My Rabbis are Bigger than Yours!

judges fighting 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:

Judges three monkeysZev 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.

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39 thoughts on “My Rabbis are Bigger than Yours!

  1. How does Eidensohn know that the Israeli rabbis are greater than the Chicago ones? Did he give them all bechinos?

  2. OK, not taking a real side here (aside from just avoiding all of these seminaries until the situation has been worked out) – didn’t the IBD request evidence from the CBD in the correspondence between R’ Feldman and R’ Malinowitz? And hasn’t the CBD refused to provide this because they feel that they have authority over the situation and do not need to share?

    • No. R. Aharon Feldman (RAF) accused Malinowitz of lying to him. RAF thought he had the backing of CBD to represent victims which he did not. RAF also thought that Malinowitz had tried hard to get testimony about enabling by other seminary staff before the IBD session. He complains that Malinowitz was not honest about saying he tried because R. Zev Cohen denied getting those requests.

      • the only time RAF accused R malinowitz of lying, was about the fact that he asked R zev cohen for info nothing to do with whos case it was

  3. exactly. and parents are getting edgy. no one seems to be solving anything here. girls are nervous. None of this is helping the 200 or so girls. incompetency all around. how many times will pninim be sold before school???

    • Yes, it is unsettling. Blame Meisels for running down the clock on compliance and the IBD for rushing into to shield the seminaries from the need to be housecleaned. It could all have been solved in May or June. The terrorist Meisels strategy was to hold all the students hostage. I would have expected an Israeli Beis Din to refuse to negotiate with hostage-taking terrorists.

      They created the hostage situation. If the seminaries collapse, they are to blame.

  4. to update:

    here is another possible scenario…same facts far different analysis.

    CBD got the torah Umesorah involved. that is a fact..and how gottesman got in the game. makes sense as torah umesorah has a division to deal with these issues and gottesman is chief of the division. so gottesman did not get involved in some nefarious manner. Now comes my speculation.

    Torah Umesorah deals with american schools only…so Gottesman could not do that much…instead he/TU helped CBD by putting together IBD…with the understanding that IBD would “sell” to Torah Umesorah…not Torah Umesorah proper…but its chief personnel namely Gottesman and Bloom. Perhaps the plan, once the seminaries were 100% out of Meisels hands, for Gottesman/Bloom to do a full investigation something that TU would have done had it been an American school. This was a workaround and very logical. It was in no way, shape or form a ploy by Gottesman to get the schools at a bargain price and who when this did not work went on a rampage where he pushed CBD to do all sorts of unethical things as DT would like us to believe.

    Instead it was a strategic move aimed at removing Meisels and then performing a full investigation by the interim owners, Torah Umesorah (Bloom/Gottesman)

    But IBD did not follow through…they are the ones who changed course not CBD and Gottesman.

    Just wanted to show that DT has taken the “facts” and interpreted it according to his biased view…I took same facts and produced a way different scenario where the heroes and villians are totally reversed.

    • Jack, thank you. When things are murky, it is easy to see what one is predisposed to see. Although I live in Chicago, the closest I have come to anyone involved is hearing Rav Schwartz speak at a Decalogue Society continuing legal education seminar. Nevertheless, I cannot believe that the CBD would have acted from ulterior or venal motives. Perhaps they were outmaneuvered by someone who should not have been trusted, but that they preferred a buyer they knew to one they didn’t know is no reason to accuse them of nefarious designs. Perhaps in hindsight their mistake may be seen as having given Meisels any leeway, any time to sell the seminaries he had contaminated, the sin of being “kind to the cruel” that ends up “being cruel to the kind.”

  5. From DT blog: It was explained that they will not accept testimony over the phone to one Dayan and in most cases require the accused present (because they are a beis din not a lynch mob).

    So IBD does not take testimony from girls except in front of Meisels…while at the same time they do take testimony from principals and staff members not in front of the girls who accuse them of covering up. And this is yashrus???

    What a bunch of crock!

    • Jack, Your expression, “bunch of crock,” has been duly translated into vulgar idiom. In vulgar idiom (dating, I believe, from WWII), this is a SNAFU — Situation Normal, All F***ed Up. I propose that the best interim solution at this time is that the (former) Meisels’ seminaries send refund checks, together with their best explanation/justification as to why parents should not cash them and send their daughters to the seminaries, and let the parents choose.

      Maybe everything is OK. Maybe the seminaries will now be “under a microscope,” as someone said, and probably nothing will happen. On the other hand, although “nothing happens,” your daughter may learn something from your choosing to accept the representations of the seminaries, which preferred to rely on a “hechsher” by three Israeli rabbis, rather than cooperating with the CBD who heard the complainants, leaving the CBD without sufficient information to justify withdrawing their psak that the seminaries are not safe.

