Friday, July 12, 2013

Cases of Sexual Abuse Associated with Yeshiva University

Cases of Sexual Abuse Associated with Yeshiva University

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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.

Table of Contents:
  1. Alleged and Convicted Offenders
  2. Important Historic Articles Associated with Yeshiva University
  3. Enablers of Alleged and Convicted Sex Offenders
  4. Policies For inclusion on The Awareness Center's Sex Offender's Registry
  5. Listing Alleged and Convicted Sex Offenders

  1. Judge's Ruling Is Big Victory to Y.U. in $380M Sex Abuse Suit, Experts Say (8/16/2013)
  2. Waiting on YU (08/22/2013)
  3. Yeshiva University alleged to have kept insurer AIG in the dark about sex abuse claim  (8/25/2013)
  4. Investigation: Y.U. sex abuse extended beyond high school for boy (8/26/2013)
  5. Yeshiva University failed to act on allegations of sexual abuse by its staff before 2001, new report says  (08/26/2013)
  6. Victims’ Attorney: Yeshiva University Report On Sex Abuse ‘A Whitewash’   (08/26/2013)
  7. Yeshiva University President Expresses 'Profound Shame and Sadness' Over Child Sex Abuse Findings  (08/27/2013)
  8. Y.U. Report on Sex Abuse Draws Mixed Reaction From Modern Orthodox  (08/28/2013)
  9. Y.U. Report's Three Paragraphs Fails To Do Justice to Abuse — or Jewish Ethics  (08/29/2013)
  10. Only 200 Words About Abuse (08/30/2013)


Alleged and Convicted Offenders:
  1. Case of Richard Andron
  2. Case of Rabbi Yisroel Bodkins (Formerly known as the case of the Unnamed Rabbi at Camp Dora Golding
  3. Case of Rabbi Tully Bryks
  4. Case of Rabbi George Finkelstein
  5. Case of Rabbi Marc Gafni (AKA: Mordechai Winiarz)
  6. Case of Rabbi Macy Gordon
  7. Case of Rabbi David Kaye (AKA: Yeshaya Dovid Kaye)
  8. Case of Rabbi David Kedmi
  9. Case of Rabbi Israel Kestenbaum, M.A., M.Ed.
  10. Case of Rabbi Baruch Lanner 
  11. Case of Rabbi Gabriel Ohayon
  12. Case of Rabbi Michael Ozair

Enablers of Alleged and Convicted Sex Offenders:
  1. Case of Rabbi Elan Adler (enabler of sex offenders)
  2. Case of Rabbi Saul Berman (enabler of sex offenders)
  3. Case of Rabbi Kenneth Brander (enabler of sex offenders)
  4. Case of Rabbi Mark Dratch (enabler of sex offenders)
  5. Case of Rabbi Richard Ehrlich (enabler of sex offenders)
  6. Case of Rabbi Harlan David Kilstein (enabler of sex offenders)
  7. Case of Rabbi Norman Lamm (enabler of sex offenders)
  8. Case of David Pelcovitz, Phd  (enabler of sex offenders)
  9. Case of Gary Rosenblatt (enabler of sex offenders)
  10. Case of Rabbi Hershel Schachter (enabler of sex offenders)
  11. Case of Susan Shulman, MD (enabler of sex offenders)
  12. Case of Rabbi Mordechai Willig (enabler of sex offenders)
  13. Case of Yori Yanover (enabler of sex offenders)
  14. Case of Rabbi Larry Yudelson (enabler of sex offenders)

Yeshiva University

Judge's Ruling Is Big Victory to Y.U. in $380M Sex Abuse Suit, Experts Say
Without Discovery, School Has Little Reason To Settle

By Ann Cohen

Forward - August 16, 2013

A federal judge’s recent decision barring discovery to 31 adults who say they were sexually abused as students at Yeshiva University High School for Boys years ago bodes poorly for the plaintiffs’ case, say two legal experts who have been following the case.

