Monday, September 01, 2014

Time to Move On?

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testifying before congress
On September 11, 2012, the American embassy in Benghazi, Libya was attacked by Islamic terrorists. America’s Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens and 3 other Americans were killed.  With the State Department being in charge of embassies and their personnel - Secretary of State (at the time) Hillary Clinton was called upon to testify  at congressional hearings. When she was challenged by Senator Ron Johnson about who or what was to blame for the attack, and whether she had any responsibility in the matter - she became very irate and in an emotional and somewhat angry tone responded with the following: 
…what difference at this point does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator.” 
In my view that testimony may very well be her Achilles heel when she runs for President in 2016. In essence what she did was try and avoid responsibility by saying ‘Let’s move on!’

Rabbi Daniel Eidensohn
I bring this up in light of a post by Rabbi Daniel Eidensohn that pretty much says the same thing about the Meisels seminary scandal. To quickly review... 

The Chicago special Beis Din created to handle sex abuse cases convened and found Elimelech Meisels (who owned and headed 4 seminaries in Israel) guilty of having ‘unwanted contact of a sexual nature’ with some of his students. They then published a letter telling prospective parents that these 4 seminaries were not recommended. After Meisels was forced to sell his seminaries and remove himself from their presence - an Israeli Beis Din (IBD) which had been contacted by the CBD quickly restored the reputation of the school. The CBD stood its ground. That’s where the dispute stands. And to the best of my knowledge its accreditation by HTC and Touro - colleges that formerly extended that courtesy to them has not restored it.

Not satisfied with that, 5 prominent American Rabbonim were contacted and convinced that the seminaries are safe and wonderful institutions and that no one should refrain from sending their daughters there. They based this on additional measures that have since been installed for the protection of the girls… which included the installation of a trusted female head (Rebbetzin Birnbaum)  and a Vaad (committee) of distinguished Israeli Rabbonim that would oversee those seminaries.

The CBD has still stood its ground. The reason is because there are teachers still on staff that knew about the abuse and did nothing. They looked the other way while the abuse continued. This was determined to be the case by the CBD in its original findings.

Rabbi Eidensohn wants to ignore that very important fact. His view is, What difference does that make? The seminaries are safe. He goes on to explain why he feels that way: 
The IBD has proposed and is instituting fundamental changes in the seminary culture - which are widely views as needed for all seminaries - not just these four. The new owner had hired Rebtzn Birnbaum - a widely respected educator - to supervise all 4 seminaries… 
…the head of the IBD - Rav Shafran - traveled to America  and succeeded in convincing 5 American gedolim of the need of a letter publicly supporting the seminaries and indicating that they are safe and productive places of growth and spirituality. In addition, the Novominsker had a vaad hachinuch of the highest level rabbonim added to reinforce the work of the IBD and to ensure that things were properly supervised.
First of all, I think it is fair to ask whether the 5 distinguished Rabbonim made a ruling based solely on the facts as presented by a Nogeah B’Davar - someone who had a clear bias by being on the IBD. But even leaving that aside, I don’t understand how anyone in good conscience can allow a seminary to continue to function when there are staff on board that knew about the abuse and did nothing.

These teachers must go. It isn’t only about how safe those schools are now. It’s about giving a pass to enablers. These teachers share some of the blame and do not deserve to teach. Can anyone imagine Joe Paterno getting a pass for his ‘looking the other way’ about the sexual abuse his assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was found guilty of?  Who would not be outraged by that?! What parent would want to send their child to a school where enablers are given a pass?

No parent should consider those schools as long as they are there. Nor should any parent who made deposits with these schools prior to this event be forced to send their daughters there now. That money should be refunded in full.

And yet, Rabbi Eidensohn says that all we need to know is that safety measures are now in place and this cannot happen again. Maybe so. But justice will not be served if those teachers are still there. Nor would I want my daughters influenced by a teacher who put her job ahead of their students’ welfare.

I am not going cast aspersions on Rabbi Eidensohn’s motives. I’m sure he believes that he is acting L’Shem Shomayim here. But I can’t help feeling that there is an unspoken consideration here that is at least in part motivating the IBD and their supporters.

The fact is that many of these teachers are the sole (or primary) support of their husbands in Kollel. Losing their jobs will create untold hardships on their husbands and large families. Not to mention the fact that their reputations will be ruined when people find out why they were fired. I don’t know how many teachers would be affected. But even if only one is destroyed - it is one too many.

It is compassion for the families of the teachers and staff of those 4 schools that might be behind the thinking of those who are so quick to Kasher these schools. If those schools fail and close because of this event, hundreds of people will be affected. Every employee in those 4 schools will be out of a job and their reputations ruined. That is a pretty strong motive.

The problem is that the lives of the young girls victimized by Meisels and his enablers are also ruined. As Rabbi Eidensohn himself says about cases of sex abuse, ‘A serious loss of emunas chachomim ( lack of respect for all rabbis and Judaism - is occurring and threatens to get much worse)”. Is there any real justice in protecting the lives of the enablers here? Do they deserve to get a pass?

I also strongly object to his characterization of the class action lawsuits by parents asking their deposits to be refunded – saying that it is ‘A lawsuit of outrageous claims threatens a tremendous chilul hashem.’ The plaintiffs are acting under the guidance of respected rabbonim. I don’t see what right Rabbi Eidensohn has to characterize as a Chilul HaShem a parents right to have his deposit refunded under these conditions.

Time to move on, Rabbi Eidensohn?! I don’t think so.