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.
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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.
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Karen Bitar, a lawyer representing Y.U., recently told a federal judge that while Y.U. took the allegations seriously, the events took place at a time “when the [mores] or what was deemed typical or appropriate was much different than what it is today.”

A Y.U. spokesman declined to comment for this story.

The documents obtained by the Forward show that as recently as 2004, Y.U. administrators discussed allegations that Finkelstein wrestled with a student in a high school office. But Y.U. does not appear to have fully investigated those allegations until a series of articles appeared in the Forward, beginning in December 2012.

The articles named Finkelstein and another former member of Y.U. staff, Rabbi Macy Gordon, as alleged abusers. Until recently, Y.U. awarded scholarships in each of their names. Richard Andron, a regular visitor to Y.U.’s high school dormitory, is also named in the lawsuit.

Y.U.’s subsequent eight-month internal investigation, overseen by a select committee of Y.U.’s board of trustees, found “multiple incidents of varying types of sexual and physical abuse” committed by various unnamed people from the mid-1970s through the 1990s at Y.U.’s high school and at other, unnamed, Y.U. institutions.

Y.U. has released only a three-paragraph summary of the investigation’s findings regarding the abuse allegations. It declined to make the report itself public, citing the pending lawsuit. But in the summary, Y.U.’s investigators drew a clear line between the school’s handling of such allegations before and after 2001.

In a 2004 email, Twersky wrote to Joel to remind him of a time three years previously when he consulted Joel “about three personal instances of sexual harassment” committed by Finkelstein.

At the time, Twersky turned to Joel — who was then head of Hillel, the national college campus outreach program — because Joel had just completed a landmark investigation into allegations of sexual, physical and emotional abuse against Rabbi Baruch Lanner a Modern Orthodox educator and youth leader.

Now, in 2004, Twersky said that he was contacting Joel again — this time as Y.U.’s president — about Finkelstein because he intended to sue Y.U.


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