I wrote a post challenging the Israeli Beis Din (IBD) as not comprising a beis din because they lacked a plaintiff. I pointed out that Rabbi Aharon Feldman (RAF) never secured the authorization of victims to represent them. Yet the “beis din” proceeded to behave as if they had accusers (who just happened not to be there) but were represented by RAF. Within that technically contrived form they accepted the testimony of seminary principals & staff and ruled that none of them were in any way complicit in Meisels’ misconduct. This was absurd. There was a ritual of a hearing of both sides but it was devoid of substantive justice.
Rabbi Aharon Feldman later complained bitterly that he had been misled by Rabbi Malinowitz into believing the victims has been actively sought for their testimony and had merely failed to show or share with him. I concluded that the Israeli “beis din,” on technical and substantive grounds, had to be understood as a seminary protection game — not as a real court of justice. I derided them as “3 Israeli Rabbis (3IRs),” not a Beis Din.
This outraged Rabbi Daniel Eidensohn and he shot back in his Daas Torah blog:
This a gross and disgusting misrepresentation of the halachic status of the Israeli beis din as well as a deliberate slur against great talmidei chachomim who are recognized as having greater competence and integrity than the CBD.
For the record, think every last one of the rabbis involved on both sides of the Atlantic is thoroughly competent as a dayan (rabbinical court judge). I see no point in a debate about which Beis Din’s rabbis are “bigger,” or more competent. It is a diversion from the substantive issue which is: who else working at the seminaries was guilty of enabling Meisels in his abuse?
This sort of diversion also appeared in a debate surrounding Rabbi (sic) Yisroel Moshe (Irael) Weingarten (YMW) who was convicted of raping his teen daughter and is now serving a 30-year-sentence. A lot of prominent Hasidic rabbis supported him after his conviction while others were convinced of his guilt and worked to protect those who bravely testified against him. During that controversy over three years ago, Rabbi Eidensohn and I agreed that the rabbis backing Weingarten were wrong, though the list included many prominent and learned Hasidic rabbis including Rabbi Menachem Weissmandl. The controversy was aired on the Zev Brenner radio show with a Rabbi Hillel (William) Handler defending the convicted Weingarten. As I wrote at the time:
Zev Brenner confronted Handler with evidence that the only rabbis who conducted actual investigations all found Weingarten guilty. He responded with the fiction that Rabbi Chaim Kreiswirth, ztz’l of Antwerp conducted a beit din (religious court) and he was the most important rabbi to investigate Weingarten’s guilt. Kreiswirth’s own letter didn’t talk about convening a beit din or even suggest that he conducted any inquiry. Kreiswirth refused to let Leah tell him her version of the events. Rabbi Kreiswirth passed away in 2001 and could not possibly have considered the evidence that came to light in the last ten years. But these inconvenient facts did not deter Handler. He plunged ahead and insisted that anyone who disagreed with Kreiswirth was guilty of insulting torah scholars. Practically in the same breath he insulted respected talmidei chachamim such as the Gavad (head) of Satmar Antwerp, Chaim Yosef Dovid (Chida) Weiss, the Rav Hair of Gateshead, Bezalel Rakow ztz’l, and three Monsey rabbis who signed a letter to deny YMW custody of his children, Ben Zion Wosner, Chaim Leibish Rottenberg and Yechazkel Gold (former Satmar dayan of Monsey). According to Handler, the big maven of rabbonim, they are all “lightweights.”
As far as I’m concerned the better rabbi is the one who takes his job seriously enough to listen to the relevant witnesses, seek out other facts and reach a decision based on the facts. A competent rabbi must have the seichel (common sense) to know when to be skeptical of a source because they are nogeiah b’daver ( have a vested interest). Above all, a rabbi has to have the courage to defend the truth and fight criminals even if it is unpopular. By these criteria, the rabbis invoked by Handler were lightweights. They accepted Yisroel Moshe Weingarten’s account and closed their door on Leah and other witnesses who begged for a chance to share what they knew. Rabbi Moshe Green refused to listen to witnesses who traveled from England and Israel just to talk to him. Rabbi Elyakim Schlesinger was rude and abusive to older Hasidic women the moment he realized that they wanted to talk to him about Weingarten’s misconduct.
The parallels to the seminary controversy are eerie. While one side argued it reached a procedurally correct outcome it was devoid of substantive inquiry or empathy for victims or other potential victims. On the other side were those who cared about detailed inquiry, justice for victims, and safety of others. I wish I had avoided the pointless debate about the technical legitimacy of either beis din. But in my book it is easy to determine who were the lightweights, however great they may be as scholars.