Business as Usual?

The CBD (Chicago Special Beis Din for handling claims of sexual abuse) has reinstated the status of 4 seminaries formerly owned and operated by accused sex abuser, Elimelech Meisels. The schools have now been deemed safe for young women to attend.

One may recall that there was a dispute about that with the IBD (Israeli Beis Din) that was asked by the CBD to carry out its directives with regard to rectifying the situation there.  They were tasked by the CBD to see to it that Meisels sells the schools and remove his presence from them permanently.

Additionally they required the removal of teachers and principals that acted irresponsibly. Either by turning a blind eye to claims of abuse by students; witnessing inappropriate behavior by Meisels and ignoring it; or by actively or implicitly threatening students with terrible consequences if they went to the police or in any way made their accusations public. Furthermore new guidelines were to be established to prevent any abuse in the future – and a commission created to oversee and enforce them.

After a brief review of the case handed to them by the CBD, the IBD quickly had Meisels removed and made him sell the schools. And if I recall correctly they also implemented new guidelines and an oversight committee. The IBD then declared the schools to be safe and wonderful institutions for young women to attend. The CBD rejected the IBD’s hasty decision declaring those schools to still be unsafe.  The enabling teachers and principals had not been removed.

After a few months of disputing the matter, it was finally settled last month. The two Battei Din met and hashed things out. Apparently all matters of dispute were settled.

As I said earlier the schools have now been deemed safe. Or so it seems.  But an article in the Jewish Week reveals some very disturbing testimony from Meisels victims.  After reading about his behavior and that of his faculty, I am appalled at this result.

These former students have no reason to lie.  To say that  I would never send my daughters to any of those 4 seminaries is an understatement. Anybody that does send their daughter to those schools is endangering their lives. Sexuak abuse is a serious crime. One from which it is difficult to recover. If a parent thinks being a stool pidgeon will hurt their daughter’s chances for a Shidduch, what do they think their daughter’s chances of getting a Shidduch will be after being sexually abused?

Unless I am totally misreading this nothing has changed in those schools – other than the removal of Meisels. The enablers and threateners are all still there going about their lives with impunity as though nothing happened.

One might counter that the provisions put in place to prevent anything like this from ever happening again will protect those young women. That the enablers have learned how wrong they were and will completely change their behavior in the unlikely event that anything like this would ever happen again. They are in effect doing Teshuva which we should accept.

Well Teshuva requires asking Mechila (forgiveness) from those you hurt. We cannot forgive them. Only the victims can. Those teachers need to ask every single student that was hurt by Meisels in any way for Mechila. Until that is done the Teshuva is incomplete and there is no Mechila from heaven. The enabling teachers ought not be rewarded by giving them a ‘Get out of jail free’ card. They ought to instead be barred from ever teaching anywhere! I don’t care how sorry they are now.

Lost Parnnassa?! What about lost virginity? What about the lifetime of psychological damage done to those students that were victims of sex abuse as described by the victims in the Jewish Week?

How can it be that people who actively threatened Meisels’ victims are given a pass and allowed to teach new students? They were afraid of losing their jobs by accusing their boss of rape?! Really?! This is the moral standard we Jews are operating with now? …that seminaries are more about providing income for families of Avreichim than they are about their students?

As I said – I am appalled at the outcome. Meisels is walking around a free man. And those seminaries have been declared holy.

I believe that it is the duty of decent people of conscience to – not only not send their own daughters – but to discourage anyone they know of that is considering those schools or any other seminary that has one of those teachers teaching there – to actively discourage them from doing so.

If a Beis Din won’t shut them down, the people should.

About the Author
My worldview is based on the philosophy of my teacher, Rabbi Aaron Soloveichik , and the writings of Rabbis Joseph B. Soloveitcihk , Norman Lamm, and Dr. Eliezer Berkovits from whom I developed an appreciation for philosophy. I attended Telshe Yeshiva and the Hebrew Theological College where I was ordained. I also attended Roosevelt University where I received my degree in Psychology.