When the Novominsker Rebbe, Rabbi Aharon Schechter, Rabbi Aharon Feldman and other members of Agudath Israel of America’s moeztzet, Council of Torah Sages, issued a letter last week endorsing as safe Pnimim and other seminaries once owned and run by Rabbi Elimelech Meisels as safe, some – including me – questioned how these rabbis could make this endorsement when all of the staff who allegedly enabled Meisels still worked at these seminaries. In fact, staff members who were allegedly told at the time of the alleged abuse by victims that Meisels had allegedly abused them still work at all of these seminaries.
Above: Rabbi Elimelech Meisels
Why Did Leading US Haredi Rabbis Really Endorse Israeli Seminaries Formerly Run By Alleged Sex Abuser?
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
When the Novominsker Rebbe, Rabbi Aharon Schechter, Rabbi Aharon Feldman and other members of Agudath Israel of America’s moeztzet, Council of Torah Sages, issued a letter last week endorsing as safe Pnimim and other seminaries once owned and run by Rabbi Elimelech Meisels as safe, some – including me – questioned how these rabbis could make this endorsement when all of the staff who allegedly enabled Meisels still worked at these seminaries. In fact, staff members who were allegedly told at the time of the alleged abuse by victims that Meisels had sexually abused them still work at all of these seminaries.
So how could these top haredi rabbis endorse them? Even if Meisels is truly no longer involved in the seminaries, these enablers are.
A source who is close to this case explained what allegedly happened.
1. An Israeli delegation of haredim, some linked to the Gerrer rebbe, came to America a few weeks ago to get these the American rabbis to sign the letter.
2. They provided no evidence that the seminaries are safe.
3. Instead, they claimed that if the rabbis did not sign the letter, American girls would stop enrolling in these seminaries and the seminaries would therefore be forced to shut down. And that, these Israeli haredim said, would cost many people their jobs and would be a disaster in this time of economic constraint in the haredi community there.
1. Most parents pay tuition through grants, scholarships and student loans – in other words, Pell Grants and related US Government programs.
2. The grants and loans have to come through a recognized American university or college.
3. In this case, that was – until the Meisels case broke a couple months ago – the haredi-founded and run Touro College.
4. Touro runs the grant and loan applications through its own system. It keeps a small percentage of the funds received and transfers the rest to the Israeli seminaries.
5. At the end of each school year, girls take a simple test and, if they pass (which pretty much everyone does, because the test is very easy) they are issued college credits from Touro. (In my day, Aish HaTorah had the same arrangement with Touro, except there was no test, and Aish totally controlled who was allowed to get credit and who wasn’t, based not on how ard they studied or the knowledge gained, but on what the student was planning on doing with that credit. If Aish didn’t want the student to go back to a US university, it was sometimes very hard to get that Touro credit issued.)
1. Touro has to certify that the institutions affiliated with it are "Title 9" compliant. In part, means that the institutions must be safe, free from known sexual violence and must have policies and procedures in place to handle sex abuse complaints.
2. Meisels’ seminaries clearly failed the Title 9 test.
3. However, the seminaries now, even without Meisels, likely also fail that test because the enablers are still in place and haredim, frankly, refuse to call police to report these crimes unless top haredi rabbis approve – which they almost never do.
4. Schools that do not comply with Title 9 can lose all federal funding – meaning no grants or student loans for anyone.
5. Therefore, Touro board allegedly dropped the former Meisels seminaries this summer when the alleged abuse became known and refused to reinstate them after Meisels ‘sold’
the seminaries to Rabbi Yarmush last month.
1. There has been heavy pressure on Touro’s board and on related individuals to reinstate the seminaries, despite the risks.
2. The letter from the top American haredi rabbis is part of that pressure – meaning those rabbis allegedly knowingly signed it despite their own lack of investigation into the seminaries’ safety and knowing the enablers were still working there.
3. Rabbi Yarmush, the new ‘owner’ of Meisels’ seminaries (at least on paper) is trying to get another US college or university to partner with him so Pell Grants and related US Government money can continue to flow to these Israeli seminaries.
4. Allegedly, Yarmush is close to signing a deal with a Catholic-affiliated college in Nevada.
5. The Chicago beit din that issued the first warning about Meisels and the seminaries has not rescinded its letter. Why? Allegedly because the enablers are still working at those seminaries, and they refuse to risk the safety of students to benefit Yarmush and others.