Cross-Currents Implicitly Endorses Chicago Beis Din

Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky

Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky

Cross-Currents, a Haredi site, just published (7/23/14) an article, How Not To Deal With Allegations of Impropriety by Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky. He presents the case for accepting allegations of sexual abuse competently investigated by rabbis, regardless of how many other people swear up and down the alleged perpetrator did so many wonderful things. I do not believe the timing is an accident.  I believe they are implicitly endorsing the findings of the Chicago Special Beis Din. They issued a ruling against attending any of the women’s seminaries owned and operated by Elimelech Meisels because of allegations of  unwanted sexual contact.

Cross-Currents’ postions are vetted by daas torah. this confirms the claim by Rabbi Yair Hoffman that the Chicago Beis Din “acted with the haskamah (approval) of leading gedolim (Torah sages).”

Below is the entire article as allowed by their Creative Commons License.
———

We have been witness to an increasing number of depressing revelations about Rabbis acting inappropriately towards women they have been counseling or educating. I have no intention of discussing any specific case. I would like to discuss a pattern that is all too common in these cases.

In response to accusations of improper behavior by Rabbis with female students or congregants, lots of well-meaning people come to the defense of the accused. These people will vouch for his tremendous integrity, meticulous observance of all appropriate boundaries in every interaction they ever experienced or witnessed, and the life-changing advice and counseling they or their friends received from the accused. Since, if and when breaches of ethical and Halachic behavior happen, they happen “behind closed doors,” the only way to verify the accusations is for victims to provide detailed testimony of what they claim happened. Frequently, the victims themselves are troubled individuals, or were having some specific emotional crisis which can make them vulnerable to advances from the predator, while compromising their credibility as plaintiffs or witnesses. People can become easily swayed and confused when weighing claims of somewhat unreliable plaintiffs/witnesses against the claims and testimony of obviously well adjusted success stories of said Rabbi’s activities.

I believe the approach is completely mistaken, and a section in the Kli Yakar will give us the correct approach to take in such situations.

At the end of Parshas Ki Teitzei (Devarim 25:13-16) the Torah prohibits holding in one’s possession dishonest weights and measures. The Kli Yakar is bothered by the seeming redundancies and inconsistencies exhibited by the text. The Torah begins by prohibiting holding “large” and “small” weights and measures. It then commands that one have “full and righteous” weights and measures. And the section concludes with the verdict that “It is an abomination before G-d, all who do these, all who act corruptly.”

The simple understanding of “small and large” weights is that the “small” weight is dishonest, used to shortchange customers, as opposed to a “large” one, which would be the honest weight. The problem this raises is that there should only be a prohibition against the “small” dishonest weight! Additionally, the command to have “full” and “righteous” seems redundant. “Full” implies that it is an honest weight, so what is added by the demand that it be “righteous?” Finally, “all who do these” refers to the dishonest use of weights and measures, an obviously criminal activity. So what has the Torah added with “all who act corruptly.”

The Kli Yakar begins his explanation by agreeing that the “large” one refers to an honest weight, and the command of “full and righteous” is the demand that one not only be honest – with a “full” honest weight, not shortchanging his customers – but to be righteous, going “beyond the letter of the law,” providing “a little extra.”

He then references a similar verse in Mishlei (20:10) which has similar textual difficulties that we encounter in our text. “A weight and a weight, a measure and a measure (implying having different sized weights) – an abomination before G-d are also both of them.” If they are both dishonest, why use the language “also?” They are simply both dishonest! Rather, the verse refers to two different weights or measures, one which is honest and one which is dishonest, We are being taught that the honest one is ALSO an abomination, for it is the facilitator that enables the person to get away with cheating customers with the dishonest one. If a storekeeper had a weight with which he was shortchanging a customer, this customer would come home, discover he had received less than what he had paid for, and he would bring the storekeeper to court. The storekeeper might defend himself with the claim that some of the produce must have fallen out of the bag after the customer left the store, or was lost after he got home. But if the court would receive a number of similar complaints it would become apparent that this storekeeper was shortchanging his customers.

