Meisels Seminaries Scandal Hits the Chicago Tribune & the Jerusalem Post

Elimelech Meisels

Elimelech Meisels

The Chicago Tribune published a story about the Meisels seminaries scandal (8/27/14), “Ultra-Orthodox rabbi accused in sex assault suit” by reporter Ron Grossman. Much of the article’s content is old hat to readers of Frum Follies, and it got a few subtleties of the Haredi world wrong.

However, Grossman has correctly fastened onto the importance of the shidduch (matchmaking) system in this whole story. But for the critical importance of seminaries for shidduchim in the Yeshivish (non-Hasidic ultra-orthodox) world, seminary attendance in Israel would not be close to compulsory. But for those pressures, and the pressure to find a match quickly before “girls” lose their desirability in their low twenties, many more parents would have withdrawn from the Meisels seminaries, sued for refunds, and waited to the next year when there would be more openings in other seminaries.

The choice quote in the article comes from Michael Salamon, an orthodox psychologist in the Five Towns of Long Island, and author about both the shidduch system and sexual abuse.

“The social bonds of the ultra-Orthodox community are loshan hara [gossip prohibition], the seminary and the matchmaker… Parents are convinced a daughter must go to the right seminary.”

According to the article:

Meisels is accused in the lawsuit of “developing mentor-mentee relationships with girls,” taking them on late-night coffee meetings and sexually assaulting them.

The lawsuit alleges that Meisels “threatened his victims that if they shared their story he would draw upon his vast contacts within the Shiduch system to ruin their reputations and ensure that no viable candidate would want to take their hand in marriage.”

The article mentions the competing views of the Chicago Beis Din and the Israeli Beis Din and accurately quotes their main positions.

Missing entirely from the article is any reference to blog coverage by Frum Follies, Daniel Eidensohn on his Daas Torah blog and many others. This is a significant aspect of the story. Never before has the Yeshivish world known so much about such a controversy. My first report of the Chicago Beis Din ruling has been viewed over 32,000 times. Both Eidensohn and I experienced dramatic increases in readership. Blogs are a game changer. Until now such stories were censored in the Haredi media and ignored by the mainstream media (MSM). Combined with the Chicago Beis Din description of Meisels, blogs have made this a major story even though no criminal charges were filed, and even before the lawsuit brought the story into coverage by JTA and Vos Iz Neias.

Update – See the Jerusalem Post (8/28/14), American ultra-orthodox charge sexual abuse at Israeli seminaries. This story focuses on the question of student safety as the bone of contention dividing the CBD from the Israeli rabbis trying to undermine it.

According to [David] Morris, [the founder of Magen, an Israeli NGO focused on abuse within the ultra-Orthodox community], the Israeli rabbinical court… “Interviewed some staff (but no victims), declared the seminaries safe, and hurled invective at anyone and everyone who they see as challenging them. According to the Chicago beit din that interviewed the alleged victims, it was not just Meisels but members of the staff who also participated in the cover-up.”

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34 thoughts on “Meisels Seminaries Scandal Hits the Chicago Tribune & the Jerusalem Post

  1. All I could think when reading the Chicago Tribune article is this “World class chillul HaShem!” Thanks to IBD and their ruling contrary to the CBD a lawsuit was filed that has begun to attract the mainstream media. Of course Yeshiva world, The Jewish Press and Mishpacha Magazine will stay silent – that is how it goes.

    • When a six year old says to his mother “Thanks to you look what I did” (or “look what you made me do”), that’s appropriate. When a bunch of adults do an action that no one ever doubted would cause a ‘world class chilul Hashem” it’s not apropriate to say “Thanks to the IBD…”
      Doesn’t anybody in the blogosphere realize that there are two very definite sides with many questions regarding the positions of each side. Maybe this BD is right, maybe that BD is right, and maybe a plague on both their batim. But loss of money — from either side — does not justify doing something very wrong, and playing the blame game does not justify doing something that should have been picked up by the press weeks ago.

      • @IMBL: If what was written in http://tzedek-tzedek.blogspot.com/2014/08/the-meisels-seminaries-letter-never.html was done instead of what the IBD did, or for that matter, in addition to what the IBD did rule, this matter would’ve been nipped in the bud; but no…
        It festered longer than it should have. due to the enablers interest in their jobs & the IBD interested in the institutions rather than show compassion towards the victims. This attitude victimized the victims yet a second time. If this letter would’ve been sent out, the damage would’ve been minimized to the institutions, but not the enablers. Put that in your pipe & smoke it!

