Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Case of Rabbi Elan Adler

Case of Rabbi Elan Adler

Ma'ale Adummim, Israel
Director of Public Relations, Machon Ariel - Bayit Vegan, Israel
Moses Montefiore Anshe Emunah Hebrew Congregation - Baltimore, MD
Yeshiva University - Washington Heights, NY
Rhode Island College, Providence, RI
New England Academy of Torah - Pawtucket, RI

"Elan Adler, a director of Y.U.’s school dormitory from 1981 to 1986, told the Forward in December that some boys complained to him about Finkelstein’s “inappropriately aggressive” wrestling." –– Yeshiva U. Sex Abuse Probe Stalls Amid Fear and Mistrust, The Forward (May 2, 2013)

Allegations have been made over the years that Rabbi Elan Adler had been enabling alleged sex offenders at Yeshiva University and in Baltimore, MD. 

Disclaimer: Inclusion in this website does not constitute a recommendation or endorsement. Individuals must decide for themselves if the resources meet their own personal needs.

  1. Yeshiva U. Sex Abuse Probe Stalls Amid Fear and Mistrust (05/02/2013)
  2. Third Alleged Yeshiva U. Abuser Accused of Preying on Boys in Dorms and Apartment  (07/12/2013)

Also see:

Yeshiva U. Sex Abuse Probe Stalls Amid Fear and Mistrust
Some Victims Not Contacted, Others Wary of Investigation
By Paul Berger
Forward - May 2, 2013

It has been more than four months since Yeshiva University hired an international law firm to investigate allegations of emotional, physical and sexual abuse at a Y.U.-run high school.

Yet investigators working for the firm of Sullivan & Cromwell still have not contacted several former Y.U. school staff and students who described the abuse in a series of articles published in the Forward last year.

Meanwhile, many other former students who have been contacted say they refused to cooperate with investigators because they do not trust Y.U.’s motives. Such mistrust has only increased since Y.U. retained another international law firm, Greenberg Traurig, to fight a possible multiparty civil lawsuit.

Barry Singer, a former student who has spoken to a Y.U. investigator, said the investigator “made it clear that she had nothing to do with any sort of defense that Yeshiva might mount.” But, Singer added, she also told him that Greenberg Traurig “can use whatever they gather” to defend against a civil lawsuit.

Singer said he believed that the investigator, Lisa Friel, a sex abuse expert hired by Sullivan & Cromwell to assist with its investigation, was well intentioned. But he added that Friel has no control over how much of the information she gathers will be made public.

“It’s not really about her investigation at all,” Singer said. “It’s about [the Y.U. board], of course, and what they do with it.”

Despite protests from Y.U. alumni, Y.U.’s board has not committed to making the results of its investigation public. Instead, the board’s most recent statement, published in January, said. “We expect the findings of the investigation will be communicated to the public following completion of the investigation.”

The board will not say which of its members are overseeing the investigation. Several board members reached by the Forward declined to comment. Jayne Beker, who is listed as a board member on Y.U.’s website, said she knew nothing about the investigation and had not taken part in board meetings for some time. Ronald P. Stanton, a chairman emeritus, declined to answer any questions. “I can’t help you, sorry.” Stanton said, and then cut off the call.

Y.U.’s board launched what it called an “independent investigation” into the alleged abuse in December 2012. The investigation followed an article in the Forward citing several men who said they were abused by two former staff members at Y.U.’s High School for Boys, in Manhattan.

Since then, about 20 former students have told the Forward they were emotionally, physically or sexually abused by Rabbi Macy Gordon, a former Talmud teacher, or by Rabbi George Finkelstein, the school’s former principal, over a period spanning three decades. Both men, who deny the allegations, served at the school for about 25 years. Gordon left the school around 1984. Finkelstein left the school in 1995.

Several former students said they or their parents informed Y.U. staff members of the abuse either at the time or after they left the school, but no action was taken.

