Chicago Letter Counters Israel: Students can Drop Meisels Seminaries and Others Can Accept Them

Shmuel Feurst Aug 6 2014 let rejecting IBD ban on switching schoolTwo days ago on August 6, 2014, Rabbi Shmuel Feurst, one of the three dayanim (rabbinical judges) of the Chicago Special Beis Din wrote:

By this letter, I certify that according to Jewish law (al pi halacha)
1. any student currently enrolled in any of the following seminaries, Pninim, Binas Bais Yaakov, Chedvas Bais Yaakov or Keser Chaya, is free to attend any seminary they wish, and
2. any seminary is free to accept any student they wish including students who withdraw from the aforementioned seminaries.

Rabbi Feurst explicitly rejects the ruling (and thus, the authority) of the Israeli Beis Din (IBD) of Rabbis Shafran, Malinowitz and Gartner which forbade students from switching and other seminaries from recruiting or accepting them.

The seminaries named above were under the control of Elimelech Meisels and according to the IBD they were transferred to the control of the IBD and Mr. Yankie (Yaakov) Yarmush. They are embroiled in this controversy because Meisels admitted abusing students, and Chicago’s rabbis are not persuaded that the enablers have been removed or even of the extent of and nature of Meisels removal.

A few students have switched quietly and other seminaries have quietly accepted the students. But only the Nachlas seminary of Zvi Bloom is openly recruiting those students. This ruling will doubtless make some of the seminaries more willing to admit students (when and if they have space) and will make some less secretive about it. On the other hand, it is a political question how many other seminaries will be afraid of the influence and power of the IBD and will not be willing to publicly defy them.

One thing is crystal clear. It seems less and less likely that Chicago and the Israel Beis Din will find a middle ground, a point of compromise.

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57 thoughts on “Chicago Letter Counters Israel: Students can Drop Meisels Seminaries and Others Can Accept Them

  1. What we have here is a simple machlokes. Obviously, most people outside of E”Y think the way the CBD thinks, and will follow them. There are others who have been taking hadrocha from members of the CBD who will follow based on that.

    I predict that the IBD supporters, instead of validating their case, will come out and trash the CBD for all kinds of things, nearly all of which is imagined or irrelevant. That’s what I’ve seen at the other blog, and it’s getting worse.

    I take comfort knowing that Chicago is blessed with these fine Rabbonim who have drawn a line in the sand, and continue to take a firm stand, acting with much courage.

    I forgot the source, but a rosh yeshiva/rov is judged by those who follow him. That does not speak well for supporters of the IBD.

    • Triangle once again making baseless assumptions….
      Most people in the USA accept the CBD conclusion. How exactly did you reach that conclusion. Most people I speak with in the USA find the CBD actions incomprehensible. I have spoken to numerous people in Chicago that are shocked and disappointed by the CBD as well.

      • I have many Chicago contacts and they in turn inform me of the feelings of others. Yes, with only a few exceptions, the community in Chicago respects the position of their BD on Meisels and the question of attending.

      • Yeah, right. CBD is protecting girls and the IBD is protecting institutions. Still haven’t figured it out? Do we really have to re-hash this whole thing?

  2. I don’t know why no one seems to have picked up on this but in #51 in the civil suit it says that meisels signed a binding arbitration agreement (shtar berurim) with the CBD. If that’s true (and there’s no reason to doubt it and no one has claimed otherwise) then meisels cannot then go and subsequently sign a diff one with the IBD – it would be utterly worthless and meaningless halachically and legally which would mean from the very beginning the IBD psak had absolutely no authority on either party. If anyone has anything to say about this please enlighten me.

  3. Orthodox educator Rabbi Elimelech Meisels sued for sexual assault
    August 8, 2014 11:10am

    NEW YORK (JTA) — Rabbi Elimelech Meisels, who runs four religious seminaries in Israel for young Orthodox women, is being sued for sexual assault and fraud.

    The civil suit was filed Monday with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on behalf of four parents with daughters signed up for Meisels’ haredi Orthodox seminaries for the 2014-2015 school year. The parents are seeking to recover their tuition deposits.

