Seminaries: Blessing-Dispensers & Diplomats

Although there's lots of scandal, smoke & mirrors, the facts of the seminaries case are reasonably straight forward.

1. Rabbi Elimelech Meisels is alleged to have had "unwanted touch of a sexual nature" with students at his seminaries.
2. This was investigated by the Chicago Beit Din (CBD) and the charges were substantiated to the Beit Din's satisfaction.
3. This is not disputed by the ad hoc private Israeli Beit Din (IBD), nor anyone else of standing.
4. Meisels was instructed to depart from the seminaries by the CBD, subsequently reinforced by the IBD.
5. The CBD also investigated and found sufficient basis to allegations that senior members of the staff were informed by victims of the alleged offenses by Meisels, that they had failed to act to protect the girls, and the CBD therefore declared the seminaries themselves, even in Meisels absence, to be still unsafe. There are more bad apples in the cart.
6. This was accepted by Touro and TI who withdrew their accreditation from the seminaries.
7. The IBD, apparently with no knowledge of the nature of the allegations themselves, interviewed some staff members,  and then publicly declared the staff to be all wonderful and therefore the seminaries entirely safe in Meisels absence.
8. The IBD effectively closed the emergency exits of the seminaries, by banning other seminaries from seeking out these students, and by seizing and refusing to refund the $8000 deposits.      

In spite of the numerous leaked documents, thousands of lines of blogging, and zillions of commentators... nothing substantive has changed since then.

On 2nd September, a new letter was published signed by 5 highly respected rabbonim from the USA. This was reportedly the result of heavy lobbying by Rabbi Shafran in the USA, the head of the IBD.



Please allow my indulgence, while I parse this short document.

No heading 
DM: this is not from an entity, such as an organization, Beit Din, or whatever.

We are pleased to hear
DM: this whole document is not a result of any investigation or any due diligence. The only fact is that "we have heard..."

from artzeinu hakedusha
DM: from a sheliach/emissary from the Holy Land, in this case Rav Shafran.

that Pninim, Chedvas Beis Yakov, Binas Beis Yakov, and Beis Yakov Keser Chaya seminaries 
DM: the four seminaries until lately controlled by he-who-shall-not-be-named, disgraced sex-abuser Elimelech Maisels

in Yerushalaim, Ir Hakodesh 
DM: There is only one Yerushalaim, and no need for the qualifier Ir Hakodesh. The double repetition of Kodesh (artzeinu hakedusha and ir hakodesh) may serve as a veil of sanctity to cover up the sordid nature of the events which went on in these seminaries.

are now under the auspices of new administration
DM: "New administration" is beyond the replacement of just the administrator, but rather the clearing out of the old administration, and replacement with new staff. There is no other source for this claim of a clean out of the allegedly corrupt administration of these seminaries, beyond this letter.

with an exemplary and well-accomplished mechaneches at its leadership
DM: This mechaneches is not named, nor the claims of her accomplishments etc verified. These things have been heard by the signatories from Rav Shafran. It is now known from other sources that this mystery mechanaches is a Rebbetzin Blimi Birnbaum.

Additionally a vaad rabbonim 
DM: a committee, not a Beit Din. Heaven knows, we don't need a third publicly warring Beit Din in this picture.
There is no mention of either the Chicago Beis Din, nor the Israeli Beis Din, in this document. This is a diplomatic sidestepping of all issues relating to the standing and findings of those Batei Din, or even whether these two Batei Din remain with any functions, or have been effectively sacked and replaced by this committee. The rabbinical equivalent of No Comment, Let's Move On.

of gedolei Torah, Gaonim 
DM: senior rabbis

Harav Moshe Hillel Hirsch shlita
DM: Bio here

Harav Yehoshua Eichenstein shlita
DM: More info about Rav Eichenstein here

and Harav Asher Weiss shlita
DM: I believe this is he: HaRav Asher Weiss, Av Beis Din Darchei Horaha and Rosh HaYeshiva of Yeshiva Darchei Torah.

has been appointed 
DM: Not by these signatories, but by unknown parties

to oversee the seminaries and establish rules and guidelines
DM: This was the part of the job description of the IBD. The IBD have apparently been sacked/replaced in this regard. See Paragraph 3 herein:


as needed
DM: Given Rav Meisels behaviour, and the alleged cover-up and enablement by senior members of staff, "as needed" is very diplomatic understatement.

