Subway Icon Dr. Jonathan Zizmor Calls Accused Y.U. Abuse Rabbi 'Best Teacher'

Famed Acne Doc Endows Fellowship in Macy Gordon's Name

Underground Icon: Dr. Jonathan Zizmor’s ads are ubiquitous in the New York subway system. His role as a supporter of a rabbi accused in the Yeshiva U. abuse scandal is much less well-known.
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Underground Icon: Dr. Jonathan Zizmor’s ads are ubiquitous in the New York subway system. His role as a supporter of a rabbi accused in the Yeshiva U. abuse scandal is much less well-known.

By Paul Berger

Published July 30, 2013, issue of August 02, 2013.
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To millions of New Yorkers, Jonathan Zizmor is the don of dermatology. But to some victims of sex abuse, Zizmor is the donor who established a scholarship in their alleged molester’s name.

Zizmor, who is renowned across New York City’s five boroughs for his campy subway advertisements promoting cosmetic procedures, gave $250,000 to Yeshiva University High School for Boys in 2002 to endow the Rabbi Macy Gordon Scholarship.

Gordon is one of two rabbis accused of molesting students at the Y.U.-run high school, according to a lawsuit filed July 8 in U.S. District Court. Nineteen former students accuse Y.U. administrators and staff of covering up physical and sexual abuse at the school.

Three of the former students say that Gordon, a Talmud teacher, abused them. One of those men, who says Gordon sodomized him with a toothbrush, “experiences extreme emotional distress whenever he sees” [Zizmor’s] name on the subway,” according to the suit.

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

“As long as the Macy Gordon scholarship, exists, it will be… a stain on Y.U.,” the man told the Forward in a December 2012 interview.

Zizmor, reached at his Manhattan office July 18, said that he did “not know anything about the story” of abuse at his alma mater.

Gordon “was, to me, the best teacher I have had,” Zizmor said. “I thought he was a great teacher, a great man.”

Zizmor added, “I wasn’t sexually abused, and I thought [Gordon] helped me a lot when I was in high school.”

Zizmor has been a longtime donor to Y.U. Before his 2002 gift, Zizmor donated to Y.U.’s Yeshiva College, Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, according to a university newsletter, Y.U. Today. Zizmor also served for more than a decade on the board of directors of Yeshiva College, the newsletter said.

Zizmor, whose colorful ads have often been satirized, received his medical degree from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in 1969. He went on to residencies at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan and at New York University Hospital, in the same borough. He is the author of seven books on skincare.

In 2000, the New York Daily News reported that Zizmor had paid $100,000 to settle charges by state regulators that he had filed untruthful claims with insurance companies. And in 2004, Zizmor pleaded no contest to a $40,000 fine for negligence after failing to perform adequate histories and physical exams on nine patients.

Asked what would happen to the Macy Gordon Scholarship fund now, Zizmor said, “God only knows.”

Rabbi George Finkelstein, a longtime administrator at Y.U.’s high school, was also accused of abuse in the recent lawsuit. Until recently, Y.U. awarded a scholarship in Finkelstein’s name, too.

Finkelstein and Gordon denied the allegations against them when reached by the Forward in December. Y.U. has declined to comment on the lawsuit citing pending litigation.

Asked what has happened to the scholarships in Gordon’s and Finkelstein’s names, a spokesman for Y.U. said: “There are no active scholarships in either of those names at this time.” The spokesman, Mike Scagnoli, did not respond to a request to clarify whether the scholarships might one day become active again.

Contact Paul Berger at berger@forward.com


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