Thursday, August 7, 2014

Seminary Scandal: Now a federal class action lawsuit in Chicago

Court House News    CHICAGO (CN) - A rabbi in charge of four Orthodox seminaries in Israel sexually assaulted girls in his charge, and threatened to ruin their marriage prospects if they reported him, the girls' parents claim in a federal class action.

Gary Miller and six other named plaintiffs sued Elimelech Meisels, Rachel Slanger, Peninim of America, Yaakov Yarmish, Tzvi Gartner and four subsidiary Jewish seminaries in Jerusalem, on Monday in Federal Court.

"From approximately 2004 until the present date, defendant Elimelech Meisels engaged in a fraudulent and unlawful scheme to induce Orthodox Jewish parents from across the United States to send their daughters to various seminaries in Israel that he controlled under the guise of educational and spiritual development," the complaint states. "In truth, defendant Meisels' true aim was to fraudulently and unlawfully take thousands of dollars from each of these parents and to induce these girls, by telephone, mail, wire and other means, to travel thousands of miles outside the United States and away from their parents for the purpose of sexually assaulting these vulnerable young girls."

Orthodox Jewish children are traditionally sent to study the Torah for one year after high school in Israel. For girls, their attendance at a seminary "profoundly shapes and influences their marriage prospects within a quasi arranged marriage system known as the Shidduch (translated literally as Introduction) system," the complaint states.

"This influence is so important that it causes Orthodox Jewish parents to save money for years in hopes of being able to afford the annual tuition that regularly exceeds twenty thousand dollars ($20,000)."

The defendant seminaries, part of the Bais Yaakov class of seminaries, are classified as Ultra-Orthodox, and girls are expected not even to physically touch a man outside of marriage.

But the parents say Meisel was not the devout rabbi he held himself out to be.

"Defendant Meisels, like many other sexual predators, preyed on the vulnerable. He did this by developing mentor-mentee relationships with girls and exploiting these relationships to lure the girls into late night coffee meetings and other private settings and then sexually assaulted them," the lawsuit states.

"Once the sexual assaults were complete, upon information and belief, defendant Meisels would intimidate his victims by telling them that no one would believe that a rabbi and author with his reputation would have done such a thing.

"Moreover, upon information and belief, defendant Meisels would threaten his victims that if they shared their story with anyone, he would draw on his vast contacts within the Shidduch system to ruin their reputations and ensure that no viable candidate would want to take their hand in marriage.

"It was widely known within the administrative staff of the seminaries that defendant Meisels was regularly taking students to late night private meetings - a fact itself that is forbidden and known as 'yichud' according to the Orthodox Jewish law and tradition. However, certain still unknown co-conspirators within the seminaries were also aware that defendant Meisels was sexually assaulting the girls and assisted defendant Meisels by actively and passively concealing the assaults."

In July this year, a Jewish religious court, the Chicago Bais Din, heard testimony from several of Meisels' alleged victims, and issued a ruling stating that it believed students at the defendant seminaries were "at risk of harm," according to the complaint.

"News of this decision sent shockwaves to the prospective parent bodies of the Seminaries," the complaint states. [...]

57 comments :

  1. So the IBD was right. Nothing to to with the safety and security of future students, but all about lawyers and lawsuits. And they name a Dayan of the IBD!

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  2. I don't understand how halacha can be violated by using arkoyos, non-Jewish courts, which is strictly prohibited.

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  3. I'm told R. Feurst was working at putting this lawsuit together. Some dayan.

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  4. Call R. Feurst and ask him.

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  5. I'm told some people make up rumors.

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  6. Not commenting on this case in particular, but the Halacha is far more complex. There are times where arko'os are mutar.

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  7. R Eidensohn waiting to hear your take on this bogus lawsuit that half of it makes no sense and reeks to me like a scare tactic by gottesman to close down the schools

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  8. probably true. The suit in essence says that there are Jewish organizations called Seminaries whose role is to cheat parents out of money and sexually abuse their daughters and they are run by religious leaders known as rabbis. This suit was made up by frum parents with the aparent guidance of the CBD .

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  9. So the CBD was right. Nothing to do with the safety and security of future students, but all about cheating the parents out of their deposits. And the IBD colluded with the scheme!

