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.
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Several former students said they or their parents informed Y.U. staff members of the abuse either at the time or after they left the school, but no action was taken.

Rabbi Norman Lamm, who was president of Y.U. from 1976 until 2003 and is now chancellor, appeared to suggest in a December interview at his home that the abuse was even more widespread. Lamm told the Forward that during his tenure, law enforcement officials were never notified, despite “charges of improper sexual activity” made against staff “not only at [Y.U.’s] high school and college, but also in [the] graduate school.”

Rabbi Hershel Schachter, a dean of Y.U.’s rabbinical school, told the New York Times in December that in addition to rabbis Gordon and Finkelstein he knew of another staff member who was dismissed for inappropriate behavior with students.

Hershel Schachter
yeshiva university
Hershel Schachter

In the wake of the allegations, Y.U.’s board swiftly assured staff, students and alumni that Sullivan & Cromwell had been hired “to conduct a full and independent investigation of the allegations as well as to review our current policies and procedures.”

In statements posted to Y.U.’s website, the board assured alumni that it would “only be satisfied with a broad and far-reaching investigation” and that Sullivan & Cromwell had been given “the unrestricted authority to pursue any leads that may shed light on all matters related to the investigation.”

But the Forward has found that many people who were named months ago as having information about the abuse have yet to be contacted.

Elan Adler, a director of Y.U.’s school dormitory from 1981 to 1986, told the Forward in December that some boys complained to him about Finkelstein’s “inappropriately aggressive” wrestling. In an April 23 email, Adler said that investigators had not contacted him and that he had no idea an investigation had been launched.

Coby Hakalir, a former high school student, told the Forward in December about an atmosphere of “constant [fear]” that pervaded the school during the 1990s. Hakalir said on April 23 that he did not know an investigation was being conducted. “It’s not that hard to find me,” he added. Investigators contacted him on April 30, after the Forward asked about his case.

Investigators have also failed so far to pursue obvious leads that people familiar with Y.U. might explore. Abuse victims in the Orthodox community often turn to Rabbi Yosef Blau, a long-standing victims advocate who has been a spiritual adviser at Y.U. for almost 40 years. The Forward is aware of at least one person who contacted Blau during the past few years to say that a Y.U. staff member abused him decades ago. However, investigators have not contacted Blau.


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