HTC Suspends Accreditation of Meisels’ Seminaries Threatening Cutoff of Governmental Financial Aid

Elimelech Meisels

Elimelech Meisels

The Meisels seminaries are accredited through the Israel Experience Program (IEP) of Hebrew Theological College (HTC) in Skokie, IL. This accreditation is essential for getting governmental financial and receiving college credit.

HTC accepts the authority of the Chicago “Special Beis Din” of Rabbis Schwartz, Feurst and Cohen. They accept its July 10th rabbinic ruling to not enroll students in these seminaries because of sexually abusive behavior by Meisels and are freezing any finalization of arrangements for 2014-2015 enrollees.

On July 14 they sent out the following message to the 62 students, accepted through them to the Meisels seminaries, to start in Fall 2014:

Hebrew Theological College
7135 N. Carpenter Rd.
Skokie, IL 60077
Voice: 847-982-2500
Fax: 847-745-0200

7/14/2014

Dear xxxxxx,

In response to the decision of the Chicago Special Beis Din regarding Pninim, Binas Bais Yaakov, Chedvas Bais Yaakov and Keser Chaya seminaries, HTC is currently reviewing the status of these programs with our college. Meanwhile, we request that you send us the signed IEP Participation Agreement (see attached) and $1,500 Program fee by the July 31, 2014 deadline if you have not yet done so. We will not deposit any checks or run any credit card payments unless we determine that our affiliation with these seminaries will continue for the 2014-15 school year. If your program fee has already been deposited, please be assured that if the decision is ultimately made to suspend our affiliation with these seminaries, we will fully refund your payment.

Further communication will be forthcoming as soon as information is available.

Rabbi Shmuel L. Schuman
Interim Chancellor
Hebrew Theological College

While students can bypass HTC and enroll directly with the seminaries, they will not get governmental financial aid for college which requires accreditation by a US College. Unless the Chicago Beis Din reverses its decision, the Meisels seminaries have just taken a major financial hit. For many students, the loss of financial aid will be a deciding factor in whether they enroll. According to my sources, the Chicago Beis Din will not back down unless there are other major changes in Israel. Apparently, they feel that Meisels’ resignation as dean/teacher is not nearly enough and they are not persuaded by the opinion of the Torah Umesorah Israeli Beit Din headed by Rabbi Mendel Shafran of Bnei Brak.

Click here for other Frum Follies stories about the seminaries operated by Elimelech Meisels.

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59 thoughts on “HTC Suspends Accreditation of Meisels’ Seminaries Threatening Cutoff of Governmental Financial Aid

  1. Now with this piece of news, I can understand why a special Bais Din in Chicago, IL, of all places, made their ruling. I couldn’t connect the dots until this bit of news came out. Without accreditation from an institution in the USA, government assistance would not be available to the USA parents of the seminary students to send their precious ones to attend it in Israel. The accrediting institution was based in Skokie (Mens Division) & Chicago (Womans Division), IL, USA.

  2. out there in the ether there is certainly another travesty waiting to be exposed…so this wont be the last one unfortunately

  3. HTC’s letter says they are reviewing the status of Meisel’s seminaries. But the title of this post and a few other subtle things written here make it sound like this is a done deal. I think you should have been clearer that this is a work in progress.

  4. I did not say ended; I said suspended, which it is. At this moment they are not approving it. Suspensions can be lifted. Bottom line: if the suspension persists, this is very bad news for the finances of these seminaries.

  5. Wow. I am floored.

    1. A beis din acts with integrity and ‘does the right thing’ w/o consideration for all the inanities usually given unbalanced consideration.
    2. They go public and even after being bullied by the Yisrabluffers they hold their ground.
    3. The talmidim of the dayanim cover their Rebbe’s backs with financial canons.

    I hear the footsteps of Moshiach…..

  6. this is a huge hit. one of 2 things happen :

    1) enough girls drop out as who has 20K to shell out and all 4 close

    2) not enough drop out but Meisels is hit huge – it might cause him to cancel the year anyway.

    In either case his workers are still FULLY entitled to their FULL salaries (see CM Hilchos Sochir) if not enough time is available to have a fair shot and another similar position and if he dares try not paying them GO TO BEIS DIN!!!!! (not Shafrans of course)

    The only bad news here would be those teachers who truly knew nothing loising livelihood due to some measly follies . At tleast al pi din they should be able to collect.

    if you win in BD you open an ikul in secular court etc..

