Meisels’ Staff Could Learn Menschlichkeit From Oregon State University

Petition for seminary apology for MeiselsIn 1998 Brenda Tracy was gang raped by Oregon State University (OSU) athletes. She reported her assault to the police and cooperated with them. The police gathered enough evidence to charge defendants. But Brenda then lacked the emotional strength to follow through on prosecution.

Now she has come forward, sharing her identity and story. She was heartened by the belated response of OSU and the coach of the team. Ms Tracy  is willing to do public talks to the football team and others at the university.

OSU President Edward J. Ray issued the following statement of apology:

I learned the details regarding this assault on Friday. Apparently, statements were taken from Ms. Tracy and the suspects, two of whom were on the Oregon State University football team at the time.

We are told that law enforcement officials in 1998 were not able to bring criminal charges because Ms. Tracy did not wish to participate in a prosecution.

OSU cannot control the criminal justice system, but I have asked university staff to obtain the police reports for the case and to determine if there are any actions we can take now under OSU’s code of student conduct. There may be no formal course of action available to us but we must try. While legal minds could no doubt explain how it makes sense to have a statute of limitations for sexual assault crimes, I find that appalling. Hopefully, justice delayed is not justice entirely denied in this case.   We are currently trying to get the facts regarding OSU’s handling of this matter in 1998, including what efforts were made then to reach out to Ms. Tracy to help her deal with the terrible physical and emotional harm she suffered. If a case of this nature was reported to the university today, OSU’s Office of Equity and Inclusion would work to stop the sexual misconduct, assist the survivor and prevent a recurrence.

Ms. Tracy’s journey has been simultaneously heart-breaking and inspiring because of her own capacity to reclaim her sense of self-worth and pursue her education so that she can help others through her work as a nurse.

There is no statute of limitations on compassion or basic human decency. I understand that Mike Riley, who was our football coach at the time, has offered to meet with Ms. Tracy and would like to have her speak with the football team if she wishes to do so. The immediate response from us to Ms. Tracy is to ask how we can help her address the effects of this violence. It is our hope that any role she is willing and interested in pursuing to help educate our community on the horrors of sexual assault by sharing her story could bring some healing.

This would be of great interest to us, but only if it is helpful to Ms. Tracy in continuing to deal with all that she has suffered.

We cannot undo this nightmare. I personally apologize to Ms. Tracy for any failure on our part in 1998 in not helping her through this terrible ordeal. This is a moment from which each of us can learn. But it is mostly a moment for us to help Ms. Tracy heal.

Elimelech Meisels

Elimelech Meisels

As Jews who teach about teshuva (repentance), the staff of the Meisels seminaries should also have apologized. Instead they pervert the meaning of teshuva by thinking it is enough that Meisels entered therapy. The seminary staff preach midos (ethical conduct) while OSU just demonstrated them in practice. They preach emes (truth) but they are telling lies to their alumni denying Meisel’s abuse and their culpability for knowing about his misconduct and doing nothing.

Because they didn’t step up to the plate, a petition appealing to them to apologize was posted and submitted by TruthSeeker.  I hope they come to their senses though I doubt they will. My remaining hope is that most of the administrators and others are fired soon. If that doesn’t happen, I hope the school goes bankrupt. Other seminaries will take up the slack and will be mindful of the risks of ignoring abuse.

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27 thoughts on “Meisels’ Staff Could Learn Menschlichkeit From Oregon State University

  1. The rabbis need to apologize to bodkins victims for the coverup. And not ever meeting with the victims. Te rabbis who posted a fake kol Koreh and ran for the hills when supeonoed. They rabbis when deposed embarrassed themselves. Why don’t they apologize and return the money they raised for bodkins defense

    • You are right. Apologies are also owed by Rabbi Levin and others in Torah Umesorah, Ronnie Greenwald for engineering secret agreements leaving Bodkins some role with children even though Ronnie knew Bodkins was a molester, and individuals and institutions that tried to pressure the proprietor of the Ad Kan website to take down the allegations.

  2. I thought this was really powerful and should 100% stand as an example to the seminary staff. How very sad that people who think they represent Torah and Yiddishkeit now have to learn a thing or two from a secular University. Thank you very much for sharing, YL.

    • Criminal action for sex abuse (which in Israael includes sexual interactions of any kind between a teacher/rabbi and students regardless of age) depends on decisions of complainants. Each is their own free agent. We will find out when Meisels is charged, not before then. It could happen tomorrow, it could happen next year. It may never happen.

      Similarly, civil suits for financial damages resulting from sex abuse depend on victim/survivors choosing to go ahead with a suit.

      Contrary to the paranoid nonsense from Meisels defenders, there is no council of the elders deciding who will charge him or when it will happen.

      Your question is also hard to answer, and you have put me in an awkward position in asking it. There could be situations where I did know something about pending action that was shared to me in confidence and I would not be free to put that information out in public.

      Naturally, when there is information on the official public record, I will share it. Similarly, I will share complainant plans when they wish to do that.

      • well, that is certainly an honest reply. it is disappointing on many levels, as he will in essence have gotten away with it. the civil complaints will be settled for an amount that will certainly not be disclosed, and he is free to go on to his next nefarious enterprise. as is his principals.

  3. unfortunately the waters get muddied awfully quick, especially when conflating cases.

    Not knowing anything about these 2 cases, and trying to be rational, to me, its all a matter of percentages.

