The revelation that Yeshiva University hired a convicted sex offender even while facing charges that it covered up decades of sexual abuse has raised questions about the policies of other Jewish institutions at which he previously worked.
The Jewish Theological Seminary, which employed the man a decade ago, says it did not know then about his criminal conviction. But it does not, to this day, conduct criminal background checks before it hires staff, said JTS spokeswoman Elise Dowell.
JTS today asks job applicants whether they have a criminal record, said Dowell. But, unless the applicant works on the seminary’s supplemental program for high school students, JTS does not follow up with a criminal background check, she said.
JTS hired the convicted man, Akiva Roth, to teach a summer program for post-college students preparing for rabbinical school from 2000 until 2003. Roth remained on criminal probation at the time, just three years after his 1997 conviction.
Roth, 42, was recently let go from his Yeshiva College position after the Forward published details of his conviction. The school said it had “erred” in hiring Roth by “permitting the new hire to begin teaching before the screening process had been completed.”
Yeshiva University faces a $380 million lawsuit for allegedly covering up decades of child sexual abuse by faculty at its Manhattan high school.
In late August, Y.U. suppressed most details of a report it commissioned on its own conduct during the decades of alleged sexual abuse, citing the lawsuit against it. But the report stated that the school had since put “many procedures in place to ensure that inappropriate people are not hired to work with its students.”
Roth was sentenced to 10 years probation after pleading guilty to four counts of lewdness against several boys in his work as a private bar mitzvah tutor in New Jersey. During the bar mitzvah classes, Roth exposed and touched himself and encouraged the boys to do the same, according to court records.