Press Release

Eastern Orthodox churches rally behind Jewish school in court New Jersey Jewish school fights to select faithful teachers without government interference at NJ Supreme Court

Media Contact

Ryan Colby 202-349-7219

Additional Information

Empty seats and desks in classroom

WASHINGTON – A group of Eastern Orthodox churches was at the Supreme Court of New Jersey today to support an Orthodox Jewish school’s freedom to choose who carries out its religious mission. In Hyman v. Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey, a New Jersey Orthodox Jewish school announced it had parted ways with a rabbi who allegedly violated Jewish law by engaging in inappropriate conduct with his elementary-age female students. The rabbi then sued the school, arguing that he had been defamed. Becket filed a brief on behalf of Serbian Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Romanian Orthodox, and Antiochian Orthodox church bodies to explain the importance of allowing religious groups to select, control, and discipline their leaders without the government butting in.

Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey is a Jewish day school in River Edge, NJ. The school exists to help young Jewish men and women excel academically while remaining committed to Torah learning and Orthodox Jewish traditions. After concluding that one of its teachers, Rabbi Shlomo Hyman, allegedly made inappropriate contact with female students, the school ended his contract and wrote a letter to parents informing them of the Yeshiva’s decision. Hyman then filed a lawsuit in state court, claiming he was defamed, and that the Yeshiva should have to defend its religious decision to a court.

“New Jersey courts have no business meddling in decisions about who is best to serve as a Jewish Rabbi or an Orthodox Christian priest,” said Laura Wolk Slavis, counsel at Becket. “This bedrock religious freedom has existed since the founding and should not even be in question.” 

Becket’s brief explains which kinds of claims fall under the ministerial exception, a legal protection that ensures that religious groups can select and govern their ministers free from any government interference. While some claims fall outside the exception—like a priest who sues a bishop for punching him in the face—it protects religious groups from defamation claims like those alleged by Rabbi Hyman, which do nothing more than ask a court to second-guess how a religious school chose to discipline one of its ministers. At the hearing today, Becket attorney Laura Wolk Slavis argued on behalf of the Eastern Orthodox churches.

“Religious groups should have the power to make decisions that seek to protect the children in their care,” said Slavis. “We asked the Justices to protect that common-sense right for Rosenbaum Yeshiva and all other faith-based institutions in New Jersey.” 

A decision is expected later this year.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, contact Ryan Colby atmedia@becketlaw.orgor 202-349-7219.