Y.U. Report on Sex Abuse Draws Mixed Reaction From Modern Orthodox

Some Say Administration Keeping Lid on Crucial Findings

Regret and Shame: Yeshiva U. President Richard Joel expressed regret and shame over the findings of the report, even though it states that conditions improved under his leadership.
yeshiva university
Regret and Shame: Yeshiva U. President Richard Joel expressed regret and shame over the findings of the report, even though it states that conditions improved under his leadership.

By Paul Berger

Published August 28, 2013, issue of September 06, 2013.
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The Commentator’s story, by the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Gavriel Brown, noted that the report released by Y.U. cited the names of just two alleged abusers — rabbis George Finkelstein and Macy Gordon — who were first identified in a December 2012 investigative story published by the Forward, which led the school to commission the investigation.

“But [it] does not mention Richard Andron, a third alleged perpetrator,” the article stated. “The report does not detail the actions of Rabbis Norman Lamm, Israel Miller, Mayer Twersky, Yosef Blau, David Weinback, Robert Hirt or Herschel Schachter”—all senior Y.U. staff or officials—“who were accused of failing to act upon information given to them about abuse in the 148-page lawsuit filed by alleged victims.”

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

“Unlike the lawsuit,” the article stated, “the report does not mention any dates, locations, and details of abuse. It does not detail information about where additional abuse happened at Yeshiva University.”

Brown told the Forward that while he had total confidence that physical and sexual abuse could not go unpunished at Y.U. today, the report was too frustratingly short on detail. “To me, we’re back at square one,” Brown said. “The lesson of this was that these people [Y.U. administrators and staff] put the institution above the students, and what do we see now?” The institution appears to be doing the same again, he said.

Y.U. never publicly promised to release the full investigation that Cromwell & Sullivan submitted. In a statement released shortly after it hired the law firm in January, the school’s board of trustees said only, “We expect the findings of the investigation will be communicated to the public following completion of the investigation.”

But the report Y.U. ultimately released stated, “It was the intention of the Board of Trustees to have made public a report which would have set forth the specific details of the extensive interviews conducted and documents reviewed by the Investigative Team.” It was, the report said, the lawsuit filed against the school in July by former Y.U. high school students who claimed they had been sexually abused that led the board’s Special Committee to release the investigators’ findings “in summary fashion.”

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, who now number 34, are seeking $380 million in damages. One of the plaintiffs, who asked that his identity not be revealed because he is not identified in the lawsuit, said: “If [the Modern Orthodox community] accepts this kind of report, it shows they condone sexual abuse because instead of openness we have a complete, total coverup again.”

But Juda Engelmayer, a former Y.U. high school student who was initially cynical about the investigation after being interviewed by Y.U.’s investigation team earlier this year, said he was impressed with the report. “They seem to indicate serious things happened,” said Engelmayer, who contacted investigators because he knew, secondhand, of abuse.

“Because of what I do,” added Engelmayer, a public relations executive, “I understand that when there’s a lawsuit present, there are things you cannot say. As principled and as high a road as you might want to take, that might not be in Y.U.’s best interest.”

“Now, we have to see how they choose to address the victims,” Engelmayer said.


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