Settling a dispute – whether professional or personal – can be a challenge that requires expert intervention from trained mediators, and the rabbinical team at the Halacha Institute of Toronto hopes their expertise in mediation and Jewish law will offer the community an alternative to the secular options.
The Jewish Alternative Dispute Resolution Centre is a project of the Halacha Institute of Toronto (HIT), a non-profit organization that was founded in 2015 by a group of rabbis affiliated with the Kashruth Council of Canada (COR) to help “facilitate and enhance the observance of Halachah.”
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Rabbi Tzvi Heber, a HIT member who serves as COR’s director of community kosher, explained that the organization was founded to address three different aspects of halachic services.
HIT offers a “Halachah line, which is a resource for the community, so that people can call whenever they want with any sort of Halachah question, and have a rabbi answer the question,” Rabbi Heber said.
The group also offers business or personal finance consulting.
“There are all sorts of questions that come up, whether it is related to how to function on Shabbos and yontif, how to deal with questions of interest, methods of collecting interest or paying interest on loans, or on different types of financial structures that exist today,” Rabbi Heber explained.
The latest service offered by HIT is the Jewish Alternative Dispute Resolution Centre, which is akin to mediation in the secular world, but is approached through a Jewish, halachic lens. In August, Rabbi Heber, along with 11 other rabbis including COR’s rabbinical Vaad Hakashruth chair Rabbi Yacov Felder, and COR’s rabbinic liaison Rabbi Yosef Oziel, were trained in alternate dispute resolution and certified as mediators by the University of Windsor law school.
Rabbi Heber said that in the short time since they were certified, there has been a significant demand for their services.
“The phone is ringing… disputes are a fact of life. People have relationships, and sometimes relationships come with struggles. And we are happy that people are reaching out and want to resolve their disputes in a context of shalom,” Rabbi Heber said.
He said the dispute resolution team can handle any issue, whether related to business, family, divorce or inheritance.
“If a person has a dispute with somebody, they don’t necessarily have to go to court, they don’t need to file a lawsuit, they have an opportunity to go to voluntary mediation. There are all sorts of private mediators that offer that kind of mediation. In that context, it is very successful. We’re told that voluntary mediation has a 70 or 80 per cent success rate… Anybody who knows what [going to court] is about will always try to find [a solution] through mediation.”
He said mediation from a halachic framework aims for the same success one would expect from secular mediation, but with an added bonus of having a mediator who understands the Jewish community’s needs.
“You have rabbis, who… are already challenged with having to do these kinds of mediations within the framework of their own job and they bring a community perspective to the table. There are so many nuances and sensitivities in our community that people feel comfortable having a rabbi mediate their dispute,” he said.
“Both sides might know [the rabbi] and have confidence in him, but even if they don’t know him, they might be comforted by the idea that they have someone who is sensitive to their community and understanding to their perspective.”
Rabbi Heber said now that he and the rabbis at HIT have the proper training and certification, “we’re ready to put ourselves out there and take on the challenge. We really think this is a great option for people.”
For more information, contact HIT at 416-535-8008 or [email protected].