Rabbi Who Installed Hidden Cameras in Dorm to Open New Seminary

Update posted Wednesday, December 17:
Today Haaretz published an article confirming that Rabbi Bryks was exonerated by the police.  
According to the Haaretz article, “Bryks currently teaches at two yeshiva programs for men in Israel, Derech and Chai Israel, and two seminary programs for women, Tomer Devorah and Meorot.” 
Rabbi Tully Bryks now appears as a teacher and member of the recruitment staff on the website of Meorot, slated to open next year. Rabbi Baruch Smith is no longer listed as Meorot’s director, although the URL for his biography is http://mymeorot.com/teacher/rabbi-baruch-smith-director/. Rabbi Smith is now the “visionary”, and no one is listed as director.
Rabbi Bryks’ name does not currently appear on the list of staff members on the websites of Tomer Devorah or Derech.  Chai Israel only lists administrators on its site
I am sharing information that is available publicly, as no one connected to the situation has given me permission to quote him or her.  I put up the post so that parents can make informed choices, and to encourage seminaries to be transparent about personnel and control. 

The surveillance cameras were discovered within hours by several stunned students living in adjacent rooms, who immediately lodged a complaint with program administrators citing severe invasion of privacy and who demanded police intervention.

Bryks was soon thereafter relieved of all his responsibilities at the program and barred from any contact with students.

Bryks posted an apology on his personal Facebook page, claiming that he installed the cameras in order to investigate complaints against the maintenance staff:

Rabbi Bryks apology letter
In the middle of last year, Rabbi Bryks began teaching a weekly class once a week at Tomer Devorah, a Jerusalem seminary for women. According to a mother who attended an event in the Five Towns, Rabbi Bryks is now planning to open his own seminary for the coming school year 5776 (2015-16). According to the website of Bnei Akiva Toronto, Rabbi Bryks represented both Tomer Devorah and the new seminary, Meorot, at a visit to its high school on November 18, 2014.

Yet Tomer Devorah’s site does not include Rabbi Bryks on its list of 37 staff members. The not-yet-opened seminary, Meorot, also has a website. Rabbi Bryks is not listed as a staff member there either.

But a simple check reveals that Tully Bryks is listed as the registered owner of the domain “MyMeorot.com”:



If Rabbi Bryks is visiting high schools as a representative of two seminaries, and operates one of their websites, he should be included in the public staff listings. According to the mother attending the event, Bryks is not only the recruiter . He is a founder of Meorot.

It’s safe to assume a connection between the fact that Rabbi Tully Bryks left his last job under a cloud, and the omission of his name on the websites of the two institutions.

Bryks has not been convicted of a crime, and may possibly be guilty only of a lapse in judgment. There was a police investigation, that was closed.

Bryks’ activities at Bar Ilan could be indicative of more serious concerns. Parents have a right to know that someone with such a history is involved with an institution, and in what capacity. Anyone considering sending to an institution should demand full transparency.

See also: High Schools Fail to Inform Grads of Seminary Sex Abuse

And note this tweet by Rabbi Yakov Horowitz from the Jerusalem conference entitled, “The Jewish Community Confronts Violence and Abuse.”:

Wow. Question posed to Rabbi Kurland of Darkei Bina, “any parent applying to ur Sem ever ask you re boundary guidelines?” Answer, “No.”

Check out the 2016 fashions at Hydrochic modest swimwear.

Comments

  1. Does every person who does something stupid in his life deserve to have this stupidity dredged up whenever he tries to move on? There is simply no indication that he did anything other than act stupidly. Let him be.

  2. Ellen Solomon says:

    Give me a break. He installed the hallway security cameras in full view – they were discovered within HOURS of their being put up. The major mistake was that he didn’t tell the students – there are now cameras in full view and here’s why.

    This was not a clandestine attempt to be the next mikva Rabbi. There are far easier ways for people with a problem to get their jollies at others’ expense.

    Your point is well taken that he should be more “proud” to be at the front of the new seminary, and hopefully he will decide to do exactly that.

    • You’re suggesting that he put up the cameras in full view? Even Rabbi Bryks doesn’t claim such a thing. What would the point of that be?

      • The Haaretz article from 2013 says the cameras were hung in clocks: “Rabbi Tully Bryks, director of The Israel Experience, a program that serves mainly high-school graduates from the United States, had installed two surveillance cameras in clocks hung in the hallway of the girls’ dormitory.”

  3. It is supremely unfair that you tagged this as “sex abuse”.

    Whatever one’s opinions of the cameras there was never a suggestion of that severe crime.

    • Fair enough.

    • It IS sex abuse!! If someone peeps on you in the privacy of your home, secretly planning on watching you unsuspectingly coming out of the shower, that is sexual abuse. The process of recovery from being visually violated is about recovery from sexual abuse. About having others use your body for their own pleasure without your permission. About the world being an unsafe place……

      • Elana,

        I’m assuming you actually read the article where it specifically says the cameras were in public places and nowhere near the showers. If you did then it is a shame you are accusing him of something he most certainly didn’t do. If you didn’t read that then it’s a shame you are accusing someone of a terrible crime they most certainly didn’t commit.