We are therefore confident
DM: because we believe that Rav Shafran is a reliable shaliach of this information.

that with the help of Hashem
DM: Not so confident in the rest of us.

these seminaries and their staff of mechanchot 
DM: mechanchot is female. There is no reference here to still very problematic mechanchim.

will continue
DM: More of the (dismal) same. No hopes for better results in the future, than the disaster of the the recent past

to guide and educate bnos yisrael in the ways of Torah and Spiritual Accomplishment with yiras Shamayim and in keeping with our holy masora.
DM: Here's hoping.

Hashem should bless them with everything good.
DM: them, the staff. Minority opinion, the students.

We convey
DM: through the shaliach, Rav Shafran, although he seems to be carrying back his own termination notice.

to them
DM: them, the staff. Minority opinion, the students.

herein
DM: this letter is not a public statement, but rather a good wishes letter to the staff of the seminaries

our sincere blessings
DM: more blessings

for a Blessed New Year
DM: it's a New Years Card.

Signed: Rav Levin from Telz of Chicago, Rav Aharon Feldman of Yeshiva Ner Yisroel, Rav Aharon Schecter of Yeshiva Chaim Berlin, Rav Malkiel Kotler or Lakewood and Rav Yaakov Perlow 
DM: These five rabbonim include Rav Feldman, who was a disappointed & humiliated go-between for the CBD/IBD, and Rav Levin who is the fourth member of the CBD, who excused himself from active involvement in this case due to conflict of interests. Although the other three signatories may have signed me-too, these two rabbonim certainly understood the facts of this case.

Conclusion: Although this letter was greeted by the IBD spokesman Rabbi Eidensohn on his blog as an endorsement of the IBD and a declaration that the seminaries are safe, this is not born out by the document itself.

This letter basically says: we've heard things are changing, Heaven and three more supervising rabbis should protect everyone, best of luck to the staff, and a Happy New Year...

There has still been no external professional investigation of what went wrong at the seminaries, disciplinary action against any enablers, including reporting onwards to the police.

How can they begin to clear up the house, when they don't know where the dirt is.

Comments

  1. To begin to clean up the dirt, one first needs to admit that there's dirt to clean up. So far there's been no admission that there were some seminary staff that:
    1) looked the other way
    2) neglected to follow up properly with students complaints
    3) outright enabled this rishus.

    Until the 4 seminaries make an apology to those affected students, don't expect any changes at all. To admit guilt is to open themselves up to financial liabilities in court.

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  2. This is absolutely superb. Thank you so very much David Morris for using your brilliance in so many ways which help the Klal.

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  3. Just curious about the source of the English language letter - elsewhere it was publicized in "lashon kodesh". As the signatures look exactly the same on both versions, one wonders which, if either, was actually signed by the five.

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  4. Excellently parsed and gutted. To expand on one of your comments, it is very odd that the letter refers to "these seminaries and their staff of מחנכות," inserting the Hebrew feminine plural noun into the English translation in place of "teachers" or "educators." Since in Hebrew the feminine plural cannot refer to a group including even one male, the writers seem to be going out of their way to assert either that the staff is entirely female, or that the authors are not "confident" with respect to the male staff members. Since no one else has suggested that the teaching staff will now be all-female, it would seem to be the latter. With reassurances like that, who needs warnings? It's like telling a motorist, "from what we have been told, we are confident that the wheels on the left side of your car will not fall off." This business just keeps getting stranger and stranger.

