How to Kasher a Seminary

scales of justice and childWhen Los Angeles discovered the Doheny Kosher Meats was smuggling in meat while the mashgiach was on davening breaks the Rabbinical Council of California (RRC) announced the end of their certification and forced the owner to sell the business as a condition of reinstating its kosher status. When Moshe Finkel was caught selling trayf chickens in Monsey, the rabbis investigated and issued instructions about kashering dishes, pots, and pans.

If the Beit Din of Rav Mendel Shafran wants to restore the kosher status of the seminary they should let the public know that the Meisels family has completely divested its financial interest and they should investigate all failures within the seminary staff who allowed the abuse to happen by looking the other way.

If the Beit Din of Rav Shafran handled kashrus the way they are handling the Elimelech Meisels seminaries they would lose their chezkas kashrus. Why isn’t the safety of Jewish girls worth the same diligence they apply to kashrus?

Meisels Seminaries letter to parents ~7-14-14 re Torah Umesorah

Click to enlarge and sharpen

Torah Umesorah is cited by the seminaries in support of their kashrus. Rabbi Aaron Feldman of Agudath Israel of America is supporting the Beit Din of Rav Shafran. Both of these organization have negius (conflicts of interest) because of their close ties to the Tress/Meisels families. It appears that once again, as in the disgraceful Yehuda Kolko affair, the interests of institutions are taking precedence over the elementary rules of decency regarding sexual abuse.

If the Shafran Beit Din in Israel is on the level it will announce a deadline for the complete separation of the Meisels family from any connection with the seminaries and it will  investigate the abuse charges itself instead of staying silent about them. Such an investigation will encompass all enabling by other employees. As long as Meisels has an ownership stake other staff will never feel safe exposing the dirty secrets of abuse.

As a first step, the Shafran Beit Din should issue injunctions to Meisels and others in his circle to stop a campaign of intimidation and harassment aimed at the brave young women who testified to the Chicago Beis Din of Rav Gedalia Dov Schwartz.

In the meantime, readers should realize that there are no indications that the Chicago Special Beis Din has retracted its conclusions about sexual misconduct by Mr. Meisels or retracted its psak that parents should not send their children to those seminaries.




37 thoughts on “How to Kasher a Seminary

  1. It is impossible that the staff who sign this letter were not aware of the ‘unwanted contact’ of their principal. A girl would have mentioned it to one of them. But to keep their jobs they ‘ignored’ it. This Shafran Beis Din is more interested that so many people many whom I am sure are just as ‘evil’ for hiding the truth should not be losing their parnosoh. They care more about them than American girls some of whom are anyway only BTs. It is a sad reflection on rabbonim of our times.

    • Which is exactly why the Chicago Beis Din didn’t retract their recommendations. How could anyone sent their daughter into such a poisonous environment? Right in this blog, we have seen the cruel and vindictive staff maligning the victims.

      Still worse, I am hearing reports that the female staff members are actually harassing some of the people who came forward. It’s simply not Yiddishkeit and I would question the yichus of people who could be so cruel. They are not simply looking to protect their parnossah, but are instead the worst of the worst. The sems are rotten to the core, even if a few girls happened to have benefitted.

      • I also dont understand the letter saying the investigation is ongoing and they may recommend further changes.
        If this was a butcher shop would they also say one should continue to buy meat from them before the investigation was complete and before the ‘further changes’.
        No American girls are hefker. Anything is allowed to get hold of their money.