  7. this is great for this year and it might end him for good but if he tries next year he can partner with other programs. These other programs should be pressured ASAP into not cooperating should such a scenario arise.

  8. Shining a bright light & publicizing his shenanigans means this: All the parents who send their daughters to Israel because of social pressure/shidduch purposes, will no longer feel the pressure to follow the crowd. In fact, attending these schools may hinder shidduch prospects rather than enhance them.

    • Some people are always looking for more mehadrin than mehadrin, and tell and endlessly worry about gossip. Those will by some osmosis cast a next of sexual suspicion on any girls who went there. Moreover, unless those places are seriously overhauled, they will suspect something to which the Shafran Beit Din seems indifferent. They will wonder, how could the abuse have gone on without staff noticing. Either the girls were saying things (which I know happened) and the staff were too afraid of Meisels to respond. Even worse they will suspect that the staff was so incompetent and indifferent that they weren’t bothering to connect to the students. Either way, parents expect staff to keep an eye out on girls and now it will be assumed that the staff at these seminaries are not paying attention. So how can you assume attending these sems left the girls innocent.These suspicions will be very unfair. Most of the girls were not affected by Meisels, and even those who were victims much more than they were instigators. But as everyone in terror of the shidduch grading system knows; it ain’t fair. Being dan likaf zchus flys out the window when it comes to shidduchim in the Haredi world.

      • Thank you Yerachmiel, it’s what I’ve been saying all along. Meisels was a narcissistic monster but there were female “teachers/mechanchim” who saw what was going on and this should invalidate all their teachings. His schools are not worthy of any educational financial aid.

        • The teachers are just as guilty as Meisels – they were enablers. Protecting a monster. Now in the aftermath, they are have to account for their own willful blindness.

  9. Outstanding move by HTC. Excellent! The abusers have be shown that major Jewish institutions are not afraid to stand up to their threats, their power, “yichus” etc., and HTC just did it. Fantastic!

  10. Do not get your hopes high. We have seen this wiith Kolko. No one cares. How many parents pulled their kids out of torah temimah or even complained to MArgo?

    They will all send back to these schools…their heads are in the sand.

    Keep up the great work, but nothing will change short of a miracle.

    Where are the posters that contributed to the over 600 comments? that was great dialogue

    • Jack, you ask where the authors of the 600 comments are? Methinks that Meisels only hired his sockpuppets for 48 hours.

    • I disagree with you. Torah Temimah took a huge financial hit. I hear they are now late on payrolls and many of their backers who used the lend Margo money are not not to be found. They definitely don’t have the cache they once had and are not filled to capacity like in previous years.
      People vote with their feet and hopefully it will be done again in this case.

  11. 1 – HTC deserves a lot of recognition for standing up for what is right and just. They clearly are out to lose a LOT of money by this decision.

    2 – Did they give any idea of when a final determination would be made?

    3 – What is the date that the school year officially begins?

    4 – There were 62 girls registered through HTC. How many girls are accepted into each of the 4 seminaries? What percentage of students does this 62 girls represent?

    5 – Will HTC issue full refunds to those who decide to pull out, even if in the end they decide to certify the seminaries?

    6 – Will HTC issue full refunds to those who decide to use other venues of college accreditation for the Meisels seminaries.

    7. I’m assuming HTC is not the only institution offering college credit for classes taken at Meisel’s seminaries. Is that right?

  12. I can’t believe one can get US government financial aid to go to seminary in Israel. You can’t to go study at the Technion.

  13. A few points here – as a parent:

    1. I did not send my daughters to seminary because of social pressure. I sent them because it was good for them. Before settling down to a life of financial, spousal, and parental responsibility I wanted them to have a year of personal growth and Torah study. While the yeshiva world encourages 5-15 years of personal growth for boys, the assumption is that girls deserve not even a year. We consider our girls to be people with intellectual and spiritual needs and yes, we spend ridiculous sums of money to make it happen. The $20,000 for a year in seminary is not excessive when one considers the amounts one is supposed to spend on weddings and supporting a son-in-law in kollel – oh yeah, unlike her, his Torah is worth something.

    2. One daughter attended a Meisels seminary and had a wonderful year. I am not questioning the findings about him personally, but his institutions are truly excellent – and in the coming year, they will be the most scrutinized seminaries in Israel. They will certainly be safe and if it takes a few more months to disengage Meisels, there will be no way he could get away with something in that time.