    The suit alleges that Meisels would lure girls under his charge “into late night coffee meetings and other private settings and then sexually assault them.” It says he threatened to ruin girls’ marriage prospects if they told and would “intimidate his victims by telling them that no one would believe that a rabbi and author with his reputation would have done such a thing.”

    Meisels denies the allegations.

    “The allegations are completely false,” Meisels told JTA in a phone interview from Israel. “My attorney has advised me to pursue legal action against all those who are wronging myself and the seminaries.”

    The seminaries named in the suit are Peninim, Binas Bais Yaakov, Chedvas Bais Yaakov and Keser Chaya.

    The complaint said that seminary attendance has had negative impacts on the marriage prospects of the Orthodox women who have gone there. The parents involved in the lawsuit allege that Meisels is committing fraud by misrepresenting the seminaries as institutions that help Orthodox girls become upstanding Jewish women. Aside from Meisels, other administrators at the seminaries are named in the suit.

    The matter was initially brought to the attention of the Chicago Beit Din, a Jewish religious court, which concluded that “students in these seminaries are at risk of harm and it does not recommend that prospective students attend these seminaries at this time,” according to the lawsuit. Following the Beit Din determination, two institutions that offered college credits to students attending Meisels’ seminaries suspended their affiliation with them.

    Though Meisels claimed to have sold his seminaries following the Beit Din ruling, the Beit Din did not accept the sales as legitimate, according to the complaint.

    Though the schools are based in Israel, Meisels and the other defendants named in the suit are U.S. citizens, and the non-profit organization that processes funds for the seminaries — Peninim of America — is a nonprofit charity in the United States, according to the complaint.
    Tags: Breaking News, sexual abuse, Elimelech Meisels

    Read more: http://www.jta.org/2014/08/08/news-opinion/united-states/orthodox-educator-rabbi-elimelech-meisels-sued-for-sexual-assault#ixzz39p9b6gfb

    • The JTA story is wrong. The RICO lawsuit is not seeking damages for sexual assault. So at this point Meisels is not being sued for sexual assaults. It is just alleged that Meisls committed sexual assaults in furtherance of the conspiracy. All relevant excerpts from the complaint:

      1. From approximately 2004 until the present date, Defendant Elimelech
      Meisels engaged in a fraudulent and unlawful scheme to induce Orthodox Jewish
      parents from across the United States to send their daughters to various seminaries in
      Israel that he controlled under the guise of educational and spiritual development. In
      truth, Defendant Meisels’ true aim was to fraudulently and unlawfully take thousands
      of dollars from each of these parents and to induce these girls, by telephone, mail, wire
      and other means, to travel thousands of miles outside the United States and away from
      their parents for the purpose of sexually assaulting these vulnerable young girls.

      23. Named Plaintiffs bring this action as a class action under Rules 23(a),
      23(b)(1), 23(b)(2), and 23(b)(3) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure on behalf of a
      class consisting of themselves and all other victims of the conspiracy to defraud
      plaintiffs out of their money and sexually assault their daughters.

      THE SEXUAL ASSAULTS

      44. This, it turned out, was a big fraud. It was all part of a scheme whereby
      Defendant Meisels and his co-conspirators would induce young girls to travel
      thousands of miles away from home under the guise of Jewish education only to
      forcibly engage them in various sexual acts and take their money in the process.

      45. Defendant Meisels, like many other sexual predators, preyed on the
      vulnerable. He did this by developing mentor-mentee relationships with girls and
      exploiting these relationships to lure the girls into late night coffee meetings and other
      private settings and then sexually assaulted them.

      46. Once the sexual assaults were complete, upon information and belief,
      Defendant Meisels would intimidate his victims by telling them that no one would
      believe that a rabbi and author with his reputation would have done such a thing.