Rabbi Norman Lamm, who was president of Y.U. from 1976 until 2003 and is now chancellor, appeared to suggest in a December interview at his home that the abuse was even more widespread. Lamm told the Forward that during his tenure, law enforcement officials were never notified, despite “charges of improper sexual activity” made against staff “not only at [Y.U.’s] high school and college, but also in [the] graduate school.”

Rabbi Hershel Schachter, a dean of Y.U.’s rabbinical school, told the New York Times in December that in addition to rabbis Gordon and Finkelstein he knew of another staff member who was dismissed for inappropriate behavior with students.

In the wake of the allegations, Y.U.’s board swiftly assured staff, students and alumni that Sullivan & Cromwell had been hired “to conduct a full and independent investigation of the allegations as well as to review our current policies and procedures.”
In statements posted to Y.U.’s website, the board assured alumni that it would “only be satisfied with a broad and far-reaching investigation” and that Sullivan & Cromwell had been given “the unrestricted authority to pursue any leads that may shed light on all matters related to the investigation.”

But the Forward has found that many people who were named months ago as having information about the abuse have yet to be contacted.

Elan Adler, a director of Y.U.’s school dormitory from 1981 to 1986, told the Forward in December that some boys complained to him about Finkelstein’s “inappropriately aggressive” wrestling. In an April 23 email, Adler said that investigators had not contacted him and that he had no idea an investigation had been launched.

Coby Hakalir, a former high school student, told the Forward in December about an atmosphere of “constant [fear]” that pervaded the school during the 1990s. Hakalir said on April 23 that he did not know an investigation was being conducted. “It’s not that hard to find me,” he added. Investigators contacted him on April 30, after the Forward asked about his case.

Investigators have also failed so far to pursue obvious leads that people familiar with Y.U. might explore. Abuse victims in the Orthodox community often turn to Rabbi Yosef Blau, a long-standing victims advocate who has been a spiritual adviser at Y.U. for almost 40 years. The Forward is aware of at least one person who contacted Blau during the past few years to say that a Y.U. staff member abused him decades ago. However, investigators have not contacted Blau.

Blau said that he had not taken the initiative to contact investigators, because they are only interested in “people who were personally abused.” In fact, the investigators’ mandate is much wider; they have interviewed several former students who have secondhand knowledge of abuse. “I can’t tell you for sure what are the full guidelines given to the law firm and how they chose to function,” Blau said. “Did they send a message to people working at Y.U., asking for anyone who knows anything to please contact us? I don’t recall that.”

Perhaps the most striking omission is the investigators’ failure thus far to contact Mordechai Twersky. Twersky wrote about his allegations of abuse at Y.U.’s high school in an online publication, the Y.U. Beacon, in February last year. Since then, he has been quoted extensively in the Forward about the abuse he says he suffered and also about his repeated attempts to alert first Lamm and then the current Y.U. president, Richard Joel.

Twersky is among about 20 former students who have retained a lawyer to launch a possible multiparty lawsuit against Y.U. He said that the potential lawsuit, as well as his deep mistrust of Y.U., meant that he would likely decline to speak to investigators. Nevertheless, he said, the symbolism of investigators “not reaching out” to him is striking.

Certainly, the investigation has been complicated by the potential lawsuit.

Abuse victims in New York have until their 23rd birthday to bring a civil claim of child sexual abuse. But that has not stopped some victims from winning settlements in cases where alleged incidents fall well beyond the statute of limitations.

Kevin Mulhearn won just such a settlement last year on behalf of 12 men who said they were sexually abused by football coach Philip Foglietta at Brooklyn’s Poly Prep Country Day School.

Now, he represents the former Y.U. students who, Mulhearn said, have helped him compile a dossier showing that Y.U. administrators “facilitated, condoned and excused” the abuse of students over decades.

Such a lawsuit could be embarrassing for some of Modern Orthodoxy’s most respected leaders. It could also deal a blow to Y.U.’s fundraising at a critical time.

Y.U., which recently launched a drive to raise $600 million toward a capital campaign and scholarships, has suffered significant financial problems lately. In June 2011, a Moody’s Investors Service analyst reported that “Yeshiva is reporting the largest operating cash flow deficits of any research university rated by Moody’s.” The analyst downgraded Y.U.’s credit rating, noting that “significant operating deficits and very thin operating cash flow are key components to the rating downgrade and maintenance of the negative outlook.”