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  10. I'm told R. Malinowitz was working at ensuring the parents were stuck sending their girls to a school with so many problematic questions. Some Dayan.

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  11. @Daniel it is astounding that accept the allegations as facts and use them to "prove" that the CBD was correct. The lawsuit is in fact based on the CBD perspective which is far from proven.

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  12. Nope, the suit says give us back our money that was withheld shelo kadin.

    Provide a rational reason why a parent shouldn't be allowed his deposit money back after the scandal, sale, dirty BD fight, nasty letters from seminary principles etc etc.

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  13. "I'm told some people make up rumors."

    R. Fuerst most prominent among them, unfortunately.

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  14. No it is not. The lawsuit is based on a cheated parents perspective.
    There is no chiyuv to prop up an institution by not allowing families their deposits back and not allowing girls to go elsewhere. It makes no difference if the IBDthought that the lady seminary heads are the imahos hakedoshos or not. Parents were entitled to a refund.

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  15. @Daas Torah it is astounding to accept the IBD conclusions as facts and use them to "prove" the seminaries were safe. This lawsuit is in response to the severe עושק visited upon the hapless parents by the IBD, which effectively shut the door to return of deposits OR to transfer to a different sem.

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  16. prhaps you are not aware of the grave sin of
    HAmivazeh talmid chacham....

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  17. please!!! can we we keep a basic level of intelligence as the basis for this discussion rather than compulsive reactions

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  18. The discussion in the comment section has slid into the muck . A few very important items for note, that all should be able to agree:

    1. Lawsuit doesn't allege that all sems are evil. Just the top staff of these three, where many turned a blind eye to what M was up to

    2. M agreed to be bound by the arbitration panel in Chicago. If CBD is 'behind' this lawsuit, it would be in furtherance of its role as a duly appointed bd

    3. The victims - and no one disputes that M behavior created many victims - have numerous claims. Some are civil and some may be criminal in nature. Pursuing justice in Federal court would be natural on the civil end given where the victims reside.

    4. All defendants are innocent until proven guilty. It's up to the victims to prove their case. Allegations in a lawsuit are just that - allegations. No evidence was attached to the papers. That means none of us here have seen or reviewed the evidence that will ultimately be submitted and hence cannot yet reasonably judge the relative merits of the suit.

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  19. And what of the sin of permitting a married woman to remarry without a get?
    And what of the sin of a talmid chochom publicly behaving so contrary to the Torah and Torah ideals?
    And what of the sin oh humiliating the Talmidei Chachomim on the Israeli Beis Din?
    And what of the sin of humiliating Rav Feldman who's only concern was the betterment of Klal Yisroel and each individual therein?
    Are you, perhaps, aware of these great sins?

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  20. I, for one, am glad that Rabbi Feurst and Rabbi Schwartz are finally being exposed. Its unfortunate how much damage and destruction they've left in their trail and how much more destruction they will still do on their way out.

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  21. If you are not commenting on this case, then kindly, please do not comment on this case. There is no heter in this case.

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  22. The talmid "talmid chacham" requires more than knowledge of halachah. 'Nuff said.

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  23. "M agreed to be bound by the arbitration panel in Chicago."

    A falsehood. Have you seen a document signed to that effect? No. B/c it does not exist.

    "and no one disputes that M behavior created many victims"

    Says who? Just b/c R. Feurst makes wild, unsupported claims doesn't make it so.

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  24. I see some hostile reactions to the lawsuit which miss some essential points.

    1. Some complain that it is arcois (resorting to civil courts rather than religious courts). Actually the complainants, tried to get refunds based on a ruling by the Chicago Beis din. The seminaries refused and it is alleged also gave them a deceptive run-around. I am going to guess that there are quite a few rabbonim who would use that as a basis to give them a heter arcois since many American rabbonim feel the control of this case for US residents lies with the Chicago Beis Din.

    2. Some comments are confusing the issue of refunds with abuse allegations. The suit at its core is about the deception in their original contract arrangement. The parents paid money for what they were promised was an accredited program where they could expect that the staff promoted torah values. However, the suit alleges they were lied to by Meisels who knew perfectly well that he was busy engaging in acts that made him a choteh umachti and harmed the health and emunah of many of his numerous victims (which the CBD now says numbers in the dozens and I suspect numbers in the hundreds). Thus, even if you say the seminaries are now good and no staff enabled abuse they were nevertheless not what they were represented to be at the time of the sale. In effect the suit argues in civil terminology that it was a mekach taus, a mistaken purchase committment by parents they would not have undertaken if they had not been decieved by Meisels when he was recruiting and by the literature.

