Beit Din Leaks

Rabbi Chaim Malinowitz
The astounding case of Rabbi Elimelech Meisels, who is suspected to have molested ("unwanted sexual contact with") his seminary students (Rav Meisels was owner and manager of Pnimim, Chedvas Beis Yaakov, Binas Beis Yakov and Keser Chaya seminaries) becomes more bizarre by the day.

The latest developments have moved away from R.Meisels, his victims, and even the seminaries themselves (safe? not safe?) to a bust-up between the two Batei Din involved - from Chicago and from Israel.

The Chicago Beit Din (CBD) issued a semi-private letter (below, from Frum Follies) confirming their position that, even with Rav Meisels reported to have sold the seminaries, and that he is no longer associated with the seminaries - nevertheless these seminaries themselves are still not safe for students.

This is apparently due to the CBD's knowledge from their investigation that students complained about Rav Meisels sexual behaviour with them, to other key members of staff, and and that these complaints were dismissed, covered-up or not acted upon, by the staff.

Effectively, the seminaries are cover-up-ville - and therefore these seminaries are still not a safe environment for female students, regardless of Rav Meisel's presence or absence.

Letter from Chicago Beit Din about Seminary Safety

In recent postings on Daat Torah, Rav Daniel Eidensohn has published private correspondence between Rabbi Aaron Feldman (of Baltimore) and Rav Chaim Malinowitz (a Dayan on the ad-hoc Israeli Beit Din which is involved in "sorting out" the R.Meisels affair, and the resulting messy situation for the four seminaries, which are all located in Israel).

In his letter, Rabbi Feldman takes the Israeli Beit Din (IBD) to task for being seen to be one-sided in their judgement (solely hearing evidence from and serving the interests of the seminaries, and not from the victims).

Rav Feldman therefore suggests a joint venture between CBD and IBD so they can all be on the same page with the available evidence from both the victims and from Rabbi Meisels (who testified to the CBD)

Rabbi Feldman also expresses surprise when the IBD had accused him in a teleconference that Rabbi Feldman had failed to provide the IBD with any information about the "serious nature" of the allegations against R.Meisels and information regarding the other staff.

Rabbi Feldman apparently believes the Chicago Beit Din (CBD) version of events over the version of the IBD, saying he doesn't believe Rav Zeev Cohen (of the CBD) is a liar, and therefore in effect Rabbi Feldman is calling Rav Malinowitz a liar.

Rabbi Malinowitz writes a long reply, repeating that the IBD has received no substantive information or testimonies regarding the nature of the alleged offenses by Rav Meisels from Rabbi Feldman, nor any other pertinent information from the CBD.

Rav Malinowitz states that only the IBD has any authority to handle this case, and that the CBD is not authorised. He even goes so far as to refer to the CBD as "the Chicago Rabbis", omitting throughout his letter the term "Beit Din".

He repeatedly complains that Rav Feldman and the CBD have failed to provide the IBD with the necessary case information - and indeed that the CBD have recently stated they are "unable to do so". (Thus the IBD has only been able to collect evidence from the Seminary staff - and have delivered their psak on that one-sided basis).

Rav Malinowitz clearly had a rough time with Rabbi Shmuel Gottesman, a lawyer, who has a role as representing some of the victims, and acting as a liaison on behalf of the CBD to the IBD.

I will provide below the original Rabbi Feldman letter (from Daat Torah) and my (best-effort) translation of Rabbi Malinowitz's reply to Rabbi Feldman.

Following the letters themselves, I will give my own observations and conclusions below.  

Rabbi Feldman's letter to Rav Malinowitz (from Daat Torah):

Rabosai,

The Chilul Hashem r.l. is spreading; people have lost their emunas chachomim; I just heard of two girls who went off the derech because of this affair. We have to get the Chicago BD to rescind their letter. The only way to do this is to have a joint BD listen to the accusations. Is Rav Shafran willing to do this? They are not at present but I think I can convince them. bedieved I have the following:suggestion. if I get the accusers to come together, will Rav Shafran agree to listen to them bemoshav tlasa? This will not stop the effect of the CBD’s letter, but at least it will stop the charges against you that you refused to listen to the accusers. Would Sunday night be OK for this?