The Y.U. investigation is being led by Karen Seymour, a co-managing partner of Sullivan & Cromwell’s litigation group. Seymour, who specializes in internal investigations, said she could not say when the investigation might be completed. “We want to follow all the leads, and so we’re still in the midst of a very active investigation,” she said. “We’re moving as quickly as we can, because we want to get this completed.”

Seymour was reluctant to disclose many details of the investigation on the record. But she did reassure victims who were reticent to talk to her out of fear that their information could be turned against them during a civil lawsuit that their identities would be “anonymized.” She reiterated that the information is not being “gathered for the purposes of the defense.”

Still, many former students say they do not trust a law firm paid by Y.U. to conduct a truly independent investigation. “I did not trust that through my talking to them I would reach any sort of closure,” said one former student, who is in his late 40s and who did not wish to be named, in an email. “I had no assurances as to what Y.U. would do with any information I shared with them.”

The man said that the Forward’s articles about Y.U. had reawakened terrible memories that he had suppressed for decades. “People can’t and do not realize that the mind can hide something like this for years and then suffer flashbacks,” he said.

“I have been seeing a therapist since December and have been diagnosed with [post-traumatic stress disorder],” he added. “It keeps me awake some nights, or I wake up having had a nightmare. I am typing this with one hand because I finally snapped and punched a… wall and broke my hand about three weeks ago.”

After more than four months, Y.U.’s investigation is now longer than a three-month probe that Deerfield Academy, an elite Massachusetts boarding school, conducted into abuse allegations at its campus. It is also just one month short of a five-month investigation into abuse at the Orthodox Union’s youth organization, NCSY, which was led by Joel before he became president of Y.U.

At its current pace, the Y.U. investigation threatens to take as long as the probe into abuse at Penn State University, led by former FBI director Louis Freeh. Although that investigation, which took about eight months, included more than 400 interviews and the examination of more than 3.5 million emails and documents.

Asked how Y.U.’s investigation was progressing and when it might be completed, a Y.U. spokesman said the probe “continues to be ongoing, and as soon as it has been completed in the proper way and to the satisfaction of investigators, we will have an update to offer.” Asked whether there was a conflict of interest between Sullivan & Cromwell, whose mission is to shed light on the abuse, and Greenberg Traurig, whose mission is to protect Y.U from abuse claims, the spokesman did not respond.

A spokesman for Greenberg Traurig said no one from the firm was available to comment.

Some former students who have spoken to Y.U.’s investigators remain cynical. Although Juda Engelmayer was not abused at Y.U., he said that he contacted investigators because he knew, secondhand, of abuse. Engelmayer said he was disappointed by the investigators’ line of questioning. He said that the questions seemed more designed to explain why abusive behavior might have taken place than to seriously investigate what happened. “I don’t think they’re being genuine,” Engelmayer said.

Others were more sanguine. Neal Lehrman, who also knew secondhand of abuse, said that Friel appeared to be sincere. “She said, ‘The only thing I can tell you is I have been doing this for 25 years and I am not staking my reputation on something that’s going to be swallowed up,’” Lehrman said. When he last corresponded with Friel, she told him that the investigative team continued to interview “numerous people a week” and that the investigation would be complete “in about a month.”

That was on March 5.


Third Alleged Yeshiva U. Abuser Accused of Preying on Boys in Dorms and Apartment
Karate Guru Richard Andron Found Haven in Boca Raton
By Paul Berger
Forward - July l2, 2013

Boca Raton’s Jewish community is reeling after Richard Andron emerged as the latest alleged abuser in a widening sex abuse scandal tied to Yeshiva University.

Until now, only Rabbis George Finkelstein and Macy Gordon, both former staff members of Y.U.’s Manhattan high school for boys, have been named in a series of articles in the Forward.

Now, Andron, 67, a former youth volunteer who now lives in Florida, has been accused of abuse, along with Finkelstein and Gordon, in a lawsuit filed July 8 in U.S. District Court in White Plains, N.Y. by 19 former high school students.