        The chap actually wanted to protect the students. There were claims that maintenance workers were acting inappropriately so he put in cameras to monitor them. If he were to announce the cameras then the maintenance person who was being investigated may not have repeated what he was suspected of doing and then would never be caught.

        Today there are cameras everywhere. On the street, inside shops, public buildings, the office where I work, cars have cameras, motorcyclists have cameras in their helmets, people are recording everything everywhere. Recording a person inside their dorm room or their shower is of course not permitted but there is no suggestion that this was the case. And if you read what I wrote you’ll have seen that I call that a “severe crime”.

        What I actually wrote originally, but for a technical reason the site wasn’t processing comments so I just wrote the shorter comment re the tag with which as you’ll see Hanna agreed, was as follows. If the cameras were ok, but he should have told the girls and that’s what they were upset about, then under normal circumstances you apologise, explain why you did it (to catch the maintenance guy who was bothering you) and move on. But instead, “rabbi spying on girls in dorm” being given to a reporter is much more juicy so he was forced out.

        • From the original Haaretz article it seems that Bar Ilan’s decision to ask him to leave happened well before the article came out.

          “Whatever reason he had for doing this, it was inappropriate,” said Yablok, campus director of The Israel Experience. “That is the reason we took action as soon as we found out about this.”

  4. But I do admire you for approving comments that express an opinion different from yours.
    You don’t need to publish mine. Enough if you reconsider the tags.

  5. I see you did 😉

    Thank you and kol hakavod

  6. What was the purpose of this post if not to try to trash Rabbi Bryks even further? I don’t know him but by all accounts he seems like a caring, sensitive and devoted educator. As the blog post correctly points out he was not convicted of any crime. Why can’t that be the end of it and focus on the positive? Why the need to write “Bryks’ activities at Bar Ilan could be indicative of more serious concerns”?

    He installed cameras in a “common hallway” – not in a bathroom, not in a mikve, not anywhere where people should not be fully clothed. When you check into a hotel there are also cameras throughout the hallways – do they tell you this when you check-in? He even seeked out legal counsel to be sure everything was Kosher. His focus was to protect the girls under his care and it seems he did that. People take issue with the “clandestine approach”. If everyone knew about the cameras he would not have been able to determine who on the maintenance staff was behaving in an inappropriate manner.

    While I understand the need to be careful when entrusting our children to summer camp, seminaries, etc we also need to be sensitive that most people are “not” sexual predators and sometimes things are just what they are and are not indicative of serious concerns. Saying otherwise has the potential to ruin the reputation and life of good people.

    • Hi Joseph, I put up the post so that parents thinking of sending to one of these institutions will ask questions. For instance, who is running the new seminary Meorot? Until two days ago, Rabbi Baruch Smith was listed as the director on the staff page that I linked to. Now Rabbi Smith’s name is lower down in the list of teachers, although it still says in his bio, “This vast experience and knowledge helped him create the unique nature of the program as a visionary of Meorot.” And there is no director or administrator listed on the staff page.

      • Plus reports from parents are that his actions were WORSE than is being reported, and the cameras were NOT in the hallways but in the girls’ dorms.

        • I understand the scorched earth policy that Bar Ilan implemented–firing someone for a very minor infraction in a very sensitive situation.
          The swift justice that he received prevented any potential problems that may have emerged in the future. The posts here which imply, with absolutely no evidence, that he was guilty of acts beyond what the virulently antisemitic Haaretz claims is not just outrageous but slanderous and ruthless. No one claimed being abused by this man, no one claimed that he placed cameras in any intimate areas of the dormitories and no one claimed that he was not a top notch educator who truly cared about his students– some would say a rarity nowadays.
          I do know that there were complaints of theft in the dormitories and that maintenance workers were prime suspects. It would not surprise me one bit if there are others schools and seminaries where security cameras are installed to monitor our kids’ safety. Every hospital in the world has many cameras monitoring facilities. So do parking lots and shopping malls. No one (except maybe the mean-spirited Hannah Kasman) claims that there are sinister intentions in these situations.
          Yes, he was correct to step down but Hannah Katsman was very viciously attacking a man who has never done (as far as we know) anything that could be called abusive to women.
          The nasty, accusatory tone Katsman brings to this article reflects an attitude where all men are evil and need to be given no benefit of the doubt. In this situation there was no doubt; no one accused him of anything beyond camera installation in a public area without the knowledge of the students. If Elana knows of parents’ reports beyond what the anti-Semites at Haaretz (who undoubtedly dug deep to find as much dirt as possible) please enlighten those of us who never saw or heard of these reports. If she is unable to do so, then we all need to not only throw her comments into the trash bin of disgusting and damaging loshon hora, but realize that this is the worst and purest form of loshon hora–“trust me there was plenty of
          stuff going on that was never publicized”
          Realize that I am the type of parent that would demand that any educator who . sexually abuses a child should be thrown in jail indefinitely and stripped of all his possessions. Similarly unfounded, vicious and mean spirited attacks are uncalled for.