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  5. In hindsight, this will all be a moot point, right? These seminaries may survive this year (because of the fact that they would not reimburse the parents) but beyond that? I would bet that they will be forced to close....

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  6. This still troubles me, correct me if I am wrong:
    1) CBD heard evidence, made a ruling
    2) CBD passes case off to IBD for ruling (I assume because of jurisdiction, ability to speak to teachers, etc)
    3) IBD hands down a psak
    4) The CBD does not like the IBD psak (probably because it is somewhat contrary to the CBD psak)
    5) CBD throws a fit (as does frum follies and others)

    So here is my question: You can't pass a case off to another BD and then throw a fit because you don't like their ruling, can you?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How can ANYONE give a chezkas kashrus on the 4 seminaries when there was no investigation done (by the IBD) concerning reviewing the entire staff for any possible enabling, looking the other way, &/or not investigating complaints? This isn't rocket science; this is pushete & the ehrlich thing to do!

      Delete
    2. First of all, the bad guy is gone, so no one needs to worry, lemaisah, that their daughter will be at risk and secondly, the CBD investigated for months and then passed it off to the IBD, right? I still do not understand why the IBD psak is not accepted!

      Delete
    3. The wording that the CBD used in their announcement was that the IBD "have assumed responsibility" for the case.
      That is not the same as saying the CBD appointed the IBD.
      It seems that when the CBD saw the IBD's immediate whitewash non-investigation of the ongoing safety of the seminaries, and loud proclamations that all the staff are wonderful people, while issuing edicts against gossipers and other seminaries,left-and-right, the CBD objected to that charade.

      Delete
  7. David,
    I appreciate your comments,but don't necessarily agree with them. Please don't let your emotion and passion (which is beneficial for the most -part) just run without breaks. In other words keep to the points that you want to present. For example:
    1) in Yerushalaim, Ir Hakodesh
    DM: There is only one Yerushalaim, and no need for the qualifier Ir Hakodesh. The double repetition of Kodesh (artzeinu hakedusha and ir hakodesh) may serve as a veil of sanctity to cover up the sordid nature of the events which went on in these seminaries.
    For generations people have called Eretz Yisrael and Yerushalayim artzeinu hakedusha and ir hakodesh
    2) that with the help of Hashem
    DM: Not so confident in the rest of us.

    What on earth is wrong with saying Be'ezrat Hashem

    3) our sincere blessings
    DM: more blessings

    for a Blessed New Year
    DM: it's a New Years Card.

    David, these points just sound like someone who has a grudge against someone else.

    All these comments of yours ruin i.m.h.o. your main point of:
    There has still been no external professional investigation of what went wrong at the seminaries, disciplinary action against any enablers, including reporting onwards to the police.

    So please keep to the point
    Thanks


    ReplyDelete
  8. Ksil,
    I don't think the CBD gave it over to the Israeli BD. The Israeli BD just took control on their own volition.
    And as far as the seminaries surviving, they all happen to be excellent seminaries. Just speak to the hundreds of girls that went through them (I have spoken to several) So I don't think any of them will or should close

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  9. To Kosher Ham,
    All 4 seminaries are full for this year. Unfortunately in our society, the majority of people will look the other way. So as long as the person who actually did harm is gone, the seminaries are basically safe in most people's opinions

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  10. Dave, I'm sure David Morris agrees there is nothing wrong with calling Yerushalayim "Ir Hakodesh," and nothing wrong with saying "b'ezrat Hashem." But I agree with his point that these pious expressions are at best irrelevant, at worst a distraction. Of course, virtue and justice will triumph only "b'ezrat Hashem," but humans have to do their part, and blind blessings from a distance are not particularly helpful.

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  11. Kevin,
    Exactly my point
    "David's expressions are at best irrelevant, at worst a distraction." when he comments about these things
    All these (irrelevant) comments of his ruin i.m.h.o. his main point of:
    There has still been no external professional investigation of what went wrong at the seminaries, disciplinary action against any enablers, including reporting onwards to the police.


    ReplyDelete

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