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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Last year, a report into allegations of sexual abuse and cover-up over many years at Penn State University was released fully and without preconditions by the school, despite pending legal action. In that case, former FBI director Louis Freeh, published a damning, 144-page report that blamed key Penn State administrators, including its president and the school’s revered longtime football coach, Joe Paterno, for covering up abuse allegations over 14 years.

In the Forward’s December 2012 article, Rabbi Norman Lamm, a former president of Y.U., said that during his tenure, which ran from 1976 to 2003, he dealt with credible allegations of improper behavior against staff by quietly allowing them to leave and find jobs elsewhere. The allegations were made against staff “not only at [Y.U.’s] high school and college, but also in [the] graduate school,” Lamm said.

Lamm presided over three Y.U. high schools — two boys schools and one school for girls — three undergraduate schools and several other schools such as the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary.

In the December article and in subsequent reports, the Forward interviewed about 20 students who said they were abused by Finkelstein and by Gordon, a senior Talmud instructor, covering a period from the late 1970’s into the early 1990’s. Finkelstein, an administrator, served as the school’s principal during part of this time.

There was initial skepticism when Y.U. announced it would commission an independent investigation. Y.U.’s board issued a statement in January that said: “The Board of Trustees is fully aware that it will be judged on the manner in which it conducts this critical and sensitive matter and, in that connection, will, as always, seek to meet, if not exceed, the best possible practices employed by institutions that have confronted similar circumstances.”


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