        • Unfortunately, very well put, annex, a crying shame. really. David Lau cheated on his smicha exams, he inherited chief ashkenazic rabbi from his faither. Ovadia Yoseph sephardic gadol hador, also bequeathed to his son, re the son i am not sure, but ovadia and his cohort cohen, called all religious zionists, kipot serugot, “amalek”. to his credit, maybe, many who despised him. still believed that he was talmid chacham she’ain kamohu ba dor hazot.. maybe. All RZ’s Amalek? those who believe that should take the first boat to zanzibar or wherever and get off the welfare payroll in Israel. Let someone else pay for their 13 kids while they study in Kollel, in order to “protect” the nation. maybe ovomit will pay for their obamacare, amd medicare and medicaid, amd food stamps. ha;ikar to learn yom v’layla in kollel to protect the country/
          These are the two chief rabbis in the holy land. expletive deleted. so measles here, filthy rich, and most likely 99% doing very very bad deeds, can we expect a higher standard from him???
          I am not frum. i follow ALL of the Jewish and Israeli blogs all day , every day. gam re CSA and gam re financial corruption amongst the rebbeim.. don’t get me started. and of course all of the political pain, and distortions in the media, and our unfortunate ovomit who took several weeks to comment on the kidnapping of our three precious boys who were prematurely taken from us. everyday all day, i read. i am not frum.

        • If this was a butcher shop would they also say one should continue to buy meat from them before the investigation was complete and before the ‘further changes’.

          Would you be terribly surprised to learn that there were in fact rabbis who were saying exactly that when the Finkel issue first came to light?

  2. Good work, Yerachmiel. I’ve been away from your blog for a while; good to witness a triumph, or as you say, partial triumph, but not to witness yet again the nastiness of denial.

    Someone suggested you should strongly play up the fact that, unlike other rabbis and rabbinic organizations, this Special Beis Din did not cover up, acted firmly, and ignored the status and yichus of the abuser. But you can hardly run a headline like:
    It would be like proclaiming “CHICAGO POLITICIAN SHOWN ON CAMERA REFUSING BRIBE.” Some news shouldn’t be news.

    A couple of random, late-night thoughts. There were so many protestations that Meisels saved girls’ lives. I’m pretty sure that wasn’t referring to CPR. It suggested deep emotional and/or spiritual counseling which set off alarm bells. Transference is dangerous even with good (conscious) intentions. Were there no female counselors or psychologists these troubled girls could turn to? In Orthodox institutions, no less? Call me a dirty old man, but I heard undertones of jealousy in the girls’ outrage at the accusations. How dare anyone suggest that Meisels didn’t withhold from others what he withheld from them!

    As for kashering, one might ponder the analogy that kelim that might have absorbed impurity cannot be kashered. But it is only an analogy. Like your analogy to Doheny Meats. Will whoever declares these seminaries “kosher” post-Meisels likewise have an interest in a hasty “kashering” in order to save them from financial ruin?

    Finally, was I the only one provoked by the name of one of the seminaries to think of “אשת־חיל מי ימצא ורחק מפנינים מכרה׃”? The “women of valor” who spoke out deserve praise.

    • How dare anyone suggest that Meisels didn’t withhold from others what he withheld from them!

      When the Lanner scandal broke (many years after my NCSY days), I joked that you weren’t anybody if you weren’t molested by Baruch Lanner. Much truth is said in jest…

        • It seems subtly different. I’m not sure, but I don’t think young women were sexually attracted to Baruch Lanner. They may have enjoyed the social status they got from being in his inner circle, but he was not a sexually attractive man. From what I understand, it was like being the teacher’s pet, but with unfortunate fringe benefits.

  3. Annex is correct

    The letter from the letter from the principals trying to save their necks is very cute
    Why were the halachos of yichud not kept in schools they are responsible for?
    they have to answer just as much as Meisels.
    The Beis Din also sent a very strong message to all other sems
    I don’t see how a parent could send their daughter to any one of these sems!
    The other sems should absorb these girls or they should stay home!

  4. See my comment in the prior posted article by YL which explains why the Godol Hodor needs to fully exonerated.

  5. There was virtually no rabbi who “investigated” Finkel.

    One lone rabbi who did not even live in Monsey caught Finkel doctoring an invoice trail. He went to the Monsey rabbonim but no one listened to him except Rabbi Wosner who kicked Finkel out of the Atrium and kashered the kitchen. The rest of the rabbonim uttered a bunch of nonsense that Finkel is invincible because he gives a daf yomi shiur and sends his son to Brisk while they attacked the outside rabbi as making up “lashon horah”.

