Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Seminary Scandal: Questions from a loyal and informed CBD supporter - and my answers

This post originally appeared as a comment to a different post - but I thought it would be of more use as its own post. My answers are interspersted and preceded by DT.

Material that I have added after the original response in the comments sections is in bold letters.
Guest Post by puzzled by RDE
RDE: Your position on this issue has truly surprised me. It is difficult to fully understand how you have so aggressively sided with the IBD here. 

A few very specific questions for you - I would ask that you answer them directly. (If you can indulge me by answering - please do, rather than reference another post where you addressed this already). (As an intro - I too have been in touch with people deeply involved, including personal conversations with the dayanim on both sides - so please don't simply dismiss my words as someone who is not informed.). 

1. A choshen mishpat shayla - a person signs up their daughter to go to a seminary run by Rabbi/Rebbetzin/Mr. "X. In the period of time after the deposit is paid the seminary is transferred to a new owner, etc. - does the parent have a right to ask for the money back with the simple claim of "I never agreed to this - I signed up for something else." What do you believe the answer is? Have you asked a posek?
DT   @puzzled I am puzzled by your puzzlement - since you claim to have access to dayanim on both sides - why haven't you asked them. Is it that you want to know the truth or that your question is really why I am involved? Are you claiming that my answers are not what the IBD would answer because you asked them and found major discrepancies? To answer your first question since it the only one that seems to raise new issues. I have not heard that anyone is making the claim that they want out simply because their is a new owner. The claim has been the CBD has declared them unsafe and therefore it is a mekach taus. To that question it is clear that there is a need for a beis din and yes I have asked poskim and that is what they say. I am not sure that objecting to the sale merely because there is a new owner without claiming that there is a difference is services provided means anything.
I did in fact ask a posek your question and he said:
Of course it doesn't preclude a din Torah). If I pay a cleaning service (not Mr. XYZ) to clean my suits for one year,and the business (with which the contract was with ) gets sold (and the owner is not even the one who cleans the suits ; he sets policy, hires the cleaners, buys equipment -- if I want my money back I absolutely have to convince the BD that there is a real reason to think that the new person will not run the business as well as the old one. Especially if the "real" owner is an amutah.
2. You and the IBD have maintained that Mr. Yarmush "bought the seminary". What is the evidence of that? I do believe that the IBD willfully misled people to say it was sold. When I pushed one of the IBD members (who I spoke to personally), he said "it is in process" and will be sold. How is this justified by the IBD? [As an important aside - I am not offended by the practical need of Mr. Yarmush to have many contingencies before a sale is consummated. He is a smart businessman and would never buy something until he knew what he was buying. If no girls attend - why would he agree to a price now? etc. Thus - I think such an approach is perfectly reasonable. My issue is the IBD being deceptive about this point.]
DT  2. In regards to the second, I have a letter from Rav Aharon Feldman that he verified that the sale was good. Is that good enough? The CBD has been claiming - not that the sale isn't valid but that it is a sham and that Yarmish is merely a front for Mieselss. They offer no proof but keep claiming that the two are old buddies. Yarmish categorically denies that. The CBD has not produced any evidence for their questionable claim. Why don't you ask them? As I noted in a previous post - the CBD in the May guidelines made no mention of the need for Meisels to sell.
3. In the various communications send out by the administration of the school (specifically in an email invitation to a conference call for parents) - they introduced the dayanim as "our dayanim"? What does that mean?
DT 3. I don't know. I haven't seen it - perhaps you will send it to me and I'll try and find out. Someone suggested that it simply means the dayanim to whom we were meshabed ourselves to follow by signing the shtar. When I see the actual documents I can investigate further.
4. What is your view about what the staff knew? Every seminary has an Eim Bayis? Were they aware that girls were going for "rides" with Meisels at the wee hours of the morning? What did they do about it? Did they not know? If not, is this a proper level of supervision? How could the IBD make such a quick decision labeling the staff as doing their work with "mesiras nefesh" and "yiras shamayim"? More importantly - are these specific people returning next year?
DT:  4.Despite your request - this item is clearly explained in the post of the IBD father to his son.
5. You seem to have embraced the IBD narrative that they tried from the beginning to have the CBD share the testimony, etc. - which many of us question. For the purpose of this discussion - I will accept that fact. But without it how could they say what they did? How could they issue such sweeping endorsements without the facts (which they acknowledge they don't have) - based on the one sided testimony of the minahalos that that spoke with?
DT  5. Ditto for this. By the way did the CBD tell you that they in fact have shared the testimony?! If not why don't you believe the IBD. This is doubly curious in the fact that the CBD now says that the lawsuit precludes them for sharing and allowing the witnesses to be questioned. Why would they say such a thing if in fact they had already shared the information.
It also seems that part of the reason that the CBD engineered the RICO claim was to create a situation where they are blocked by secular law to share information
6. The IBD has over and over repeated the calumny that the CBD took testimony "shelo kihalacho" - not in the presence of the other side? Do you believe they are correct in the assertion? Can you justify this statement in light of the Teshuva published in Yeshurun (whose editor in chief, ironically, is Rabbi Gottesman...), written by none other than Rav Mendel Shafran the Av Beis Din of the IBD - which explicitly states that in abuse cases this is not required! [Furthermore - if as it appears to be the case - RAF left the proceeding early on - did they not do the very thing they criticized the CBD for doing!?] These are but some of the questions many of us have about this case and specifically your approach.
DT 6. The simple explanation to this is that there is significant difference between a beis din which is to determine guilt and one which collects testimony strong enough to remove an educator from a school. The Shoel UMeishiv is halacha for the latter case. The CBD's claim that Meisels is guilty of all the sexual sins on the book - indicates a full beis din judging guilt or innocence. That requires hearing both sides. Meisels denies that accusation. As far as I know there has not been a proper beis din trial and therefore they can't according to the halacha claim that he is guilty as they claim.
Please go back to the CBD and request some documentation for their allegations. You might even want to show them my presentation of the IBD's views. I will be quite willing to publish their point by point rebuttal - especially if they provide documentation to prove that they have given over their data to the IBD and that they in fact have conducted a proper din Torah that allows them to pasken that Meisels is guilty of all sexual sins.
Additionally when the IBD claims the CBD is acting shelo kahalacha it is because the case has been give to IBD, through a shtar that says they would not. The CBD simply is not authorized to be issue psakim in this case and need to work through the IBD or at least in conjunction with it as Rav Aharon Feldman suggested and the IBD agreed to do.
I hope I don't sound condescending when I suggest you rethink your views on this sordid scandal. I suggest this because I usually think you are on the right side of these issues and am baffled at your approach here. less 
DT Please get back to me soon so this whole affair can be brought to a peaceful resolution before Elul.


