Sunday, 3 February 2013

Opening of Law Term Service at Great Synagogue

Ron Hoenig at the Great Synagogue at the Opening of Law Term 
On Friday evening I joined the Chief Justice of New South Wales the Hon Tom Bathurst, Supreme Court Judges, District Court Judges, members of the Bar, solicitors and Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence at the Great Synagogue in Sydney for the annual service in recognition of the beginning of the new law term for 2013. 

Amongst the many judges, magistrates, barristers and solicitors in attendance was the NSW Attorney General, the Hon. Greg Smith SC, the Hon. Justice Anna Katzmann, Justice Stephen Rothman AM, Justice David Hammerschlag, Judge Michael Elkaim SC, the Hon. Justice Leonard Levy SC, Chief Magistrate Judge Graeme Henson, and Senior Crown Prosecutor Mr Mark Tedeschi AM QC. 

The Law Service has taken place at the The Great Synagogue since just after World War II. It was originally held on a Saturday morning but was move to a Friday night service at the request of the former Chief Justice Jim Spigelman AC. 

This year’s Law Service highlighted Jewish perspectives on the role of judges and the nature of justice. 

One interesting passage that was read “The Pursuit of Justice” referred to G-d cautioning the Prophet Samuel to pay regard to the substance of a Judge: “Do not be influenced by his countenance nor his height nor his statue … While a man may look at the outward appearance, G-d looks at the heart.”    

Rabbi Ovadiya Sforno (born c. 1475 and died in 1550) explains: This means when you choose and appoint judges, select only those who are the most likely to judge with righteousness; even though they might not possess other fitting qualities such as financial security and a noble bearing. Judicial temperament and sense of fairness are of paramount importance, more than a dignified appearance and an imposing presence.” 

Wise words which have travelled through time and still apply to day. 

It was an honour to be part of such a moving and poignant service. 

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