Thursday, December 04, 2014

Business as Usual for Enablers?

Accused rapist Elimelech Meisels (Frum Follies)
I can’t understand how any kind of imprimatur can be given by anybody to a seminary whose faculty enabled the kind of sex abuse described by victims in the Jewish Week
“He tried to connect with us by flirting,” a 2008 alumna said. “It was weird, but I didn’t say anything,” said the young woman, who is now married. This characterization of flirtatious behavior was heard most often among those interviewed, like always telling them they were pretty. A 2010 student said “he would use curse words in front of us,” and another former student said the rabbi told her about a student “who was addicted to calling sex lines — that’s just inappropriate to talk to me about.”
 A former Peninim student said the rabbi asked her, and other young women, about their sexual history. But “he was trying to help us,” she maintained.
Beyond allegedly crossing verbal boundaries, former students said the rabbi drove alone with girls late in the evening, drank with them on occasion and smoked a hookah, or water pipe, with them in his office. At the same time, the women described Rabbi Meisels as a mentor who encouraged them to dress modestly in long skirts and tights.
One former student, who became a whistleblower and brought her case to the Chicago beit din, clearly was tense and spoke quickly when she recounted the rabbi’s alleged sexual advances toward her at the end of the school year.
“He said he wanted to give me a hug goodbye,” she said. “He was crying. He said he was going to miss me.” She asked him about shomer negiah, the Jewish prohibition against touching members of the opposite sex other than one’s spouse. Didn’t that matter?
He responded that he was her “Tatte,” using the Yiddish word for father, and it was OK. No, she told him, it wasn’t OK. He continued to advance. The whistleblower was frozen in her seat. What was happening? There he was, inches away. She curled into a ball in the chair in his office. Suddenly, Rabbi Meisels collapsed onto her body, sobbing uncontrollably, she said. He hugged her from behind, caressing her and kissing her head.
“Why wasn’t she hugging him back,” she recalled him asking her. When he finally moved away, she bolted for the door. He let her go.
Some time later, after this student had already left seminary and had settled in New York, Rabbi Meisels, who was in the U.S. for official seminary work, asked her to get together. She said she accepted, never considering the possibility of another episode. But as he was driving her to where she was staying in Brooklyn, he brought up their last encounter.
He told me it was my fault, that I was a bad girl, that I made him attracted to me,” she said. Facing her, “he said it was allowed for men to have more than one wife,” she remembered. (He is married and has many children.) According to her account, the rabbi pinned her to her seat in the car, she told him to get off of her, and when he didn’t, she screamed and pulled away. He kept on grabbing her back, she said, and then “I scratched him, and ran out of the car.”
These former students have no reason to lie. Yesterday I said I would never send my daughters to any of those 4 seminaries. That is an understatement. Anybody that does send their daughter to those schools is endangering their lives. Sex abuse is a serious crime. One from which it is difficult to recover. If a parent thinks being a stool pidgeon will hurt their daughter’s chances for a Shidduch, what do they think their daughter’s chances of getting a Shidduch will be after being sexually abused?

Unless I am totally misreading this apparently nothing has changed in those schools - other than the removal of Meisels. The enablers and threateners are all still there going about their lives with impunity as though nothing happened. 

One might counter that the provisions put in place to prevent anything like this from ever happening again will protect those young women. That the enablers have learned how wrong they were and will completely change their behavior in the unlikely event that anything like this would ever happen again. They are in effect doing Teshuva which we should accept.

Well Teshuva requires asking Mechila from those you hurt. We cannot forgive them. Only the victims can. Those teachers need to ask every single student that was hurt by Meisels in any way for Mechila. Until that is done the Teshuva is incomplete and there is no Mechila from heaven. The enabling teachers ought not be rewarded by giving them a 'Get out of jail free' card. They ought to instead be barred from ever teaching anywhere! I don't care how sorry they are now.

Lost Parnnassa?! What about lost virginity? What about the lifetime of psychological damage done to those students that were rape victims or in other ways sexually molested by their religious mentor?!

How can it be that people who actively threatened Meisels victims are given a pass and allowed to teach new students? They were afraid of losing their jobs by accusing their boss of rape?! Really?! This is the moral standard we Jews are operating with now? ...that seminaries are more about providing income for families of Avreichim than they are about the students? That is what it seems like.

I am appalled at the outcome. Meisels is walking around a free man. And those seminaries have been declared holy.

I believe that it is the duty of decent people of conscience to - not only not send their own daughters - but to discourage anyone they know of that is considering those schools or any other seminary that has one of those teachers teaching there - to actively discourage them from doing so.

If a Beis Din won’t shut them down, the people should.