  1. At the risk of this being taken the wrong way..
    The comparison to the dry cleaners is apt only with regard to some of the seminaries.. A menahel of a Seminary, especially one who was as involved in Peninim as Meisels, plays a much bigger role than the guy who buys the equipment for a dry cleaner. Obviously, he horribly abused his position with regard to some of the girls, but many people chose to send there because of his reputation as a mechanech. I would compare it more to one who signs a contract with a well-regarded physician for a series of treatments and pays up front, and then is told that the physician has sold his practice to someone else.

  2. Regarding Point 1 and the "refund" question:

    The parents made a binding agreement that the refund is non-refundable. A change in ownership does not change that. If an owner had, C"V died or sold his business a refund would not be due since there is a new owner. If your phone company is sold you can't demand the new owners of the phone company refund your prepaid monthly payment since you signed up for service with the previous owner. The agreement here was not with Meisels. The agreement was with the institution.

    Regarding mekach taos, the IBD says there is none so the institution is standing on that ruling on this point.

    But in any event, regardless of the above two points (even if I'm wrong about them), if the parents believe they are halachicly entitled to a refund for whatever reason (either because one of the two above point or for any other reason) whereas the seminary believe it has no halachic obligation to make a refund, then you have a monetary dispute between the parties, in other words a choshen mishpat shayla, and only a beis din can resolve it with a determination of the facts and relevant halachas after it holds a trial with both parties simultaneously present, as required by halacha, hears both sides and determines whether the halachas require a refund or not.

    Until that happens the seminary has no obligation to give a refund. The seminary has the right to have beis din trial on the issue and is permitted to wait for a verdict on the question before making any possible refund payments.

    As far as which beis din would have jurisdiction, the halacha allows either side to demand a zabla trial. (If one side initiated the beis din lawsuit in their chosen beis din, the other side has the halachic right to insist it be moved to zabla.) Otherwise the disputants might agree to a mutually accepted beis din. As far as where the trial would be held, halacha says it is held in the town of the defendent (the seminary.)

  3. Moe, keep in mind that the seminaries would be the nitva'im. As such, they would have the right to choose that the case be heard in their location -- Eretz Yisrael -- by the Beis Din of their choice.