    3. Most of the other features grow out of the above underlying allegation.

    I ask all of you, even those utterly convinced that the IBD is right about how wonderful the present staff is: can you not admit that the parents would not have signed on if they knew the truth about Meisels. A mekach taus is void and the purchaser is entitled to a refund.

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  25. And the shidduch system is a scam. (Actually, i agree with that.)

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  26. David P,

    May I respond to your points.

    1) While this lawsuit doesn't explicitly say all seminaries are evil, it certainly paints a picture that all seminaries are suspect. Anyone who, unfortunately, takes the CBC seriously walks away with a very negative view of all seminaries and Judaism - as this is what Judaism is being smeared to be supposedly about.

    Making the following preposterous claim does this:

    "In truth, defendant Meisels' true aim was to fraudulently and unlawfully take thousands of dollars from each of these parents and to induce these girls...to travel thousands of miles outside the United States and away from their parents for the purpose of sexually assaulting these vulnerable young girls."

    [I'm sure they realize that no judge or jury would take such a claim seriously. They see this a legal maneuver, without taking properly taking the ramifications of besmirching Judaism into consideration.]

    2) If true, kindly produce documentation of Rabbi Meisels signing binding arbitration with the CBC.

    Interesting how those close to the CBC leaked all kinds of documentation but didn't produce this document! The IBD produced the documentation. The conduct of the CBC seems to be difficult to understand.

    3) Pursuing justice in Federal court would be natural on the civil end given where the victims reside.

    Not at all if it is being dealt with by a Beis Din.

    and no one disputes that M behavior created many victims

    What's your definition of "many"? It sounds like a wild accusation. I agree many, many, many victims have been created through publicizing what could have been kept private.

    All victims must be helped in any way they can be helped.

    4) 4. All defendants are innocent until proven guilty. It's up to the victims to prove their case. Allegations in a lawsuit are just that - allegations. No evidence was attached to the papers.



    This lawsuit, and all the previous letters, seem to be to convict Rabbi Meisels and all the seminaries in the court of public opinion. Unfortunately, to a degree, it has worked. How sad.

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  27. Re arcois: 1. mekach taus
    2. This is not going to goyish court for judgment just for collection.
    3. I have heard of rabbonim totally apart from Chicago giving a heter.

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  28. Scare tactic? These parents followed the psak of the CBD who said not to send there. Then, they asked for their money back but were denied because the IBD said the sems were safe. And now, they're trying to collect via this lawsuit. Makes perfect sense.

    How is such a lawsuit bogus? And why is following the directive of the CBD wrong?

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  29. We'll if you just compare the history of both BD in regard to sex offenders it is obvious who is more likely to be working toward the safety of the girls. And this lawsuit is by the future parents who want there deposits back, not the victims.

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  30. 2. Where did you see that M agreed to be bound to the CBD?

    3. How many girls have made complaints? Do you know the actual number or are you just guessing "many"?

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  31. It is also astounding that my posts about the poor history of the IBD for helping victims keep disappearing. Perhaps even you know which BD has a better track record for actually siding with the victims safety.

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  32. I really don't understand you yourself saw posted here the shtar berurin from CBD to IBD that gave them the case. Also you saw from the post of a supporter of the IBD to his all the measures IBD is doing to make them safe. Once they are safe I see no reason for a makech taus since meisels is out of the seminary. Also what right does any rav have to give them reshus to go to arkuas ia BD was set up and ruled that its not a mekach taus.

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  33. If that is all the suit said I would believe you but to say he opened the sems to do these thing is just wrong they were opened way before anything happened

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  34. the lawsuits have nothing to do with the victims rather future parents trying to get refunds back which since CBD gave over to IBD and they paskened its safe the whole suit has no basis in halacha and anyone who tells you it does is wrong

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  35. 3. I have heard of rabbonim totally apart from Chicago giving a heter.


    Can you please be so kind as to identify these supposed rabbonim who gave the supposed heter? Thank you.

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  36. and I suspect numbers in the hundreds


    I suspect they number in tens of thousands.


    It's very simple. Once this matter was unjustifiably made public - in this fashion - it created tens of thousands who were hurt by the indefensible actions of Gottesman the Baryon.

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  37. I don't believe anyone knows the truth about Meisels. He has not had a trial yet. The bloggers accepted the allegations as truth right at the beginning and things spiraled out of control from there. The exact amount of reports is not clear. Officially there were only 2 reports. The rest magically appeared from unknown sources who still are yet to be publicly identified by the Chicage BD (don't forget they WOULD NOT PROVIDE REPORTS OF THE VICTIMS), unfortunately there is not much of a case with 2 allegations, so the allegations had to be to be inflated with exaggerations and lies AS IS CLEAR FROM THE FANTASY RIDDEN LAW SUIT claiming that Meisels was bringing girls to Israel with the intention of behaving with them inappropriately. Ridiculous. 2 unconfirmed allegations is a very different picture. Even what he admitted is unknown. The way the picture seems, it wouldn't shock me if he admitted to histaklus then,it was inflated by those wanting to eventually sue claiming that he admitted to touch (keep in mind that the letter from the Chicago BD said the allegations were touch, and because of his admittance, they felt the schools are unsafe. Who said he admitted to exact allegation!). The bloggers then made him into a serial rapist. Face it, no one knows the truth. Castles are being built in the sky. And its a real shame.

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  38. Yes, but the lawsuit might warrant an investigation into the abuse claims and therefore be equivalent to a trial for Meisels...

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  39. Interesting to see that the supporters of get refusers are also the defendents of sexual abusers.

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  40. The fact that they had to imaginie such a rediculous claim that the only point of the seminaries was for molestation shows that the real claim is not enough for a law suit. Why exagerate (lie)?? Why is the real claim not good enough?? Just say "due to allegations, prospective students want to withdraw, claiming mekach taos. The schools wont refund their money, so they are filing a law suit". Why the silliness about the entire institution being a front for fraud and arayos?????

    As I've said before an I'll say again. Honest individuals will need to be open to reshaping their views from the way they viewed things originally. As more details float to the surface, the picture is drastically and rapidly changing.

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  41. exactly my thoughts.

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  42. The primary number one bad guy in this whole story is Meisels, who clearly (both from victims allegations that were substantiated by the CBD as well as by his own admission, to both BD's) sexually victimized girls who were entrusted to his care. If we want to start looking around for who caused this chilul Hashem, Meisels gets all the blame.
    As well, we have on one side the CBD, comprised of Rabbonim who are ehrlich and have shimush in investigating theses types of situations. They spent months (MONTHS) vetting the allegations, to the extent that they got Meisels to ADMIT (which he clearly would only do because he had no choice, the jig was up), and after responsibly making sure that there was fire as well as smoke, issued a warning against sending your kids to theses seminaries.
    On the other side, you have an IBD that 8 hours (8 HOURS!!!!!) after receiving the case, comes out and says no worries, Meisels is gone, the sems were sold.
    Really? to who? Because that looks very much like a straw transaction to anyone with eyes. And whether it is or isn't does not matter - it LOOKS like one.
    And I would be blown away if a SINGLE responsible parent would be willing to send his daughter to theses schools based on that - to say nothing of the very real concerns that if the staff at these schools were aware of what was happening (systemically, and for a very long time) they are criminally complicit. And if they were not aware then they are criminally incompetent - and in neither case would I want my daughter going there.
    So they come out and say that no refunds will be issued (or effectively say that by intentionally passing the buck on that), and as well the IBD has the gall to say that nobody is allowed to switch to another school??? that is insane. Do they not get that we cant sweep these problems under a rug anymore??? We have done that for so long and so many kids have been destroyed as a result???? That when chashuve Rabbis say " oh, dont worry, the seminaries were sold, and its assur to go somewhere else" THEY are the ones causing the lack of respect for batei din! How can someone respect that kind of response??
    As well, what is so bad with the sems closing up??? I think they SHOULD close - they should be forced to close!!! I would NEVER EVER EVER send my child there, not now and not 20 years from now either. And let this sad story (caused solely by that chaleria Meisels) be an object lesson that if you are a predator (which he is) there will be consequences. And that we will never again sweep things under the rug and pretend everything is ok at the expense of ours and our community's kids.