I was surprised that Rabbi Malinowitz said (as I understood him) at our conference call that I never apprised the BD that there are serious accusations. Rav Malinowitz asked me at that time (and so I immediately wrote myself a note, which I have) to supply the BD with the names of the accusers. Yet a psak was given out without this. I am sure there is a good reason for this, but it certainly needs an explanation, not a denial that it ever happened..

Furthermore, you never apologized for having said publicly that you asked the CBD many times to supply you with information about the accusations and they did not. You could have explained this was a misunderstanding but to insist that you did contact them when R. Zev Cohen claimed so forcefully that you did not (I don’t think a person like R.. Zev Cohen would be able to lie in this manner), made them lose trust in you. It would help if you would apologize to them for this.

Aharon Feldman



Rabbi Malinowitz's email to Rabbi Feldman of 1st August, 2014
(the original Hebrew is here)

To The Rav HaGaon Aaron Feldman Shlita

a.       I am writing to explain a few points which require clarification, in my humble opinion, according to my knowledge; in the same way that you state that it doesn't seem that someone like Rav Cohen is able to lie in this manner, I trust that you also hold the same regarding Rabi Malinowitz…
I don't remember the exact words I used in our conference call on Wednesday this week, but the intention of it was clear, herewith:
You did not present before us any claim or proof, and even more so not in the name of a specific victim, just things which had been heard from the Chicago Rabbis that there are victims/plaintives, and nothing else, and even more so without  detailing what exactly is the substance of the allegations.
If you may, the information which you brought from the Chicago rabbis did not add to the knowledge we already had. Due to the fact that you are signed on the Arbitration Agreement and are the legal representative of the girls, we hoped and expected to receive more from you than that, and we were surprised that you did not provide further information, and you did not produce from your resources anything at all that you were expected to bring as a party to the hearing, and we didn't hear any obligation that you would obtain for us the information in either the near or distant future.
This is why I was surprised when you were surprised by our saying you didn't give us  any information.
So there should not be any doubt, I attach the request in writing to obtain the information which had been collected by the Chicago Rabbis (by the way, which is not lawful/halchik and is without authority), requests which were sent to you (and Rav Gottesman the representative of the Chicago Rabbis) a week  before the hearing.
I repeat – we have documented that we requested from you several times (and you were in contact with the Chicago Rabbis) and we also sent the request to Rabbi Gottesman. 
And now I will comment upon the whole situation, while stressing several problematic serious questions which have come up, regretfully.  These are real questions, not like the rhetorical “questions” of lawyers which came up during the hearings, which unfortunately remind me of the working methods of lawyers who try to build mountains upon “false laws” by taking a word or two out of context.
 a.       The Chicago rabbis knew full well that we were sitting in session that night – perhaps you can explain why they didn’t send us the material without us having to ask – and in fact we did ask.
b.      According the  Arbitration Agreement, on which you signed, in the presence and by request from Rav Z Cohen, and it is reasonable to assume with the agreement of Rabbi S. Furst – the Chicago rabbis were not authorized to involve themselves in receiving complaints at all, and with interviewing witnesses, which they can only do with authorization of our Beit Din, and we expect that at least they would send us the information they collected (as I said, without authorization).
c.       What’s the purpose of two of the emails which were bizarre and disrespectful (chutzpadich) which were sent by “a chosen representative of the Chicago rabbis” Rabbi Gottesman,  who tries, unsuccessfully, to throw out the authorized Beit Din from performing its duties? Such hefker behavior is acceptable?!
And what about the authority of the Beit Din and the Torah which has been trampled for all to see? In the hearing which took place around a week ago, you proposed that you send a letter of protest to Rav Gottesman – as if that in itself would be enough – are you willing to correct this terrible situation?
d.      All this is regarding the past – and what about the future – we are asking and demanding the material – will the Chicago Rabbis provide this? 
e.       Also, we have turned to the Chicago Rabbis numerous times in several different ways, as is well known to you, to bring them in as a broad Beit Din and to discuss the issue in its entirety in depth, under the authorization of the Arbitration Agreement!!!!!!! We received a response from their in-house lawyer that the answer was NO!!!!! Absolutely flat No. What do you have to say about that? Have you sent them a letter berating their behavior? 
f.        We have heard today from you that the Chicago Rabbis have strengthened their position, stating that even if they “wanted to” provide the information, they are “unable” to do so, according to instructions they have received from their lawyer (who I assume is not planning to take this to a Beit Din, even though it is a monetary issue).