    I doubt those seeking to close down the seminaries -- or unauthorized outsiders seeking to control them -- would agree to abide by those halachic rights.

  4. A few points.

    1) RDE I think you are 100% correct on the 1st pt. makach ta'us or no mekach ta'us it's a question to be resolved in BD and is pointless for people to keep yelling about it unless the seminaries are refusing to go which does not seem to be the case, quite the opposite. But I don't think your comparison to the cleaners is precise. A better way to put it would be that all the clothes the cleaners clean from now on, even though they'll be sparkling clean will come out with a big stamp on the front that says "thief" thus precluding you from ever closing a business deal with a non-shady character for the rest of your life, despite the fact that the only reason you sent your clothes to be cleaned in the first place was to look nice for business meetings.

    2) I think we do need proof of the sale bc if selling a non-profit is really as complex as made out, although I would never accuse the rav feldman of lying, without him having intricate legal knowledge, it's hard to accept that as a certainty. A letter from a well known lawyer would go much farther.

    3) The letter from the father to his son (nor anything else I have seen) has not addressed the simple question of how, if the CBD is refusing to share the testimonies, can the IBD claim that the schools are safe. Granted it of no fault of their own, granted maybe it's rishus on the part of chicago, but how do they have sufficient information to make that claim? I have not yet seen a coherent answer to this question anywhere.

    4) I think your claim that chicago engineered the RICO claim so they wouldn't have to share evidence is extremely far fetched and sounds to me absurd. They couldn't come up with any better excuse then to convince 6 families and a law firm to go along with ridiculous charges? Really?

    5) You didn't explain how they took testimony "shelo kihalacha" only that their conclusion was lo kihalacha. You also didn't explain how the IBD seemingly did the exact same thing. Esp that they state explicitly in the 1st document they released they they were sitting "lihachriah betiviot kaspiot hakeshurot l'nidon..." which should definitely need real kabolas eidus. We haven't yet seen an official written psak din from the CBD, only public announcements and just bc colloquially they call him guilty doesn't mean with all the halachic ramifications. Anyways they state explicitly in their 1st letter "based on testimony...the beis din believes...". There would have to be something stronger than this to justify using over and over shelo kihalacha so vociferously.

    6) There is no shtar with the CBD signed on it. Only Rav Feldman who admits he wasn't actually representing anyone. The shtar should be worthless. How do you have a BD with only one side. Where in halacha do we ever find a "pro forma" tovea without being appointed by the actual tove'im? Where does the IBD authority come from? Yes maybe chicago gave there word. Ok so we might have a mechusar amana problem. But halachically bound even if they have some (maybe crazy far fetched) chashash? You have not answered or provided an answer to this question.

    R Eidensohn I am not trying to bash you or the IBD, I really would like you to clarify these points.

  5. @Moshe - the confession that he made to the CBD was for touching and hugging. He is denying anything more serious than that

  6. Understood. Just to clarify, is that what meisels said he admitted or what chicago said he admitted or does everyone agree to what he admitted. Did he sign something or was it oral?

  7. DT, are you saying with authority that you know with certainty that that's all he admitted to? Or are you assuming it was no more?

  8. @David that is my understanding. I was told there is a 10 minute recording of the confession which I am trying to obtain

    There are reports - don't know how reliable they are - that much more is claimed. Waiting to get an update from reliable sources. The CBD refuses to share this infomation with the IBD but just eep repeating that he did every sexual sin in the book.. Meisels denies that. The CBD is not authorized to pasen on this matter

  9. @Moshe I don't know if he signed a conession - it was recorded

  10. "Unwanted physical contact of a sexual nature." That is the cBD quote.

    That means hugging to fondling, maybe less, no more. Any more would be sexual contact (one can even say fondling is sexual contact.)

  11. @Moshe - I know you are not trying to bash anyone - but the points have been discussed repeatedly and I simply am not going to answer them amother time. Perhaps somebody would like to volunteer?

  12. Regarding refund from change of ownership, there is a problem withmost heter iska's used today,in that in case the borrower / investor passes away, the lender / investor has the right to say i agree to Your husband / father as my borrower (or lender) / partner, but not you. Pay up right away.

    Meaning, parents made an agreement with Mr M, not his successors.

    Actually, in the states, most contracts have a no successor (or automatic successor) clause just to solve this problem.

  13. Further,many yeshivot (and some seminaries, not that familiar with the seminary market) are known by the RYs name.

    Thus, a transfer of ownership would make it another yeshiva / seminary.

