The Meisels Seminaries - The Letter Never Written


THIS LETTER WAS NOT WRITTEN NOR SENT OUT BY PNIMIM, BINAS BAIS YAKOV, CHEDVAS BAIS YAAKOV OR KESER CHAYA SEMINARIES.


However, if it had been, I believe this situation would be far better today, than it is. 

See previous postings here on Tzedek-Tzedek, Frum Follies (in the CBD corner), Daat Torah (in the IBD corner) and other fine blogs. 

This is a suggested model for such situations in the future. 

You are invited to suggest improvements either on-line or by email to me offline.

I believe that such a letter would have promoted safety and responsibility, in a way which would have given the parents the confidence they need and are entitled to that these Seminaries will be safer for their daughters in the future, than they were in the past.    
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Date of Letter: [Within One Week of the Seminaries becoming aware of the Chicago Beit Din’s investigation and findings].

To our staff, students and parents,

We are writing to you in the most regretful circumstances in a timely fashion in order to put you all in the picture, in the interests of the safety of our students, and transparency & accountability before the parents.

We have just been informed by the special Chicago Beis Din (CBD) that the founder and proprietor of our seminaries, Rabbi Elimelech Meisels, has been investigated by the CBD, further to complaints the Beis Din received from pupils of the seminaries. These complaints concerned serious allegations of unwanted sexual contact by Rabbi Meisels.

As a result of the investigation, the CBD has made this announcement:

   

We first wish to share our deepest regret & sincere grief should any of our staff have participated, wittingly or unwittingly, directly or indirectly in any abuse. We feel the pain of the alleged victims and we feel proud that these girls have had the courage to step forward in order to protect others girls.

We reach out and strongly encourage others who have endured any kind of abuse, or were witnesses to the same, during their time at our seminaries, to take this step also.

As a result of this CBD announcement, we have immediately taken the following steps:

1. Regretfully, we have discovered that there is and never has been a Seminary Protocol Concerning Abuse Prevention & Reporting in any of our seminaries. We have therefore referred this important matter of omission to Such & Such Organization, which is an independent non-profit agency and they will establish these protocols in all our seminaries. The S&SO will be acting under The Committee (see below). Deadline for implementation: 15th August, 2014.

2. In the absence of this protocol, we have formed an independent expert committee (“the Committee”) consisting of Rabbi X, Social Worker Y, and Lawyer Z.

This committee has been vetted by both the CBD, the Israeli Beit Din (IBD) referred to in the CBD’s declaration and Such & Such Organization; they have concluded that the individuals and collectively the Committee is of the highest professional and ethical reputation and can be relied upon to be independent and to protect the safety & confidentiality of anyone who refers to them.

The committee’s contact details are: XXXX

In light of the Committee’s immediate advice and instruction:

3. Rabbi Meisels has been requested by the Committee and has committed to take immediate leave of absence and will only return to a role in the seminaries in future in the event that he is entirely vindicated of wrong-doing. Rabbi Meisels has agreed to have no further contact, immediately and until further notice, with anyone associated with the seminaries, including governors, staff, pupils and parents. (For administrative purposes Rabbi Meisels will communicate via the IBD).

4. Any other member of staff who is suspected of participation, collusion or turning a blind eye to abusive behaviour will be placed on immediate leave, pending conclusion of the investigation.

5. The Committee has contacted the Israeli police to brief them, with a view to the police investigating and addressing any aspects of this case which are or could be criminal by nature. We strongly encourage anyone with information which may be helpful to this police inquiry to contact: Detective Plonit (who is a female investigator,experienced with crimes of this nature) contact details XXXXX.

If you are in doubt as to whether the information you possess is significant in this context, you may contact The Committee for their expert confidential advice and counsel.

