It is now eight months since the Forward reported allegations that two rabbis at Yeshiva University High School for Boys in Manhattan had sexually and physically abused students during the 1970s and 1980s, and that the Y.U. administration allowed the rabbis to go to other jobs rather than face prosecution. Eight months since the school hired a law firm to conduct what it promised would be an independent investigation of the charges. According to reliable sources, the investigation, which reportedly cost $2.5 million, should be complete by now.
And yet America’s flagship Modern Orthodox educational institution maintains its silence.
All the university will say is this, from spokesman Mike Scagnoli: “Nothing has changed since last we spoke. That’s all I have for you at this time.”
But things do change. Another cycle of students will soon enter a high school that has not openly come to terms with the claims of many of its former students for whom the pain of past abuse remains quite present. As yet another example of how widespread knowledge of that abuse was at Y.U., and how ridiculous it is for administrators to plead ignorance, a handful of former students are publicly apologizing for their own “utter silence.”
“During the period that we were classmates, we knew what was happening to you, yet we did not speak up on your behalf,” the students wrote in an online petition to their classmates. “We hope that this letter will bring you some measure of comfort, and that it will help to save potential victims in the future.”
That’s the point of accountability. To acknowledge the pain, understand what happened, ensure it won’t happen again, and save potential victims. Y.U.’s continued silence does not accomplish those necessary goals.
Kevin Mulhearn, an attorney representing 31 former students who contend that they were abused by Y.U. staff, said in a statement issued August 21 that the university’s handling of the sex abuse allegations has been “grossly dishonest, reprehensible, and morally bankrupt.” Those are harsh words. They may be unfair and incorrect words. But unless Y.U. speaks, we will never know whether they are true.