The August 6 decision by United States District Judge John G. Koeltl will effectively deny the plaintiffs’ attorney, Kevin Mulhearn, access to internal records from Y.U. as he seeks to counter a motion by Y.U. attorneys to dismiss the case.

That was a crucial tool in his surprise success in overcoming the state’s statute of limitations in a similar child sexual abuse case against Poly Prep Country Day School.

“You know what I would say [to Y.U.] … I’d say, ‘Let’s not do anything,’” to settle the case, said Karen Burstein, a former judge. “Let’s make the strongest motion [to dismiss the case] that we can.’”

Indeed, in an accompanying ruling, Koeltl agreed to consider a motion from Y.U. to dismiss the case on the grounds that the plaintiffs had filed their suit long after the state’s statute of limitations for such misconduct had passed. He ordered Y.U. attorneys to submit written arguments supporting their motion by September 13, after which he will hear counterarguments from the plaintiffs before issuing a decision.

But meanwhile, said Burstein, a Democratic nominee for New York State attorney general in 1994, the judge’s decision not to allow discovery has removed all impetus on Y.U. to consider a settlement.

The 31 plaintiffs, all of them now adults, allege that they were abused from the late 1970s through the mid-1990s by two senior staff members at the high school, and by an outsider allowed into their dorm rooms. They charge also that Y.U. officials ignored repeated complaints about their abuse over many years and failed to report their allegations to law enforcement authorities.

New York State’s controversial statute of limitations law mandates that civil suits for child sexual abuse be filed before an alleged victim turns 23.

Mulhearn surprised many observers last December, when he overcame this legal hurdle in a similar suit filed by adults who were abused while they were students at Brooklyn’s prestigious Poly Prep Country Day School many years earlier. According to some experts on sexual abuse, this success owed much to the judge’s ruling in that case to allow Mulhearn to conduct discovery even as the judge considered Poly Prep’s motion to dismiss the case. This gave Mulhearn access to internal school records that he could use as evidence in his arguments against the dismissal motion on the grounds that the school had engaged in a cover-up of the allegations.

“I think [the former students] are going to have a very hard burden here,” Burstein said, referring to the current case.

The plaintiffs in the suit against Y.U. charge that as students they were abused on repeated occasions by Rabbi George Finkelstein, the school’s former principal; by Rabbi Macy Gordon, who was a senior Talmud instructor there, or by Richard Andron, an outsider who frequently visited the Y.U. dormitory in which they lived with no interference from Y.U. authorities. The plaintiffs are asking $380 million in compensation and damages.

“It’s impossible to know whether the plaintiffs can survive this motion until we see what [their] answer [to the motion to dismiss] is,” Burstein said. “I’d be very loath to allow 30 years to pass before you brought an action.”
Marci Hamilton, who is the Paul R. Verkuil Chair in Public Law at Yeshiva University’s Bejamin N. Cardozo School of Law and has spent years studying child sexual abuse, disagreed.

“This is another example of how the New York statutes of limitations for child sex abuse victims block justice and hinder the education of the public about the institutions that create the conditions for abuse and the individuals who abuse children,” she wrote in an email.

Asked to expand her answer, Hamilton replied that as an employee of Y.U. she could not comment on the situation. But in the past, Hamilton has cited research that shows it often takes child victims of sexual abuse many years, and even decades into adulthood, to confront what happened to them.

Even Burstein acknowledged that in some cases, the current statute was too restrictive.

“It seems to me that given a society that at least acknowledges that sexual abuse is not uncommon, and [in which] there’s a lot of pressure not to say anything, that maybe you need to give kids a little longer,” she said. “But I don’t think you give them forever.”

New York Assemblywoman Margaret Markey has been pushing for reform of the statute of limitations for the past several years. The N.Y. Child Victims Act, which she sponsors, would, in its current version, abolish the time limits for such cases in the future and address past abuse by opening a one-year window for victims to file civil law suits against their abusers and against institutions that either knew or should have known about such inappropriate conduct by their staff members.