What is the “solution?” The storekeeper also maintains an honest set of weights, and many customers are served honestly with them. When a customer who was cheated comes to court to complain, the storekeeper can now defend himself with the claim that the shortage happened after she left the store. And to verify that claim, he offers to bring all the satisfied customers who always received the full amount due them. If the court will send an investigator to check the weight, the storekeeper will show the honest weight, proving that the he does not cheat anyone.

In conclusion, says the Kli Yakar, the honest weight is just as much an abomination as the dishonest weight, for it is the honest weight that enables the criminal to get away with his dishonest dealings.

When a Rabbi or educator is accused of improper behavior of a sexual or abusive nature, character witnesses are irrelevant to verifying whether the accusations are true. All the many people who have been helped in the past in no way undermine the credibility of the accusers. What is important is the specific accusations, whether there is a pattern to those accusations, and whether the accused can properly refute those accusations. If the defendant is being falsely accused by vindictive or unstable women, either the cross examination of the accusers will verify that, or direct testimony to contradict the claims can be provided. If the accusations are credible, if a pattern of improper behavior is verified, if the accused is guilty, then all the people who were helped should have no impact of the conclusions one needs to draw. In fact, his help is revealed to be part of his abominations, empowering him to continue preying on vulnerable and innocent victims. Those he helped are his “honest” measure, enabling him destroy the lives of those he was cheating.

For decades, accusations such as these were not taken as seriously as they needed to be. Many people were damaged by ongoing abusive behavior that was not recognized. It is to the credit of those in the forefront of the fight against this abuse that the trend is being reversed. While no innocent person should be brought down by false accusations of vindictive or troubled women, no guilty person should escape because he kept “honest weights and measures” in his house.

Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky is the Dean and Rosh Yeshiva of Shapell’s/Darche Noam Institutions: Yeshivat Darche Noam/ Shapell’s and the Midreshet Rachel v’Chaya College of Jewish Studies for Women. A native of Los Angeles, California, Rabbi Karlinsky has been in Israel since 1968, where he studied at Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavneh and the Mirrer Yeshiva in Jerusalem.

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33 thoughts on “Cross-Currents Implicitly Endorses Chicago Beis Din

  1. What do you mean when you say that CC’s positions are “vetted by Daas Torah?” And what is your source? For example, I would argue that Rabbi Adlerstein who is one of the leading writers on CC is an independent thinker. While you may riight about others on that site to the extent that they check with Rabbonim before taking a position or posting ( if that is what you mean by “vetted by daas Torah”), I think your generalization when it comes to others like Rabbi Adlerstein is not accurate.

    • It is a funny game. Cross-Currents does present things that push the envelope and are not being said publicly by any of those recognized as gedolim. However, none of their articles was ever attacked as crossing the lines for haredi hashkafah. Think of Cross-Currents as the place where the gedolim float trial balloons without risking personal attack or blowback. I venture to say that Cross-Currents provides a good hint to what will be acceptable positions in a matter of years.

      This article, while a welcome step forward, is not as radical as it sounds. It still upholds {comment revised: does not challenge} the Aggudath Israel Moetzes position that rabbis must be consulted for permission to bring criminal charges against sex offenders. In no way does it take the modern orthodox position that abuse victims should go straight to the police. {I have replaced the previous sentence in response to comment below below by Rav Karlinsky, with: it does not speak to the question of whether and how to proceed with the criminal justice system. It confines itself to the question of how the public should evaluate reputations of people known to have done some good yet alleged to have also committed evil acts.}

      • Thanks for the reply. While I respect you and what you are doing I still must disagree with your response in this instance. For example, I believe that Rabbi Adlerstein was publicly criticized by Agudah at one of its conventions years ago. I will leave my comment at that because it is a side issue that digresses from the importance of the substance of your blog.

