Symposium sequel to suss out religious and civil symbiosis

Rabbi Reuven Bulka

Following last year’s initial Decretum Symposium, which examined the connections between Catholic and civil law, the event’s second iteration will look at the intersections of Jewish and civil law.

The Decretum Symposium II is scheduled for Nov. 29 at Ottawa Torah Centre Chabad. The full-day program, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., is being co-sponsored by the Cardus Religious Freedom Institute (CRFI) and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA).

Rev. Andrew Bennett, program director for Cardus Law, served as Canada’s first ambassador for religious freedom and head of the Office of Religious Freedom from 2013 to 2016. At the same time, he led Canada’s delegation to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

The CRFI, which launched in May, is a “hospitably Christian” think-tank, according to Rev. Bennett.

“We like to reach out to other faith-based communities,” he said. “The Jewish community is closest to us, in terms of an understanding of God and the relationship of people of faith to the secular order.”


Speakers and participants in the symposium will include religious leaders, experts in halakhah, lawyers with backgrounds in civil law and an interest in religious law, and members of the broader Jewish community. Scholars from Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa will be leading the various sessions, with each topic having a presenter and a discussant. The day will wrap up with a panel discussion entitled “Is the Public Square Still Public?”

According to Rev. Bennett, topics will go from the general (“The Relationship Between State and Nation: The People of Israel, the Secular State and the Halakhic Tradition”) to the local (“Halakhah in Canada and Its Intersections With Civil Law.”) The presenter for this session will be Rabbi Reuven Bulka, rabbi emeritus of Congregation Machzikei Hadas.

“I will deal with various issues that have come up, including mezuzot on doors, sukkah on a balcony, the eruv in Outremont, (Que.,) the Canadian get law, medical assistance in dying and other instances wherein Jewish law … and Canadian law meet, and how they interact,” said Rabbi Bulka. “While it would be less than responsible to downplay potential challenges to Jewish law in Canada, it would likewise be wrong to deny that we are living in a respectful and sensitive society here in Canada. We are blessed.”

The third session, entitled “Jewish Tradition, Practice, Social Action and Canadian Institutions: Accommodation and Limits,” will be presented by Jonathan Milevsky, with Rabbi Chaim Strauchler of Toronto’s Shaarei Shomayim as discussant.

Other presenters, discussants and panel participants will include Rabbi Moishele Fogel, Rabbi Avi Finegold, Rabbi Daniel Korobkin, Rabbi Idan Scher and Abba Brodt.

“Faith communities are deeply embedded in our public life in this community,” said Rev. Bennett. “We are trying to challenge the myth that this is a secular society and religion has no place in it.”


For further information, or to register for the Decretum Symposium II, contact Rev. Bennett at [email protected]