An Open Letter From Eli Nash To Rabbi Herschel Lustig

Rabbi Lustig, it’s been over a year since JCW publicly demanded that you step down from your position as Principal of Ohelei Torah. You have not stepped down nor have you responded to their accusations. It’s time you do one or the other.

I know that there are many students who love and respect you. In my own interactions with you, you struck me as someone caring and sincere. It is easy to understand how you’ve earned a mostly positive reputation in your long tenure at Ohelei Torah.

However, there are some damning allegations against you. You’ve overseen horrific cases of abuse in Ohelei Torah’s long history and neither you nor your organization has provided an apology or an explanation for your mishandling of it. The most I’ve heard is something about uncovered windows and an annual Safety Kid’s Program.

It’s not enough.

One area where I believe you and I disagree is in the importance of your job. You think it’s OK to hide behind a lawyer’s letter about mandatory reporting laws and for that to be enough to retain your position – I do not. Your role is far too important for you to keep it simply based on the exact year in which undeniably poor decisions became illegal. (I am referring to a letter written by an attorney, on your behalf, that justified your decision to keep Reizes on, despite knowing that he was sexual predator, stating that mandatory reporting laws that exist today were not in place at the time.)

You were quoted as saying in February 2015 that you deserve a medal for your handling of Reizes when the allegations came to you. Is this in fact your position to this day? I think we deserve to know.

When you tell me, as you have, that a detective looked into allegations brought against your brother-in-law, Rabbi Velvel Karp, for beating a student and the detective determined that he didn’t give this student a concussion, you still haven’t answered why a detective was there in the first place!

I would say it looks bad that Rabbi Karp is your brother-in-law but it seems others have been accused of the same behavior, such as Rabbi Zalmanov, and are also able to remain employed as a teacher in your school. Can you please explain your opinion here?

A recent Newsweek expose seems to suggest that a family who had a child beaten by a teacher in your school is receiving scholarships and reduced tuition in exchange for silence. Do you deny this allegation or defend this decision?

It’s time you let us know. It’s time you write a letter of your own and respond to the accusations leveled against you and your school. It’s time you demonstrate that you recognize the level of responsibility your position holds and tell the many people hurt while under your watch, that despite their pain and their experiences, you still deserve your job. You owe it to all your students: past and present.

Posted in media, op-eds.