      • I am not sure where you saw in my article any implication for or against going to the police vs going to Rabbis. The message was meant for “observers”, both for those who had positive experiences with an accused, who on that basis reject the possibility of the allegations being true, or those having to decide whether to engage with him, who will use the (sometimes significant number of) character witnesses coming foward. I hope that both the police and the Rabbis have appropriate procedures and mechanisms for getting to the truth, and they shouldn’t need advice from me. If they do, it probably wouldn’t help..

        • Rav Karlinsky,

          Thank you again for your valuable article which should help to educate the larger public to better recognize misconduct when committed by people known to have done a lot of good.

          I have revised my above comment in response to your comment.

  2. This article is fantastic. It decimates the claims of people who “know” that Meisels couldn’t have done what he did. It also refutes all of the girls who said that Meisels was “AMAZING.”

    And, of course, it obliterates Kahane.

    • I agree with each of your points. Seriously.

      In all seriousness, this article is very good, and it is refreshing to read it coming from the side of the camp which often denies that someone so chashuv, someone learned in Torah and from a chashuv family, can commit such pervasively evil acts for years on end and be so detrimental to society.

      I do hope that as Rabbi Karlinsky says, “The trend is being reversed.” Halevai that is indeed the case.

  3. I would like to understand why it takes bringing an example from the Klei Yakar for Frum people to accept and to understand something that is clear as day to every non-Jew in the world.

  4. i just read kahane’s letter again. I am in a state of shock. It is hard to believe that a sane man, let alone an educator responsible for educating so many girls can write such a sick letter. What a dishonest person. The great nisayon before Moshiach is that when Eli Meisels went to bed with innocent girls, we should all keep quiet so that it can happen agaon and again in all our institiutions! For this great act and for passing this “difficult” nisayon, Moshiach will come???? This delusional mind is a proof to the theory of evolution. It is clear that his seichel never developed past the Neanderthal stage. That is the only way I can be dan him L’kaf zechus.

    G-D, in his infinite wisdom, deemed it appropriate that rapist Meisels should abuse our precious bnos yisroel and that OUR challenge as good soldiers and automotons is V’Yidom Ahron. Let’s all keep quiet. No. You are wrong!!! Now is the time to act for the sake of the dignity of bnos yisroel. It is the time to act zealously like Pinchos, not to practice V’Yidom Ahron.

    We are constnatly lectured about tznius…and trust me it is a big problem here in Flatbush and deserves to be spoken about, but here we have the biggest breach in tznius imaginable and where are the asifas???? Where is the statement by the Moetzes Gedolei Hatorah stating that our girls are not hefker???? Are we reliving Pilegesh B’Givah? What has happened to our generation?

    Mr. Kahane – As I write I am growing more and more enraged. Who the hell do you think you are? Where is your modesty, the modesty that you preach to your wonderful army about skirt lengths? Where is your honesty or is it all just a game? Where is YOUR gevurah? Your student, under the name truth teller has shown gevurah. Where is yours??? How many people have you let down? How much will OUR emunas chachomim suffer because of you???

    It reminds me of Kolko who molested hundreds of kids at Torah Temimah and in camp. Aas terrible as Kolko is, many victims HATE MArgoliues with an enmity that can not be described because he mocked them, made them feel like dirt and stole their hopes and dreams. Meisels is an animal, but you Mr. Kahane are a lowlife for engaging in a coverup. There is absolutely zero justification.You are destroying your talmidos. You are scarring them for life and ultimately you will be responsible for their loss of innocence and diminished respect for yiddishkeit.

    It is not too late for you to recant. Issue an apology to all victims. Offer your support. Institute a game changer program where your schools will institute protocols to ensure this never happens again. Pay for therapy. Defend the Bnos Yisroel. Stand up for tznius and for Hashem’s glory.

    Your words are hollow. You have turned black into white, Your values are totally corrupt and you words are truly evil.

    Yesh Din V’Dayan. Chas Veshalom to say that Hashem is a Vatran.

    I truly hope that a spirity of empathy and yahrus enters your heart of stone. I truly hope that a flicker of humanity awakens you to do the right thing. I truly hope that you will still prove to be the exception to this sick cancer that is eating away at our society.

    .