      • @IMBL wrote:

        …Doesn’t anybody in the blogosphere realize that there are two very definite sides with many questions regarding the positions of each side. Maybe this BD is right, maybe that BD is right, and maybe a plague on both their batim. But loss of money — from either side — does not justify doing something very wrong…

        The more I read your posting, the more it infuriates me. Let me explain:
        1) From what I understand in the blogosphere, the CBD went about their decision by interviewing both the victims & the perpetrator himself, unlike the IBD.
        2) From what I’ve read in the blogosphere, the CBD determined that the victims rights trumped enablers & institutional rights; which the IBD promoted the enablers & the institutions over the rights of the victims.
        3) Loss of money??? Is this what you’re ultimately concerned about?? Does “loss of money”, which is implied by you of the 4 EM institutions & its staff jobs, trump SA victims?? You couldn’t even write those words in your posting, because it would be so sickening to phrase it with those words; but that is its true & full meaning without its implicitness.
        4) …something very wrong…? Do you understand that EM groomed his victims? Do you have any clue as to why the CBD ahsured him to be around other potential victims? Do you feel that none of the 4 seminary staff were enablers or looked the other way? Do you feel that Meir Kahane is a stabilizing influential replacement for EM? The only thing wrong in my mind is EM was a slick, victimizing, serial perpetrator. Remove him from the picture & those young Bas Yisroels would never have been groomed for EM’s victimizing pathology.

        Your post still has doubts as to which side is right and the loss of money is the penultimate sin. I’m so glad you’re not a judge.

        • “Doesn’t anybody in the blogosphere realize that there are two very definite sides with many questions regarding the positions of each side”
          Q.E.D.

  2. If not for the Malinowitz “bais din” and the two Eidenuts, the story, were it ever to have been written, would run under the headline “Orthodox Rabbis Have No Tolerance for Sex Abuse”.

    • “Orthodox Rabbis Have No Tolerance for Sex Abuse”

      If that headline were ever to be true, Yerachmiel could close down his blog and focus on another issue. Because that headline is the furthest from the truth, only bloggers and sex abuse advocates are fighting for what is clear to every ethical eye to be just and right.

      • The exception to this is the Chicago Special Beis Din which did acted exceptionally bold and worked hard (within their means) to dispense justice in this case and to protect the innocent, demonstrating the kind of Orthodox leadership many of us wish would be characteristic of “The Gedolim.”

  3. Daas Schmatta is still saying that it was just a hug.

    Daas Torah Mod Avraham • 18 hours ago
    @Avraham – you continue to use your imagination to “flesh out details” and you don’t stick to the facts.

    You now claim
    Miesels behavior was abhorrent and consistent with the practice of other authority figures who have used their position to abuse others. How do you know that?

    Please bring proof that he in fact did more than just hug or inappropriately touch.

    you keep building hypotehtical structures by saying “if it were true” or it is reasonable that it is true. But you don’t bring any proof. The rest of your comment is nonsense because your unproven premise needs to be accepted as true for it to make sense.

    You are in essense say that as an act of faith we should accept your interpretation of what the CBD meant. I don’t accept your interpretations because I don’t have faith that you know what you are talking about.

    • You keep lending credence to the Creeps Eidenuts by responding to their garbage.

      Face it. They are offened by the idea of a female objecting to being abused.

  4. Chacham,

    Face it. you are not thinking through this very well. Do you understand that regardless of whether I give him “credence” his blog is read by many and he continues to spread the lie that it was just a hug which means that many will believe that Meisels did not do much wrong which will eventually lead to his rehabilitation.

    A chacham is one who sees the future. You are certainly not acting like your name suggests you would.

    You are also so stuck on eidensohn “hating” women. I would look at his blog today and it seems that he was correct about the latest “aguna” case, so you need to calm down and look at the issues objectively.

    • Do you bark back when a dog barks at you? No different.
      The two of them have some serious issues with women. They get up on their hind legs and bark and howel and insert themselves against the wife in all but one case of divorce. They have no other agenda in life.

      No wonder they are making such complete fools of themselves defending Chaim Malinowitz’s “bais din”. Birds of a feather.

    • Jack,

      Whether or not I agree with you, I understand your line of reasoning. I also see “Chacham VeNavon’s” argument. I see a reasonable disagreement about tactics. These are points about which I go back and forth and decide on a case-by-case basis.

      I think of us as all being colleagues in this effort. I see no need to insult colleagues about reasonable disagreements.

  5. This newspaper article is sad. Makes Orthodox Jews look like a backward cult. I agree with the concept of ignoring other blogs that present a contrary view. Do we ever see the NY Times talk about a Nee York Post editorial?

  6. your name is really not becoming for a frum site. It is not a happy moment…so please do not count down as if this is some great event. very immature.

  7. YL,

    I believe that his/her responses to me have been less than polite and do not address the issues I raise. More importantly, he/she is way off base and shortsighted. His/her argument is really not supported by logic, Ignore it and it will go away is not a very reasonable approach. Daas Schmatta has a big forum and ignoring it is not an option.

