Agudah, Can You at Least Be as Good as Reform Jews on Sex Abuse

The Union of Reform Judaism commissioned an independent investigation into all sex abuse within its programs including its youth groups and camps. They released the entire report, admitted they fell short and committed to further steps including adopting the recommendations of the independent report.

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Whitewashing the Meisels Seminaries and Their Principals

Elimelech Meisels Purim Punk Pninim Rabbi watermarked finDaniel 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.

Agudath Israel Lay President Gedaliah Weinberger hosting NYC mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner after sexting scandal (Aug. 2013)

Agudath Israel Lay President Gedaliah Weinberger hosting NYC mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner after sexting scandal (aka Carlos Danger) (Aug. 2013)

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. Continue reading

Agudah Is Recycling Old Rhetoric about Combating Fraud

Periodically, Agudath Israel of America (aka Agudah) makes a show of concern about scandals and chilul hashem (desecration of G-d’s name) but then nothing changes. When it comes to financial scandals, denial sets in for big givers. After all, how can a baal tzedakah (big charity giver) be a gonif (crook). Nobody even acknowledges they were probably donating stolen money.

Spinka Rebbe - Naftali Tzi Weisz

Spinka Rebbe – Naftali Tzi Weisz

Their last big show in 2009 coincided with the conviction of the Spinka Rebbe (Naftali Tzi Weisz) for money laundering. In a spectacular display for the outside world there was a Haredi-sponsored event complete with an American flag on the podium.

However, it is common knowledge that many Haredi institutions exploit their tax status as religious organizations to launder money. As religious organizations they are exempt from having to report their income and expenditures on IRS 990 forms. So the government has no easy way of discerning irregularities. Some not-for-profits (NFPs) voluntarily provide that information to the IRS (and thus to the public). It is the gold standard for transparency and accountability. But nobody in the Haredi world exerts any pressure to do that because money laundering is woven into the texture of Haredi life. Before anyone starts howling, let me be clear, I absolutely know that there some Haredim who will not do it either as a matter of conscience or good judgment. However, hardly anyone will publicly pressure other organizations to become more transparent.

Consider for example an old case of the Rabbi (sic) Mahir Reiss and others who were convicted of laundering millions of dollars for Colombian drug dealers. In return, they got to keep 15-18% as money laundering fees. The vehicles they used included the Bobov Yeshiva Eitz Chaim.

The five years following the Spinka scandal should have given the Agudah plenty of time to make serious progress in combating lawlessness. Yet the latest convention made it sound like they were just now discovering the problem and beginning to address it.

Novominsker Rebber Rosh Moetzes

Novominsker Rebbe – Yaakov Perlow

Fifteen years ago there were also promises to confront the problem while in fact, the Novominsker Rebbe (Yaakov Perlow), the Agudah’s Rosh Moetzes (Head of the Council of Torah Sages).

That scandal involved a group of Haredim using Haredi NFPs to launder millions of dollar for Colombian drug dealers. One of the convicted defendants was Mahir Reiss. According to Jewish Week’s reporting of the sentencing:

Mahir Reiss’ attorney, Nathan Lewin, paraded witnesses onto the stand to testify about his client’s charitable and financial support of the Orthodox community in New York and Israel……

Perhaps the most stunning testimony came from Rabbi Perlow, also known as the Novominsker rebbe, who is a member of the influential seven-member Council of Torah Sages of Agudath Israel of America, the ultra-Orthodox advocacy group. Rabbi Perlow revealed that he was sitting shiva or in mourning — his wife had died several days ago — but he left his house because of the importance of pleading for leniency in Mahir Reiss’s case. Continue reading

Moetzes Gedolim Speak About Znus Affecting Children (Satire)

Novominsker Rebber Rosh Moetzes

Novominsker Rebber
Rosh Moetzes

This is a repost of the very first Frum Follies post, erev sukkot, four years ago. It is satire saturated with Yeshivish frum-speak, which is why I named my new blog, Frum Follies. I apologize to secular readers because many of the allusions will be lost on you. But the flavor of the piece depends on the language, and fully translating and explaining every allusion would be a ton of work,  a virtual dissertation on ultra orthodox culture, and the various cases of sex abuse, well known in the community.

The problems of znus (sexual misconduct) and pritzus (immodesty) in our hefker (anarchic) society threaten the very life of our holy community. Rabbossai, chatani, we have sinned. Yes, even to the point where we have allowed foxes into the sanctuary, and znus into some of our mosdos (organizations of )torah. It is hard to keep out all those who fool us b’chadrei chareidim (behind closed doors), break the mitzvos (religious commandments) and are mizalzel (taint) themselves with the Internet. Continue reading

Agudah on Pedophilia: Too Little, Too Late!

This post first went up on Frum Follies after the Nov, 2010 Agudah Convention. Because some things don’t change, it is still pertinent to the Agudah Convention starting tonight. It seems they will once again focus on the evils of blogs and the internet instead of focusing on the real evils plaguing the community, including child abuse. They will probably kvetch about the evil mass media that made Satmar and by extension, other orthodox Jews look bad by their reporting of the Weberman trial. They will definitely not attack Satmar  or AMI Magazine’s Frankfurter for causing the greatest chilul hashem of our generation by defending Weberman, a man, who I believe, violated hundreds of Jewish girls. Their program is here.

Also see my satirical “Moetzes Gedolim Speak about Znus Affecting Children.” It is the howler with which I started Frum Follies over 3 years ago.  Continue reading