Beit Din Leaks
|Rabbi Chaim Malinowitz|
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):
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.
Rabbi Malinowitz's email to Rabbi Feldman of 1st August, 2014
(the original Hebrew is here)
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
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"
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", ie. the 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".