Matti Caspi, one of the dominant forces in Israeli popular music over the past 30 years, has been convicted of bigamy in an Israeli court.
The convoluted case, which has been dragging through the Israeli courts and media for 12 years, also involved a Los Angeles rabbi, Gabriel Cohen, in a controversial role.
In 1990, Caspi filed in Tel Aviv rabbinical court for divorce from his wife of 15 years, Doreen Caspi, who is the mother of his two children.
As the divorce proceedings grew increasingly bitter and public, Caspi moved to Los Angeles with his girlfriend, Rachel Wenger.
While Caspi was living in Los Angeles, Rabbi Cohen granted him a divorce. Caspi subsequently married Wenger in a civil ceremony. The couple has two daughters.
However, in Tel Aviv magistrate’s court, Judge Daniel Be’eri castigated Cohen and said he believes administrative steps should be taken by the rabbinical court against Cohen for granting Caspi a divorce.
In a phone interview, Cohen defended himself by saying that before granting the divorce he had spent almost a year trying to get a ruling from the Tel Aviv rabbinical court.
Cohen then granted the divorce, after which Caspi’s attorney asked for a ruling from the chief rabbinical court in Jerusalem. According to Cohen, the Jerusalem court confirmed the validity of the divorce.
In any case, Cohen maintained, no secular court, either in Israel or the United States, could overturn a divorce decree granted by rabbinical authority.
Cohen is the rabbi of Congregation Bais Naftali in mid-town Los Angeles. He said he did not even know that Caspi was a celebrity when the singer contacted him.
“I helped Caspi as I would any other Jew,” Cohen said.
Caspi’s sentencing hearing is to take place in about a month.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.