Yeshiva U. Sex Abuse Probe Stalls Amid Fear and Mistrust

Some Victims Not Contacted, Others Wary of Investigation


By Paul Berger

Published May 02, 2013, issue of May 10, 2013.

It has been more than four months since Yeshiva University hired an international law firm to investigate allegations of emotional, physical and sexual abuse at a Y.U.-run high school.

Yet investigators working for the firm of Sullivan & Cromwell still have not contacted several former Y.U. school staff and students who described the abuse in a series of articles published in the Forward last year.

Meanwhile, many other former students who have been contacted say they refused to cooperate with investigators because they do not trust Y.U.’s motives. Such mistrust has only increased since Y.U. retained another international law firm, Greenberg Traurig, to fight a possible multiparty civil lawsuit.

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Barry Singer, a former student who has spoken to a Y.U. investigator, said the investigator “made it clear that she had nothing to do with any sort of defense that Yeshiva might mount.” But, Singer added, she also told him that Greenberg Traurig “can use whatever they gather” to defend against a civil lawsuit.

Singer said he believed that the investigator, Lisa Friel, a sex abuse expert hired by Sullivan & Cromwell to assist with its investigation, was well intentioned. But he added that Friel has no control over how much of the information she gathers will be made public.

“It’s not really about her investigation at all,” Singer said. “It’s about [the Y.U. board], of course, and what they do with it.”

Despite protests from Y.U. alumni, Y.U.’s board has not committed to making the results of its investigation public. Instead, the board’s most recent statement, published in January, said. “We expect the findings of the investigation will be communicated to the public following completion of the investigation.”

The board will not say which of its members are overseeing the investigation. Several board members reached by the Forward declined to comment. Jayne Beker, who is listed as a board member on Y.U.’s website, said she knew nothing about the investigation and had not taken part in board meetings for some time. Ronald P. Stanton, a chairman emeritus, declined to answer any questions. “I can’t help you, sorry.” Stanton said, and then cut off the call.

Y.U.’s board launched what it called an “independent investigation” into the alleged abuse in December 2012. The investigation followed an article in the Forward citing several men who said they were abused by two former staff members at Y.U.’s High School for Boys, in Manhattan.

Since then, about 20 former students have told the Forward they were emotionally, physically or sexually abused by Rabbi Macy Gordon, a former Talmud teacher, or by Rabbi George Finkelstein, the school’s former principal, over a period spanning three decades. Both men, who deny the allegations, served at the school for about 25 years. Gordon left the school around 1984. Finkelstein left the school in 1995.



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