    3. The Chicago Beis Din decision to destroy the schools as an adjunct of destroying Meisels feels an awful lot like taking revenge on innocent people (teachers and students) and making an example – collective punishment. By expanding the pool of Meisels’ victims they may succeed in fostering personal resentment for him – but that doesn’t make it right.

    4. Given the timetable, HTC is clearly doing this under pressure – meaning under threat – from the Beis Din in Chicago. A bully with “G-d on his side” is still a bully.

    • Now THIS was an excellent post, particularly #s 3 and 4. And BULLY is exactly the right word to describe the Chicago Beis Din. This, despite that I have no problem believing the allegations are 100% true.

      • Please understand: We as a community are way behind in addressing the reality of abuse/molesting by peopole in power or position of authority. The MAIN reason for this in the “sweep it under the carpet” policy so that “kids and parents should not be afraid”. This is our worst enemy. Without the chicago BD, you would know nothing about this story. Meisels would still operate and manage his seminaries, the same staff that did NOTHING about this would still be there and at most he would not be officially lecturing there until everyone forgets about it. The outcome would be that…some angry/unhealthy girls wanted to get him, he probabely mistakenly brushed up against them etc.
        Stand up and THANK the Chicago BD for saving our childrens lives!

    • re 2. you write: ” They will certainly be safe and if it takes a few more months to disengage Meisels, there will be no way he could get away with something in that time.”
      Why are you so sure. Where were all the staff when it came to noticing these things in the past?

      You are blaming the victim when you go on about the Chicago Beis Din hurting the girls. They are trying to protect them and facilitate the healing of those who were sexually abused. You are also afraid that their actions will lead more victims to come forward. Sounds like you are really afraid of the truth.

      The bully was Elimelech Meisels. the Chicago Beis din is the surgeon. Cleaning up that place from the cancer of abuse will require removing some diseased tissue. As in cancer surgery, scooping out the big lump while ignoring the margins is malpractice because the cancer is then likely to regrow and spread.

    • Single Mother,
      In my opinion, your logic, particularly #3 and #4 is highly flawed. I cannot fathom how you can deem this “collective punishment”. It was the Israeli Beis Din that was under threat of time pressure, and perhaps more pernicious threats.
      So, in your book, anyone with the power to make decisions is a “bully”. Shtuyot.

    • Single mom, I ask you to rethink your comments. It seems they are being made with a heart of stone: your daughter did well, so the institutions are ‘excellent’.

      Had your daughter been seduced by this piece of drek and had sex with him, I think you wouldn’t be singing the praises of these places.

      Your last two points are similarly scary. EM’s bullying of girls — with G-d on his side, of course — doesn’t bother you, but the Beis Din’s action does. And, your unwillingness to entertain the idea that the institution itself bears the responsibility for what occurred for so long, is also naive and irresponsible.

      Your entire comment smacks of מדת סדום. For shame.

      Daniel

    • Single Mom, I’m not sure if you are familiar with the Chicago scene, but your comments #3 & #4 show that you don’t quite understand the dynamics of the various institutions & personalities here in town.
      Regarding point #3, a case that had happened in Chicago some years ago where a local restaurateur had been accused of financial maleficence and that some members of the the Chicago Rabbinical Council wanted it to pull its hechsher while the matters were being sorted out. According to a close friend of mine who is on the CRC Executive board, Rabbi Schwartz (who is the Av Beis Din for the CRC) disagreed and said that until the matter had been completely adjudicated, as long as the food was still kosher, the CRC should continue to extend its hechsher. As it happened, it turned out that the accusations were false. If the CRC had pulled its hechsher, the business would have been forced to close and a family would have lost their parnassah due to false accusations.
      I believe this to be parallel to the accusations against Meisels and I firmly believe that R’ Schwartz would stay consistent in his beliefs. Therefore in my mind, if he still believes these young ladies should not be attending these seminaries, there must be more to the story that we don’t know, otherwise I would imagine he’d lift his objections to girls attending.
      Regarding #4, R’ Cohen and R’ Fuerst hold no power over HTC. R’ Cohen is a Rov of a shul and other programs, but nothing he says or does would hurt HTC financially (certainly there are members of his congregation who are close to HTC, but I highly doubt many ba’al habosim would stop giving money to HTC on R’ Cohen’s say-so). R’ Feurst is the Dayan for Agudah, but there is no connection between HTC & Agudah. Most people who R’ Feurst are paskining for are not likely affiliated with HTC (not in a bad way, but the two paths don’t cross that often). Certainly R’ Schwartz, in his role as the former head of the CRC could cause difficulties for HTC, but see my previous point. Therefore, based on my whole life living here in Chicago and being involved in the CRC/HTC communities (meaning having close friends or relatives who are involved at the highest levels of these organizations), I do not believe HTC would kowtow to anyone (except Touro, but that’s not relevent to this discussion, is it?) and suspend being associated with these seminaries unless they continued to have concerns.

