Richard Joel Knew About Yeshiva Sex Abuse Allegations, Documents Show

Forward Learns Y.U. Chief Ignored Victim's Claim in 2004

He Was Told: Yeshiva President Richard Joel knew more about the explosive sex abuse allegations against the school than had been revealed, documents show.
getty images
He Was Told: Yeshiva President Richard Joel knew more about the explosive sex abuse allegations against the school than had been revealed, documents show.

By Paul Berger

Published November 25, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

When an investigative team appointed by Yeshiva University reported in August that the school had “failed to appropriately act to protect the safety of its students or did not respond” to credible allegations that they’d been sexually abused, it drew an important caveat: This dereliction of responsibility had continued, the investigators said, “until 2001.”

After that, “the University acted decisively to address the allegations,” the investigators stated.

As a result of these findings, Y.U.’s current president, Richard Joel, was spared any stigma stemming from the scandal, which involved several decades of alleged sexual abuse by faculty and staff. The problem was pegged instead to the tenure of his predecessor, Rabbi Norman Lamm.

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

But internal documents obtained by the Forward indicate that, in fact, Joel, who arrived at Y.U. in 2003, was told both before and after he became president about allegations against Rabbi George Finkelstein, the former principal of a Y.U. high school — and that he declined to intervene in the first instance or respond in the second.

The documents show that Mordechai Twersky, a Y.U. alum who is now one of 34 former students suing Y.U. for having failed to protect them, approached Joel in 2000 and again in 2004 to complain about the abuse he had suffered as a high school student at Finkelstein’s hands. But Joel did not take those complaints seriously, according to the documents.

“I spoke with him a bit,” Joel explained in a 2004 email to a colleague, describing a complaint Twersky made to him years before he took up his post at Y.U. “[I] told him to get on with his life, that I didn’t see a case and that Finkelstein was out of the education business.”

A Forward investigation at the beginning of this year revealed that as recently as 2009, a police complaint was made against Finkelstein by a young man in Israel, where Finkelstein worked as director general of the Jerusalem Great Synagogue. Israeli police dropped that case because of insufficient evidence.

Today, Finkelstein is at the center of a $380 million lawsuit brought by the former Y.U. students in federal court in New York.

Twenty-nine of those men say they were abused by Finkelstein, who was forced out of Y.U.’s Manhattan high school for boys in 1995 after 27 years service. Many of the former students described how Finkelstein wrestled them to the floor in a Y.U. school office or at Finkelstein’s home and, while fully clothed, rubbed his erect penis against their body.


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!
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • 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.