Earlier today the Failed Messiah and Daas Torah blogs posted a declaration by five Yeshiva Heads announcing that the Meisels seminaries are safe places for students. Some people are trumpeting this as an endorsement by the Moetzes (Council of Torah Sages of Agudath Israel of America) and a potential game changer. As I will explain below, this letter will have little effect.
NOT A MOETZES POSITION: It is not on Moetzes letterhead because half of the ten members of the Moetzes did not sign including Rabbis Shmuel Kaminetzky (Rosh Yeshiva Philadelphia), Dovid Feinstein (Rosh Yeshiva Tiferes Jerusalem), Simcha Bunim Ehrenfeld (Mattesdorfer Rav), and Chacham Yosef Harari-Raful (Yeshivat Ateret Torah). Instead it is on a page without letterhead signed by Aryeh Malkiel Kotler (RY BMG), Avrohom Chaim Levin (RY Telz-Chicago), Aharon Feldman (RY NIRC-Baltimore), Yaakov Perlow (Novominsker Rebbe), and Aaron Schechter (RY Chaim Berlin). Though Rabbi Perlow is the Rosh Moetzes, he did not sign with this title here, because he is not acting in that capacity.
RABBI LEVIN’S CONFLICTS OF INTEREST: I am planning to post tomorrow, at length, about the deep negius (conflicts of interest) of some of the key players, especially Rabbi Levin who was a long-time chavrusah (study partner) of Elazar Meisels, the father of Elimelech Meisels. In fact that is exactly why he originally recused himself from being on the Beis Din (rabbinical court) panel for this case even though he was a member of Chicago “Special Beis Din” for sex abuse since its founding over 13 years ago.
“ISRAELI BEIS DIN” OF SHAFRAN ET AL IS IGNORED: The statement completely bypasses any mention of the controversial Israeli Beis Din of Rabbis Shafran, Malinowitz and Gartner that I dismissed in the past as merely “3 Israeli Rabbis (3IRs). That is also the sentiment of the signers of the new “safety declaration.” Instead they declare the seminaries are now under the supervision of a Committee of Rabbis (tachat hapikuach shel vaad rabbanim gedolei torah, hagaonim..) (not a Beis Din) Moshe Hillel Hirsch (RY Slabodka-Bnei Brak), Yehoshua Eichenstein, and Asher Weiss. Thus there is now only one recognized Beis Din left standing. No one else is even claiming to be a Beis Din. According to the statement, this committee will “Stand guard and establish suitable regulations if needed” (sheymadu al hamishmar veyisderu takanot haraooyot im yesh tzorech).
SEMINARIES TO BE RUN BY WOMAN: a female “spiritual principal” (מנהלת רוחני), who is not named, will run the four seminaries. They are only speaking of the overall head, but if this is a bid to address the problem of male abusers it would make sense for the individual principals to also be women. This would reassure prospective customers. It also allows the management to fire Rabbis Meir Kahane and Dovid Simon (the number two under Meisels in Pninim) without admitting any culpability on their part.
Incidentally, the Rosh yeshiva letter sets a new standard for un-accountability by daas Torah. By not mentioning the name of the “spiritual principal” the letter asks the parents to accept the daas Torah of the Roshei Yeshiva that she is wonderful since without a name they have no way of finding out anything about her.
NO BAN ON OTHER SEMINARIES COMPETING FOR STUDENTS: Unlike the IBD this statement takes no position on whether other seminaries can compete for students. Since they are not functioning as a Beis Din they cannot issue any rulings about unfair competition (hasogas gevul). There is also no statement or position on whether parents are entitled to refunds. Nor is there any attack on the lawsuit against the seminary for refunds.
NO CALL ON TOURO OR HTC TO RE-ACCREDIT: Unlike the IBD, this letter does not call on Touro or HTC to re-accredit the seminaries. Over the last week the rabbis who signed the letter also pressed the colleges but they rejected the pressure. Gedolim do not like being publicly defied so they made no mention of it in the letter. This means that any parent sending their daughters loses all US government aid and loans and loses a serious head start on credits towards an Associates or B.A. degree.
NO MENTION OF MR. YAAKOV YARMUSH: There are no claims that Meisels has relinquished control nor that Yarmush has taken effective control. Unlike the IBD they are not saying that purported control by Yarmush solves anything. Instead they are trying to shift attention to new administration and a new supervising committe of rabbis. I believe they will shortly announce yet another new owner. It would not do to dis Yarmush in the meantime because it would undercut their claims of safety until they can announce a new owner.
CHICAGO’S SPECIAL BEIS DIN (CBD) IS STANDING FIRM: I have received reports from people who have spoken to the members of the CBD. All of them are staying the course, advising against attending until they are convinced that all staff guilty of enabling Meisels are removed. Touro and HTC will abide by the rulings of the CBD. Naturally the CBD is unhappy about the letter by the roshei yeshiva, but they are staying the course.
STAY TUNED: For more postings over the next few days on conflicts of interest and the likely path for the seminaries controlled by Meisels (including a Chaim Berlin-backed takeover).