Russian-Jewish high school teacher accused of sleeping with pupils

Cnaan Liphshiz

MOSCOW (JTA) — The Jewish director of a prestigious Moscow school resigned following reports that a former history teacher at the school had had sexual relations with teenage female students and left to Israel.

Sergey Mendelevich, the longtime director of Metropolitan School 57, resigned Saturday despite calls for him to remain at the head of the institution by parents — including several dozen people who staged an impromptu support rally for him at the school.

His resignation follows a week of soul searching that began on August 29, when journalist Ekaterina Kronhaus wrote on Facebook about her unpublished, long investigation into the allegations against the teacher. She named neither him nor the school, but reader comments led other journalists to associate the report with Boris Meerson, who resigned his teaching position last month after working there for 25 years.

He appears to have left Russia for Israel, where according to some reports in Russian media, he lives in Yokne’am. He did not reply to a request for comment from JTA.

The age of consent in Russia is 16 and Meerson is accused of sleeping with 11th and 12th graders and so may not be guilt of any criminal offense even if the allegations against him are confirmed.

School 57 is one of the most desirable institutions in the Russian Federation, with hundreds of applications for every available spot. Jews have an outsized representation in the student body and many of the teachers are also Jewish.

At least three other teachers resigned in a shakeup and faculty said the school will be the subject of an internal education ministry probe. The number of complainants against Meerson is not yet know but according to Korhaus, he had engaged for years in sexual relations with a succession of girls. According to Kornhaus, Meerson’s alleged transgressions were known to parents and pupils who ignored or silenced them, including by asking her not to write about it.

“For over 16 years, we knew that a history teacher is having affairs with students,” wrote Kornhaus, who described the teacher as “quite a handsome man, smart, sarcastic, charming.” She added: “No wonder it was easy to fall in love with him.”

Following the media storm that Kornhaus’ post on Facebook triggered, several women who said they had been sexually exploited by Meerson have stepped forward.

“I’m so pleased that it ended this way,” graduate Rivka Gershovich, who is Jewish, wrote on Facebook after the director’s resignation. “I wish with all my heart that the nightmare that happened to me never happens to others.”

She added her relations with Meerson two years ago, whose exact nature she did not specify, caused her panic attacks and suffering. She also said she remained silent about it because he told her that the school would be shuttered if she complained. “It was a form of blackmail,” she said.

Some media reports about the affair highlighted Meerson’s departure for Russia to Israel.

Alex Kikot, reporter for the online tabloid Life, wrote that the affair was indicative of a pedophilia problem in “an elite community of jet-setters [who can] quickly get a darkon if something bad happens.” Darkon is the Hebrew word for passport.

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