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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Blau said that he had not taken the initiative to contact investigators, because they are only interested in “people who were personally abused.” In fact, the investigators’ mandate is much wider; they have interviewed several former students who have secondhand knowledge of abuse. “I can’t tell you for sure what are the full guidelines given to the law firm and how they chose to function,” Blau said. “Did they send a message to people working at Y.U., asking for anyone who knows anything to please contact us? I don’t recall that.”

Perhaps the most striking omission is the investigators’ failure thus far to contact Mordechai Twersky. Twersky wrote about his allegations of abuse at Y.U.’s high school in an online publication, the Y.U. Beacon, in February last year. Since then, he has been quoted extensively in the Forward about the abuse he says he suffered and also about his repeated attempts to alert first Lamm and then the current Y.U. president, Richard Joel.

Twersky is among about 20 former students who have retained a lawyer to launch a possible multiparty lawsuit against Y.U. He said that the potential lawsuit, as well as his deep mistrust of Y.U., meant that he would likely decline to speak to investigators. Nevertheless, he said, the symbolism of investigators “not reaching out” to him is striking.

Certainly, the investigation has been complicated by the potential lawsuit.

Abuse victims in New York have until their 23rd birthday to bring a civil claim of child sexual abuse. But that has not stopped some victims from winning settlements in cases where alleged incidents fall well beyond the statute of limitations.

Kevin Mulhearn won just such a settlement last year on behalf of 12 men who said they were sexually abused by football coach Philip Foglietta at Brooklyn’s Poly Prep Country Day School.

Now, he represents the former Y.U. students who, Mulhearn said, have helped him compile a dossier showing that Y.U. administrators “facilitated, condoned and excused” the abuse of students over decades.

Such a lawsuit could be embarrassing for some of Modern Orthodoxy’s most respected leaders. It could also deal a blow to Y.U.’s fundraising at a critical time.

Y.U., which recently launched a drive to raise $600 million toward a capital campaign and scholarships, has suffered significant financial problems lately. In June 2011, a Moody’s Investors Service analyst reported that “Yeshiva is reporting the largest operating cash flow deficits of any research university rated by Moody’s.” The analyst downgraded Y.U.’s credit rating, noting that “significant operating deficits and very thin operating cash flow are key components to the rating downgrade and maintenance of the negative outlook.”

The Y.U. investigation is being led by Karen Seymour, a co-managing partner of Sullivan & Cromwell’s litigation group. Seymour, who specializes in internal investigations, said she could not say when the investigation might be completed. “We want to follow all the leads, and so we’re still in the midst of a very active investigation,” she said. “We’re moving as quickly as we can, because we want to get this completed.”


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