Norman Lamm Leaves Outsized Legacy in Modern Orthodoxy — And a Cloud

Retiring Giant of Faith Mishandled Yeshiva Sex Abuse Scandal

yeshiva university

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published July 03, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 4 of 4)

In his letter announcing his retirement, Lamm apologized for failing to go to police with the sex abuse allegations.

“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. “I understand better today than I did then that sometimes, when you think you are doing good, your actions do not measure up. You think you are helping, but you are not. You submit to momentary compassion in according individuals the benefit of the doubt by not fully recognizing what is before you, and in the process you lose the Promised Land.”

Some praised Lamm’s show of contrition. Goldin said that attendees at the RCA convention thought his retirement letter was brave. “People are very proud of him for his honesty, his courage, as well as his accomplishments over the past decades,” Goldin said.

Others argued that Lamm’s apology was beside the point. “It’s not about Rabbi Lamm,” said Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, spiritual leader of The National Synagogue, in Washington, and a graduate of Y.U.’s high school, college and rabbinical school.

“Rabbi Lamm served the institution for decades, and I’m so grateful for what he did. But he said stuff in his resignation letter that should invigorate his successors and his students to follow his lead, and should invigorate them to do a real investigation with transparency and accountability. I fear that’s not what’s going on.”

The Forward reported in May that Y.U.’s board had not promised to make the results of an ongoing investigation into sex abuse at Y.U. public, and that the firm hired to conduct the investigation had not requested interviews with a number of victims named publicly in Forward stories.

Contact Josh Nathan-Kazis at nathankazis@forward.com or on Twitter, @joshnathankazis


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!
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • 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.