Who Are You Going to Believe About Mrs. Ullman?

When I was in mesivta (high school) several of us loved reciting this nonsense verse:

One bright day in the middle of the night
Two dead boys got up to fight.
Back to back they faced each Hindy Ullman
Took out their knives and shot each other.
One deaf policeman heard the noise…

Being clever yeshiva boys we went to work resolving the inconsistencies. It could be bright during midnight at the North Pole during the longest day in the summer. The dead can get up if resurrected. If resurrected with their heads in the wrong direction, they can face each other, back to back. Guns disguised as knives can shoot. The deaf can “hear” shootings by feeling the vibrations.

But we knew it was a game and the poem was truly full of contradictions. That’s what made it funny. A rabbinic court ruling (psak), laced with contradictions is no laughing matter. Yet that is what we have.

The joint Beis Din ruling on Mrs. Hindy Ullman, principal of the Binas Beis Yaakov Seminary addressed her culpability in Meisels sexual abuse of students. It states:

We are talking about incidents that… occurred 5772 [2011-2012] (the year Binas Beis Yaakov opened) and on… We are talking about a handful of incidents each year

After going through the material before us, it is difficult to shake the feeling that there were red flags and troubling signs, and the administration should have known and sensed what was going on under its own nose… It is difficult to establish that with certainty, and even if you say it is true, how can we know and decide if it was at the level of negligence or near negligence or less than that – but to leave it at nothing is impossible.

Therefore it seems that we must make do with the continuation of the arrangements that were agreed upon by the administration in Kislev of this year. According to [these arrangements], some of the positions and responsibility will be transferred temporarily to another party. As well, supervision and guidance by Mrs. Birnbaum will be increased. These arrangements will be in effect until the start of the school year of 5777 [Fall 2016]. [bolding in the original]

The judges acknowledge multiple episodes of abuse complete with “red flags and troubling signs” that Mrs. Ullman “should have known and sensed” was “going on under” her “own nose.” Yet they dispute that this was negligence. Well actually they kvetch, “how can we know and decide.” I thought deciding was their job.

In the end, they settle on a vague set of sanctions with two parts to last until fall, 2016. Some of Ullman’s “positions and responsibility will be transferred… to another party” and “supervision and guidance by Mrs. Birnbaum will be increased.”

I don’t know about you. I could not certify the safety of a school whose administrator has to be on probation because they were either too stupid or too indifferent to discern, detect and stop multiple episodes of sexual abuse of students by staff. Yet that is what they did when the released the first part of this ruling in December when they wrote, “There is no danger or problem in sending students to study in these seminaries.”

The members of the Chicago Beis Din believe she is under tight control and will eventually be forced out. But is that true? Rabbi Daniel Eidensohn posted a letter on his Daas Torah blog from a mother of student now attending Ullman’s seminary, Binas. She writes:

I periodically ask my daughter if anything has come up this year and she says no.  I ask if Mrs. Ullman is in charge and she says yes.  What that tells me is that if there was a “punishment” it is sure not one that anyone sees and thus would not be effective as such.”

We have students and parents who cannot discern any transfer of Mrs. Ullman’s positions and responsibility.

So who are you going to believe, a Beis Din that promised some sanctions against Mrs. Ullman or parents and students who are convinced that Ullman is faultless and retains full authority?


21 thoughts on “Who Are You Going to Believe About Mrs. Ullman?

  1. It’s the funniest darned thing. When shown that the CBD doesn’t really agree with the JBD psak, based on actual, face-to-face conversations, Eidensohn points to a piece of paper and says that the paper is the final word, and the actual conversations mean nothing.

    At precisely the same time, he points to a letter from a mother which purports to override the JBD psak. That Eidensohn sure likes to have his cake and to eat it, too.

    • Eidensohn prefers attacking my conclusions (which are rooted in the text of the Joint Beis Din psak) than even having his readers look over my translation. I have challenged him in a comment submitted a few minutes ago to either acknowledge my translation is accurate or offer up his criticisms. We are people of texts. Words matter. Let’s see if he will respond.