    • The Chicago Beis Din did and said what they HAD to…they know better than you, heard and saw things none of us did.! who are you to judge 3 reputable dayanim’s findings?

  14. TO ALL THOSE IN DENIAL:

    Do you have to be molested yourself in order to acknowledge that such a phenomenon exists in our circles? Must you watch your own child suffer unspeakable pain before you recognize the damage done by these evil perpetrators? Does a tragedy need to occur to someone close to you before you will comprehend that the abuser is frequently a charismatic, manipulative genius who succeeds in not just fooling everyone else, but also in making them think he is G-d’s biggest gift to mankind? Molesters do not label their foreheads with “Pervert.” That is why they often succeed in devastating so many lives before they get caught, r”l.

    People like you, who are in denial about the existence and ramifications of abuse — your children are unfortunately at a much higher risk of being targeted by a predator. This is because the predator knows that if he abuses your child, you will likely not believe your child if he has the courage to share his experience. You can be angry at me for pointing out your ignorance, or you can be smart and think about what I said. Do yourself a favor and educate yourself so that you can teach your children and protect them to the extent possible.

  15. Touro did the same thing. They are waiting for Chicago. The people at Touro have alot of respect for the Beis Din in Chicago.

    • I was concerned that the girls who lost accreditation from HTC would run to places like Touro to get the credits. I am VERY glad to hear that Touro did the same as HTC. Kudos to these institutions for doing the right thing.

      I now have a new level of respect for Touro because of this decision. Obviously, the people in charge have their heads on straight. Kol Hakavod to Touro! All Frum institutions should be so ready to do the right thing despite the loss of funds or bowing to any social or political pressure. Kol Hakavod to Touro & HTC!

  16. Why is everyone making like it is a fact that any faculty was complicit in this? It is the furthest thing from the truth. Not once was it mentioned in any documents, or even from those who are commenting that say they have inside knowledge of the situation. Please don’t drag them through the mud. A seminary is not successful only because of one individual. The staffs of these seminaries were the heart and soul of the everyday activities, and are wonderful people who are capable of running these schools. They did absolutely nothing wrong, and should be permitted to continue their good work. It is a stretch to say that because one person did something, everyone else, staff and all of the girls from the last 10 years decided together to hide it. The same way as many bloggers deride those that think the Bais Din letters are fake, they should do the same to those that come up with far fetched accusations with no facts behind it.
    In general, there seem to be a few facts about this whole story, and then a lot of guesses and rumors past that. Everyone should be careful to stick to what is factual before they unilaterally destroy lives.

    • Several people who attended Pninim have personally attested to me that they witnessed or experienced inappropriate behavior by Elimelech Meisels. They all went to staff to complain. None of the staff either validated their concerns or seems to have acted on it.

      The only question is which staff should have noticed or responded, not whether there was a problem with some of the staff

    • So, you would send your daughter there because of a chashash that maybe SOME staff didn’t respond, or worse, covered things up? How about protecting our holy daughters?

      Get your priorities straight. These institutions are rotten to the core. I would love to know just how many staff members (and there had to be at least some) who ignored the girls when they complained. That alone passels the sems.

  17. Your replies are exactly what I unfortunately expected. One replies that you have heard personally from some girls, and the next just states that the sems are rotten to the core. If someone saw something, then they should step forward and make it factual. Otherwise, it’s just hearsay. And the next comment that all sems are rotten to the core is just a ludicrous statement. If this blog wants to have any credibility, stick with the facts. The letter from the Bais din is quite clear and factual. Throwing in the rest actually dilutes the impact, and allows people to say that you are throwing around accusations, and weakens the strong message that the letter sends. Let it speak for itself, V’hamaiven yovin.