      48. It was widely known within the administrative staff of The Seminaries
      that Defendant Meisels was regularly taking students to late night private meetings – a
      fact itself that is forbidden and known as “yichud” according to the Orthodox Jewish
      law and tradition. However, certain still unknown co-conspirators within the
      Seminaries were also aware that Defendant Meisels was sexually assaulting the girls
      and assisted Defendant Meisels by actively and passively concealing the assaults. These
      co-conspirators continue to cover up Defendant Meisel’s sexual assaults and fraud by
      failing to report the assaults to the authorities.

      THE SEXUAL ASSAULTS ARE REVEALED

      49. The scheme of Defendant Meisels and his co-conspirators began to crumble when unnamed victims brought Defendant Meisels’ sexual assaults to the attention of a distinguished Jewish religious court in Chicago (“Chicago Bais Din”).

      54. News of this decision sent shockwaves to the prospective parent bodies of
      The Seminaries. These parents had already paid the The Seminaries thousands of
      dollars toward tuition for the 2014-2015 academic year only to learn that The Seminaries
      were a front for Defendant Meisels’ sexual exploits and gratification.

      89. Count II Defendants affirmatively represented themselves as a safe, Torah
      environment prior to the time that Plaintiffs applied to The Seminaries and paid their
      tuition deposits. In addition, Count II Defendants failed to inform Class plaintiffs that
      The Seminaries are an unsafe place for young girls because it was and is being run as a
      criminal enterprise and as a front to enable Defendant Meisels to sexually assault the
      students.

      114. In furtherance of the conspiracy, the Count VI Defendants committed
      overt acts including sexual assaults, mail fraud, and wire fraud, and/or covering up the
      same, and were otherwise willful participants in joint activity.

      • Good point. I just replied to their Tweet: “@JTAnews The RICOsuit isn’t seeking $ for assault. It’s just alleged that Meisls committed sexual assaults in furtherance of the conspiracy

        I appreciate your impulse to document and paste stuff. But synopses and brief links would help not overwhelm the screen space and would increase readership by making it more user friendly. You used to blog regularly and with great value to all of us. I would be delighted if you started up again. but I can appreciate that it is a complicated and personal choice.

        • You and others are currently doing a better job than I can.

          I will try not to overwhelm with long postings. It is simply difficult to watch those attacking the brave parents who from what I understand are acting within halacha to collect monies that should have been returned to them, particularly when those attacking them either haven’t read the RICO claim or are unable to appreciate the need for same due to the alleged inappropriate actions as set out in the complaint. This action would have been unnecessary if the deposits had simply been returned and parents’ ability to choose their child’s seminary had not been interfered with.

          I can only hope that this leads to an investigation by the authorities in Israel into the allegations in the complaint against Meisels and any failure to report by other defendants and others involved in the seminaries/IBD. There needs to be a proper criminal investigation and the application of criminal penalties for any failure by mandated reporters in Israel to report, which in Israel is very broad. Hopefully this also encourages others to help out any other alleged Meisels out there.

          • Completely agree.

            Had the seminaries addressed the scandal and allowed parents to get their money back, instead of pretending everything was okay there would be no lawsuit, and the seminaries may have even had a shot at surviving.

            I also hope a criminal investigation happens.

            • Vera, great points!! The Israeli police should really be involved and I hope they do a complete investigation of meisels and his cohorts who enabled him to hide the abuse for so many years.

      • JewishWhistleblower –

        Yerachmiel wrote: “You used to blog regularly and with great value to all of us. I would be delighted if you started up again. but I can appreciate that it is a complicated and personal choice.”

        JewishWhistleblower – I would like to second that. Yours was the very first website I ever came across which covered these issues. You did a whole lot of research and I was blown away at some of the extensive work you did and reported on. We need more people like you in the world and though I never did comment on your blog, I very much appreciated the purpose it served, knowing that there are people who care to call out the truth when there is injustice and fraud in the frum world and when it is covered up by, or committed by rabbanim.

  4. one issue that i think daat torah blog is correct, they should have gone to court to get their money back on a simple mekach taos. we were unaware of this and therefore we have right to get money back. seems pretty simple.

    unfortunately, once lawyers get involved all sorts of things happen. obviously, the lawyer decided that he wanted to sue on as many counts as possible and the best way to do it was to create this so called conspiracy…that is going on for so many years…in fact, the seminaries served no other purpose than to lure innocents across the ocean to assault them…

    the parents had a choice and could have elected not to sign on to this…it is wrong of them to concoct this imaginary tale.

