Sunday, August 10, 2014

Seminary Scandal: Clarifying Rav Aharon Feldman's role

 update: Includes rebuttal by a knowledgeble anonymous source
update: additional comment from Rav Feldman

The following letter is published with permission to clarify the role of Rav Aharon Feldman.

I received your letter. Without going into discussions over issues which are no longer relevant, I would like to correct the following misconception which you seem to have:

Although I signed on the shtar beyrurin as the official to’en, I was never appointed by anyone to represent him nor did I ever intend to supply you with substantiation of any claims for the simple reason that I did not have this information. My role in this affair was merely to serve as a liason between the Chicago Beis Din and Torah Umesorah who asked me to do this. I even asked Rav Shafran, the Rosh Bes Din, before the hearing of his Beis Din to be excused because I had no information to add and the first question I would be asked would be, “Who appointed you as a toen?” But Rav Shafran asked me to come nevertheless. Out of respect for his request I came and sat for a while. 

When the first question of the counsel for defendant was exactly as I had predicted, Rav Shafran’s reply was that the counsel was correct but that we did not need a to’en since the defendant had already confessed to the charges and the trial was dealing with the damages the defendant was liable to and the culpability of the principals. When I asked permission from Rav Shafran to leave after I sat and listened to the testimony of two people, Rav Shafran—nor anyone else—did not ask me to stay to supply any evidence because everyone knew and I had made it clear that I had none. Especially there was no purpose for me to stay since Rav Shafran had conceded that I was not an empowered to’en.

I hope I have corrected your misconception.

With berachos for success In all your endeavors,

Aharon Feldman

If you desire to reply, which is unnecessary, please do not do so by e-mail but my ordinary mail or fax..
Thank you for forwarding the letter. It appears from the letter that I have a say in matters which takes place in the schools, such as firing staff members, an assumption which has no basis in fact. I would appreciate informing your correspondents and whoever is involved that I have nothing to do with the schools, or with the din torah, except for the fact that I signed on the shtar berurin as a pro forma plaintiff.
Aharon Feldman


A knowledgeable party responded:

There seems to be a misconception whether or not there was a misconception.

One party was left out of the "liason loop" mentioned in Rav Aharon Shlita's letter. The IBD, after R'Aharon Shlita signed the shtar beerurin.

Indeed, it was never thought that he personally had any knowledge of any evidence. But as the "liaison" with Chicago (as he states) he was asked repeatedly, by the IBD, and this is well-documented, to ask Chicago for the evidence ,as we would be shortly starting to deal with the matter. Rav Aharon received letters from the IBD asking him to come to these sessions,as the appointed apotropos. and to bring what they needed to deal with any culpability on the part of the hanhalot. (Gottesman received these requests as well)

Who ever suggested that Rav Aharon Shlita was there as a to'en????? (besides the to'en who was there)

Rav Aharon Shlita is signed on the shtar as the appointed apotropos for girls who had a tevi'ah.What technical legal standing this has is a fair question (which should be asked of Chicago,who "appointed" him") But the fact remains that he acted as such .And he received the IBD letters, read them, saw the requests that in his role as the liaison to Chicago (and as the signee on the shtar beerurin)he should get from Chicago any "evidence" ; and he indeed came, sans any evidence.

Rav Aharon's letter unfortunately does not address any questions of why Chicago did not see fit to give the IBD this information in any event; nor his reaction to the two infamous e-mails sent to the IBD by Gottesman, to which the IBD responded to Chicago how it was a complete contradiction to what Chicago did in Eretz Yisrael after flying here.


  1. And presumably rav feldman has no objection to the IBD decision, by leaving early.

  2. "the Chicago Beis Din and Torah Umesorah"

    Makes me wonder where exactly Torah U'Mesorah stands in this. Their lawyer, Gottesman, is running this thing. He's deep in the mix. The CBD is in some sense a Torah UMeorah beis din. R' A. Feldman was sent by them and the CBD. So Torah UMesorah's lawyer, working with their beis din, tries to take control of the seminaries. When he can't get control, he tries to force their sale to his choice, none other than the exec director of Torah U'Mesorah, Zvi Bloom. When they get sold to someone else, they suddenly become unsalvageable, and have to be destroyed. Is anyone connecting the dots?

