Daniel Eidensohn indulged in another selective leak on April Fools Day to claim all is well in the seminaries. This is part of his continuing effort in partnership with Rabbi Chaim Malinowitz to undo the harm to the seminaries’ reputation from the earlier Chicago Special Beis Din (CBD) rulings that Elimelech Meisels sexually assaulted students at seminaries he owned, and worse, that other staff ignored open flirtation, obvious grooming, late night solo excursions with students, and even complaints by parents of sexual assaults.
The Special Beis Din of Chicago (CBD) made a mistake when they agreed to join an enlarged Beis Din (rabbinical court) together with the Israeli Beis Din and added on a seventh dayan (judge), Rabbi Eliyahu Brudny. They did it because the two Haredi rabbis in Chicago (Shmuel Feurst and Zev Cohen) were under pressure from five Agudath Israel of America members of the Moetzes (Council of Torah Sages). Led by Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Levin of Chicago the Moetzes rabbis(Aron Feldman, Yaakov Perlow, Aaron Schechter, and Malkiel Kotler) signed a letter rejecting the conclusions of the CBD instead insisting all was now well at those seminaries.
The enlarged beis din’s majority was guided by a Haredi “sixth Shulchan Aruch” that no scandal can ever be allowed to close up institutions that provides jobs to people from choshuv (important) families. Under this perversion of commonsense and halacha (Jewish law), the reputations and jobs of important families overrode the safety and well-being of students. The CBD was willing to have the seminaries fail unless they completely removed Meisel’s influence, fired Mrs. Ullman, and demoted or censured other staff. They got Touro College (and its subsidiary, Hebrew Theological College) to suspend accreditation until those goals were realized. But then they acquiesced to joining an enlarged (aka joint) beis din.
Saving the seminaries was hard because Meisels was not willing to surrender his ongoing financial interest unless he could get enough money. He could not get enough money unless the seminaries could credibly recruit students. That is hard if you admit all the seminary administrators were abuse enablers. Hence the need to whitewash. This led to the tortured joint psak which acknowledged some problems including abuse and staff shortcomings requiring remedial measures while denying the full extent of the staff enabling.
A while back, Daniel Eidensohn released a text of the psak (minus explanation notes and two dissents) in Hebrew and offered an overly-cheery summary which ignored the criticisms of some staff. I translated the psak and pointed out numerous problems including the fact that seminaries were still not out of Meisels’ control and staff were reprimanded and had their authority reduced, especially Hindy Ullman.
Now we are again assured by Eidensohn that the seminaries are sold to Rabbi Gedaliah Weinberger “a prominent member of Agudas Yisroel.” For the record, he is “prominent” because he is wealthy, not because he has any educational credentials. He was Chair of Agudah’s lay board until 2013. He did Agudah’s dirty work of maintaining connections with mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner after an ugly sexting scandal, because Jews owed him “hakkaros hatov” (gratitude) and “the other candidates are not much better then him in terms of behaviors.” He sounds like is the perfect man to replace Elimelech Meisels.
Some of you may be wondering how a not-for-profit can be “sold.” The short answer is that there is no legal way to do it. The long answer is probably buried in complicated and devious pathways. For example, Yaakov Yarmush the purported owner of the Mesiels seminaries, is now suing Rabbi Shimon Kurland and Kurland’s Yeshiva, Darchei Bina for embezzling $700,000 from Yarmush’s corporation, Zap Cellular (Eastern District of US federal courts, CV15-0682, filed Feb 11, 2015).
How in the world did a yeshiva get so entangled with a cell phone company. The lawsuit by Yarmush/Zap Cellular alleges RICO violations. Eidensohn screamed “blood libel” when Yarmush, Meisels and Rabbi Gartner were sued by parents unable to get refunds after they withdrew their daughters per the psak of the CBD. One Jew’s heter arcaos (permission to sue a Jew in secular courts) is another man’s blood libel.
This transfer of financial control may or may not be true and may or may not be completed. We have been promised such transfers pending a bit of paperwork for nine months now, first to unnamed parties and then to Yaakov Yarmush, another businessman.
Eidensohn’s “leak” is once again, highly selective, and actually undermines his arguments. Remember, the dispute initially pitted 3 rabbis of the CBD against 3 rabbis of the IBD. Rabbi Gartner refused to join the dissent of the IBD leaving only Rabbis Shafran and Malinowitz. All we see of the two-rabbi dissent is that they don’t think any seminary staff are culpable, meaning five rabbis including Brudny felt there was some staff culpability. But then we have Malinowitz dissenting from his dissent partner, Shafran, and going solo to declare:
My opinion is that there is absolutely no reason to penalize or censure any head of any seminary. There was nothing that the heads saw that could have or should have raised a “red flag” to any reasonable person – there were perfectly rational, reasonable, logical explanations for what is seen now – only in retrospect – as “questionable behavior.”
So we now know that 6 out of seven dayanim thought there were red flags. In my opinion the administrators should be in trouble for either willfully ignoring the red flags, or being too color blind or stupid to notice them.
Malinowitz is apparently a minority of one in claiming “Objective witnesses testified that the actions of M. were not a topic of conversation amongst the girls.” This is a ridiculous claim. Unless someone was operating a Stasi-style bugging operation there is no way anyone can say it was not a topic of discussion. All anyone can say is that they didn’t hear it come up. So either a witness was guessing rather than testifying and the beis din allowed it or Malinowitz is indulging in very sloppy inference in his desperation to deny red flags. He is not telling us about other witnesses.
The truth is that the majority of the beis din accepted staff claims of innocence in preference to testimony they heard including allegations from several alumni of both obvious red flags and staff who were directly advised of Meisels’ misconduct. This was not the opinion of the Chicago rabbis but having made the mistake of giving into pressure and joining the joint beis din they had to sign the ruling. That is how battei din work. They beis din majority made a decision to treat the staff like American criminal defendants who could only be convicted with proof beyond a reasonable doubt (though that is not the standard for retaining a jobs). They also let several staff off the hook because they did see red flags but consulted with their daas torah rabbis who advised them to ignore it and not make a fuss. In other words a flag is not red if daas torah bleaches it white. Like cash bribes, the shochad of Agudah pressure, color blinds the eyes of judges.
Once again we see why Agudah is the most useless place in the world to go with sex abuse problems. Their rabbonim advise ignoring abuse. Their peers than feel obliged to validate the ruling. Let any Haredi rabbis get proactive and the heavy hitters of Agudah go after them. The Chicago Beis Din created a window of hope that sometimes Haredi rabbis could deal internally with sex abuse. The joint beis din dashed that hope. This scandal may save the money of the Tress-Meisels family and the jobs of some people in choshuv families. But it is the death knell of Agudah’s claim that its rabbis can be trusted to confront sex abuse.
PS- The seminaries are still not accredited by Touro College. Supposedly they are accredited by Excelsior but it is not clear how much it will cost or whether their credits will be accepted by Touro or other desirable institutions. A civil charge is pending in US courts accusing Meisels of rape and attempted rape.
Consumer Tip: caveat emptor with Eidensohn posts. Look at actual documents and consider what is being excluded.