    As much as I am very upset at what the IBD does and strongly believe that they left the parents no other choice but to go to court…the parents do not have to stoop to this level of dirty play…it is not called for and they had a very simple and effective claim for the refund without making it seem as if there is this secret cabal of sick seminary owners and principals and dayanim and purchasers who all are in on some sick scheme.

    this is where i differ from lopin. Just because I agree with one side does not mean whatever they do is right.

    • Jack have you read the RICO complaint? Can you point out the paragraphs you consider “imaginary”? Given the alleged conduct of the defendants, it appears to me that they have brought this on themselves by their own conduct. It is clear from the JTA article that Meisels still claims innocence. The rest of the defendants brought it upon themselves by not returning the deposits or related alleged actions.

      • It is important to note that Meisels is quoted in the JTA article:
        “The allegations are completely false,” Meisels told JTA in a phone interview from Israel. “My attorney has advised me to pursue legal action against all those who are wronging myself and the seminaries.”

        Meisels could not pursue legal action on behalf of the seminaries unless he still controlled them in some form. Otherwise, he would have no standing to do so. Accordingly, this supports the CBD claims, contradicts the IBD claims and supports elements of the fraud and RICO claims against the Defendants.

    • ++it is not called for and they had a very simple and effective claim for the refund without making it seem as if there is this secret cabal of sick seminary owners and principals and dayanim and purchasers who all are in on some sick scheme.+++

      I think it’s the facts that make it seem like that.

    • I agree that it goes too far to allege the seminaries were set up to defraud parents and satisfy Meisels’ sexual desires. No doubt the purpose was to make money (and possibly a dose of something more noble), but Meisels used the opportunity to corrupt himself and the girls, which did turn the seminaries into a fraud.

      The reason the complaint portrayed Meisels’ seminaries as an ongoing conspiracy, etc., was to bring the suit within RICO. That allowed it to be brought in federal court. Although using the mails or telephone to defraud is a federal crime, that does not mean that someone injured by mail or wire fraud can bring a civil suit in federal court. Federal courts have jurisdiction only if it is conferred by a federal statute, so an ordinary civil claim for damages or recission of a contract due to fraud can normally only be brought in state courts.

      Congress approved civil suits under RICO with the vague idea of attacking “criminal enterprises,” so RICO requires multiple specified crimes (including mail or wire fraud) on the part of some kind of ongoing entity or organization. RICO not only opens the door to federal court, it offers the incentives of treble damages and attorney’s fees for winning plaintiffs. I’m not competent to say whether this complaint passes muster under current interpretations of RICO, but the RICO claim gets it in the courthouse door.

    • Jack, that would be nice if they were willing to give refunds. As far as I understand, they got what I would call a run around, that is,,each person claimed they couldn’t refund the money and speak to someone else, but, there was never that someone else.(this is how I understand it, but by all means correct me if I’m wrong).
      So the intent was to hold the money and with the help,of the ibd, not even to let the girls go to another seminary, which boggles my mind.
      Now from here on I’m guessing, as the only way to make sure the money isn’t spent from the seminaries, before the trial goes thru the court system, their lawyer advised them to go this way. This is a claim, and there will be counter claims, but who are you or any to say it was a concocted tale, or as one ridiculously claimed, it’s a blood libel, when none of us interviewed the girls involved and don’t have enough information to even judge the claim. Do you think it’s possible the CBD knows something we don’t?
      Again,,put the blame where it belongs, to the people involved with the seminaries who decided to keep the money and not refund it.

      • To be clear, this is not a suit by victims of Meisels’ abuse. It is by parents of students enrolled for this coming year who are reporting a run-around when they tried to get refunds.

    • The allegation is true. Meisels has been defrauding parents for years. He made as if he had pure intentions to educate girls. Meanwhile all he was interested in was sex and money. Do you deny this?
      This does not mean that all the staff were in on the scheme, but meisles was indeed the sole owner and used the girls as he pleased.