The suit alleges that during the late 1970s and early 1980s, Andron, then in his thirties, was “allowed to roam the halls” of Y.U.’s high school dormitory, even though he had nothing to do with the school. The suit cites three men — a Y.U. college student and two Y.U. high school students — who say Andron invited them to stay over at his apartment where he attempted to touch or did touch their genitals.

The suit alleges that Y.U. staff either knew, or ought to have known, that Andron was a threat to children, but they allowed him access to boys anyway.

The Boca Raton Synagogue, where Andron has been a member for decades, sent an email to congregants July 9 telling them that the “the accused person had withdrawn his membership at BRS and agreed not to come to the BRS campus, or attend any BRS event in the future, whether on or off campus.

“Be advised that there have been no allegations we are aware of that any improper conduct occurred within the past thirty years, or in our community.”

Andron’s case cuts broadly across the Modern Orthodox community. According to several interviews conducted by the Forward, Andron was also heavily involved with the Modern Orthodox youth organization, the National Council of Synagogue Youth. The Forward has spoken to two men who are not involved with the Y.U. lawsuit, who say that they were abused by Andron after meeting him through NCSY, the international youth movement of the Orthodox Union.

One of those men told the Forward that he warned NCSY about Andron during the late 1970s, but the man whom he made the report to, the group’s regional director, Baruch Lanner, did not report Andron to police or impede Andron’s access to boys. (Decades later, Lanner was embroiled in a scandal of his own after being accused of sex abuse and child endangerment of two girls. In 2002, he was sentenced to a seven-year prison term.)

Dave Raben, a Miami attorney who specializes in criminal defense and who identified himself as representing Andron, did not respond to requests for comment about the allegations against Andron.

According to several interviews with men who were youths at the time, Andron was a regular at teen events in the Modern Orthodox community during the 1970s and early 1980s. Andron was particularly well known as a practitioner of tora dojo, a Jewish-inspired twist on karate that was created and developed at Y.U.

A man has told the Forward that between the ages of 13 and 16 he often stayed at Andron’s apartment on the Upper West Side, so that he could be closer to a local tora dojo class. During that three-year period, the man said he was regularly abused by Andron, who was then about 30 years old.

The man, who wishes to remain anonymous, said that during the early months he stayed at Andron’s apartment, Andron would touch the boy’s penis while he was asleep. During the months that followed, Andron convinced the boy to watch him masturbate and to let him demonstrate on the boy how to masturbate.

“I told him this was not really right,” the man, who is now 50, recalled, “and [Andron] would convince me this was what I had to do to have a healthy relationship with women.”

When the boy finally realized, at the age of 16, that he had been abused, he told his parents. He said they instructed him to confront Andron, alone, and that since Andron was a martial arts expert he should do so in a Manhattan synagogue.

“I said, ‘What about going to the police?’” the man recalled. “[My parents] said, ‘No, no, no, we are not going to the police.’”

One December, during the late 1970s, he confronted Andron. “I said, ‘You abused me, you sexually assaulted me and you are a child molester and I don’t want you coming near me and my family,’” the man said.

He continued: “[Andron] got angry, like a jilted lover. I said, ‘If you come near me again and touch me again, I will kill you, so don’t even think about coming near me.’”

The boys’ parents told him he also had to warn Lanner, the NCSY regional director, about Andron. At the time, Lanner was infamous among Modern Orthodox youth for his habit of kneeing boys in the crotch and for taking teenage girls for long Sabbath walks in the woods.

The man said he described in detail to Lanner what had happened to him but that Lanner did not remove Andron from his involvement with NCSY.

An Orthodox Union spokesman, Mayer Fertig, confirmed that Andron was involved in NCSY “to the best of our knowledge in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.”

Fertig said that NCSY “today is altogether different from the one of that era” and that “difficult, painful lessons” from that period had been learned. He directed the Forward to a 14-page Conduct, Policy and Behavioral Standards Manual which pledges that “NCSY’s commitment to the physical, psychological, and emotional well-being of all NCSY professionals, volunteers, and NCSY’ers is non-negotiable.”
“NCSY and the Orthodox Union stand by those words and today go to great effort to enforce a policy of zero tolerance for any inappropriate activity,” Fertig said.