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  43. This isn't about castles in the sky. You have obviously not spoken to any of his actual victims. The allegations are real, and the CBD has, many times, openly said that he did "kol davar ossur".



    If you want to argue about whether a RICO lawsuit was the best way to go (and there's not a shred of proof that the CBD encouraged it), that's one thing. But to suggest that "nobody" knows what Meisels did is ridiculous. His victims know.

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  44. Dear rabbi eidensohn,
    And this you let through?! Disgraceful.


    Sincerely, One who use to take your lashon hara disclaimer seriously.

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  45. Can you show where you got it from that he admitted to sexual abuse.

    My reports are that he admitted that a girl with a lot of issues initiated a hug.... For most bloggers there's nothing wrong with that, however in the chareidi world it its wrong, but a far cry from sexual abuse!

    We still don't know what testimony the CBD heard and if it came from a credible accuser.

    Let's deal with facts, not your imagination

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  46. Believe it- Interesting comment. You make it sound as if you HAVE spoken to the "actual" victims. I have no doubt that you have not. The allegations came from 2 young ladies. The rest from phone calls to the Chicago BD and one of the dayanim on the CBD said just last week there were only 2 other people who claimed anything. The rest is hear say and even the additional 2 by phone are impossible to verify if legitimate. Truth is, the allegations from the original 2 young ladies isn't even "truth". Meisels hasn't had a trial yet!! I can make allegations against you also. You have to a trial to prove the allegations. As I said, castles in the sky, my friend- Beleive it!. Its a real shame...

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  47. They did not spend months vetting anything. Nor did he admit to anything like what they claim. What he admitted to was relatively mild, although certainly still wrong, but nothing like the lurid fantasies being retailed by R. Fuerst to justify his letter. The wild allegations are coming directly from the CBD, specifically from R. Fuerst, who for some odd reason refuses to share the supposed evidence (which I don't believe exists) with the beis din he himself gave the case over to, as specified in his own letter. The idea that these people are "ehrlich" is laughable.

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  48. Most of this stuff comes from R. Fuerst. He pretends there was a confession to "kol davar assur." It's a complete falsehood.

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  49. R. Fuerst has been telling tall tales in regard to this case. That's the sad fact.

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  50. " it is obvious who is more likely to be working toward the safety of the girls"

    Not obvious at all. CBD clearly does not care much about the girls' welfare, as evidenced by their disregard for the reputation of every girl who has attended these seminaries in the past. They are an amazingly irresponsible crew.

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  51. If someone says they *know* abuse allegations are true, they *may* be telling the truth. But when someone says they know for sure it isn't true, they *cant* be telling the truth because it is impossible to know that. Maybe you *wish* it wasn't true! but it isn't physically possible to know such a thing. Which just makes everything else you say much less credible.

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  52. And you know this for a fact because . . .

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  53. @C. W. so if you say you are a not a liar that means that you can't possible prove that it is true and we must suspect you and everyone else of being a liar?

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  54. Either you are playing dumb, or I wasn't clear.
    It is not humanly possible to make the claim that you know for sure there was no abuse. Nobody can ever prove that no abuse *ever* happened. That being the case, if someone makes such a claim, you have to question their credibility. They can only be speaking emotionally because it is not humanly possible to verify.

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  55. Because I have an informant who told me so. And in support I offer the fact that whereas R. Fuerst claims that all sorts of terrible things went on, and that Meisels admitted to that, R. Cohen sings a very different tune. Try calling them both, and compare their stories.

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  56. Sunny never said he knows it didn't happen. To the contrary, he says no one knows what happened. You're the one playing dumb.

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  57. You have an informant who told you R Fuerst is spreading rumors? And your informant heard R Fuerst confess that to him or he is assuming it because he wasn't present when the information came in?
    I don't see why anyone here can have any more credibility than the other person on a "he-said she-said" anonymous forum. (Myself included) And honestly, I don't even care about the case here as much as I am worrying about the credibility of the individual rabbis involved for personal reasons.
    But writing this to you clarifies to me that there is no way I could ever get to the bottom of any of that and I stupidly fell for the online sensationalism. I do appreciate the wake up call (seriously).

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