    It took another EIGHT YEARS before someone again caught Finkel with the treif.

    The OU incidentally hates the rabbi who made the original discovery because he has also uncovered some scandals of theirs so the OU put out a rumor that the rabbi was not responsible for the first Finkel discovery as to deny him any credit.

    This rabbi, Yudel Shain, was also the first to expose 5 Towns pervert Dovid Weinberger on his website 3 years ago.

  6. Yl how can you say that the Chicago beit din never retracted their “conclusions ” about sexual misconduct – in their letter it just said ” allegations ” ?

    • I’ll say it slowly so even you can understand. The Beis Din CONVENED (that means they got together) as a result of the allegations. Then, the heard testimony from interested parties. They also reviewed documents, and even some other evidence. Then, they presented the monster Meisels with the evidence at which point he made a full admission. Then, and only then, did they reach a conclusion.

      These facts are easily verifiable (that means that you, too, check and see that they’re true) by calling Rabbi Shmuel Fuerst in Chicago.

      • Yes. Let me amplify Triangle’s point. No responsible beit din, court, or investigator automatically assumes an allegation is true until it has completed its inquiries and reached its conclusion. They started with an allegation and reached a conclusion of unwanted sexual contact. Capeesh?

  7. Yerachmiel,

    In the previous thread you wrote:

    “1. I am aware of the reputations of Rabbis Shafran and Malinowitz as men of great intelligence and integrity.”

    Why your sudden change in tune regarding the Israeli B”D? And who are Rabbis Shafran and Malinowitz and what and how do you know of them?

    • Rabbi Malinowitz is someone who is obviously very capable at receiving a fax, signing it, and sending it back. It takes great skill to do that. You should apply for that job. Research and independent investigation optional. Following the lead of other important Rabbis so you don’t ruffle any feathers, mandatory.

    • I credit them with good intentions but a defective understanding of how to cope with this sort of manipulator. Alas many otherwise good people make very bad mistakes. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Intentions alone are not enough especially when coping with master manipulators or when you are trying to balance individual and institutional interests.

      Moreover, the problem they are facing is way bigger than this case of Meisels. Rabbis are way too oriented to fixing things behind closed doors and keeping control of situations (and thus also preserving the power of rabbis and other community leaders). Until that changes, other rabbis with integrity and intelligence will make similar mistakes.

    • Unfortunately Rabbi Chaim Malinowitz has failed on numerous occasions to protect the children of Beit Shemesh. Furthermore, he spoke out against the one organization (Lemaan Achai) trying to raise awareness on this issue, and prevented them from raising any tzedaka in his shul.

      Rabbi Malinowitz is undoubtedly a tremendous talmid chochom, but has yet to understand the seriousness of sexual misconduct in the frum world, especially when aimed at minors/students.

    • I relied on sources who are learned and in the torah world network. I still feel they are rabbis of great intelligence (as are the CBD rabbis). My sources and I are rubbing our eyes at their conduct and I will strike out the words integrity in that post. Thank you for reminding me.

  8. It sickens me that there must have been teachers who had an inkling of what was going on but covered up for him. It would be naive for a mother to send their daughter to a seminary which has an ongoing investigation. How can you expect young girls to learn yiddishkeit from SOME teachers who helped cover up this episode. Unfortunately, money clouds moral obligations.
    Message from one mother to another: Hashem is telling us to continue learning and growing so WE can raise our children in the right derech. Don’t “outsource” your obligations.

    • Exactly. That’s why the Chicago Beis Din continue to advise people NOT to attend the sick, infected seminaries. They have staff more loyal to Meisels than to Hashem.

