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!
  • “I don’t want to say, ‘Oh oh, I’m not Jewish,’ because when you say that, you sound like someone trying to get into a 1950s country club, “and I love the idea of being Jewish." Are you a fan of Seth Meyers?
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • 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.