      • Just wondering if its a coincidence that the same day as most major american gedolim come out pro the seminaries all the secular media outlets are picking up the story or was this a last ditch effort by the CBD to shut them down by giving them bad publicity?

        • The Chicago Tribune story was completed by the reporter about two weeks ago and the reporter, who interviewed me, first told me it would run Sunday 8/17. For reasons unrelated to the developments the story was delayed. It was a long story and those get saved for those days when there is less urgent material to run. I believe the Chicago Tribune publication helped get other reporters permission to take it on. I expect more MSM stories to follow.

    • The gedolim… are overjoyed to hear that these seminaries are now under the control of the wonderful (female) educator who will not be named. For tznius reasons, no doubt.

      Note that they do not endorse the IBD, they do not try to block the students from other seminaries, and they certainly don’t have anything reassuring to say about the old guard. Just that we are sure the new unnamed administrator is great.

      Looking at the oversight board, I’m surprised to see Rav Asher Weiss – he is a real talmid chacham, a straight shooter, and not particularly afraid of the 21st century. (ie- Torahbase.com) One wonders, 1. does he have time for this, and 2. does he realize what he is getting into?

        • And another thought: American kol korehs signed by the Agudah leadership generally include Rav Shmuel Kaminetzky, who is absent here. Was the letter writer afraid he would later repudiate it when asked by the press, as he has a few times in the past?

  8. The firs three signatories are no surprise.

    As to Rabbi Feldman, even when he wrote a critical letter to the IBD, nonetheless he stated that he wanted to find a way for the CBD to retract their letter which declared the seminaries unsafe. so it was clear all along that he wanted the seminaries to open business as usual.

    the fact that Rabbi Levin signed is surprising as this letter contradicts his own bais din’s ruling.

  9. it is a pretty sad day when 5 members of the moetzes deem it necessary to issue a statement declaring the seminaries safe and do not believe it is necessary to make a statement saying that the seminaries are obligated to at the very least issue and apology to the victims. Even that they refuse to do.

    As usual, their sympathies are with people who they believe are innocent bystanders…the teachers, Yarmish, etc. yet no sympathies are expressed toward the victims who are truly the aggrieved parties.

    It should not surprise us because in many cases of abuse over the years, we have always heard about how we should not publicize things because of the damage to the abusers’ families.

    Of course, when Finkel from Monsey sold people trief, there was no concern about the publicity affecting his innocent family members. All Rabbonim spoke about the horrible deed and had no trouble naming Finkel.

    Very strange.

    • The frum mindset needs to change.

      1. People who are abused are “nebachs”. We feel terrible for them, yet they are not one of “us” or worth protecting.

      2. People who aren’t of “our stripe” don’t count. Forget about non-Jews, or non-orthodox, who of course don’t count for much, even orthodox who aren’t my brand, my Chassidus, my chevra, are not people who we really care about.

      3. We talk about achdus, even kiruv, as if these are things that are within the realm of our grasp. Reality is, we are far far away from any of these lofty ideas. Judgements, judgements, judgements, that what we eat for breakfast and lunch. If he is BT, I would never have my daughter date him, or if his parents were BT, he would never be welcome in my home. If his parents are BT, I don’t want him in my sons class, but I will donate 180 dollars to Shuvu !! Anyone see hypocrisy ?

      4. We are moving far away from Torah ideals, in favor of “practical” ideals. Everyone has reasons/excuses for not taking care of the poor, not protecting the weak, not welcoming the stranger. (All Torah Ideals). Our Batei Din, have decided to figure out right and wrong not based on Halacha. What is practical here ? Let the ends justify the means. Who needs hazmana ? Who needs a plaintiff ? Who needs a real live defendant ? (FBI agent is fine) !!! Let’s sign a psak. Let’s not be stupid, this is what must be right !! We are losing the Torah. We must follow Halacha!!!! We must build our broken Batei Din !!! We must protect the weak!!!! Not just the rich and powerful!!!

    • Big deal. The right askonim could get five members of the moetzes to endorse a new a redesign of a Cheerios box.

      No Reb Shmuel Kaminetsky, neither Reb Dovid or Reb Reuvain.

      Rabbi Slifkin would get more signatures on a cherem if he published a Chinese take out menu.

      • “The right askonim could get five members of the moetzes to endorse a new a redesign of a Cheerios box.”

        A sad but true commentary on the state of our leaders (otherwise known as “The Gedolim” who are all infallible and whose words we must consider as Toras Moshe MiSinai). They are not leading. Why should we follow anything they say when they can be manipulated to say anything an askan wants?

        “Rabbi Slifkin would get more signatures on a cherem if he published a Chinese take out menu.”

        LOL!!!

    • It’s a sad day but nothing unsurprising. The surprising thing here is the actions of the CBD for taking on this issue to begin with and taking it as far as they did. Progress. Slowly.

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