  14. I have read all your posts and most of the comments and have not seen anything that answers #3-6. I even reread the whole letter from the father before I posted that to make sure. Please provide a reference to where these answers are.

  15. I heard it was one or two girls and that they initiated a hug, (during the course of a sob story.... A comforting hug...)

    I also heard that the accuser had said "I'm crazy over R' M I'm going to make him be my boyfriend".

    This does not make it OK, but its not nearly as offensive as its being made out to be.

  16. That's not referring to his admission, thats just their conclusion which at this point is very suspect.

  17. If that is the true scenario then those girls are more guilty than Meisels, as the girls initiated the inappropriate contact and they are adults.

  18. Whew, cats, thank you for clarifying. So many out here needed to know that this צדיק׳ל wasn't truly as bad as he's being made out to be. After all, you're a rabbi, mechanech, and run a seminary. Who would hold him responsible being around all these beautiful, desirous women?
    I can smell the reputation rehab machine already in the works. Thank heaven for Daas Torah (the blog and the gedolim who so selflessly jumped in to rescue their colleague)!

  19. The conclusion might be suspect, but it can't be more than hugging to fondling, but definitely not more than that. I.e., no sexual contact.

  20. Anything that is "unwanted sexual contact," including forcible rape, is also "unwanted physical contact of a sexual nature." The latter expression includes more at the "low end" than the former, but excludes nothing. I think the CBD chose those words judiciously because Meisels' improper actions spanned a gamut (all, of course, violations of halakhah), and the CBD wanted to protect the girls by not speaking of "sexual contact" explicitly when it was unnecessary to their conclusion.

  21. How can I write a post to you that is not for posting

  22. @shlomo
    That's absurd. What rational man would sell his life's work over something as benign as what you describe?

  23. You say you are waiting to get an update from a reliable source but the CBD is being tight lipped. Doesn't that make sense? Why the heck would they want to give sensitive information to someone who is handing it over to a blogger? I sure as heck wouldn't do that with personal information of this nature. You answered the question yourself that everyone is asking. Why won't the CBD give over sensitive names and accusations and testimonies to a group of rabbis who intend to leak it to the internet? Head scratching moment.

  24. I heard that Meisels was tied down and sexually abused against his will by a number of girls from problematic homes.

  25. Why do you allow this stupidity to go through when you know that it is false?

  26. send it to my email listed at the side

  27. The CBD is the very source of a bunch of internet rumors. They actually initiated the bloggers in this tale. They are the one's giving out the sensitive info.

    Please don't scratch too hard ;)

  28. Maybe your not familiar with the chareidi world, but by their standards that isn't acceptable. R'M realizes that and understands and therefore several months ago removed himself from contact with the girls.

    Also as has been written here numerous times, it seems as there is a serious case of Blackmail going on here. The girl in question obviously alleged that more than what I described took place, and that was used to smear and destroy him....

  29. Very intelligent comment.
    Do you know that it is false?
    Is there any reason to assume its not as I said?

  30. Reb Doniel claims he is waiting for info from the IBD but the CBD is being tight lipped. That contradicts what you are saying and is just your anonymous word anyway. I always believed these two sites were really about exposing truth but I am reading SO much speculation-turned-fact with nothing but quotes from no name people who claim to have called people directly etc. I don't have a ton of facts from personal friends on this case who are actually involved, but I do know enough to know that so much of what's being posted is a bunch of broken telephone being yelled from atop a band wagon. Regardless of the "side" I'm on, I've always sided with truth. And as soon as some of the stuff here started contradicting real life things I actually know, I realized it is just lots of bored people with agendas. I was tempted to get sucked in, I enjoy color wars, but I am finding it disappointing.

  31. Oh, so why don't you tell us the name of this blackmailer so the rest of us can protect ourselves from her? Hmm?

  32. If you would have read through the previous posts and comments you would know that I'm referring to Gottesman, who the IBD wrote in their letter that he was acting like a Beryon.

    It would be a good idea to read up the previous posts before you start commenting.

  33. Reb Shlomo,

    You are saying, unless I've completely got it wrong, that there is a person going around making up lies with the intention to destroy someone. I don't think it is Lashon Hara for you to share her name, and I think, based on the posts on this blog, that you may have an obligation to share her name. Just as a gaining the trust of girls in order to rape them must be outed, so, too, girls gaining the trust of men in order to badmouth them must be outed. I respectfully await the information


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