Rabbi Feldman’s Far-Fetched Fumfer

By Yerachmiel Lopin (Frum Follies blog)
August 3, 2014

Fumfer: A Yiddish word meaning to mumble or be evasive.

The Daas Torah blog of Rabbi Daniel Eidensohn just posted: Seminary Scandal: Israeli Beis Din Correspondence – Rav Aharaon Feldman letter of July 31.

Almost a week earlier (7/25/14), the Israeli Beis Din (IBD) of R. Mendel Shafran issued a second ruling proclaiming they, rather than the Chicago Beis Din (CBD), had jurisdiction to rule on the safety of the seminaries controlled by Elimelech Meisels.

The IBD claimed Rabbi Aharon Feldman represented  the plaintiffs, by which they meant the students alleging abuse. Feldman is the Rosh Yeshiva (Dean) of Ner Israel Rabbinical Rabbinical College in Baltimore (NIRC) and a member of the influential Aguda Moetzes (Council of Torah Sages of Agudath Israel of America).

In this manner the IBD created the appearance of jurisdiction and a fair representation of both sides. Both claims are utterly fraudulent.

Neither the victims, nor the CBD ever designated Feldman as their representative. When a victim’s attorney protested to Feldman he just replied by email, “Thank you.” When members of the CBD protested, Feldman went silent on the phone. This silence is an admission by Feldman that he was not designated as a representative by either the individual victims or the Chicago BD.

For argument’s sake let us suppose that Feldman imagined he was designated. If so, he is guilty of extraordinary legal malpractice. He never spoke up for the victims or the Chicago BD during the deliberations of the IBD. In fact is is possible he did not bother to attend the evidentiary phase of the IBD. The record is clear. According to the July 25th ruling of the IBD, “After we heard the principals and some staff of each of the seminaries separately for many hours, we reached a decision.” That’s it folks! There is no reference to a single word of testimony from any of the students or Feldman as their purported representative.

If Feldman was denied the opportunity to speak, he is obliged to protest the corrupt misconduct of the IBD. If he chose not to speak he owes the victims and the CBD an apology for betraying their trust. If he spoke and the IBD misrepresented the proceedings, Feldman again has an obligation to protest the conduct of the proceedings. No matter how you cut it, the report is a transparent travesty even if you believe it accurately reflects the proceedings.

Knowing he is being exposed, Feldman wrote an extraordinary letter to the IBD on July 31 which was posted on the Daas Torah blog:

Rabosai [gentlemen],

The Chilul Hashem r.l. [desecration of G-d's name, G-d have mercy] is spreading; people have lost their emunas chachomim [faith in the rabbis]; I just heard of two girls who went off the derech ["OTD," off the religious path] 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 [as an after-the-fact fallback] I have the following suggestion. If I get the accusers to come together, will Rav Shafran agree to listen to them bemoshav tlasa [formally reconvening as a body of three]? 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 [ruling] 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.

Aharon Feldman

Wow! Wow! Wow! In one letter, Feldman concedes he was never formally appointed as a representative of victims, that the CBD never passed over jurisdiction, and the IBD never considered the question of sex abuse by Meisels (let alone enabling by other staff). In fact one wonders what the IBD discussed with seminary administrators and staff. Did they just spend hours having the staff do an infomercial. As chazal (talmudic rabbis) said of such anarchy, les din v’les dayan (Midrah Rabba, parshat Bereshis), “There is no justice and there is no judge.”

Yet Feldman is still trying to patch things up in order to get the Chicago BD to rescind its rulings. Feldman cannot be trusted as an advocate of students; he is clearly most interested in finding a way for the seminaries to survive. He is so interested that he is desperately trying to find ways to bolster the IBD even though he has all but accused R. Malinowitz of lying, the IBD of not having any legal claim to jurisdiction, and the finding to be defective because of complete non-representation of the plaintiffs themselves or their claim of abuse! Yet he is trying to patch things up and portray himself as a victim of others.

Feldman’s flailing, far-fetched fumfer fails the smell test and will not wash.