Several months ago, the Forward attempted to reach Lanner at his home in New Jersey to ask about Andron. Lanner’s (second) wife, Sarah, said that because of a “serious medical condition he cannot comment or have discussions at this time.” A subsequent attempt to reach Lanner was unsuccessful.

Another man who met Andron through NCSY said Andron often had groups of boys over to his apartment. He said Andron would take them to a pornographic bakery, in Manhattan, that sold baked goods in the shape of genitalia.

“My parents would never let me go to his house because they were concerned” that a single man would hang out so often with boys, the man, now 48, said. But because Andron showed boys such a good time, he begged his parents to let him go to Andron’s home.

One New Year’s Eve, during the late 1970s, he said his parents relented and he and a handful of boys spent the night at Andron’s one-bedroom apartment. At the end of the night, Andron asked which of the boys would like to sleep in one of two twin beds in his bedroom.

“I said, ‘I’ll sleep on the bed,’” the man recalled. “And one other guy said something…[that] insinuated, ‘You are in for it,’”

The man, who is now a physician, said he realized that something bad was about to happen to him, but it seemed too late to back out. He said that the following morning Andron locked the bedroom door, approached the boy’s bed and offered to show him a technique that would help him stop laughing if he was tickled.

“He proceeds to stroke my stomach, but they were long strokes, so his arm was stroking my genitals, trying to give me an erection,” the man said. “I just wanted it all to be over and, eventually, [it] was over and that was it.” He said that he did not inform his parents about what happened.

Andron is named in the multi-party lawsuit against Y.U. because former students say they believe Y.U. staff ought to have known he posed a threat.

The suit says that Andron was a “personal friend” of Finkelstein, an administrator at Y.U.’s high school. Andron “frequently notified Finkelstein that boys who had slept over at Andron’s apartment would be late or absent for classes at [the school],” the suit says. “Finkelstein thus knew, excused, condoned, and facilitated Andron’s sexual abuse of numerous [high school] students.”

One of the high school students who says that he was abused by Andron and who is a plaintiff in the lawsuit, told the Forward that Andron “would sit with [the boys] and talk to them. I didn’t think it was too weird because I was a kid and he befriended me.”

The man, who is now 45 and living in Tel Aviv, said Andron invited him to stay over at Andron’s apartment one Sabbath around 1983. When the high school student arrived, he said Andron showed him into a bedroom and gave him a stack of Playboy magazines.

After leaving the boy alone for a while, Andron returned to the room and proceeded to touch the boy’s penis, according to the former student. “This was really my first sexual experience of skin to skin contact,” the man said. “This has stayed with me for years.”

The suit also alleges that Richard Ehrlich and Elan Adler, described as “senior residence hall officials” at Y.U., knew that Andron visited the dormitory and entered boys’ dorm rooms.

Adler, a director of Y.U.’s school dormitory from 1981 to 1986, told the Forward in an email several months ago that he recalled Andron’s name but not his face. Adler said there “was simply no way of restricting access to the high school dormitory.”

He added: “In terms of Ricky, it didn’t seem suspicious for him or anyone to come and visit any of the boys. Sometimes kids had visitors from their home neighborhoods who were on campus who took the boys for dinner or a movie, there were no red flags.”

Adler also said that “any expectation on my part or that of any of the counselors was unrealistic, given that the building had no security, no guard, no access code….. It was unreasonable to expect that we could have monitored who was coming in. There was simply no way to do that.”

Ehrlich did not respond to several requests for a response, July 11.

Andron moved to Florida during the mid 1980s. In 1986, he told the Palm Beach Post that he left New York because his boss at a “major oil company” where he worked would not allow him to leave early on Fridays for the Sabbath. By now, Andron had a wife, Sue.

The Androns were among the earliest families to build up the Boca Raton Synagogue, an Orthodox congregation that today has more than 700 families.



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