New York Judge Orders Brooklyn Man to Support Child on Basis of Jewish Law

A New York State Supreme Court Justice, relying on Jewish rather than secular law, has ordered a Brooklyn man to pay support for a child he helped to raise although never legally adopted. The couple, now divorced, brought the new-born girl into the home in 1958 with the intention of adopting her, but the couple separated in 1959. Justice Multer noted that the couple was not the natural, adoptive or foster parents of the youngster, and therefore, the man, Murray Wener, had no obligation under secular law to support it.

But, “under the Laws of Moses and Israel,” Justice Abraham J. Multer said, “the head of every household who takes a child into his household puts himself in loco parentis and is as liable for the support of such infant as though it were his own.” The husband, when living with his wife, behaved in all ways like a father, Justice Multer said. Shortly after the arrival of the child, in Jewish tradition, he went to his synagogue and named the child after his maternal grandfather; he also claimed the child as a dependent on his income tax returns, the judge said.

Justice Multer cited several passages from the Talmud, Old Testament and a textbook on Jewish law, including a passage from the Midrash Rabbah, which reads “He who raises a child is called the father, not the one who had begotten the child.” The husband has been ordered to pay $35 a week in child support.

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