By Yerachmiel Lopin (Frum Follies blog)
July 11, 2014
The Special Beis Din (rabbinical court) of Chicago exists to address allegations of sexual abuse which cannot be, or will not be, directed to the criminal justice system. It is led by Rabbi Gedalia Dov Schwartz, the Av Beis Din (court head) for the Beth Din of America (BDA) and the emeritus Av Beit Din of the Chicago Rabbinical Council (CRC).
Rabbi Elimelech (aka Eli) Meisels with his father, owns and operates several Israeli “seminaries” for post-high-school, year-in-Israel religious education of young women, mostly from Yeshivish ultra-orthodox backgrounds in the English speaking world. These include: Pninim, Binas Bais Yaakov, Chedvas Bais Yaakov and Keser Chaya. Meisels is associated with Ohr Somayach and is second author with Rabbi Dovid Kaplan of The Kiruv Files (2008)
In a ruling issued on Thursday July 10, 2014, the Beis Din reported that they believe “that students in these seminaries are at risk of harm and it does not recommend that students attend these seminaries at this time.
The ruling was signed by Rabbis Schwartz, Shmuel Feurst (Dayan of Agudath Israel of Illinois) and Zev Cohen (Congregation Adas Yeshurun).
While Meisels used the title of Rabbi until now the Schwartz Bais Din pointedly referred to him as Mr. Meisels.
Meisels is the grandson of Michael (Mike/Elimelech) Tress the President of Agudath Israel of America from the 1940s till his death in 1967. ArtScroll published a biography They Called Him Mike: Reb Elimelech Tress…. Elimelech’s mother is Henie (nee Tress) Meisels.
A beit din is being convened in Israel to deal with this matter. I am told they will force Meisels to give up control of the seminaries. I do not know if they have succeeded to date. I suspect the Chicago Beit Din issued its ruling precisely because he refused to give up control. The Israeli Beit din is comprised of Rabbis Menachem Mendel Shafran, Chaim Malinowitz and Tzvi Gartner.
UPDATE 7/11/14 7:00 P.M.-
1. The above letter was sent to several dozen seminaries in Israel. I am also told, but cannot confirm, that it was sent to girls high school principals from which the seminaries draw their students.
2. While I mentioned Rav Schwartz’s roles with the Beit Din of America and the Chicago Rabbinical Council, this “Special Bais Din” is a separate entity which is not formally affiliated with any other group. It has been in existence at least since 2007 when Yitzchok Adlerstein, a Haredi rabbi in Los Angeles spoke about it. However, a source involved in these matters believes it was in existence as far back as 1999. Also see this discussion of the “Special Bais Din” for more details about its composition and mode of operation.
3. Some individuals have called the Chicago Rabbinical Council or the Beit Din of American for confirmation of this report. They cannot and will not confirm it. You need to speak to one of the signers or one other member of the Beit Din, Rav Levine, Rosh Yeshiva at Telz-Chicago, who also backs this findings.
UPDATE 7/13/14 7:00 A.M.-
THE TRESS CONNECTION: I have confirmed that Elimelech Meisels is the grandson of Mike (Elimelech) Tress the President of Agudath Israel from the 1940s till his death in 1967. The Meisel’s family is royalty for those in the orbit of Agudath Israel, including most of the ultra-orthodox non-Hasidic world. Even the Satmar Rebbe held Mike Tress in high regard.
THE TELZ CONNECTION: Elimelech Tress and his father both went to Telz (aka Telshe) and have strong connections. The Special Beis Din’s regular membership includes the rosh yeshiva (yeshiva head) of Telshe Chicago, Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Levin. He was not able to attend the beis din. But in his stead, the beis din included Rabbi Shmuel Feurst (Dayan of Agudath Israel of Illinois). Thus, Telz took on one of its influential and wealth alumni. Some Meisels defenders are claiming the beis din acted against Meisels as a corrupt favor for one of its wealthy constituents. This is malarkey. What is true and admirable is that the Telz faction of the beis din bravely took actions which alienated a wealthy constituent. This is as it should be. The primary requirement for judicial integrity is “lo seguru mipnei ish” (Do not cower before anyone).