An alum of the Meisels’ seminaries has organized an online petition calling on the staff of the seminaries to issue a public apology for Meisels sexual exploitation and abuse of students. The petition on http://www.change.org states:
In July of 2014, Elimelech Meisels (past owner of the seminaries Chedvas Bais Yaakov, Pninim, Kesser Chaya, and Binas) had been unmasked as a serial sex predator who preyed on his students from all four post-high school institutions he controlled. A Special Beis Din of renown Rabbanim (Rabbi Shmuel Fuerst, Rabbi Zev Cohen, and Rabbi Gedalia Dov Schwartz) residing in Chicago found Mr. Meisels guilty of serious misconduct with heavy proof, a handwritten list of victims, and a confession from the abuser himself.
This Bais Din in Chicago then ruled against attending the seminaries. Touro and Hebrew Theological College quickly followed suit and removed accreditation from the institutions. Furthermore, after hearing testimony from victims and students, the staff was found culpable of enabling the abuse. After being summoned for questioning, the staff members ignored the request of the Bais Din to appear before them.
During this time, main staff members of the seminaries (including but not to limited to Rabbi Meir Kahane, Rabbi Boruch Simon, Mrs. Shulamis Soloff, and Mrs. Hindy Ullman) continued to completely ignore that there was ever an issue all together.
The seminary faculty had knowledge of the inappropriate ways in which Meisels conducted himself with the girls. When complaints of inappropriate behavior by Meisels were brought to the staff from students/ victims, the girls were told to keep their mouths closed or were ignored.
There was NO APOLOGY to any students/ parents/ or victims from the schools. Instead, shortly after the Bais Din publicized it’s ruling of Meisels’ guilt, Rabbi Meir Kahane sent out an email to tell students not to discuss the abuse. He claimed it was Loshon Hara (slander) and that they would “save the world” if they would not speak about it.
This petition demands that the faculty of the school face the problem and finally take responsibility for the horror that happened under their watch for so many years. WE WANT THEM TO ISSUE A SINCERE PUBLIC APOLOGY TO EVERY LAST VICTIM OF ELIMELECH MEISLES.
Sex abuse can no longer be swept under the rug in the Orthodox Jewish world. It is time to take responsibility and make a change within our communities, homes, and within our own outlook on this serious subject itself.
Signing this petition is the least we can do for the victimized girls and their families.
Michal Ben Baruch explained her reasons for mounting the petition drive:
The Meisels scandal had a major impact on my life. As I followed the breaking story since July I became aware of the major problem of sex abuse cover-ups within the Orthodox world. Having been a student at the seminaries, the abuse of my classmates hit close to home. I started becoming more outspoken as I joined discussions on Frum Follies, eventually writing a lengthy post about my experiences with Meisels and his enablers. Thus, many of you know me as TruthSeeker.
Over the months I have kept in close contact with the Chicago Beis Din and others closely connected to the scandal. I was appalled by the responses I got after speaking out. Many of my seminary classmates discussed me behind my back in unfavorable ways. How ironic that these same girls cried “loshon hara” when it came to the menuval (miscreant) Meisels but did not follow the same moral code for a classmate. I have received enough hate emails to last me a lifetime. I have had “good Bais Yaakov” girls tell me that I would burn in hell, prevent Moshiach from coming, ruin my reputation, and that I should “be ashamed because of all that Rabbi Meisels has done for me and taught me.” In retrospect, the only thing that Meisels taught me was how to create a cult of seminary girls to use as shields from accountability.
Some people may not like my outspokenness, but what can I say? Morality is not about gaining public approval; it is about doing the right thing. I will NOT be silent until justice is served. I want to publicly invite and encourage all alumni to find their voices and finally speak out.
It is time to take action for the victimized girls and show the schools that we will NOT ignore this horrific case of sex abuse which happened on their watch for so many years. Key seminary staff ignored victims and witnesses to inappropriate behavior. I ask parents, alumni, and other concerned people to read and sign this petition demanding the seminary staff take responsibility and issue a public apology to the victims of Elimelech Meisels.
I understand that I am the only student to publicly put my name out there thus far. It is not easy to be the first; I hope that I will give others the strength and confidence to also speak out.
We must educate ourselves on how to spot manipulative authoritative figures who take advantage of the vulnerable people under their power. Together with Hashem’s (G-d’s) help, we can spread awareness of sex abuse and tackle this problem in the orthodox world. We can make our world a better and safer place.
Michal Ben-Baruch, Pninim ’10 & Chedvas ’11