      Nobody knows for sure, or is going to know, in the next few weeks. So let the parents make an informed choice. If they want to know what the CBD thinks, apparently Rav Fuerst has been willing to speak his mind to those who ask, and his opinion should be considered no less “daas Torah" than other rabbis' opinions. If he is less informed of the current state of things, he is certainly better informed of the prior state of things. If you send your daughters to one of the seminaries, give them some cautionary advice and some emergency telephone numbers, and everything will probably be OK. If you don't send them, demand your money back, and you will probably get it eventually. Like everything else, one has a choice of probabilities. This is no way "daas Torah,” but what I hope is common sense.

      • “If you send your daughters to one of the seminaries, give them some cautionary advice and some emergency telephone numbers, and everything will probably be OK.”

        Kevin – With all due respect, you have no way of knowing that. Meisels was a master manipulator, and he knew who to target. He targeted vulnerable and/or naive girls. He didn’t target girls who had strong parental support or strong or confident senses of self.

        Regarding making a decision about what to do, I agree that it’s not necessarily “Daas Torah.” We need to take responsibility for our lives and not relegate every little decision that has nothing to do with Torah or halachah, to the advice of a Rov who will not be giving a Psak and has no more information or knowledge of the facts than we do. You’d be better off asking advice about this from a wise aunt or uncle. The Rabbanim you will ask do not have nevu’ah or ru’ach hakodesh. Their expertise is halachah. They know lots of it. The Rabbanim who know more about this case than any of us ever will know, are the Rabbanim of the Chicago Beis Din. And they already gave you their Psak Halachah issued from their Beis Din – do not send your daughters – the seminaries are not safe. They know every manipulative and underhanded tactic that Meisels used to weasel his way in to violation of these girls. If you are looking for “Daas Torah” in making this decision – why would you reject theirs?

        But you know what they say about common sense – it isn’t very common.

      • One more thing. Someone said that the seminaries will be “watched with a microscope” this year. Really? By whom? By the same administration and staff that allowed Meisels to violate girls so that they wouldn’t lose their jobs. That is who will be “watching with a microscope” the seminaries. There will be no independently hired security. And Meisels will not be wearing a tracking system to make sure he is nowhere near anywhere that the Seminary girls are. We already know that his enablers are all but willing to look away in order to retain their jobs. So, whose microscope will they be under exactly? Not yours, not mine, we are all here in the USA. It’s the same foxes who are guarding the henhouse. And if you think a serial predator can stay away from his prey, you are sorely uninformed about the nature of sexual predators. Read up a little. Educate yourself. These sex addicts are addicts for life, and the predators never stop. Your daughter will learn more in the long run from your taking a mature stance on this and not sending her, than if you give in to her limited, myopic and immature view of what is important in life.

        • Sadly, you are 100% correct. 10 years from now, who will feel vindicated or abused? The parent, while he/she still has control of the purse strings, is the only one to protect the progeny. at this age. still. Any parent who sends their daughters at this stage are not interested in their daughters, nor even in shidduchim, l’fi da’ati, only the awful feeling of losing money, like selling a stock in the stock market where you are already down 50%. most will not sell, hope springs eternal, admitting to a mistake is very difficult. losing whatever the deposit was, even the entire shebang, what is that worth, versus your daughters physical, emotional and pyschological well-being. Most parents, most people cannot lock in a loss. Hope, springs eternal, but this is our kinder we are talking about, not some JDSU in the market. Save your daughters, unless there is a sudden dramatic change in the landscape, highly unlikely. Get them accustomed to looking for another way to spend the next year. maybe in some kind of volunteer work. Maybe in some US programs still open, who knows, not I.

  6. Love it how the author of the “Daas torah” blog foamed. He is destroying his reputation with this issue and his stance on divorce. Both induced by his brother Dovid Eidensohn, who can hardly be taken seriously, once one heard his videos or read his articles or comments.

  7. By the way, in all fairness until this issue, DT has been an excellent advocate for abuse victims.

    As to divorce_____

    Edited by YL to remove extraneous discussion.

    • As a blogger focused on Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) I have usually been able to work with RDE in those cases where we agreed. He has done a lot of good things in the area of CSA. I have had some disagreements with him in the past, and we have had respectful private communications about them as well as some open exchanges on his blog.

      This time around it is something totally different. I have not changed. He has. Never before has he been so on the side of protectors of enablers. Never. Nor has he ever been so stubbornly resistant to counter-arguments. While he always moderated with much more control than me, he has gone overboard in allowing outrageous pro-IBD comments and vile attacks on victims while block a great deal of reasonable, respectful criticism. I am loathe to accuse him of being bribed or going insane. I fear he has let the wrong people get his ear and he has turned over his mind at the same time.

