbis.
Following on the success of its Semicha Programme now in its thirteenth year, the Montefiore Endowment designed its Dayanut Programme in close association with Eretz Hemdah Institute of Advanced Jewish Studies in Jerusalem. This is a part-time programme of thorough, in-depth study lasting for five years; and Eretz Hemdah will award its graduates semicha ‘Yadin-Yadin for the Diaspora’ for the three topics studied.
To become a Dayan in Israel involves something like eight years of full-time study, mostly in subjects that unfortunately are not always relevant in the diaspora today. The Montefiore Dayanut Programme is intended to enhance Torah learning in the topics of Ishut, Gittin and Giyur, which now comprise the majority of Beth Din work outside Israel and are not usually studied for the regular rabbinical diploma Yoreh-Yoreh.
Endorsed by the Rabbinical Council of America and employing the latest internet techniques combined with face-to face teaching, the Montefiore Dayanut Programme has already attracted nearly twenty rabbis from the U.K., the Netherlands, Germany, Israel, Turkey, Hong Kong, the U.S.A. and Australia. Participants come from all sections of the orthodox spectrum, from United Synagogue and Sephardi S&P rabbis to Golders Green Chasidim, and from Chabad and others. This diversity is enriching in itself; and not only makes for stimulating discussion but also serves to enhance mutual respect for differing approaches and interpretations.
We expect that the students will follow many different paths after graduation; but even those who do not eventually come to serve as dayanim will have gained a great deal by having extended the range and depth of their Torah knowledge both for their own benefit and for that of their communities.
By adding this Dayanut Programme to its portfolio of educational projects, the Montefiore Endowment – inspired by Rabbi Abraham Levy OBE, the head of its College – keeps faith with the ethos of Sir Moses Montefiore and the Sephardi custom of presenting the traditional values of Judaism without compromise in an appealing and inclusive manner. Though Sir Moses died over 130 years ago, work continues to preserve his heritage and extend it in ways which he would have approved.
The Montefiore Endowment could not have chosen a worthier partner to deliver the actual learning than Eretz Hemdah, which was established in 1987 and has an enviable reputation for producing outstanding dayanim, spiritual leaders and teachers with high levels of Torah learning. The course is under the personal direction of Rav Yosef Carmel, head of its Kollel. The instructing dayan, Rav Ofer Livnat, delivers weekly learning packs, interactive online shiurim and face-to-face study sessions in London, Jerusalem and Los Angeles as integral elements of a structured curriculum which involves frequent testing and rigorous final examinations.
Here are just a few of the many unsolicited comments received from rabbis on the Programme – these particular ones from Amsterdam, Istanbul, Sydney and Golders Green in London.
. . . I also wanted to highlight how much I am enjoying the program so far – Rabbi Livnat is an excellent teacher . . . I must say that for me it has been a great experience so far. Thanks for taking the initiative to organise it.
. . . I would like to thank the Montefiore College . . . . for this wonderful rabbinic program which is so very important for me and for the Jewish community in Turkey . . . . .
. . . I would like to thank you for including me in what, so far, has been a wonderful and stimulating programme . . .
. . . a unique course for . . . the Diaspora . . . fascinating and fundamental . . . bringing out the practical application of the halacho to our times through the responsa of recent Poskim . . .