Piskei Halacha On Missionary Who Posed As Sofer, Mohel & Mesader Kiddushin


It’s over a month since the shocking story of the Christian missionary family who infiltrated themselves into the frum community in French Hill hit the news but the repercussions are still being felt.

Michael Cohen and his children have left the neighborhood of French Hill and it is currently unknown where they’re living. Cohen was recently spotted in Beit Shemesh, sans his Chareidi disguise, in an apparent attempt to check out the neighborhood as a place for his family to live.

Meanwhile, respected Rabbanim have issued piskei halacha on thorny issues caused by the fact that Cohen, who is completely non-Jewish, served as a sofer, mohel and mesader kiddushin.

Additionally, Cohen’s wife, Amanda, who died of cancer shortly before the family’s true identity was outed, was buried in a Jewish cemetery – Har Hamenuchos.

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The piskei halacha were issued by HaRav Shlomo Shraga, Av Beis Din and Rosh Kollel, and a mekurav of HaRav Yosef Yitzchak, who was consulted on the halachic decisions and signed on them.

The shailos presented by the kehilla were as follows:

1. Unfortunately, Cohen served as mohel to Jewish babies. What is the din? Is his milah considered valid or do they require ???? ???

2. He also acted as a mesader kiddushin. Are the couples considered married or is another chuppah v’kiddushin required?

3. What is the status of the tefillin he wrote and sold? Should they be discarded in the geniza (shaimos) or be burned?

4. Cohen’s wife was buried in a Jewish cemetery in Jerusalem in a “double depth” kever [in which the mesim are buried in layers, one on top of another with at least six tefachim in between, a common practice in Israel due to a shortage of burial spaces.] There is a frum woman buried underneath her. Should she be disinterred? It is clear that Cohen will not agree to have his wife disinterred under any circumstances.

The teshuvos were lengthy and dozens of sources were quoted but will be summarized in brief here:

1. The babies should undergo ???? ?? ???? by an experienced mohel.

2. Regarding the chuppos, if Cohen didn’t serve as the eid and there were kosher eidim, there is no need for another kiddushin and they are considered married k’das Moshe V’Yisrael. If Cohen himself served as an eid, another kiddushin is required and the kesuvah should be replaced.

3. Regarding the st’am he sold, since there is evidence that he wrote them, or if he didn’t, one of his corrupt friends did, the din is that they should be burned. And Cohen should be sued to return the money.

4. Regarding whether the Jewish woman should be disinterred, the Rav wrote that the fact that she is buried on the first level and the non-Jewish woman is on a different level and there is daled amos between them (although the daled amos is vertical rather than horizontal), it’s possible to be meikel and it’s not required to disinter her since there’s a hefsek between them, both because she’s on a different level and there are daled amos between them.

On the other hand, the Rav also brought the opinion of HaGaon Rav Shlomo Kluger of Brody that a mechitza is required between the burial place of a Jew and a non-Jew. And since it’s possible that the ground itself is not considered a mechitza, it may be worthwhile to add another mechitza of plaster under the level where the non-Jew is buried.

(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)

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