  3. Whose letter is Rav Feldman shlita responding to and what did that letter ask him?

  4. Verification of AddressAugust 10, 2014 at 5:57 AM

    Finally came out rav feldman's clarification B"H. A gitte Voch.

  5. This procedure sounds very strange to me. How can a beit din assess monetary damages without even hearing from the plaintiff what damage is being claimed? I never heard of a beit din appointing a plaintiff's toen, especially one who admits he doesn't know what the plaintiffs claim. Has anyone else, perhaps more familiar with litigation in beit din than I, ever heard of such a thing? And what is the value of a shtar berurin signed by a toen who does not, in fact, represent the litigant? Why would Rav Shafran do such a thing, and why did the other dayanim and Rav Feldman go along?

    This kind of public squabbling between prominent batei din, and these odd looking procedures decrease respect for the Torah. One should remember how the squabbles among the Rabbis in Germany in the 18th century, both over the controversy between R. Emden and R. Eybeschutz and the so-called "Get of Cleaves" helped set the stage for the Reform movement.

  6. I am inclined to think that the supra-legal machinations done by IBD were for the sole purpose of issuing a hechsher to the sems. Yes, I have no 'proof' for that statement, but R Feldman's statement above as to the purpose of this BD leaves one wondering: how did IBD go from determining 'culpability' to issuing a blanket statement of כשרות on the sems? Moreover, where did they get the right to אסור any other sems from accepting the hapless girls caught in the middle?

    I suppose the term 'judicial overreach' is not limited to secular courts.

  7. CBD is in no sense a Torah U'Mesorah Beis Din. Where do you get that idea? It's a Chicago institution that represents the entire frum community. The rest of your connections are a flight of fancy.

  8. Did you take the time to read their letter before commenting?

  9. Gottesman works for Torah U'mesorah, and in case you haven't noticed is deeply involved with the CBD. (Just look at the IBD letter)

    As per R Feldman's letter Torah U'mesorah obviously was involved.

    Gottesman is very close with Zvi Bloom who is the only seminary owner openly going after the girls from these seminaries.

    The connection is obvious.

  10. My sense of the CBD is that it's the "official" go-to beis din for Torah U'Mesorah for these sexual abuse type cases. They certainly involved Gottesman very heavily in this case. Why would they do that if they have no connection to TUM?
    The connection between Gottesman and Bloom is no flight of fancy. It's a fact that both have positions at TUM. And it's a fact that Gottesman tried to force a sale to Bloom. And it's a fact that Bloom has been trying to lure girls from these sems to his new one.

  11. So, bottom line: don't trust a beith din, they can't even sort out competences between themselves... Go straight to "Arkaos".

  12. In response to a challenge made above: I know that Rav Aharon asked Gottesman to apologize for his crude and disrespectful email messages to the IBD. It is unfortunate (yet telling) that Shlomo Gottesman, who thought that he would take charge and solve all the world's problems, is now able to hide behind the Rabbanim he purportedly represents and conceal that HE is the responsible party here, and he should publicly apologize and acknowledge the mess and disaster that he created.

  13. We read in the first letter from the CBD:

    "Because these institutions and Mr. Meisels are located in Israel and not the United States, a distinguished Israeli beis din consisting of Rabbis Menachem Mendel Shafran, Chaim Malinowitz, and Tzvi Gartner has assumed responsibility for this matter".

    In essence, the CBD is hereby declaring that they have no more responsibility for the matter, since Israel is not their venue. In addition, they have agreed to pass the torch to the IBD; with confidence that the case is in good hands.

