Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Goren Publishes Langer Case Ruling. Cites Halachic Basis for Decision

January 5, 1973
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren published his controversial ruling in the Langer case last night but continued to withhold the names of the nine dayanim (rabbinical judges) who concurred in it because of the “ugly atmosphere created by extremist elements.” The ruling cleared Hanooh and Miriam Langer of the taint of bastardy, allowing them to marry their fiances. It created a furor in right-wing Orthodox circles here and abroad.

The ruling cited four halachic grounds on which Rabbi Goren contends the Langer children were free to marry. It stated that there was no evidence that their mother’s first husband, Avraham Borokowsky, was properly converted to Judaism; that even if he was properly converted, his reversion to Christian practices afterwards nullified his conversion: that there was no evidence that Mrs. Langer was ever married to Borokowsky; and that even if they were married. Borokowsky’s divorce of her after she remarried and bore children by her second husband, nullified the original marriage bond.

The Langer children had been declared “mamzerim” (illegitimate) by a Petach Tikva rabbinical court seven years ago. That court claimed that Mrs. Langer had never divorced Borokowsky who she married in Poland shortly after World War II and who subsequently disappeared. Borokowsky later turned up in Israel claiming to be a practicing Jew. He appealed to the Supreme Court to prevent publication of Rabbi Goren’s ruling but the court deferred action until today. Borokowsky claimed that the ruling, published under the official seal of the State of Israel, injured and offended him.


Meanwhile new trouble has developed between Rabbi Goren and his colleague Sephardic Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. In an emotional speech to Jerusalem’s Oriental community last night. Rabbi Yosef described Rabbi Goren as a “dictator,” implied that he twisted halacha (religious law) for his own purposes, and begged the Sephardic community to support him in his confrontation with the Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi.

In a voice choked with tears. Rabbi Yosef said, “I live under a dictatorship. I am alone on the battlefield. I need your help to carry on. You do not know what is going on in the Chief Rabbinate. I am alone fighting every hour. I cannot sleep nights.” He alleged that Rabbi Goren imposed his will at Chief Rabbinate meetings by “banging his fist on the table and saying, ‘that is it.'”

Rabbi Yosef made no direct reference to the Langer ruling. However, he said. “I am opposed to extremism but I believe halacha should be dispensed without publicity and without sensationalism. I am of the school of Belt Hillel but I cannot make halacha so plastic that it can fit into any mold. I cannot tell the crowd that everything is permissible, everything is forgiveable.

There was no comment today from Rabbi Soren. A spokesman for the Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi said that all rulings by the Chief Rabbinate were made through democratic procedures. Rabbi Yosef was out of town when Rabbi Goren convened his religious court to rule in the Langer case. His attack on Rabbi Goren last night was considered unprecedented in the annals of Israel’s Chief Rabbinate.

Recommended from JTA