Updated: Haredi Rabbis, Seminaries, Sued Over Alleged Sex Abuse
Seven named plaintiffs filed a lawsuit in Federal Court Monday against Rabbi Elimelech Meisels, Rachel Slanger, Peninim of America, Yaakov Yarmish, Tzvi Gartner and four subsidiary Jewish seminaries in Jerusalem over alleged systemic and pervasive sex abuse by Meisels.
Above: Rabbi Elimelech Meisels
Updated with PDF of lawsuit at 2:12 pm CDT
Haredi Rabbis, Seminaries, Sued Over Sex Abuse
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Seven named plaintiffs filed a lawsuit in Federal Court Monday against Rabbi Elimelech Meisels, Rachel Slanger, Peninim of America, Yaakov Yarmish, Tzvi Gartner and four subsidiary Jewish seminaries in Jerusalem, Courthouse News reported.
"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. 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,” the lawsuit alleges.
For haredi girls, their post-high school year in an Israeli seminary “profoundly shapes and influences their marriage prospects within a quasi arranged marriage system known as the Shidduch (translated literally as Introduction) system.
"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 complaint alleges.
"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 suit claims.
"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,” the lawsuit insists.
As reported by FailedMessiah.com last month, a Chicago beit din (Jewish religious court) headed by Chicago’s most senior rabbis, issued a ruling stating that students at Meisels’ seminaries were "at risk of harm.” It turned the case over to an Israeli beit din and then modified its warning to parents when Meisels allegedly agreed to have nothing to do with the day-to-to operation of those schools or their students and would sell the seminaries – which are technically nonprofits that cannot be sold under either US or Israeli law – as soon as possible.
However, the suit alleges that the sale Meisels’ arranged was a sham.
"Defendant Meisels agreed with defendant Yarmish that they would conduct a sham 'sale' of The Seminaries where defendant Yarmish would claim that he now owned the Seminaries and would claim to the class plaintiffs that these institutions were safe for their daughters. The conspirators hoped that this scheme would force class plaintiffs into leaving their daughters in The Seminaries even though that they were not safe because the conspirators would withhold their tuition deposits."
According to the lawsuit, for the last two weeks of July, Yarnish, Slanger, Gartner "and other still unidentified coconspirators then engaged in a flurry of written correspondence and telephone calls with the class plaintiffs to try to convince them that the Seminaries were under new ownership and were now safe. They sought to draw on defendant Gartner's status as a rabbi in Israel and the status of two other unnamed co-conspirators to perpetuate their fraud and assure the class plaintiffs that the Seminaries are safe.…On July 24, 25, and 29, 2014, upon information and belief, defendant Gartner and unnamed co-conspirators had meetings in Israel about how to best cover up the fraudulent and unlawful scheme alleged herein and continue to deprive the class plaintiffs of their money by perpetuating the illusion that defendant Meisels is no longer affiliated with the seminaries.”
Gartner was a member of the Israeli beit din that supposedly investigated Meisels and compelled him to sell the schools.
The lawsuit as a PDF file: