The Chicago Special Beis Din (CBD rabbinical court) notified the Israeli Beis Din (IBD, this past Thursday (9/4/14), of their conditions for recommending the restoration of accreditation by Touro and HTC Colleges to the seminaries controlled by Meisels. The letter was signed by Rabbi Gedalia Dov Schwartz (RGDS), Av Beis Din (head of the rabbinical court) on behalf of the whole CBD and addressed to the IBD’s attorney, Aaron Twersky (AT). The full text is below the article complete with Exhibit A, an article by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Shafran, Av Beis Din of the IBD.
Conditions for Accreditation Recommendation
(Direct quotes unless labelled comment)
(Bolding was added by blogger, Yerachmiel Lopin)
Remedial measures … are necessary in our view to ensure a safe environment for students…
The Beis Din would like to hear additional testimony from certain staff members before finally determining the appropriate remedial measures.
Comment: A number of members of the seminary refused to testify to the CBD. I am guessing these are staff accused of enabling abuse. This demand is an obvious rejection of the IBD/3IRs claim that allegations of enabling were investigated and all existing staff were deemed to have a chezkas kashrus (presumption of being trustworthy). The CBD insists a proper investigation still needs to conducted with and about staff.
That determination can and will be made promptly following the completion of that testimony, and the Beis Din will withdraw its prior statements [here and here] as soon as those remedial measures [below] are satisfactorily implemented…
Comment: The carrot is rapid reinstatement of accreditation. The CBD makes a case that US accrediting colleges would otherwise be at risk of violating U. S.“Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972” because, as defined by that act there was “sexual violence” and some other employees were “aware of both specific Instances of misconduct and, more generally, gross violations of the norms of behavior in seminaries, and (ii) enabled this behavior by failing to take action to stop it”
Aside from Meisels, a very limited number of staff members may need to be removed from their positions in order to ensure a safe educational environment and restore a culture of compliance. Staff members who knew of Meisels’ misconduct, yet did nothing to stop it, violated their most fundamental responsibility-protecting the bnos yisroel entrusted to their care. Absent extraordinary circumstances, such persons must be removed from the seminaries, just as any reasonable person would insist upon removal of a mashgiach who knowingly permitted a cook to serve treif food to consumers.
Comment: Further below I will detail some of the CBD’s descriptions of staff who knew about Meisels’ misconduct and did nothing.
The Beis Din also anticipates the need for compliance training.
Comment: This compliance training for dealing with sex abuse and harassment (per US Title IX) could end up becoming a model for other seminaries. Since they all depend on US Government funding (e.g., Pell Grants) they all need to be in compliance or could lose their funding.
In addition, the Beis Din must be satisfied that Meisels has been removed from financial control of the seminaries. Meisels’ control of staff members’ livelihoods necessarily would have been a factor in their unwillingness to confront him. So long as he retains financial control, the same disincentives to reporting misconduct remain in place.
Comment: The CBD does not accept the blanket claim that Meisels no longer controls the seminaries and insists on being able to see the proof itself. I imagine they are demanding to know the names of the new officers of the not-for-profit (NFP) entity.
As you know, the Beis Din has requested and continues to await information from you in order to determine whether Meisels has been removed from financial control. In a July 30 conference call, Rabbis Tzvi Gartner and Chaim Malinowitz stated to the Beis Din that the publicly-reported purchase of the seminaries was subject to as-yet unfulfilled contingencies, including enrollment targets and financing.
Comment: The CBD is demanding proof of an irrevocable transfer.
Evidence of Abuse by Meisels
(direct quotes from RGDS letter)
Between mid-April and mid-May 2014, former students of seminaries associated with Elimelech Meisels separately approached members of the Special Beis Din. Each of them alleged, and subsequently testified before the Beis Din, that she had been the victim of inappropriate conduct, including unwanted physical contact of a sexual nature, by Meisels.
The Beis Din then summoned Meisels to appear, which he did. Meisels ultimately confessed before the Beis Din to the victims’ allegations of misconduct. He also confessed to having engaged in other misconduct, and prepared and delivered to the Beis Din a handwritten list of multiple additional victims.
Evidence of Staff Enabling Meisels
(direct quotes from RGDS letter)
The Beis Din also received evidence, including documentary proof and admissions, that some staff members (i) were aware of both specific instances of misconduct and, more generally, gross violations of the norms of behavior in seminaries, and (ii) enabled this behavior by failing to take action to stop it.’ The disturbing facts supported by this evidence include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Meisels repeatedly visited dormitories late at night, to the knowledge of certain staff.
- Meisels repeatedly took female students for car rides alone with him late at night, often to secluded destinations, to the knowledge of certain staff.
- A parent of a victim of unwanted physical contact of a sexual nature by Meisels reported the misconduct to a senior administrator, who summarily dismissed the report as false.
- Another staff member was aware of multiple instances of unwanted physical contact of a sexual nature by Meisels, but did not take action in response.
A student reported misconduct to another senior administrator, who responded that the student should remain silent lest Meisels ruin her shidduch prospects.
- A senior administrator instructed others that it was forbidden to discuss Meisels’s misconduct or believe it to be true.
- A staff member who was aware of multiple instances of unwanted physical contact of a sexual nature by Meisels instructed the victim not to tell her parents.
Beis Din Rules of Evidence
The letter has an attached Exhibit A, the teshuva (Jewish law responsum) about hearing sex abuse cases by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Shafran (RMMS) who is the Av Beis Din (head) of the IBD. He published it in 2010. They make it clear their protocols and authority are in accordance with RMMS’s responsum. Thus they have authority for taking testimony in Meisel’s absence, requesting other staff to give testimony to the CBD, and attaching importance to their refusal to give testimony. (see points 4-6 in RMMS teshuva.)
Though the letter does not mention it, it is striking that the IBD insisted that it would not take testimony unless the defendant staff members were present as reported by Daniel Eidensohn on his Daas Torah blog posting of 8/25/14, Seminary Scandal: How to give information to the Israeli Beis Din. (Also on Internet Wayback Machine as of 9/9/14).
According to footnote 1, “Rabbi Levin recused himself from this case due to a conflict of interest.” This is because Rabbi Levin’s was a chavrusah (study partner) for years with Michoel
Elazar Meisels, the father of Elimelech Meisels. Given this conflict of interest (negius) it shocking that R. Levin would sign a letter against the CBD while Meisels still has a financial connection to the seminaries.
You can see other posts on Frum Follies about the Meisels seminaries scandal. They will appear in reverse chronological order (most recent first). You will get several pages of titles, so when you get to the bottom make sure to click on “<– older posts.” If your prefer reading in chronological order, keep going back and read from the bottom up.
Click on images to enlarge and sharpen
Exhibit A- Teshuva (Responsum) by Rabbi Shafran
(16 Adar, 5770; Spring 2010)