      I submitted my comment on his last nasty post about me: http://daattorah.blogspot.com/2015/03/frum-follies-why-is-lopin-obsessed-with.html

      • Eidensohn’s gang hasn’t limited itself to attacking Yerachmiel. Now they’re taking turns whacking TruthSeeker, whose apparent crime is that she pointed out a blatant factual inaccuracy in one of Eidensohn’s comments. He’s also declared that he won’t let her respond on his blog — so the bullies are having a field day.

        Personally, I don’t recommend that blog to anyone who values his sanity, and I’m not suggesting that people waste their time sparring with a bigot and his myrmidons.

        But I think we should all take notice — in sorrow, in anger — that all the classic Orthodox abuse cover-up tactics are now in full bloom. The abuser’s protectors control the public dissemination of information about the case, and they share only what they think it expedient to share. Victims have been marginalized. Their advocates are slandered with impunity. Those responsible for the first-wave cover-up have been officially exonerated (albeit, this time, with some handwringing and unconvincing apologetics). Whether the abuser still has influence over his educational accomplices, and indirectly over students as well, is at best unclear. And the consensus among “respectable” Orthodox sources is that none of this matters; the whole abuse issue (if there really is one at all) is a thing of the past, while what happens to the schools in the future is a live and urgent priority. And so it goes.

        I stress this because this story has sometimes been presented as an exception to the rule, or as the signal of a new dawn in Orthodox sex abuse cases. I don’t entirely disagree with that assessment, but we have to be honest with ourselves. Yes, the case raised a ripple of concern. Yes, a few prominent rabbis, at least at first, refused to play along with the usual cover-up game. But in the end the typical pattern predominated, with sadly predictable results.

        The bottom line is that these institutions — I’m using that word in a broad sense, not only to apply to the specific seminaries involved in this case — will not heal themselves, and we won’t accomplish much of anything by appealing to them, or even to the best rabbis affiliated with them. And that’s not going to change. If we let the leadership make the decisions, all we will get will be more of the same — though it may come sugared with the sort of promises, rhetoric and window dressing that, to honest palates, only make the bitter truth at the core that much more sickening.

        We will only get the justice we demand. And the good news about this case — about the only good news I can see — is that its history proves the point. And still does. As far as I know, Touro hasn’t certified the seminaries in question since the scandal broke, and that’s because they’ve got to worry about the possible costs of a premature approval. The more public we are in demanding safety for our children, the more we back up our words with boycotts, the more we use available legal remedies — in short, the more costs we impose on the system for protecting abusers, the sooner the costs will be prohibitive and we can hope for something like a sane system.

        Meanwhile, I feel I owe TruthSeeker a few words of consolation and respect. The fact that she is being lambasted by the Eidensohns of the Orthodox world proves the importance of her actions. They can’t refute her — and they can’t stomach her. When they erupt at her they reveal their true natures — hateful, bigoted, cruel, mendacious — but they also unwittingly demonstrate that, in her honesty and fearlessness, she is something altogether too fine for them to handle.

        However painful this must be for her (and others like her), I feel sure her example will not be wasted. As Glenn Greenwald has recently said about Edward Snowden, courage is contagious. And courage — one of the “two beautiful daughters” of hope, in Augustine’s famous image — is what we need now, much more (in my opinion) than we need faith, piety or “loyalty” (meaning cowardice) toward the institutions that are systematically failing us.

    • Triangle – “When shown that the CBD doesn’t really agree with the JBD psak, based on actual, face-to-face conversations…”

      That is not “showing” it is hearsay. The CBD signed the JBD psak. If they didn’t agree with it, they shouldn’t have signed it. If they saw things differently than what the JBD psak says, they should WRITE those words in a psak and put it out there AT THE SAME TIME as the JBD psak is publicized. Relying on word of mouth that they are saying they don’t agree with the JBD psak is ludicrous.

