By Yerachmiel Lopin (Frum Follies blog)
July 30, 2014
Until now the Chicago Beis Din (CBD) did not discuss the role of staff in enabling Elimelech Meisels to sexually abuse student in his seminaries (Pninim, Binas Bais Yaakov, Chedvas Bais Yaakov, and Keser Chaya). This morning they sent a letter elaborating their concerns. They wrote:
We stand by our July 10 statement that we do not recommend prospective students attend these seminaries, and also note, based on evidence including testimony by victims and staff and admissions by Elimelech Meisels, our conclusion that certain senior staff members failed in their responsibilities toward students.
Thus it is irrelevant whether Meisels actually sold his seminaries to Yankie Yarmush, or whether it was a sham sale with Yarmush fronting for Meisels. What matters is that staff turned a blind eye to his grooming and late night excursions and rebuffed or harangued the students who begged them to intervene. The culprits are still there and cannot be trusted to ensure student safety. Moreover, as we saw with the Kahane letter, the staff who enabled the abuse are now invested in protecting Meisels’ reputation. This makes it possible for him to return some day with a chorus of beholden employees proclaiming his righteousness.
In contrast, the Israeli Beis Din (IBD) of Rabbi Shafran went further off the deep end with a letter last week declaring the seminaries were safe because they interviewed the administrators and a few staff. By their own admission, they did not interview any of the students. That’s like acquitting all the gangsters in the mob because they insist they are innocent, without ever talking to victims. While the CBD found staff complicity on the basis of Meisels’ admissions and interviews with staff, the IBD doesn’t even bother to reference these findings or conduct its own investigations.
I am baffled by the IBD’s stance. The best I can say is that they are ignorant about the dynamics of abuse and imagine dozens of students could be groomed and abused with no one noticing or hearing anything. I strongly suspect their mindset is biased toward protecting institutions and jobs rather than students. They may believe that revealing the abuse and staff complicity will taint any girl who went there during the Meisels years. Whatever their mindset, they lost all credibility as reliable sources when they publicized a conclusion about staff without talking to students.
The IBD has promised to keep an eye on things. That promise is useless because the blind cannot monitor the deaf.
P. S. Their second psak does not even mention Meisels. Before his chorus chimes in; they did not acquit him of guilt. You have to name someone to acquit him.