    Percentage of Case A guilt – somewhat high
    Percentage of Case B guilt – significantly lower

    Percentage of Case A guilt being used to influence Case B – 99.9

    • Your conclusion if faulty because your facts are off. Based on a lot of information reported by the Special Beis Din in Chicago (aka CBD) staff culpability in Meisels abuse is well established.

      • let me be very specific here, and ask the same of you

        When you say “I have no doubt about the scope of the coverup” are you referring to the cover-up or the alleged crime itself?

        Secondly, if you were a betting house, would you give equal odds of guilt to these 2 cases?

        Thirdly, if it was proven that B is not guilty, then M is not guilty too?

  4. In Kesser Chaya’s ad this week, it says they have FASFA grants, did they get their grants back from Excelsior or TI (Chicicao) Turo?

  5. For what it’s worth, I don’t think the inability of so many of the guilty among the Orthodox to apologize to their victims (of course, I’m thinking now primarily of the cover-up crowd) stems from an inability to grasp the mechanics of repentance, or from a radical inability to feel remorse. True, one finds a few people everywhere who lack what the rest of us call conscience, but this is not terribly common. Most of the people (rightly) critiqued on this blog are quite capable of remorse when they think they’ve done something wrong. Many people in Orthodox communities might almost be called neurotic about repentance — if anything, they overdo it.

    The problem here is actually bigger than the absence of conscience, because those who suffer from it aren’t even aware that a problem exists. I’m not talking about people who clam up because they’re threatened, or because they’re afraid of incurring legal liability. (I’m a lawyer, so I do know about that kind of thing.) The larger, institutional reason Orthodox Jewish authorities don’t apologize is that they genuinely don’t recognize anyone who deserves an apology.

    To put the thing in a nutshell: much of our community’s leadership has adopted the totalitarian premise that its members — the rabbinate, the bosses, the “party” — actually contain the entire community. The rest of the community exists essentially as an appendage to the leadership; it’s there as long as it does what it’s supposed to do, as my arm is “mine” so long as it responds to my conscious will; if it stops doing that, it doesn’t exist, or exists only as a foreign presence to be either cured or removed.

    This sort of thinking will be very familiar to those who remember the old Communist parties in the days of the Soviet Union. I can remember when the harshest charge hurled at dissidents like Sakharov or Solzhenitsyn was “anti-Sovietism” — in other words, if you criticized the bosses you were really criticizing the entire Soviet people. It didn’t matter that you were actually speaking in SUPPORT of most of them, that you were pointing out crimes committed AGAINST the people by the government, etc. Those defenses were always rejected by the Party, or rather not even entertained. The bosses WERE the people.

    I don’t want to make this a long post, but I’m afraid the rabbinate, and the lay leadership connected to it, thinks in a very similar fashion. If you criticize THEM you must really be an enemy of the whole Orthodox community. And if you’re an enemy, how can you demand an apology? In their eyes, the idea makes no more sense than asking forgiveness of the Gestapo.

    This is how the Satmar leadership could claim, with a straight face, that “the entire community” was “on that defendant’s bench” during the Weberman trial — even though everyone could see that least several community members were actually aligned with the victim, who (of course) had been a member herself. I think they meant what they wrote: anyone who did align with the victim and against the leadership excluded himself or herself, by that very act, from the rabbis’ understanding of the word “community.”

    That’s one very important reason these people don’t feel guilty slandering the victims, just as they don’t feel immoral about refusing to apologize. The victims, the critics, the defenders, are unpersons. And what you do or don’t do to an unperson is of no more moral significance than whether you accidentally step on an ant.

    A key part of building a better Orthodox community, I think, is breaking down this totalitarian mindset and spreading the awareness that all of us who contribute to the community possess the same humanity, and deserve the same respect, as everyone else.

    Sorry — I did make this a longer post than I should have.

    • Very thought provoking post. What do you think will happen within the Torah community? Will this new ability for ” regular people” to exchange info and comment without putting there own reputations on the line create any fundamental changes? Or is that unrealistic in your opinion?

  6. In my book, I borrow a comment from Albert Schweitzer, who wrote that his “knowledge” was pessimistic, while his “willing and hoping” were optimistic. I think this neatly sums up what might be called a kind of religious psychology. Those who find discussion of these topics depressing — some early readers of my book have called it that — are reacting, I think, out of a sense of helplessness. How can you not be depressed about suffering and injustice if you can’t do anything about them?

    My own attitude is different. I couldn’t call myself a religious Jew if the “willing and hoping” that flow from all I believe could be extinguished by the ugly facts I know — no matter how much power seems to be arrayed behind the evils.

    I don’t care much for preaching, particularly my own. So I’ll keep this short. I have no real idea how much progress I’ll ever see. But I do know that committing myself to all the good that CAN be achieved is part of what keeps me alive and whole — in fact, it’s the essential part. I also know that from a religious point of view, all change is fundamental (to borrow a word from a posting above): whatever the scale, the essence of each human choice involves a radical division between good and bad, life and death. To me, that seems like more than enough for anyone to spend a productive lifetime on. Though of course it also means constant examination — of ourselves and of everything around us. And a willingness to act on what we see.

    So I come out, always, on the side of hope. And I remember Augustine’s comment that “Hope has two beautiful daughters — their names are Anger and Courage.” Anger, not rage (which is the flipside of depression, helpless and directionless); courage, not recklessness, which tears down what it tries to save. If we stay honest and let these “beautiful daughters” lead us, I do think we can bring to life a Judaism which, in turn, will bring more life to everyone.

    And now — to work.

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