These questions are substantive, as opposed to the lawyer who asks questions just to dig and catch someone on a word here or there.

Please excuse me for saying these hard words, particularly as we have known each other well for many years, but these things need to be said, and clearly.

Signed in sorrow and tears that the honour of heaven, Torah and the sages, is wallowing in the dust.

Signed this day 5th Av, 5774 (1/8/14).

R.Chaim Zeev Halevy Malinowitz    

---
My Observations/Conclusions

A Word about Leaks:  There are, in general, two types of leaks.

Whistle-Blowers - These are people who have privileged information which concerns matters of public concern, such as criminality, corruption, abuse, public safety, etc. It is recognized by Government and large organizations around the world that whistle-blowing is an essential tool for preserving law, order and public interest. 

Self-Interested Leakers - These are people who are privy to information which, if leaked, would provide them with personal benefit, such as winning business, undermining opponents, promoting their personal agenda, etc. These people are referred to in colloquial ivrit as "Shtinkerim". 

1. Who is the source of this leaked correspondence?

a. Rav Daniel Eidensohn would surely not have published these leaked documents without permission;
b. Rav Malinowitz is personally connected to Rav Eidensohn;
c. These letters endeavor to portray the Chicago Beit Din in a bad light and the IBD as their victims;
d. Rav Feldman is very unlikely to have leaked this correspondence, and I believe he is a patsy in this - he has no interest in going-to-the-blogs about such a sensitive issue.
e. Rav Malinowitz has a history of engaging with blog writers, courting publicity and blowing his trumpet
f. I understand the letters were only sent to Rav Feldman and Rav Malinowitz

...therefore, Rav Malinowitz is the prime suspect as the leaker of these letters.

However, this is speculation, and for the purposes of this commentary, we will call the Leaker "Rabbi X"

2. This is a case about allegations of sexual abuse of students in seminaries by Rav Meisels, a seminary mogul.

Since Rav Meisel's departure, it has now also become an issue of student safety right now in these four seminaries. This is particularly important for the parents of girls who are enrolled for this coming academic year - and who have been unable to reclaim their very expensive deposits.

3. However, by publicising these internal emails, Rabbi X is deliberately putting smoke in the public's eyes that this is really about a dispute between IBD and a spurious group of "Chicago Rabbis" who are systematically preventing the IBD from seeing evidence the CBD has (illegitimately) collected.

4. Actually, what is made clear from these letters is that the IBD's previous declarations that "There is no cause for concern regarding students from chareidi schools studying in the Seminaries", iethe seminaries are perfectly safe, and therefore parents should continue to send their girls there; and decrying anyone who says otherwise as spreading loshen horaa; and forbidding other seminaries to accept stranded students....etc..was indeed based upon hearing only one party, the staff members at the seminaries - who clearly have an interest in saying "hakol beseider" - everything's fine with our seminaries.

4. Had the IBD refused to give a psak, due to this glaring lack of evidence available to them, or to have presented their findings (that everything's fine and dandy) with appropriate caveats - "it seems to us", "from our limited understanding of the facts of this case", "pending a full investigation", "preliminary findings based on hearing one side"...etc - then Rav Malinowitz might have been justified in finger-pointing at the CBD.

As it is, the publication of Rav Malinowitz's letter has exposed his own Beit Din as a sham, shooting out ill-considered public guarantees of safety at these seminaries, solely serving the purpose of keeping these institutions going as ongoing business concerns.