      Jack, I disagree with RDE about divorce and aguna issues. But I want to suggest limiting that issue herr for other reasons. It is a whole separate debate and we already have too much acrimony and comments running too long and too-off topic. As you will notice if you examine my stuff I have never gotten into that issue, except as very short asides. I would suggest you and those responding to you do the same.

      • “I have not changed. He has.” I can testify to that. It looks almost as if his brother had hijacked the blog. I was especially shocked by the expression “blood libel” in the context of the lawsuit. It was not his style to use hyperbole.

    • Deleted- in the interests of cutting off the divorce discussion, I cannot take sides. Jack’s comment was up beforehand. I urge everyone to remember the rule of staying on the topic, more or less. Divorce debate with Eidensohn would be a major distraction. Anyone eager for that debate is welcome to set up their own blog or FB page, and if they want, even exclude our topics from there, YL

  8. Could someone please talk about the rumors that Rabbi Teichman is getting involved! What is going on and why is no blogger mentioning it?!!!

    • Because we have no idea exactly how true it is or even if it is a deliberately circulated rumor to mess with everybody. Can you say where it is coming from, what it looks like, and most important whether all the relevant players will go along or it is only one party’s fantasy.

      I don’t want to do what the other side is doing which is fabricating all sorts of rumors including that chicago was just trying to steal the seminaries as simple commercial theft. Even most ridiculously, they claimed I was Gottesman. Even Rabbi Eidensohn, who knew me for years from correspondence and phone conversations let it fester on his blog till he finally declared it absurd. I cannot believe i wasted time saying I was not something else. If the rumors run riot we end up wasting time putting out rumors that never should have been circulated.

    • Maybe he doesn’t want anyome checking into he himself has dealt with sexual abuse of teenage girls under his own watch and right under gis own nose.
      Daled vov kuf.

  9. I have tried to follow this controversy despite the fact that doing so is virtually a full-time job. Yet there are several points that appear to have been overlooked:
    1. A seminary does not own its students. Even if the Batei Din were unanimous in their declaration that the seminaries were safe, parents would certainly be entitled to withdraw their daughters. The fact that the seminaries could be forced to close for lack of students is not their problem.
    2. As to whether parents should withdraw their daughters or not, why should this depend on which rabbis are bigger? This is not a question of Halacha where there may be a presumption that the greater authority is more likely to arrive at the correct Psak. This is a question of risk assessment and ultimately parents must be responsible for their own children. If parents have no clarity through personal knowledge – and in this instance they cannot have such clarity as they are not privy to the inside information – then the only prudent course of action is to not send. Better safe than sorry.
    3. Whether other staff members are guilty of “enabling” Meisels by turning a blind eye to his activities is not the only relevant question when considering sending to the “successor” seminaries. Part of the culture of these seminaries has apparently been the surrender of students’ own better judgement to that of the charismatic leader. The danger here is not only because that leader my be tempted by sexual desire. The alienation of students from their families’ values by the seminary idol whose own Hashkafos may be simplistic at best and dangerous at worst, should also be a matter of concern to parents. (Keep in mind that the assessment that Meisels is an “amazing Talmid Chacham” is usually advanced individuals who are hardly in a position to judge his scholarship nor his Yiras Shomayim.)
    4. Ironically, the departure of Meisels from his seminaries should entitle applicants to receive their deposits back. If a deposit was given as part of a contract for an experience that is so dependent on the institution’s leader and now that institution has been “sold” and is under new (and untested) management, how can the mere fact that the old name has been retained be the operative factor? This is not what was contracted for.

    • The entire seminary business model needs to be reevaluated. What it really is – face it: Sending young girls off to Israel for a year of hefkairus. The girls are left totally to their own devices to fend for themselves – for example – having to find hosts to house them for shabbat. Who vets the hosts? Who makes sure the girls have places to go that are appropriate?
      This is just the tip of the iceberg – that is why the Seminary business model has to be protected at all costs – notice the unseemly ferocity. (we just witnessed respected rabbis calling each other ‘liar’).

    • EB says, “the assessment that Meisels is an ‘amazing Talmid Chacham’ is usually advanced [by] individuals who are hardly in a position to judge his scholarship [or] his Yiras Shomayim.”
      That is an important point.

  10. They seem to be non-stop talking about me/ppl making up rumors over at DT. As well as many claims that I wanted the attention and personal post.

    Someone can tell all those commenters that TruthSeeker never ASKED for this. Never once gave permission to Eidensohn to make my response to him the MAIN post.

    (Please don’t copy and paste this on DT tho. But someone needs to tell him. This is sickening.)

  11. Which rabbi is greater IS a relevent point and does make a difference regarding credence and knowledge of applicable Jewish law. You can argue over who is a greater rabbi but if you’re opponent is saying the rabbi who posited point X should be held in greater acceptance, that is a valid point. If you argue against his stance that the rabbi is greater, that might be find but you can’t expect him to withdraw his valid position that he takes.

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