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!’
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.
About the Author: Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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