5. By leaking this internal correspondence to Daat Torah blog, the leaker (Rabbi X) has betrayed the trust of the co-correspondent, Rabbi Feldman.

6. Rabbi X has also given the Chicago Beit Din plenty more good reasons not to share any highly confidential and sensitive information about victims, with Rabbi Malinowitz and the IBD.

(Although it seems the CBD had already reached that conclusion about the IBD some time ago).

7. This correspondence also undermines any remaining trust that parents and students at the four seminaries may have had that the IBD (daas torah, in the popular sense) has been handling the critical matter of the students' safety responsibly, fairly and honestly.

No wonder, in the words of Rabbi Feldman, "people have lost their emunas chachomim... and girls are going off the derech".
  

Comments

  1. Replies
    1. i was always taught to follow the money an important question to clear up here is who is hiring (paying) the IBD to be involved in this. you could ask that q about the CBD and we know the answer, this has been a BD working on these problems for 14 years and the dayanim are in well paid rabunus positions to lead the community's that they are employed by (if they are paid at all for this side BD responsibility of there's it is a small amount) they are involved because girls from there communities attend these sems contrast this with the IBD who the girls attending the sems are not from there communities, non of the daynim have solid well paying jobs, if suddenly they are hired to sit on a one time BD well there are a lot of chasunas to make it will save a trip to America... so it only makes sense that the IBD would only get involved if hired the CBD has no reason or budget to hire them so that leaves the meisels family for them it would be kadie to spend a pretty penny to hire a BD to say the semanary is kosher this would explain why the IBD writes in its letter there main concern is to make sure the sems open also the whole confusion of who started the case and then contacted whom stems from this that the IBD (after being hired by meisels family) told the CBD that they are already taking care of this matter so the CBD does not need to get involved

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  2. Do you realize that to someone who really knows the story you are making an absolute fool of yourself. Please stick to facts and analyzing them ONLY. thanks

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    Replies
    1. You're just spewing smoke and mirrors and not contributing anything.

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    2. Kol hakavod

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    3. I happen to know the facts also, I have been deeply involved in this issue since day one. Your misleading interpretation of the this letter and the facts is extremely unfair. I hope the public sees through your fairytale interpretations... Way too much guess work, and its all wrong, happens to be. There is a lot surfacing regarding the Chicago BD's dealings in this issue, and an honest person will not comment until things are clear. I believe we will all need to be open to reshaping our view of the CBD. The real story is very different you have portrayed, unfortunately...

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  3. Hi Clarity + Just The Facts

    The publication of these letters is a fact; the rest is my personal commentary and clearly labelled as that.

    You are both welcome to disagree with any aspect of my commentary, analysis, conclusions, etc.. in a reasoned manner - what do you have to offer?

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    Replies
    1. DM, I actually enjoyed your post.

      My comment was a "reply" to Clarity.

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    2. I think the facts will clarify themselves. Like I said I know the details from inside. If we let the facts naturally rise to the surface and come together without being reinterpreted, the story will clarify itself. This letter is the tip of a major ice berg. Unfortunately the bloggers missed the boat big time on this story, as will be seen... I recommend not shifting the facts to point in any particular direction. I guarantee the story will be way more interesting if you allow things to happen on their own. There is a lot here...

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    3. Anonymous and Clarity, may I make a recommendation?
      Please let your friends know that they really shouldn't be waiting for the 'facts to clarify themselves'. This story is out already, and it stinks to high heaven. Please don't think that the המון עם is foolish enough to believe at this point that an anonymous commenter has the inside track which will turn these events on their ear.
      It is high time that 'choshuve' rabbis realize that their credibility lies in their actions, not their words. Stop insulting us with your empty promises.

