אלו דברים שאין להם שיעור*
חמרות לה”ר ורכילות ותירוצים בעד מוסדותיהם ופרנסתם נגד הנזוקין
אלו דברים שאוכלים פירותיהם בעוה”ז ועונשם קימת לעוה”ב
Many of Elimelech Meisels’ defenders dwell on how his victims violated prohibitions in halacha pertaining to yichud and negiah (seclusion between unrelated adults of the opposite sex or touch of a sexual nature outside of marriage).
This victim blaming distracts the public from the ruling of the Special Beis Din of Chicago that, “Students in these seminaries are at risk of harm and it does not recommend that students attend these seminaries at this time.” Their ruling is based on their investigation of “improper conduct including unwanted physical contact of a sexual nature between Elimelech Meisels and students.”
The Chicago Beis Din (CBD) is not endorsing Meisels’ victims to take over the seminaries. Thus their mistakes are completely irrelevant to the issue. Moreover, not every victim was complicit through violations of yichud or negiah. In some instances Meisels put his hands on girls and they resisted or fled. In other instances he misled them about facts or the halachah pertinent to whether a specific location was secluded and other issues.
I have talked to a number of victims of manipulative, charismatic, rabbinic abusers like Meisels, Boruch Lanner, and Dovid Weinberger. Contrary to stereotypes, some were targeted because they were very naïve “good girls.” Every last one is full of regret for their complicity and would never repeat their mistakes. They just wish that their educations had prepared them for manipulators. Their problem was giving too much credence to rabbinic authority. Nobody taught them how to spot a charlatan or be able to say, “Buzz off; I don’t care if you’re a rabbi; I smell a rat.”
These victims have done their teshuva (repentance), complete with regret and suffering, and painfully acquired wisdom about how to avoid the same traps in the future. They are extremely unlikely to again fall prey to another manipulator.
It is Meisels who wants to be let off easy. He hasn’t even taken the first step, admitting his wrongdoing, let alone offering compensation for the damage he inflicted or sincerely seeking the forgiveness of his victims.
Even his resignation and seminary sales are a sham. Yarmush is a puppet front. Meisels doubtlessly intends to wait until things cool off to stage a gradual return. Other rabbinic offenders, such as Benzion Sobel, have pulled off that stunt.
We are not allowed to dwell on the past mistakes of those who have done teshuva. I suspect that most of the Internet trolls who repeatedly comment in my posts about the mistakes of the victims know this halacha. They violate it precisely because they hope to pain the victims and intimidate them into silence or confuse others and divert the discussion away from the real issue: the dangers posed by Meisels and the culture of his seminaries.
Blame is not a zero-sum game where proving the victims made mistakes reduces the guilt of Meisels. Meisels is utterly guilty and unfit. Let’s keep our eyes on the ball.
*The epigraph at the beginning of this post was composed by several of us. It parodies the corruption of traditional values by drawing on the the text of the beginning Mishnah Peiah, which is recited during shachris. The new text of the perverters of tradition reads: “These are the things for which there are no fixed measure, stringencies on lashon horah and rechilus, excuses on behalf of organizations and their income from the damages they cause. These are the things whose fruits they eat in this world and their punishment is realized in the world to come.”
The Hebrew text is exactly 140 characters so it can be Tweeted or texted to others in the Yeshivish world who do not use the Internet or smart phones. I have already Tweeted it from @frumfollies. Please re-Tweet it.