Mr. Yaakov (Yankie) Yarmush hails from Brooklyn where he built a business of asbestos abatement. He admits to not knowing anything about education. Still, he must realize that once there is a toxic substance it has to be dealt with.
We are told he now controls four seminaries once operated by Elimelech Meisels. They are bedeviled with allegations of the serial sexual abuse of students by Meisels and the complicity of staff that ignored the clues, rebuffed the reports, and discouraged reporting. What is worse, more than six of them lied about their complicity. I say that because Rabbis Shafran, Gartner and Malinowitz say they interviewed the heads of the seminaries ( and other staff) and concluded that no one else in the seminaries was implicated. It is on that basis that the three rabbis of the IBD concluded that the seminaries were safe and there was no reason for parents to withdraw students.
These seminary heads include Rabbi Baruch D. Simon who pretty much ran Pninim under Meisels and Rabbi Meir Kahane who ran Chedvas Bais Yaakov (and taught for years in Pninim). Pninim was where Meisels spent most of his time (though he gave classes in the other seminaries) and where he conspicuously groomed students with late night rides, long meetings at all hours behind closed doors and other obvious violations of yichud (rule against private seclusion by unrelated adults of the opposite sex). Kahane wrote a maniacal letter all but promising his students they could bring the moshiach closer by being sure no one spoke about Meisels’ misdeeds. He has still not apologized for the letter or retracted it. He also wrote a misleading letter claiming “Rabbi Meisels retired six weeks ago… a process he began a number of years ago.”
Asbestos doesn’t always have to be removed. Sometimes, it can be contained by enclosing it so it won’t leak into the air. Cover-ups are different. Once they have started, those involved are trapped by their previous lies. They now have to insist they could not have seen what they should have seen. They have to minimize Meisels’ guilt to lessen their guilt in ignoring it and lying to a court proceeding. They have to educate students to a standard of diminished vigilance. Because they can never admit the truth, they cannot openly derive and teach the appropriate lessons.
Mr. Yarmush, unless you haul out the toxic waste, you have no business running these seminaries.