  5. I just want to say that, although I agree with the above comments abt Kahane, he was not the only teacher with that attitude. I went to pninim years ago, and in light of this situation, I called several teachers about this, just to find out what was going on behind the scenes. Boy did I get mad when I heard how dismissive and nonchalant their attitude was towards their bosses actions. Not only that, they started rambling this seminary BS that we are all going through a nisayon, and Hashem is trying to test us, and we shouldnt listen to anything we hear.
    Teachers, listen up: Meisels obviously couldnt handle the temptation that came along with being the principal of several hundred girls, and he succumbed to it but doing unspeakable sexual acts. He is now witnessing his life falling apart and his family and students feeling utterly betrayed. This will require hours of therapy to get past. Admit it! This is also jeopardizing your jobs as teachers, being that people are now questioning your reasoning behind keeping quiet for the past ten years. If I were you, I would wake up and realize what is happening, and take a stand to fight it instead of defending it!

    • “Not only that, they started rambling this seminary BS that we are all going through a nisayon, and Hashem is trying to test us, and we shouldnt listen to anything we hear.”

      That “seminary BS” is what they teach and preach all year to the girls and boys sent to Israel for Seminary or Beis Medrash. The problem is that when these kids are surrounded by people drilling “that seminary BS” into them 24/7 while they are living in the bubble of their dorms, there is no “reality check” going on. Girls and boys in 12th grade typically do not get brainwashed. But girls and boys in Israel, just a year later, almost always get brainwashed. It’s because the messages they receive are drilled into them 24/7 without them ever hearing or seeing another point of view from their parents, siblings, friends, neighbors or someone in shul. It’s all “seminary BS” all the time. And after 10-12 months of it, they come home brainwashed, they want to learn in Kollel 24/7 or marry “long term” Kollel boys and think nothing of forcing their parents to go into debt to support them.

      Besides for that, there is never any acknowledgement that life in Israel is SO drastically different from life in the USA in so many ways. In Israel you can live like a Frum Jew without any thought or concern about how you are perceived by anyone outside your circles. Almost everyone is Jewish even if they aren’t Frum. And anyone who isn’t Jewish is living in a Jewish country and knows who you are, what you do and why. You don’t ever have to explain Shabbos, Yom Tov, Tzitzis, Shaitels, 3/4 sleeves in the scorching heat of summer, or bringing food for a whole family with you on trips to places where there is cheap non-kosher food readily available for purchase. You don’t have to explain what a minyan is or why that guy in the airport is wearing a striped cape with strings on the end while swaying and shaking like he is on drugs. In Israel your health insurance is paid for as well as 90% of your children’s yeshiva tuition. In Israel you can learn and get paid enough government stipends to feed your family. None of those realities exist in the USA (without being dishonest and lying on government forms). And yet teachers in Israel believe that their way is the way ALL Jews “should” live, without realizing that American realities are different. They tell boys not to go to college, when most of them NEED to go to college if they are to have a chance at successfully supporting their families. They tell girls that marrying long term learners is the ideal, and they should strive for “the best” and not settle for less. How many young women get married and sign up for that life, only to realize 10 or 15 years too late that it’s not doable in the USA without them collapsing under the stress and strain of being wife, mother and main breadwinner? How many women regret signing up for that? How many men wish they didn’t have to rely on their older parents for support, and could feel proud to support their own families? How many men wish they had gone to college and had a competitive skill when they have to face the mounting bills that come with raising a Frum family in the USA, and can’t compete in the marketplace with all those “stupid goyim” who it turns out aren’t all stupid after all? Lots. I know them. I’ve heard them kvetch about their distress and complain about their resentments of the system and what they were taught and how they regret having trusted their teachers. I’m related to them. I send them tzedakah money and I am friends with them. They feel stuck in “the system” even as they raise their kids in it. They don’t know how to break free of it. And even in “more modern” schools in Israel where they claim NOT to teach or preach all of this, the kids still get these messages of “The Kollel way is the best and holiest way” because all the teachers are living life that way and students naturally emulate their teachers as role models and want to be “the best” in their Avodas Hashem. And “the best” is modeled to them by teachers who are living lives that are virtually impossible to live (honestly) in the USA.