  9. Hi Yerachmiel,
    Firstly, I can’t thank you enough for single handedly bringing this to the general public. It absolutely would not have gotten this far if not for you. Ashrechah! Regarding this situation all that can possibly be said has already been said. I want to bring to your attention a connected matter, which I wish would get resolved by our leadership and rabbonim.

    Looking at the letterhead from Meisel’s seminary, I could not help but notice a glaring observation. Although my daughter went to seminary in Israel, because 95% of her classmates were going, and because of the shidduch crisis, we want to provide our daughters with every ‘advantage’ (I know it’s crazy), I am a big opponent of the idea to send your daughter to Israel at the cost of $22K-$30K (depending on how many grants you get), a year before you hopefully have the zchus to marry them off. It’s insane to send for many reasons which I won’t go into here. Be that as it may, one of the main issues is off course the excessive costs and we are told that seminaries hardly make money; they are in it to educate future mothers, teachers, and wives. Well, I don’t know any yeshiva or bais yaakov that has the logo of 4 schools on their letterhead. Meisel’s owns 4 seminaries! This is a business like any other, which is fine, but don’t overcharge by such a crazy excessive amount! They are charging upwards of $22K just for tuition! Are they crazy? “But we’re just covering costs”, we are told. That’s bologna! You keep on raking in enough money to buy 3 more seminaries on top of the one you started with! This is sick! Middle class people are struggling to make ends meet!
    I suspect that the reason we don’t hear a “geshray” is because most of the rabbonim qualify for generous Federal and State grants, so it does not affect them as it does the average middle income family. They are also related to the owners or teachers at the seminaries.

    Bottom line is seminaries are disgustedly overcharging. Meisels proves this to be true.

    • Considering financial matters, I wonder if investigation of the “non profit” nature of these institutions is a way to get justice. It would be very interesting to see the financial statements and tax returns of these seminaries. The IRS certainly has jurisdiction, as Pninim of America, the umbrella organization is organized in NJ. If any readers have thoughts on this angle I urge you to contact Mr Lopin or the Chicago Beis Din.

  10. my daughter was devastated when she didn’t get accepted to Binas, now I can’t stop thanking Hashem. I would like to see some reaction or regulations in all seminaries.

    • Yes. Your daughter was very lucky she did not get in. I hope she has a good year in seminary but please tell her to be wary of everyone, including female principals and teachers that think it’s ok for girls to go on late night rides (or rides at any time) alone with their rebbes and that it’s ok for Rabbis to hug them or flirt with them, or give them alcohol to drink and I don’t mean kiddush. Bais yaakov and all girls need to be educated to trust their gut reactions. Abusers are often very manipulative and charming people and the women that cover for them do it for the parnassa – it’s sick and disgusting. If something seems wrong it probably is and don’t waste your time reporting to principals and teachers who will cover it up. ANY unwanted touching (even just hug) is illegal at least in the USA and even if the girl is over 18. I hope that more visit me will start going straight to the police. I won’t be surprised if Meisels faces criminal and civil lawsuits. I have heard that more victims are now coming forward.

  11. I am one angry mommy. After spending more than 1 year invested in the “seminary” scene, we made the decision to send my daughter to seminary in September. On this side of the ocean. So we are safe, right? and I have no right to be angry. After all, this doesn’t affect us at all. Well, not exactly. Because this whole “maisa” stinks. My daughter has friends who are affected by this. A couple of her friends were supposed to go to Pninim. All the girls are talking about amongst themselves is who is going, who isn’t going, why or why not, and if not, what should they do instead.. I feel like it is first semester in 12th grade all over again, like graduation didn’t happen! More importantly, even though my daughter is “safe” her worldview of Torah, mitzvos, rabbonim and educational institutions is becoming warped by this travesty. How is she supposed to go to seminary with confidence and security? How do I prepare her for a balanced view, trusting that most people are good, and trusting her instincts to know that some people are not, and to behave in such a way to protect herself if something is “off”? Why is this is even necessary? Though my daughter isn’t even going to EY or a Meisels seminary, you can count her (and countless others in the same boat) as collateral damage from this disgusting situation.

