Yeshiva Alumni Angry Over Award for Jimmy Carter — Not Hershel Schachter

Stance on Israel Draws Heat, Not Sex Abuse Controversy

Former President Jimmy Carter has irked Yeshiva alumni with his criticism of Israel. But an honor for Rabbi Hershel Schachter, who used a racial slur to describe blacks, hasn’t drawn nearly the same controversy.
Former President Jimmy Carter has irked Yeshiva alumni with his criticism of Israel. But an honor for Rabbi Hershel Schachter, who used a racial slur to describe blacks, hasn’t drawn nearly the same controversy.

By Paul Berger

Published April 14, 2013, issue of April 19, 2013.
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In the talk, Schachter made a series of controversial statements. Among them, he claimed that state prisons were dangerous for Jews because they could be locked up “with a shvartze, in a cell with a Muslim, a black Muslim who wants to kill all the Jews.” He also suggested that instead of immediately contacting police regarding an allegation of child sex abuse, the allegation should first be taken before a committee of psychologists trained in Torah to ensure that the child is not lying.

Schachter’s comments could not have come at a worse time for Y.U. The school hired an international law firm last December to conduct an investigation following allegations, published in the Forward, that two former employees of Y.U.’s high school, Rabbi George Finkelstein and Rabbi Macy Gordon, had abused students. Some students said that they or their parents warned Y.U. of the abuse, but their pleas were ignored. Finkelstein and Gordon deny the allegations.

Y.U.’s chancellor, Rabbi Norman Lamm, told the Forward that during his tenure as president of Y.U., from 1976 to 2003, staff who were believed to have had “improper sexual activity” with students were quietly forced out and law enforcement authorities were not informed.

Following the disclosure of Schachter’s comments on child sexual abuse, Y.U. initially distanced itself from the remarks. After being contacted by the Anti-Defamation League, Y.U. condemned Schachter’s use of the word “shvartze” as “inappropriate” and “offensive.”

Nevertheless, Y.U. has continued with its plans to fete Schachter as “guest of honor” at its annual Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary dinner, which will be held this year at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, on May 1.

An article posted to Y.U.’s website about the event lauds Schachter as a “renowned posek,” or a decisor on Jewish law, and cites his “distinguished association and career” with Y.U. since 1967.


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