      Sorry for the off-topic rant. I just think that “that Seminary BS” which the above poster wrote about is a wider issue. It is a bubble that these Israel teachers live in. They are normally so successful at imparting their myopic views and way of life onto their students who are away from home, that they are wondering why you, “Disgusted,” are not convinced now of their righteousness. They think it must be that you are “not growing anymore” having left seminary a few years ago, not realizing that that is exactly what you have done since seminary – grown – and that you have grown up.

      • I once asked a seminary staff “if people are relying on their parents to support them and go in debt for their learning, how will THEIR children be supported thru kollel? How will they keep up kollel through the generations?”

        It was an honest question.
        And she had no answer really- “well, I guess there needs to be some sort of plan for the next generation…I don’t know..”

        Or I’ve heard the infamous answer (which Meisles once told me too), “it just works out.” I have heard that so many times, it’s spilling outta my ears.

        My follow-up question is, “okay, now let’s go into financial specifics. Don’t tell me ‘it just works out’- HOW do you do this? Tell me the secret bc I seem to be the only one not in on it.”

        (Apologies- this is off topic)

        • Adding to the off topic rant -This was one of my biggest issues in seminary also, when they pushed kollel. I had parents that did not have the means to support me, nor was I interested in working full time to support a husband, so I knew that a kollel life was not something that was in my future. I remember teachers telling me that I should strive for it. It’s easy to strive for it, when your parents are paying the bill. Additionally, the teachers who told us to strive for kollel came from wealthy NY families, who gave them plenty of financial help. I always felt guilty that I “wasn’t really frum” for not wanting this kind of lifestyle.

          Now…I’m married to someone who makes a parnassa, has tremendous yiras shamayim, and is koveah itim. My friends who went kollel are all sick of being dependent on their parents, working full time, and many of their husbands are looking for work, because they realized that its just not all what its cracked up to be. Don’t get me wrong, true talmidei chochomim should be in kollel. The klal needs people learning – the klal also needs doctors, lawyers, accountants, plumbers, electricians, etc. to support our communities. Your average guy who grew up in an MO or even American yeshivish community normally isn’t cut out for *long term learning*. It’s unfortunate that this lifestyle is pushed on us at the impressionable age of 18.

          • “It’s unfortunate that this lifestyle is pushed on us at the impressionable age of 18.”

            It’s not “unfortunate” – it’s IRRESPONSIBLE. And the Gedolim are leading it, they are not changing it, and they are making matters worse for Klal Yisrael by causing tremendous Shalom Bayis issues in Frum households. They can change it, but they don’t because they are “Nogeyah B’davar” – the Yeshivos support them and their families – they can’t say “Okay, we can stop pushing Kollel now for everyone and only the top 5% of top learners should be in Kollel and get supported by the Klal.”

            Like the teachers in Meisels’ seminaries, the yeshivos are the bread and butter of the Gedolim and they can’t seem to gather the courage to stand up, speak up and make changes that are needed – by saying that Kollel life should be reserved for only a select few. But if the Gedolim aren’t leading, why are we following? They are not Omniscient. Jews do not have a Pope. The Klal needs to accept that we are leaderless.

            Why should good, Frum girls like Vera feel guilty that she “wasn’t really frum” for not listening to her teachers telling her to “strive” for living a Kollel life? (And how much she was lied to by teachers with wealthy parents supporting them, being told to “strive” for it, when they themselves weren’t “striving” – they were taking handouts!) Why do we accept our children being lied to, conned, pressured, all supposedly in the name of Frumkeit, for something which is clearly not the right thing to do? It was never done in Europe. Only a very, very small percentage of the best and brightest were sent to Kollel, and only for a limited number of years before they were required to accept a position as a Rov of a community.

            • Seriously, what an excellent and brilliant commment! If should be published in all the frum Jewish newspapers! Very insightful!!!!