6. Regarding issues of finance (dinei mamon/civil) in Israel, the IBD has graciously made themselves available to accept and judge claims either presented jointly or separately; the IBD will be operating officially as Arbitrators. The IBD has given assurances that they are impartial and will deliver their judgments, according to halacha and which will also be legally binding upon the parties, and in a timely fashion.

IBD contact details:

7. Regarding issues of financial damages (dinei mamon) in the USA, the above is true for the CBD.

CBD contact details.

These are the steps which have been taken in immediate response to to the declaration of the CBD.

Enrollment for Next Academic Year: Moving forward, our objective is to ascertain that the schools will be safe, beyond all doubt, for you (our pupils) and your daughters in the coming academic year, commencing 1st September 2014.

We understand that you have legitimate concerns about whether your daughters should attend our seminaries in the coming year, and we will make every effort to address these concerns in our ongoing communications.

You are invited to discuss these concerns with the Committee by email or by phone (Committee contact details and hours of availability)

We fully understand if you chose to find alternative educational institutions for your daughters for next year, as is your right, and we will be entirely helpful in this regard.

If you wish to apply for a refund of your deposits, please contact the CBD (for those who paid the Pnimim USA non-profit) or IBD (for those who paid Israeli Amuta). An application form for refunds is available on the website: www.xyz.org) The Batei Din have indicated a response time of approximately two weeks to respond to your request. You may may submit applications until 15th August for your deposit to be returned.

Summary: These are the allocation of responsibilities.

a. The Committee - professional issues relating to the alleged abuse

b. Israeli Beit Din (IBD) - financial issues (dinei mamon) in Israel

c. Special Chicago Beit Din (CBD) - financial issues (dinei mamon) in the USA

d. The Police (Israel) - criminal issues in Israel

e. The Minhalim - implementation

We are making every effort in these extraordinary and regretful circumstances to prioritize the uncompromised safety of our students, particularly for the coming academic year and ongoing, and we would appreciate your expression of confidence by continuing the enrollment process for 2014/15.

We will report our next steps on a scheduled bi-weekly basis. (In the case we have further urgent information to relay, we will contact you whenever required).

Once again, we express our deepest pain and sincere support for any student who may have suffered inappropriate behaviour while a student in our seminaries.

Yours sincerely


Signed:  Four Principals
             Representative of CBD
             Representative of IBD
             Representative of The Committee.

Comments

  1. Good letter. Would like to think that the people most concerned about "tzniut" would be the people most likely to take such a forthright and serious approach.

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  2. Oy David, Ata chai b'seret, l'tza'ari...

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    Replies
    1. People who seek to make change, are not overly bothered by reality.

      Delete
  3. Unfortunately, this attempt is way too trusting in "the powers that be," and incredibly and insensitively hurtful to the many many girls who were direct victims of a sexual predator and to his hundreds of Talmidos around the world who are the indirect victims of his deeds (not to mention his wife and children, who are also suffering).

    1. "We first wish to share our deepest regret & sincere grief should any of our staff have participated, wittingly or unwittingly, directly or indirectly in any abuse. We feel the pain of the alleged victims . . ." Regret and feeling their pain is not nearly enough. No mention is made of a thorough investigation of the staff (including the principals who are the signators on this letter) and their possible dismissal if they were, in fact, direct or indirect participants in the abuse (you are kindly and graciously leaving the proverbial foxes guarding the chicken coops).

    2. Appointing a blue ribbon committee for the girls to report to is nice, but it is reactive and not pro-active, if you have left all the original faculty in place, who failed so miserably in their jobs to protect the girls from this predator.

    3. "Rabbi Meisels has been requested by the Committee and has committed to take immediate leave of absence and will only return to a role in the seminaries in future in the event that he is entirely vindicated of wrong-doing. . ." Mr. Meisels confessed his horrendous crimes of having inappropriate sexual contact with his students to the Chicago Beis Din. Although I am not familiar with police investigations in Israel, it is likely that after they receive the information from your blue ribbon committee (who are mandated reporters), that Mr. Meisels may well end up in jail.