          • “Emmet”:
            Bar Ilan didn’t fire him, he resigned. In the interest of transparency, it would be helpful if you would share your position and how you have knowledge of the case.

          • What a chulent of scorched earth aggressive defense. I get heartburn just glancing at your overblown rhetoric about the anti-Semitic Haaretz. They did their job as a newspaper and reported developments of obvious public interest, facts you concede are true. The same is true of this blog, A Mother in Israel. Nor is the blog operator, Hannah Katsman, anti-Semitic. Her love of Judaism includes her move to Israel, her commitment to orthodoxy, and her service to mothers and the community.

            Katsman posted this story to help parents make some of the most important decisions possible for the welfare of their children. So stuff the anti-Semitic rhetoric.

            In my opinion, she would have been within her rights to refuse to approve your comment because you misused the term anti-Semitism in ways that dilute its force when we are faced with the real anti-Semites, whether gentile, or Jewish, who abuse other Jews. At the same time, I commend her for putting up with the likes of you to allow full, open debate. I follow the same policy on my blog about abuse, Frum Follies, to better expose the blather of victim bashers.

            I have no idea of you are Tully, a proxy, someone under his influence, or just a random fool. But your comment bears all the marks of those who try to suppress important communal conversations. You invoke loshon horah as if it is an all-purpose ban. It isn’t. The saintly Rabbi Kagan was clear: if you have information about someone being potentially harmful, even if you aren’t sure it is true, you can and should repeat it to others who are at risk (litoeles). The code of loshon horah is not unilateral disarmament against potential risks. We Jews reject the Christian ethic; we support the right of self defense.

            I am disgusted with the ways you distort charges of antisemitism and loshon horah. After those two aspects are stripped out of your comment, we are left with a concession on your part that the facts are accurately reported but your resent the potential implications that could hurt Tully Bryks. Yup, they may, but they may also protect students from a poor educator.

            Finally, stop imputing malicious motives to simple information. Jews are blessed with freedom of expression and an obligation to think and discern before deciding. If you don’t like it, too bad! We live in a free world. Find yourself a cult where facts and thinking are banned. There are quite a few choices available to the likes of you.

  7. When I was in seminary, and in volunteer summer programs, there were frequent thefts. This is a common occurrence in Israeli programs for American kids, who usually have expensive clothing and gear that most Israelis don’t. The administration of such programs never installed hidden cameras, nor have I heard of any other programs doing so. Wouldn’t any thefts occur in the bedrooms, not the hallways? Who keeps their stuff in the hallway?

    As for installing hidden cameras to detect inappropriate staff behavior, did these cameras come equipped with sound? How well would they pick up an interaction or conversation happening more than a few feet from the camera? Is any one suggesting that the maintenance men were physically assaulting the students in the common areas? Because I’m not sure what else a hidden camera would pick up.

    • I don’t know but:
      1. If maintenance worker appears with potentially stolen objects the camera would pick it up.
      2. If a worker was there at a time he wasn’t supposed to be, it may be determined to be suspicious.
      3. If a worker is there far more often than he is supposed to be…
      I can see many uses for a camera in a public area.

      • That may be. It’s very hard to assess what exactly he was trying to see because the explanation sent to the parents was very broad: “The issues that came to my attention included allegations ranging from incompetence to inappropriate behavior directed toward participants in our program.”

        Whatever his motivations were, it seems that the students did not feel protected by these actions, but violated.

  8. Having some trouble posting in response to “Emmet” but here goes: No, it is not benign to do the following” camera installation in a public area without the knowledge of the students” which you easily dismiss in your comment. And I’m confused in your comments about how you can accuse Haaretz of digging and digging and then think that they didn’t come up with much . . .
    But most of all, I applaud a Mother in Israel of asking some difficult questions, the kinds of questions that parents should be asking when they send their children to a program that claims to offer supervision. And I still can’t figure out why Bryks, if he suspected theft, would not have gone through proper channels to address it. If indeed theft is as common as Bryks’s defenders have suggested (and I have no reason to doubt them), I am sure the University would want to back up action against them and there was no need to take vigilante action and bypass University procedures–which were clearly seen as firing offenses by BI.

  9. from the Israel experience website: http://israelxp.com/campus-life/dorms/ “The women’s dorms are apartment-style, with 2 people to a room and usually 2 rooms to an apartment. Each apartment has 1-2 bathrooms, and a fridge and freezer. Every 4 apartments also share a kitchen.”
    I consider the hallways and other areas of my home to be private, as I’m sure all of you do, and would not expect to find out that someone put up a security camera there.
    I have a few questions: Did Rabbi Bryks put up the camera clocks himself or did someone help him? When did he go into the apartments to set up the cameras, and were male staff members allowed in according to the rules of the program? Who was supposed to see the footage other than Rabbi Bryks?

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