Israeli Beis Din Acted with No Representation of Victims, Chicago, or Torah Umesorah

By Yerachmiel Lopin (Frum Follies blog)
August 10, 2014

According to this morning’s post on Rabbi Daniel Eidensohn’s Daas Torah blog, “Seminary Scandal: Clarifying Rav Aharon Feldman’s role” (8/10/14)  Rabbi Aharon Feldman writes:

Although I signed on the shtar beyrurin (arbitration agreement) as the official to’en (legal advocate for a party), I was never appointed by anyone to represent him nor did I ever intend to supply you with substantiation of any claims for the simple reason that I did not have this information. My role in this affair was merely to serve as a liason between the Chicago Beis Din and Torah Umesorah who asked me to do this.

I even asked Rav Shafran, the Rosh Bes Din, before the hearing of his Beis Din to be excused because I had no information to add and the first question I would be asked would be, “Who appointed you as a toen?” But Rav Shafran asked me to come nevertheless. Out of respect for his request I came and sat for a while.

When the first question of the counsel for defendant was exactly as I had predicted, Rav [Menachem Mendel] Shafran’s reply was that the counsel was correct but that we did not need a to’en since the defendant had already confessed to the charges and the trial was dealing with the damages the defendant was liable to and the culpability of the principals. When I asked permission from Rav Shafran to leave after I sat and listened to the testimony of two people, Rav Shafran—nor anyone else—did not ask me to stay to supply any evidence because everyone knew and I had made it clear that I had none. Especially there was no purpose for me to stay since Rav Shafran had conceded that I was not an empowered to’en.

This is a very strange message and even a stranger legal process. R. Feldman says he is a to’en but concedes no one appointed him. An ad hoc rabbinical court like the Israeli Beis Din (IBD) has no standing to try a claim for damages without a plaintiff advancing those claims in that particular court. By R. Feldman’s own admission, nobody appointed him, and hence there was no plaintiff.

Rabbi Feldman also says, “My role in this affair was merely to serve as a liason between the Chicago Beis Din and Torah Umesorah who asked me to do this.” Liaison is a vague word which implies interacting but does not necessarily imply any power beyond being authorized to send messages. However, Torah Umesorah (TU) (the umbrella group for many ultra-orthodox day schools) insists it has no dog in this fight. Rabbi David Nojowitz, TU’s National Director of Torah Umesorah stated this in writing:

Torah Umesorah never retained any Beis Din in Israel regarding any seminary. We have no jurisdiction in Israel, no do we have any opinion as to which seminary in Israel girls should or should not attend.

Thus we have the strangest of phenomena, a victims’ representative who admits he is not delegated to represent them. Moreover, we have someone he insists he is a liaison for Torah Umesora (TU) even after TU issued a letter that disavows any role whatsoever in this matter.

Rabbi Feldman refers to a signed shtar berurin (binding arbitration agreement authorizing the IBD to judge a matter). The signatures of the defendants are Meisels and four administrators from his seminaries. The plaintiff signature is by R. Feldman with a notation that he is an apitropos, a guardian, but the signature line does not indicate for who. Nowhere are there signatures by any victim or by the Chicago Beis Din.

P.S., Rabbi Eidensohn’s blog has been launching attacks attacking the Chicago Beis Din (CBD) with rising frequency. This morning’s batch included, “Seminary Scandal: RICO claim – Yerachmiel Lopin of Frum Follies view & my rebuttal.” In it, he takes a comment I submitted in response to a question he directed to me about whether I found the RICO complaint in the lawsuit plausible. He turned it into a post (as is fully his right), inserting his critique between my numbered paragraphs.

I disagree with his critique. I also wish he had let the reader get through the entire argument since some of his criticisms of the earlier paragraphs are addressed in subsequent paragraphs. I also wish I had anticipated it becoming a post. Because I thought it was a comment inside an internal argument among pretty rabbinically knowledgeable readers, I used some short hand jargon and did not translate or explicate some of my comments.

If you decide to read that post, I suggest reading it through without the lengthy critique annotations and then returning to read his critique.

On the other hand, i do appreciate his preface where he treated me as an otherwise credible blogger, notwithstanding the gulf that separates us on this case. He wrote,

Mr. Lopin has been the most active blogger dealing with this scandal and has been the source of many important leaks from the Chicago Beis Din and opponents of the Israeli Beis Din. We have been in contact for a  number of years and I generally agree with his analysis and concern for establishing the truth as well as his genuine concern for the victims of abuse.

It is hard to complain about one’s rhetorical lashing when it was proceeded with such a generous drum roll.