    • angry mom: it might be that your fundamental assumption – that the heimishe world is good – is just wrong. Might be that you will have to reconstruct your worldview so that it fits reality.

  12. It seems clear that any responsible parent who is aware of the Chicago BD’s letter would not send to any measly seminary so long it was still even somewhat measly but unfortunately it seems the brave dayyanim of Chicago are up against the Charedi Rabbininaneical version of Yisrabluff who are quite ruthless when it comes to asserting their holiness on the their nebechel lemalas and no means of lies deception and intimidation are out of bounds in order to achieve their goals.

    Q: What can we do to ensure that the unknowing and sometimes naïve public be made cognitively aware of the dangers of the seminaries in question. so long as the money/control issue is not settled to the acceptance to the only party that has revealedthe capacity to be the boger achrai – responsible adult – i.e. BD Chicago – no one girl should be allowed to send to any of these sems and all monies heretofore transferred must be returned!

    how to achieve this?

    • Action steps
      1. send letters of support to the Chicago Beit Din and write open letters of support in any media you can access.

      2. cut off the money to seminaries by cutting off the supply of students. The decision makers are the parents and the students. Contact any individually you know and familiarize them with the issues. Contact those who make referrals including educators, rabbis, others influential in the community, and anyone you can network who can in turn network to those in the process of deciding. Financial pressure is the single most important tool.

      3. keep educating the public on these issues so they can more quickly smell a rat in the future.

  13. Personally, I don’t see why girls need to go to seminary after high school. Why isn’t Bais YAakov enough? What ever happened to “Kol kevodah bas melech p’nimah”. But it’s okay to send girls, who are immature and inexperienced, half way around the world to sit at someone else’s Shabbos table. My wife refers to it as eye candy for the baal habayis. We are told that it prepares them for marriage, but all I see is that they come out with their heads in the clouds. How is it even appropriate for a man to be in charge of a seminary?

    • well said. but as the cliché goes about the baby/bathwater. you know now in Israel the dangerious gov’t is looking to willy nilly destroy the national broadcasting service which while apparently indeed having serious problems that need addressing, the nuke option seems a tad overkill to many people here.

      Is there nothing to be gained from a year in EY for anyone for my/your daughtert? If indeed you have investigated and reached that conclusion – ein hochi nami.

      but if there is value or potential value to the seminary year – shouldn’t effort be put to, if possible, ironing out the kinks and drawing that potential?

      of course if the problems inherent in the current sem scene are too entrenched and rooted and yotzo schoro b’hefsedo again ain hochi nami – the institution should be undermined.

      but is that so? or can major reorganizing make our house clean again?

      as far as Bais Yaakov – most gedolim of the time were against initially it precisely for the reason you mention – kol kevuda. apparently each generation need to address the questions of what means constitute the best way for our mesora to be passed on yet again based on current circumstances.

      • In the days before Bais Yaakov there was serious issue of girls going off the derech and embracing things like communism. The Aruch HaSHulchon mentioned that a person should not say amen after a girl’s brocho until she was at least bas mitzva since she probably didn’t know what she was doing in saying it and so it wasn’t valid. That was the ignorance amongst girls before Bais Yaakov. There is no comparison to today and it is purely a scam. My wife spoke to the principal of the Yeshivish school my daughter went to mentioning that she thought seminary was wrong and this principal not only agreed but said that she herself went to speak to one of the big Rabonim in town here abou tthe issue who agreed with her, but did not want to do anything about it because it usually is about the Rebetzin in charge mepharnessing her husband/Rosh YEshiva. She also said that girls usually have to be deprogrammed when they get back from there too.

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