  14. Shlomo,
    Please be more specific if you'd like to make a point. I'm unclear as to which part of my comment you are struggling with:
    - RAF states IBD sat to determine damages and culpability
    - They did so knowing he wasn't really representing anyone
    - (Based on the post update) they used RAF as the pit bull to try to get the goods on the victims from CBD
    - Not having gotten any info from real victims or from CBD, they kashered all the sems without qualification
    - They went one step further and forbade other sems from taking in girls from the sems currently steeped in this quagmire.

    Pretty amazing sequence of events, isn't it? And before anyone else wants to tell me that I 'don't know what I'm talking about', please provide an explanation that any person of average intelligence can grasp. Ad hominems are useless, and only weaken your argument. Thanks.

  15. Ahh, but RAF's letter puts the lie to your claim, lime. He states that IBD knew that he had no firsthand knowledge, but asked him to appear anyway. And he repeats again that IBD let him go since he wasn't an 'empowered Toein'.
    Yet, the shtar has RAF clearly indicated as אפיטרופוס for the complainants. Why and how? Doesn't anyone with a half a brain see that RAF was used to lend some fictional value to the proceeding?
    And is anyone surprised that CBD had no intention of playing along with this charade? They were asked to provide victim names or information to such a farcical court? Really??

  16. @Daniel - but the CBD was the one who created the status for Rav Feldman. If it was a charade it was one they made up. So yes since they also sent Rav Aharon to ask the IBD to hand the case and he was accompanied by Rav Zev Cohen -a dayan of the CBD and R Gottesman from TorhUMesorah who has connection withthe CBD. Yes the IBD had every reason for the CBD to be cooperative. In fact you will notice that Rav Feldman said that the two beis din should form a joint beis din - whch the IBD agreed and the CBD refused. Clearly Rav Aharon Feldman assumed that there would be cooperation as he states clearly in his letter.

    So what happened to the CBD?

  17. Rav Feldman says the CBD appointed him as a liaison between the two battei dinnim, and it was either Rav Shafran or the IBD that appointed him as a nominal to'en for the victims.

    How could the IBD decide anything without hearing from the victims or an authorized representative of the victims? The letters you have published indicate that they never heard the details of the victims claims. I can't imagine why the Chicago BD would give them the case without the information, but even given that they seem to have done so, how could the IBD pasken anything without that information?

  18. Forgive me, rabbi, but this post puts the lie to that line of reasoning as well. RAF is saying quite clearly that he wanted no part of this, that he was only a 'liaison' (whatever in the world that means), and he only followed through at Rav SHAFRAN'S request.
    I think it is entirely reasonable that CBD wanted IBD to handle this PROPERLY. But they certainly signed away nothing to them, and did not empower them in any official manner (else you would have posted it weeks ago).
    However, once they saw the בלבול that IBD created (i.e., making RAF an אפוטרופוס ... absurd, and a halachic fiction), all bets were off. They had no intention of cooperating with a kangaroo system ... given how deadly serious CBD takes their responsibility. They may be the sole shining example of a BD that plays it straight with these awful crimes.
    That's what happened to CBD. And I'll make it easy for you: don't tell me I can't prove any of this. All I'm asking you to do is disprove even ONE element of it. Just one.
    You can't. IBD never had any real authority, and that's why everyone - even you, with this last comment -- is trying to say that CBD needed to 'cooperate'.
    No they didn't.

  19. Very true. The CBD was taking a very different direction in this case before Gottesman came along and led them down the garden path.

  20. This is another comment by Chaim waiting approval.

  21. And this is yet another comment by Chaim waiting approval.

  22. Have you seen the original psak of the CBD just posted here? Have you seen where they write they are working with TUM on this? Flight of fancy, huh?

  23. By the way, the agudah moetzet by definition is the torah umesorah moetzet (vaad, whatever.)

    Since RAF sits on the mietzet, by definition, he is on the TuM vaad.


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