          • Vera, well said! You should be very proud that you did not succumb to the pressure and myth of the kollel wife lifestyle. It’s not right for 98% of the people! In fact I think more people should be credit for keeping frum while holding down normal jobs as lawyers, doctors, workmen etc. It’s a much bigger test of yiras shamayim then sitting in a sheltered kollel all day..! Kol ha kavod!! The system must change or it will implode. Law keep hearing about more divorces and more OTD kids. Something is very wrong in our current system and it must be changed !!

    • Wow! Unbelievable that staff is still covering up. It’s great that you called and I hope you took notes of who you spoke to and what they said. These people should be sued and held accountable for their complicity. There are lawyers out there looking to file cases. I hope your information will help the legal cases. It’s all about money. These people have no shame and nothing will stop them unless the seminaries are shut down and they lose their jobs – maybe then they will admit their wrongs and seek teshuva.

  6. The Agudah Business Model for reporting abuse is to go to rabbinic authorities who will effectuate change – not by putting the offenders behind bars, but removing them from positions of authority. Has this system worked here? To be sure, the CBD decisive and clear – yes! However, the Israeli BD muddied the waters. it is clear that unless the abuser faces consequences from the legal system there will always be the kool-aid Pninim graduates carrying on about their “amazing” and charismatic leader.

  7. My close friend believes Meisles is guilty, but she told me she feels terrible for still “feeling bad” for him.
    I told her: “It’s still traumatic for u and everyone else. Don’t feel bad for any of your feelings. You know he is guilty, but he did so much good for u. U need to remind yourself that after he’d speak encouraging words to u in his office or after a shiur he’d give, he’d do disturbing things behind closed doors. U need to think of him as a sex predator who fooled so many ppl to get away with his crimes. We need to see behind the mask. But it’s hard for us bc it felt so REAL. But it WASNT.”

    • That’s why the Kli Yakar analogy is so powerful. Have your friend read to herself several times until she internalizes its message.

  8. Alright.
    I am hearing from posts/in real life about people stating “the IBD never said he was guilty.”

    People.

    A Bais Din does not force someone to sell his seminaries and break off all contact with girls if the evidence of his guilt wasn’t clear-cut and 100%.

    They simply haven’t yet announced a final conclusion to the public. Meisles confessed to the CBD, but who knows if he ever will to the IBD.

    I’m not sure why this is not penetrating through some peoples’ minds. It is a very simple connect-the-dots equation.

  9. I’d like to reiterate what I’ve said on posts in the past (bc the whole topic came up of the “kollel system” and Meisles schools…).

    I highly doubt (although I can’t be certain) that every teacher in the school knew of the terrible things being done. I went to these schools and I will not back down when I say that some of them are amongst the most pure-hearted, inspiring, and truly amazing mechanchim out there who have produced and inspired so many students to live a life of Torah u’mitzvos.

    I’d like to think that the ones I still look up to are not playing the hush-hush game like other teachers. (Although it is truly a struggle for them bc they could get fired if outwardly bashing Meisles. I thought the other day how sad it is that one man’s sick desires can have such an enormous ripple effect and damage so many others in so many ways).

    Also, I don’t think Gedolim encourage only Kollel. Perhaps Roshei Yeshivas though…it’s a touchy subject. I’m not making any statements…But yes, I always tell ppl that the system should change back in past days where only the ones truly meant to stay in full-time learning did so.

    I am simply trying to make ppl see the other side. You have all read my posts and know where I stand with Meisles/Kahane etc already.

    • where will meisels be? together with weinberger on shoulzin street parading as frum victims. they will continue to open a school together when hype blows over and pursue their lusts. if we want these animals off pur streets the only way to do it is put the incriminating evidence on u tube. maybe then these ” amazing michanchim” will go away.

      • I have mentioned to a few people that I would not be surprised if the terrible evidence of Meisles DID reach the public internet world…(YouTube or elsewhere)..

        • I hope the evidence is made public in order to educate and convince his defenders that his crimes were true. Why is it so hard for people to understand sociopaths and molesters often are charming and charismatic on the outside! That is exactly how they get away with it!

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