Friday, December 12, 2014

The Strange Case of Rabbi Daniel Eidensohn

Rabbi Dr. Daniel Eidensohn
I really do try and stay out of the fray on these matters. But when I am sucked into the conversation by one of the protagonists, I have to respond.

First let me say that I always had respect for a man who has offered so much to the world of Torah study. Rabbi Daniel Eidensohn’s index to the Mishna Berurah and the Igros Moshe (both in Hebrew and English) is a valuable resource for Halacha L’Maase as understood by two giants of Torah, Rabbis Kagan and Feinstein. For this alone, he has earned a high place in heaven.

His relationship with one of the premiere Poskim of our time, Rav Moshe Sternbuch has given him the fast track to Halacha L’Maase (according to this Posek) on many issues of our day. And he has been generous in sharing that with the rest of us via his blog, Daas Torah.

He has also in the past been a strong voice in the fight against sex abuse. That is probably at least in part to do with his training. He has a PhD in psychology. It is for this reason that I gave him a lot of latitude on issues with which I do not necessarily agree… and even on the issue in which he attacked me, that of the Meisels/seminary case.

For some reason that I do not fully understand something seems to have happened that changed his entire approach to sex abuse because of this particular case. Instead of the usual attitude expressed by him about how hurtful sex abuse is the the victims and how terrible cover-ups are, he  seems to have changed sides here. He has taken the position usually taken by those who wish to save the offending institutions. In this case Meisels’ seminaries. Instead of being upset at the enablers he is defending them… or at least letting them off the hook… and allowing them to keep their jobs as though nothing happened.

In his goal of Kashering those seminaries, he has minimized Meisel’s crime and assumed only the most minimal of offenses - comparing them to inappropriate hugging of his students. Although he claims not to have done so and that he only used that phrase in comparative terms - the message is clear: The crimes were not all that bad. And looked at in secular terms, wouldn’t even register a nod. 

While he later explained that he did not mean to say that his crimes were only hugs... that he used that phrase in comparative terms, it nonetheless sends the message that the enabling teachers who knew about it were’t that bad either. 

His ultimate goal here then is not to give solace and comfort to the victims, but to save the institutions and the jobs of all the teachers. This is the reaction one might expect from leaders of any institution. (e.g.YU, Agudah, Chabad, Satmar) – right or wrong - will all to one degree or another try and put the best possible spin on whatever happened. But an objective person should remain suspicious about such defenses in light of all that has been reported about it. Rabbi Eidensohn seems to have lost all objectivity here. And again, I am not entirely sure why.

The minute anyone brings evidence that counters his puzzling position on this, he tends to question their motives or ability to see things ‘clearly’ (translation: the way he does.) Or that they are lying about the facts. Or that heroes like Rabbi Yosef Blau that are silent about his being attacked by his proptagonists – as tough those attacks were unfair and required rebuke from any fair minded individual.

Rabbi Eidensohn is pretty good at attacking the other side too. He said some pretty unflattering things about me in the past as well. Although including me now with Rabbi Blau and David Morris -two heroes on the issue of sex abuse - actually flatters me. I am honored to be included with them. It is an honor that I do not think I deserve.

There is probably a good reason that that Rabbi Blau and David Morris did not defend Rabbi Eidensohn for the attacks by Yerachmiel Lopin. They probably see things more the way Yerachmiel does than the way Rabbi Eidensohn does. As I am inclined to see them after reading quotes of victims describing what he did to them.  I have also been privy to information about an egregious sexual act with at least one of his students that makes a mockery of claims that in relative terms this was only a hug.

More importantly - the evidence of abuse was made clear by 3 first rate Dayanim of impeccable character and integrity that comprised the Chicago Beis Din(CBD). It then handed over the task for implementing changes to a distinguished panel of jurists in Bnei Brak (the IBD). After a short examination of the facts sent to them by the CBD they got Meisels to sell those schools; claimed that Meisels was no longer involved;  and instituted new guidelines and a strict enforcement policy.

The CBD on the other hand spent months reviewing the case and listened to testimony from victims and from Meisels himself. Who admitted to some of his crimes. They stood their ground and refused to give their imprimatur to those schools because they felt the danger of abuse still existed. That certain teachers and administrators that enabled the abuse by telling students not to report it, and backing it up with threats –were still there.

Rabbi Eidensohn on the other hand - after listening to one member of the IBD - sided completely with them and strongly disparaged the CBD for standing firm. When I supported the CBD, he had some pretty unkind things to say about me too.

When the CBD finally gave their imprimatur to those seminaries (after a joint meeting with the IBD and a seventh jurist) without any substantial changes, I didn’t understand it in light of what I knew was a terrible crime and the way those faculty and administration members tried to cover it up.

Rabbi Eidensohn ignored or minimized those acts dismissing them as insignificant and in the process managed to heap an additional insults at the CBD - saying that this could have been resolved a long time ago since nothing changed from the original IBD actions with respect to those seminaries.

There have been accusations and attacks going back and forth between Rabbi Eidenson and his protagonists. I am not going to comment on those although I do have an opinion. This post is long enough.

I try and be objective and bend over backwards to give people the benefit of the doubt. But I cannot understand the incredible bias Rabbi Eidensohn has shown here. To say that I am disappointed in his change of attitude would be an understatement. It is truly uncharacteristic of his past history on these matters.