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    4. My point is just that it's not worth it to analyze things which are fact (rabbi Malinowitz is the leaker) when the facts will eventually come out and you will look quite foolish. I think you should just analyze you opinions and leave your opinion of facts out if it becuase when you don't have facts you stick your hoof in your mouth

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  4. At least I've learned a new word - Shtinkerim

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  5. Who gave permission to eidensohn to publish these letters? Does his Rebbe Rav Sturnbach agree to this also?

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  6. Rabbi Malinowitz has a very interesting and colorful history.

    He has defended RNS and even allowed him to give Shiurim in his Shul (Beis Teffila).

    He has called David Morris a Rasha to his face because he reported a suspected sex abuser to the authorities against the express wishes of RBS's Charedi rabbonim.

    He has forbidden L'Maan Achai to have their Puhskas (charity boxes) in his Shul Beis Teffila.

    He refused to condemn the RBS B harrassers of a 8 year old RZ girl - giving a bewildering explanation along the lines that condmening them would imply that there is even a Hava Mina that a Charedi would condone it.

    The Charedi rabbis of RBS were upset with Rabbi Malinowitz when he took RNS under his wing after R' Elyashiv said that RNS's books were Apikursus. But they loved him when he rejected David Morris.

    I used to thinkRabbi Malinowitz was quite the hero for standing up for RNS. But I am begining to hace my doubts about him

    But he did do a great job as the general editor for most of the ArtScroll Shas. Points for that, I guess.

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    Replies
    1. Acquainted with R.Malinowitz6 August 2014 at 11:52

      Rabbi Malinowitz has many achievements under his belt. However, empathy is not his strong point, and nor is subtlety. Frankly, he's the last guy I'd recommend to be given any responsibility for an investigation into sexual abuse at a seminary. Bull in a china shop, comes to mind.

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  7. thank you for your input. for those of us, without the background, we can only think the very very worst of malignowitz. a sense of balance re r. malign-owitz is appropriate. thank you for your input.

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  8. m'leah todah for the information re malign-owitz.

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  9. Why do you keep referring to Meisels as "Rabbi" or "Rav"?

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    Replies
    1. I understand "Meisels" has smicha and worked in education as a Rabbi, and was referred to as Rabbi Meisels. Therefore the default title is "Rabbi" Meisels.
      I note that the CBD called him Mr Meisels.
      Is there such thing as defrocking a Rabbi, removing his rabbinical title?

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    2. Those who want to rightfully deny a sexual predator the undeserved respect can refrain from calling him "Rabbi" (let alone "Rav").

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  10. Considering David Morris and his past problematic history with Rav Malinowitz his 'opinion' about Rav Malinowitz and the Israeli Beis Din is quite suspect and can NOT be trusted as an objective analysis.

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    Replies
    1. Rabbi Chaim Malinowitz's malfeasance is well known to those of us in RBS-A. In fact, his mishandling of sexual abuse cases is not a secret. It is unfortunate he hasn't resigned and instead insists as being the source of continuous Chilul Hashem. Now the whole world sees it. Shame on you Rabbi Malinowitz. Do Teshuva already and step down.

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  11. You are absolutely correct that I am not objective regarding Rabbi Malinowitz' involvement in sex abuse cases. My long standing dispute with Rav Malinowitz is public, documented and open.
    I am strongly in favour of addressing child sex abuse cases in a manner which represents the Halacha, the Law and Best Professional Practice.
    This approach to child sex abuse cases has placed me in public conflict with Rav Malinowitz.

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  12. Thank you for this post and the others shedding light on the meisels scandal. It is so refreshing to read you.

    Indeed, the israeli beith din declares they lack information. So how could they pronounce the seminaries safe? Their own words betray them.

    Thank you also for standing up against Daniel Eidensohn, who does not seem worthy of trust, neither in the defense of sexual abuse victims, nor in the fight against domestic violence.

    In this matter, he seems to have turned his coat from one moment to the other, as he did in matters of get withholding. He certainly is not a trustworthy figure and fails to understand logical reasoning.

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  13. I and many others have tried to reason with eidensohn, but it's a waste of time. If you say something he doesn't like, he will ban you. I'm sure that is why most people on his blog agree with him, he simply bans the others.

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