      I am not pro Eidensohn, he is a pathetic joke, extremely childish and unwilling to hear and concede to logic and proven fact. But the CBD has a lot to answer for. They have no right to expect anyone to believe hearsay which is opposed to what they have written. If they want to go on record saying they are opposed to the psak, they can record those conversations and Yerachmiel can post those conversations.

      This is all a big circus. This makes halachah and piskei din look like a joke. If there are dissensions to the JBD psak, they should be put into writing and made available immediately. If there is no time to write them, they can be voice recordings. Either way, the silence from the CBD and the fact that the JBD psak is the last document standing, is discouraging to say the least. It is a perversion of justice.

      • They have written a dissent. We can discuss it if/when it gets posted. Suffice it to say that there’s no secret that the CBD argues on many points.

        • Triangle stated :’They have written a dissent. We can discuss it if/when it gets posted. Suffice it to say that there’s no secret that the CBD argues on many points.’

          From your wording, it seems there is a strong possibility that the CBD dissent may never be revealed.
          If not revealed, surely the dissent is worthless, and the CBD can be counted as concurring with the original ruling !?!
          Are the CBD totally without any honor ?

            • A joint dissent is itself problematic. I suspect that if the three dayanim from the CBD had agreed on their points of dissent, they would have reinforced each other and there would have been no joint opinion issued in the first place. (If two Jews have three opinions, how many opinions do three rabbis have?) The CBD dayanim understand that separate dissents will weaken the CBD, but a joint dissent limited to the “lowest common denominator,” the objection or objections held by all three dayanim, without mentioning objections held by one or two, may be unacceptable to him/them. Add in the factors that these Chicago rabbonim, despite differing affiliations and hashkafot, are colleagues who have to work together, and that a dissenting opinion in itself has no legal effect, the result of a rational cost/benefit analysis (not only personally, but to the community) may be no published dissenting opinion at all.

              Some may understandably bristle at my reference to “rational cost/benefit analysis,” but I suggest that the dayanim should be seen both as successors in the role of Moshe Rabbeinu, announcing the law regardless of consequences (“let the law cut through the mountain”), and the role of Aharon, the community leader pursuing peace. So we may hope, but not hold our breath.

            • Thank you for making your excellent point. The whole joint ruling of the 7 is hopeless as an indication of the underlying sentiments of the parties especially without forthcoming dissents and the “Explanation” notes.

  2. Hindy Ullman is the daughter of Shmuel freid the well known aggressive rabbinical attorney of Brooklyn NY
    Its no wonder that she hasn’t been sanctioned as the dayanim are terrified as to what he Will do to them

  3. Please remove that picture. It is asur to look at such an evil person.

    Not that she in entirely at fault. She was raised by one of the biggest mushchosim alive today. No one has done more to make a mockery of all botai din than her dirt ball father.

  4. If I had a daughter, I certainly wouldn’t send her to a place with these people in charge. Anyone who would needs their head examined, IMO.

  5. What is the “reasons” document referred to by the Bais Din? Was it made public and if yes, please post a link…thanks

    • As I stated in the article, the beis din ruling referred to what were in effect either footnotes or a separate document. They did not include it and it is nowhere to be found in public. If it were, I would have translated and posted it. part of my frustration with the psak is the lack of clarity and transparency.

      • Thank you for that clarification. Obviously, the justification I tentatively proposed for the non-publication of a CBD dissent, should there ultimately not be a published dissent, cannot apply to the non-publication of a document incorporated by reference in the majority opinion, since the majority opinion, unlike the dissent, has legal, halakhic effect. IMHO, until that document is published, the psak of the “joint BD” is incomplete. I would also suggest that publication of this missing “reasons” document will complete and finalize the majority opinion only if that document (or at least its substance in detail) had been before all members of the “joint BD” when the majority opinion was written, or was subsequently ratified by them.

    • Sadly, and clearly, there is not a real “dissenting” opinion, Barring publication of such, we can forget the CBD, as being “different” from other special B”D opinions. what the f, why was there ever a “Special” B”D. they have same beitsim or lack of, as all of the rest. What is awful. awful. is that they raised hope amongst so many ………….. therein is the pain. afilu. for non ortho interestim.

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