(See images of the referenced documents at the end of the post)
Meisels Still Claims Control of Peninim of America, Inc
Yesterday (12/14/14) I reported that Elimelech Meisels still claims ownership of the not-for-profit (NFP) entity, Peninim of America, Inc. This claim was part of his response to a complaint by two plaintiffs (Jane Doe # 1 and Jane Doe #2) who allege Meisels sexually assaulted them.
The plaintiffs sought a conference with the court ( which was granted for Tuesday 12/16/14, 1:30 p.m. with Judge Marily Go) because, “In the past week, information concerning the plaintiffs has been posted all over the internet. The personal information concerning the plaintiffs is information that only an insider would have.” The letter is probably referring to information and threats that appeared as comments on the Daas Torah blog with the tacit consent of the blog moderator, Rabbi Daniel Eidensohn.
After I blogged to protest implied threats to reveal the identities of the plaintiffs, Eidensohn grudgingly backtracked in part but directed a massive attack at my blog. He and I argued about his allowing a comment in favor of revealing the plaintiff identities if they lied. This was in the context of repeated suggestions by Eidensohn and his favored commenters that the plaintiffs were lying in claiming rape and attempted rape.
Eidensohn insists that there is no proof that Meisels’ misconduct extended beyond a few hugs which may have been consensual and not explicitly sexual. His next few postings claimed that reports of the incidence of rape of college women are exaggerated, that U.S. Title IX legislation (regarding sexual violence and harassment in higher education) is “strongly reducing a man’s presumed status of innocence,” and referenced an article pointing out that the media have a legal right to reveal the identities of John and Jane Does in sex abuse cases.
Eidensohn finally stated, “I of course agree with the standard procedure of not publicizing the names of victims and witnesses.” However, he mitigated his responsibility stating “I approve many comments which I don’t agree with.” However, the plaintiffs, this blogger, and many observers detect an implied threat coupled with the strong suggestion that these plaintiffs are part of a large problem of exaggerated allegations of abuse by young adult women.
Meisels Blames Others for Leaks
Claiming an Attempt to Take Away Peninim of America, Inc
Meisels’ attorney responded to leak allegations:
Rabbi Meisels… has assured us that he has not leaked or otherwise caused the identity of the Plaintiffs to be compromised. We suspect, that… it was done so by persons whose agenda includes undermining Rabbi Meisels’ defense… all as part of the continued campaign to seize control of… Peninim of America, Inc… We are presently gathering evidence of efforts to threaten Rabbi Meisels into giving up his assets in connection with the allegations in this lawsuit and we suspect the leaking of the details of the allegation are part of this.
This is bizarre because Meisels is turning on Eidensohn accusing him of leaking to force him to surrender his control of the seminaries. Eidensohn’s name never appears in this exchange but I have information from informed sources that Eidensohn’s posts and moderated comments will be raised in the proposed conference with the Judge about Internet intimidation.
Yet Eidensohn attacked the Chicago Beis Din and Shlomo Gottesman with exactly the same accusations of attempting to steal the seminaries. This allegation was also circulated to many alumni through mass emails.
It is true that the Chicago Beis Din and Touro College (& HTC) do not feel the schools are safe unless Meisels is completely removed from any control or role in the seminaries. But they are agnostic about who ends up controlling them.
Several different potential “owners” looked into “buying” the seminaries sometime between May and July 10th of this year (2014). They included Zvi Bloom the owner of the Nachlas Bais Yaakov seminary and the very wealthy Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz. Both withdrew from the negotiations because they concluded Meisels was not serious about “selling.” Several others have been, or are now, exploring “buying” the seminaries. The roster of potential “buyers” includes figures who are aligned with the Chicago Beis Din as well as those aligned with Moetzes members who publicly criticized the Chicago Beis Din (i.e., Rabbis Yaakov Perlow (aka Novominkser Rebbe), Aaron Shechter (Chaim Berlin), Aron Feldman (Ner Israel Rabbinical College, Baltimore), Malkiel Kotler (Beth Medrash Gavohah, Lakewood) and Avrohom Chaim Levin (Telz-Chicago)).
The details are muddy and it is hard to separate out plausible allegations from either misleading claims or simple paranoia. But the one thing that is clear is that Meisels has not surrendered control and does not want to, unless completely forced.
Can a Not-For-Profit Be Sold?
The IRS classifies Peninim of America, Inc as a not-for-profit (NFP). Thus, it assets cannot be used or sold for the personal benefit of its officers. Officers do not own an NFP. Yet all the parties in this controversy have regularly talked about “buying” and “selling” the seminaries. I have regularly asked experts how this can be done. The tax accountants tell me it cannot be done legally. Of course, it can be done privately and illegally, off the record. In fact, it is understood in the Yeshivish world that most schools are privately owned and the not-for-profit status is fakery to the government for the sake of tax benefits. However, even knowing this, I am surprised that various parties would openly use the language of buying and selling. Legally, the most that can be done is having existing officers of a corporation transfer authority to a new set of officers. It is impossible to even know if this has happened because the officers are not publicly disclosed. Peninim Inc claims “church” status with the IRS which frees it from having to publicly disclose those facts. I would hope that if a transfer of authority is accomplished, the new officers will voluntarily disclose their identities for Peninim of America, Inc and its Israeli entities to which it transfers funds in return for providing the actual education.
Did Meisels Miss the Lawsuit Response Deadline?
According to the plaintiffs, “Although Counsel for Defendants has filed a Notice of Appearance, no Answer has been filed. The Defendants are currently in default.”
Meisels’ attorney replied: “Just this Wednesday [12/10/4] we received copies of the
Affidavits of service from Plaintiffs’ counsel… We object to any notion
that service of process has properly been effectuated on Rabbi Meisels.”
In other words, plaintiffs claim that Meisels hasn’t answered on time and the judge should therefore award a default judgment. Meisels claims there was not proper service of the notice of the lawsuit so he is not susceptible to default judgment.
It is hard to believe that a defendant would willingly surrender his opportunity to respond. Yet it is equally hard to believe that a competent attorney would bungle something as simple as serving a lawsuit. ‘Tis mysterious!
It is astounding how much was revealed in the few hundred words exchanged by the attorneys for plaintiffs and Meisels. Civil courts, even with some sealing orders are way more transparent than the Beis Din process. Mind you, the Battei Din in this case have been way more transparent than most others to date, letting documents circulate that ended up on the Frum Follies and Daas Torah blogs. The only reason we learned anything at all is because Meisels refused to comply with the conditions the Chicago Beis Din set for him.This case illustrates that Beis Din is simply not up to the task of dealing with sexual abuse. The CBD is not yet successful in spite of the best of intentions, investigative diligence, and considerable courage. I have a strong feeling that Meisels intends to stage a comeback and might succeed.
Hat Tip to Michael Lesher and “Shmilda”
Update 12/16/14 6 p.m. – After today’s status conference, the following minute entry was entered on the docket: