According to a letter sent out this week by seminaries owned by the Meisels family (Pninim, Binas Bais Yaakov, Keser Chaya, & Chedvas Bais Yaakov):
Our Founder/Dean, Rabbi Elimelech Meisels, has chosen to resign from his position. This was done in accordance with the beit din of Rav Mendel Shafran Shlitah in Bnei Brak that was retained by Torah Umesorah. Rabbi Meisels resigned eight weeks ago and is no longer affiliated with the institutions in any capacity whatsoever…… The schools will be under new management and G-d willing, in the coming days, an announcement will be forthcoming about the addition of a new menahel who will oversee the running of all four institutions.
There are several problems with this declaration.
1. They claim that “Elimelech [Eli] Meisels resigned eight weeks ago.” Nobody else in the Jewish world knew about that development. In fact the website for Pninim still listed Meisels at the top of their staff list as of 1:00 p.m. (EST) today (Tuesday, 7/15/14). (see screenshot on the side). Eight weeks would have been plenty of time to update their staff listing.
2. They say “Meisels is no longer affiliated with the institutions in any capacity whatsoever.” However it is widely known that his family continues to “own” the institution. I put own in quote marks because technically it is a not-for-profit which gives it all sorts of tax advantages. But in the eyes of a beit din they are accepted as the controlling agents and all the officers with legal control answer to them. As of yesterday the Meisels family continued to refuse to give up their control. Because the family insists on retaining control, the letter is not telling the truth when it claims “The schools will be under new management.” Perhaps that will happen but there is no reason to be certain about it.
3. The letter states “The beit din of Rav Mendel Shafran Shlitah in Bnei Brak … was retained by Torah Umesorah.” Regrettably, Torah Umesorah has a dismal record when it comes to confronting sexual misconduct of school faculty. For example, this is how Torah Umesorah responded to the notorious Yehuda Kolko, a teacher at Yeshiva Torah Temimah who eventually pled guilty to sexually abusing children. In 1984:
As instructed by Rabbi Avigdor Miller, an askan calls for a meeting which takes place at the home of Rabbi Yakov Perlow (the Novominsker) and is attended by Rabbi Avrohom Pam, Rabbi Elya Svei, Rabbi Chaim Dov Keller, Rabbi Aharon Schechter, Rabbi Moshe Scheinerman, Rabbi Shia Fishman and Rabbi Yankel Bender. At this meeting, chaired by Rabbi Perlow, the askan discusses what is transpiring to innocent boys at the hands of Rabbi pedophiles and requests that Torah Umesorah and the rabbonim issue a statement calling for their removal from chinuch. Rabbi Svei informs this askan that Torah Umesorah has consulted their attorneys who advised that for Torah Umesorah to admit knowledge of such abuse would subject Torah Umesorah, its staff, all its member schools and their staff to liability for not having reported their knowledge to the authorities earlier. Accordingly, Rabbi Elya Svei informs the askan, neither he nor Torah Umesorah will do anything about this problem.
To this day, Torah Umesorah is way more concerned with the threat of legal liability than with child safety, especially when it requires acting against the career interests of rabbis or the financial interests of institutions. They are all for educating kids to not get abused but not for coming down on the adult perpetrators. I am not aware of a single instance in which they acted against an adult perpetrator.
For all these reasons I say, caveat emptor (let the buyer beware) and suggest following the ruling of the Chicago Beit Din: “That students in these seminaries are at risk of harm and it does not recommend that students attend these seminaries at this time.” The Chicago Beis Din stands by its position notwithstanding a different recommendation by the Torah Mesorah commissioned beit din of Rav Shafran.
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