    I am stunned and appalled at your attempt to cast aspersions on the testimony of the brave survivors of his sexual abuse, by indicating that he could be vindicated. Frequently, and most regretfully, abuse victims repport that even worse than the actual sexual abuse, is the fact that people (especially leaders of the community) don't believe them. In this instance, Mr. Morris, you have done these courageous girls a tremendous disservice, and you should beg them Mechila. Mr. Meisels confessed -- that ends the discussion of whom to believe.

    A Member of NEFESH International

    P.S. Regarding, "Regarding issues of finance (dinei mamon/civil) in Israel, the IBD has graciously made themselves available to accept and judge claims . . . The IBD has given assurances that they are impartial" That's really reassuring, that they themselves have given us this reassurance of impartiality in this case. It does lend one to believe that in other instances they are not necessarily impartial.




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    Replies
    1. I think you may have missed the point of this exercise. Go back to the preamble - it says this is *what should have happened* in the beginning of the matter, presumably before the confession (I concede to knowing absolutely nothing about this specific case) and before anyone else's guilt or innocence had been established. This is meant to be a model for handling future cases at their outset. It does seem to be too little, too late in this particular case.

      Zecie, it shouldn't be too difficult to at least make sure that all seminaries have protocols like this in place. These schools all require liability insurance coverage, don't they? How hard could it be to require an institution to have such a protocol in place in order to qualify? Wouldn't a school without insurance be a red flag to prospective students' parents?

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    2. Anonymous 19:06

      Thank you for your feedback. The last thing I wanted was to offend survivors of abuse in any way, and I sincerely apologise if this retroactive proposed letter (ie what they should have written several months ago) caused any ill feeling.

      1. In the division of responsibilities, the existing staff are demoted to implementation duties. Any decisions relating to handling of the abuse allegations is in the hands of the Police (criminal) and the Committee (other professional aspects). Finances are in the hands of the two Batei Din. The powers that be have had their wings clipped, somewhat like a company under bank receivership.

      2. I will add an item about any staff who are even suspected of participation, collusion or turning a blind eye will be placed on leave, pending conclusion of the investigation.

      3. I was writing this on the assumption that the parties involved would take legal advice. I am not a lawyer. They would be well advised NOT to say or imply that Meisels is guilty, as this could expose them to a libel suit downstream. The fact is, the CBD is not a criminal court and we don't know to what extent he admitted criminality. The letter is intended to balance human sympathy, shock, reaching out, concern for victims, while not formally stating Meisels is definitely guilty. It is obvious from the CBD's letter, but doesn't need to be restated in this letter - who (presumably, like the rest of us) are not informed enough to make such a declaration in their own right.

      I agree that the IBD do not seem to have shown themselves to be impartial. However, that may be because they chewed off more responsibility than they were able to bite. Here, their role is solely financial - and I am confident they could have been competent in that limited arena.

      Please feel free to respond here and/or off-line.

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  4. The legal Justia site at http://dockets.justia.com/docket/illinois/ilndce/1:2014cv05937/298999 lists the name of the case as “Miller et al v. Meisels et al” and then “Plaintiff: Gary Miller, Malka Miller, Staci Margulis, David Margulis, Eli Rosen, Dovid Newman, Chaim Dovid Pernikoff and Binas Bais Yaakov Seminary” — why is “Binas Bais Yaakov Seminary” suing “Meisels et al” and who runs Binas Bais Yaakov Seminary” and where is it located? What is their role and grievance in the scheme of things?

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  5. How is it that so called "Rabbis" protect molesters. In Baltimore there exists a principal of a boys school on the sex offenders list, a know abuser. Rabbis Heineman, Feldman, Hopfer all protected him. Parents in the community were threatened to keep their mouths shut. A"Baltimore Police detective is quoted as saying "I never encountered such fear in a Community". Parents were terrified and would not cooperate with the Police investigation

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