Y.U. Chancellor Norman Lamm Steps Down After Admitting Failure on Sex Abuse

Yeshiva Chief Insists Resignation Planned for Months

By JTA

Published July 01, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

In a letter announcing his resignation, Yeshiva University’s chancellor, Rabbi Norman Lamm, acknowledged his failure to respond adequately to allegations of sexual abuse against Y.U. rabbis in the 1980s.

Lamm, now 85, became the school’s third president and head of its rabbinic school, the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, in 1976. He stepped down as president in 2003, becoming chancellor, but stayed on as RIETS’s head.

Yeshiva University via JTA

His resignation Monday from his posts at the school were attributed to an agreement reached three years ago and come several months after a report in the Forward newspaper that detailed allegations of abuse dating back to the 1970s and ‘80s against two rabbis at Y.U.’s high school for boys, principal George Finkelstein and Talmud teacher Macy Gordon.

Last December, Lamm acknowledged to the Forward that he knew about some of the allegations but chose to deal with them privately; law enforcement authorities were never informed.

“My question was not whether to report to police but to ask the person to leave the job,” Lamm said. On Monday, Lamm issued a mea culpa for failing to pursue the allegations.

Click to see the rest of the section, Click for more stories about abuse at Y.U.

“At the time that inappropriate actions by individuals at Yeshiva were brought to my attention, I acted in a way that I thought was correct, but which now seems ill conceived,” Lamm wrote in his resignation letter, which was emailed to faculty, students and alumni. “And when that happens — one must do teshuvah. So, I too must do teshuvah [repentance].

“We must never be so committed to justifying our past that we thereby threaten to destroy our future. It is not an easy task. On the contrary, it is one of the greatest trials of all, for it means sacrificing our very egos, our reputations, even our identities,” he wrote. “But we can and must do it. I must do it, and having done so, contribute to the creation of a future that is safer for innocents, and more ethically and halakhically correct. “True character requires of me the courage to admit that, despite my best intentions then, I now recognize that I was wrong,” Lamm wrote. “This is what I am modeh [acknowledge] as I reflect on my tenure.”

Finkelstein was forced out of the school in 1995 after being accused of inappropriate contact with students by wrestling with them. He then went to work as a dean at the Hillel Community Day School in North Miami Beach, Fla.

Gordon was placed on a leave of absence in 1984, according to the Forward. Both of the rabbis now live in Israel.

Lamm’s comments about the sexual abuse allegations represented four paragraphs of a six-page resignation letter that otherwise was a reflection on his tenure at Y.U. Lamm also made an oblique reference to his failing health, noting, “Conditions have caused me to rely on help from my family in writing this letter.”

Richard Joel, the president of Y.U., declined to discuss Lamm’s remarks on the sexual allegations or be interviewed for this story. He released a statement to JTA through a spokesman.

“I would like to express my appreciation to Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm for his half-century of service to Yeshiva University. During his tenure he helped guide the University with steadfastness and vision,” Joel said in the statement. “Dr. Lamm’s contributions to the Jewish world as a distinguished rabbi, philosopher and scholar are unparalleled.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • “I don’t want to say, ‘Oh oh, I’m not Jewish,’ because when you say that, you sound like someone trying to get into a 1950s country club, “and I love the idea of being Jewish." Are you a fan of Seth Meyers?
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.