    • But in a number of direct phone contacts with the girls who attended the ugly patterns become clearer and more affirmed. There is a serious debate about whether seminary years in Israel are a good idea both in terms of the financial priorities of families and in terms of the best interests of students. It is not slander to question this new development in Jewish education. It is not mesorah. I understand why that would be bad news for those in the seminary business, but since when do proprietor business interests take precedence over the educational best interests of students?

      • Business does not take precedence over education or protecting our children. However, one cannot make a blanket statement that seminaries are not good, and one shouldn’t send their children.

        We should be focused on figuring out ways to make sure that this doesn’t happen again. One suggestion I’ve heard is that each parent sending a child should pay a nominal fee to an independent group of professionals who would then have access at any time to any seminary, and have a number for anyone to make a complaint as well. There are many Israelis who are top notch in security matters and sniffing out situations (if you’ve ever been to to their airports, you know what I mean). If there are approx 2000 girls that go to Israel, and each pays $100, that’s enough to put together a nice team.

        Let’s put aside the back and forth, and “I heard this and you heard that”. That won’t get us anywhere. You want to do something? Demand something that can be done, and get support for it, so that there is real change.

        • An ombudsperson with a phone line would be a good idea. Ironically, every prisoner in NYS has access to such a line if anyone abuses or attempts to abuse them. Prison sexual assaults while still a very serious problem have gone down. So Nechemya Weberman, sitting in jail for sexually assualting a 12-year-old chasidish girl has more protections than the law abiding girls in schools and seminaries.

          However, student safety has to start at the school and such an ombudsman can only be a backup when the first line of defense fails. For seminaries, the accrediting organizations are important. YU has bounced several programs (for boys) from their year in Israel accreditation because of the likes of serial offenders Benzion Sobel and Matis Weinberg).

          Market mechanisms are important. When owners of seminaries realize their business will collapse over scandals, they will be more likely to be proactive about training and monitoring staff and diligently responding to allegations.

          It is a mistake to have corporations too big to fail or educational institutions too important to be closed. Mosdos don’t trump menschlichkeit. One of the great tragedies of Jewish education in the US is that Torah Temimah remains a thriving business in spite of consciously covering up decades of Kolkos sexual abuse of their students.

          I am not saying these seminaries need to be closed permanently. I am saying that this should be an option on the table to generate the leverage necessary for deep reforms. The Israeli Beit Din hobbled its own bargaining position by saying that everything was hunky dory apart from the problem who is gone.

    • Ms Castel,

      Mafia dons also help little old ladies with their rent (see the first Godfather movie)–that doesn’t mean they’re not manipulative, devious, and evil.

      A person can be a predator because he is simply addicted to this perversion, or he might be a sociopath. Either way, smart predators don’t immediately grab the breasts of each interviewee.

      Instead, they act magnaminous, build a reputation for being kind and understanding, offer free counsel and a sounding board for young ladies, ensure confidence, become friendly, make occasional borderline jokes–all while sizing up their potential prey.

      Like a big cat, they sneak up on their potential victims They find the relatively defenseless, lone sheep, in need of comfort, not being watched closely.

      Then, they pounce.

    • I fail to see the contradiction. Remember — predators frequently go out of their way to be nice to parents and other community members so that no one will believe the victims.

      • Where do you come off labeling him a ‘predator”?? He may have a huge Yetzer Hora, which he failed to control …He was in Chinuch for years without any accusations of such.

        • Are you new here? Any member of the Chicago Bais Din, if you would bother to call them, would certainly label him a predator. As for his years in chinuch, the accusations were there, but not made public until recently. Even some of the posters here claim to know that the late night van rides happened going back several years ago.

          Again, call any of the three Dayanim and they’ll tell you personally.

        • Do you know what a sexual predator is? The term refers to someone who takes advantage of vulnerable people, exploiting them for his own gratification. Meisels is a perfect example of such behavior.

          Actually, they are no longer “accusations.” They were accusations before the Beis Din reviewed the evidence and Meisels admitted his guilt. Now, we are left with facts.

          I understand the temptation to be in denial. The truth can sometimes be extremely unpleasant to face. So is the sun — it hurts our eyes and makes us turn away. But remember: no matter how sweltering and blinding its rays, no intelligent person claims that the sun doesn’t exist.

    • Still there. Either somebody lied to the Israeli Beit Din, or it’s taking an awfully long time to change a web page.

  18. Even if they change the ownership of these Seminaries, it wont be enough. One needs to look seriously into who is the ‘new’ owner and if any relation to the accused. In these type of sexual msconducts, the names of the seminaries may need to also change…

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