    • Who cares what “daat torah” blog writes??

      He’s a nutcase who has devoted his life to helping and justifying the abuse of women thru twisted “botai din”. He boasts of being a talmid of Rav Moshe ztk”l but no one ever heard RAF ztk”l boast about his “talmid” and RAF ztk”l would not have approved of his disgusting conduct on bit. Notice that neither of his sons has anything to do with shmutz like the two Eidenson brothers.

      It is therefore no surprise that “no daat and no Torah” is using his best twisted logic and perverted reasoning to come to the defense of Chaim Malinowitz’s attempt to deny justice to Weasel Measel’s victims. They are women.
      May we all be zocheh to see the end of all forms of abuse of the least protected members of klal yisroel at the hands of people like Weasel Measel, Chaim Malignentwitz and their hilchos lashon horah twisting protectors and enablers.

      • Your claim about daattorah “justifying abuse of women” is a complete lie. He has worked for years trying to help victims and protectour community. Try reading his blog and the books he published on child and domestic abuse.

      • “May we all be zocheh to see the end of all forms of abuse of the least protected members of klal yisroel at the hands of people like Weasel Measel, Chaim Malignentwitz and their hilchos lashon horah twisting protectors and enablers.”

        Amein! Kein yehi ratzon.

  5. i think it is embellished as lawsuits are….i doubt that the intent of opening the 4 schools especially the 2 where he was not as involved…was to select girls to bring to ISrael to rape….that sort of thing is what i mean…

    he is an animal,the ibd is totally wrong but that does not mean I rubberstamp anything that the “right” side does

    • Jack please refer to paragraphs in the complaint. I see nothing “embellished”. What do you think this “animal” did and how did he accomplish it? What was his intent? What were his goals?

      Excerpt from the complaint:

      1. From approximately 2004 until the present date, Defendant Elimelech
      Meisels engaged in a fraudulent and unlawful scheme to induce Orthodox Jewish
      parents from across the United States to send their daughters to various seminaries in
      Israel that he controlled under the guise of educational and spiritual development. In
      truth, Defendant Meisels’ true aim was to fraudulently and unlawfully take thousands
      of dollars from each of these parents and to induce these girls, by telephone, mail, wire
      and other means, to travel thousands of miles outside the United States and away from
      their parents for the purpose of sexually assaulting these vulnerable young girls.

    • It’s called grooming and it’s well documented in the professional literature. A predator positions himself in a calculated way to entrap victims and ensure compliance and secrecy. What better way to access vulnerable girls and ensure compliance and secrecy than to become the trusted rabbi principal of girls’ schools–not one but 4? It doesn’t need to be argued or proven that he opened the schools for the express purpose of sexually assaulting girls, only that he used the schools for this purpose, which would include using them to boost his reputation and credibility and communal position so as to be considered above suspicion, which he clearly did. Read up on grooming.

  6. Moreover, how do you read Meisels mind and determine his intent? All we know are his actions and his pattern as alleged,

    Where in the complaint does it refer to his “intent of opening the 4 schools”?

    Did he “select girls” by recruiting them offering scholarships/bursaries?

    Did bring these girls to Israel?

    Did the CBD use the language “… unwanted physical contact of a sexual nature…” in regard to multiple allegations by seminary girls?

    So again what is embellished?

    • Do you even read the content of the excerpts that you’ve posted?

      “Defendant Meisels’ true aim was to… ” So the suit itself seems to be based on reading Meisels’ mind and claims to know his aims.

  7. “Admitted abusing students”

    How do you know he admitted abusing students. Not pushing away a very troubled girl that initiated a hug isn’t abuse……

    • According to a letter written by Rabbi Aharon Feldman which was posted on the Daas Torah blog, “The counsel for Elimelech Meisels began his defense by claiming that I [RAF] was not empowered to represent anyone. The Chief Dayan (the head of the Beis Din) of the Israeli Beis Din, R. Shafran] replied that he is technically correct but this is immaterial since Meisels had already confessed”

    • Where’d you come up with that piece of nonsense? He didn’t put his arm around a troubled girl’s shoulders (which would be grounds for him to never be in chinuch ever again anyway).

      He put his hands up troubled girls’ skirts and that was just the beginning.

      He is a pervert. Deal with it.

      • Rational Faith, I just can’t believe it, but even after written accounts of Meisels admission to (in the words of CBD Rabbonim) “kol davar ossur” the Meisels Weasels (his defenders) still insist that “nobody knows” what really happened.

        It is truly shocking to see the lengths that people will go in order to protect a known, admitted monster. Don’t believe me? Just check out the Daas Torah blog where, among other lies, you can find the following fake bits of info:

        1) The CBD is a bunch of liars (!) with an agenda or set of agendas
        2) There are only two accusers, and one only wanted a hug
        3) Meisels never admitted to anything
        4) The IBD understood that they were going to try the case from the beginning and that the CBD were simply errand boys providing the eidus of the girls
        5) THE BIG LIE: the sems are safe now that Meisels is gone

        These are just the first few, and, yes, there are some CBD haters out there. Big deal, they have big shoulders. But to see such lies being espoused as fact is truly disconcerting.

        • Unfortunately, contrary to your claim, the CBD never wrote that Meisels confessed to “kol davrar ossur.” They said only that he presents a danger to students. If they would have written what you attribute to them, a lot of wasted e-ink could have been save.

          • However, the issue is moot since the Israeli Beis Din accepts that Meisels engaged in improper behavior. Hence their insistence that he is out of the seminaries (whether or not he actually is out of a role of influence is a separate matter to be debated elsewhere).

          • I only claimed that that’s what the CBD says. And they’ll tell you the very same thing if you would bother to call them than to speculate otherwise.

  8. Fact #1: Zvi Bloom = Torah Umesorah
    Fact #2: Torah Umesorah takes their marching orders in large part from Jack R. & A.C. Levin in Chicago.
    I’ve posted this before, but I think it’s appropriate here, as well

  9. Overheard in a kiddush today, girls talking about this case( I’m from Canada ) , where one said she is still going. It’s the talk of town obviously. Has anybody heard about others going or not and if other seminaries are taking them in?
    And ,no, I don’t think is a blood libel, even to compare it to one, shows you are totally meshugah, irrational and corrupt.

    • I live in Israel and I am aware of girls who are still planning on going. It’s tricky here because there are not many options for Israeli girls from American families. Peninim is one of, if not the only American sem that accepts both girls from the US and Israel. To be clear, I think these parents need their heads examined. I’m just explaining an additional factor that might be at play here. Something tells me there are more than enough parents who prefer to live in denial because they just don’t know how to process this or how to find alternative solutions and will end up sending their girls to keep these seminaries, or at least some of them, from closing.

    • @Sam,

      I just can’t understand those parents who send their daughters to those 4 seminaries.
      1) It just won’t enhance their daughter’s shidduch prospects &
      2) Their daughters will have to put up with the ספק בתולה question mentioned either as a poor joke, or even worse, as a real question from the potential future in-laws or from the potential חתן himself.

      Why would parents want to have their daughters face this potential highly embarrassing questioning by having their daughter attend 1 of the 4 seminaries now? Just because it made the news, do you think that it’s going to stop? Measels past behavior has demonstrated that he needs some serious psychiatric help to be able to curtail this type of immoral, and might I add, due to Israeli law, criminally illegal behavior, as well.

      I want to know these items:
      1) Where was Measels wife in all this? Didn’t she find it odd that he went out @ 3:00 a.m. for a drive?
      2) How about an Israeli DA indicting & charge him on violating Israeli law of a teacher having sex with a student? What’s the reason we haven’t seen this yet?
      3) Have the משטרה questioned ANYONE @ ANY of the 4 seminaries concerning this case for obstructing justice by not reporting the unwanted sexual harassment or something even worse than that that the students reported to staff? If not, why?

      Inquiring minds want to know.

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