The Catholic Church and Agudath Israel of America, an ultra-Orthodox umbrella group, have been adamant opponents of the bill.

Regarding Koeltl’s ruling, Markey wrote in a statement to the Forward that “what is particularly noteworthy in this Yeshiva University case is the apparent pattern of cover-up to protect the institution and its leaders.

“It appears to mirror other prominent cases we have seen in the past few years where religious, educational and youth organizations and institutions have protected pedophiles and abusers by preventing law enforcement from acting in a timely way to bring child molesters to justice.”

Markey reintroduced her bill in the Assembly earlier this year, and hearings held in March to support it included testimony from Hamilton and from Rabbi Yosef Blau, a senior faculty member at Y.U.’s rabbinical school.

But according to Markey spokesman Mark Armstrong, the Assembly’s Democratic majority has now shifted the onus onto the mostly Republican Senate to pass the bill, making its survival unlikely.

“The Assembly has voted four times to adopt the N.Y. Child Victims Act to apply a more realistic statute of limitations to this type of crime,” Markey wrote. “The State Senate, however, has refused to bring this legislation to the floor of their house. Just as there is no statute of limitations on murder or rape, there should be no statute of limitations on child sex abuse, particularly when it involves rape and sodomy of children.”

Ben Hirsch, a co-founder of Survivors for Justice, which advocates on behalf of child abuse victims in the Orthodox community, also laid the blame for Koeltl’s ruling in the Y.U. case with state legislators.

“A motion to dismiss an out-of-statute lawsuit is almost always granted under New York State laws,” he said. “The blame for this belongs in Albany, where the laws are passed. Politicians from the governor on down have been sitting and doing nothing to change what are some of the weakest child sex abuse laws in the country.”


Investigation: Y.U. sex abuse extended beyond high school for boy 
JTA - August 26, 2013

NEW YORK (JTA) — Incidents of physical and sexual abuse at Yeshiva University were not limited to its high school for boys, an investigation has found.

The investigation commissioned by the university and carried out by the New York-based law firm Sullivan & Cromwell followed reports of sexual abuse by two faculty members at Y.U.’s high school for boys in the 1970s and ‘80s.

The report produced by investigators and released Monday confirmed that “multiple incidents of varying types of sexual and physical abuse took place” at the high school, perpetrated by individuals in positions of authority and continuing even after administration members had been made aware of the problem. The probe also found sexual abuse at other divisions of the university but, citing pending litigation, did not describe them in any detail or specify where they took place.

“Up until 2001, there were multiple instances in which the University either failed to appropriately act to protect the safety of its students or did not respond to the allegations at all,” the report said. “This lack of an appropriate response by the University caused victims to believe that their complaints fell on deaf ears or were simply not believed by the University’s administration.”

While the report noted that Y.U.’s responses to allegations of abuse after 2001 improved significantly, it issued detailed recommendations for new policies at the school to prevent and report sexual or physical abuse or harassment. The report did not go into detail on the past instances of sexual abuse.

“There are findings set forth in this report that serve as a source of profound shame and sadness for our institution,” Y.U. President Richard Joel said in a statement released Monday. “On behalf of the Board of Trustees and the entire University community, I express my deepest and most heartfelt remorse, and truly hope that our recognition of these issues provides some level of comfort and closure to the victims.

“Although we cannot change the past, we remain committed to making confidential counseling services available to those individual victims in the hope they can achieve a more peaceful future.”

The investigation was prompted by a Dec. 13, 2012 article in the Forward newspaper titled “Student Claims of Abuse not Reported by Yeshiva U.” that focused on abuse allegations against two Y.U. faculty members: Rabbi George Finkelstein, an administrator and faculty member from 1963 to 1995, and Rabbi Macy Gordon, a teacher from 1956 to 1983.

Finkelstein was accused of groping students and rubbing up against them, often under the guise of wrestling, at school and in his home. Gordon was accused of sodomizing boys, including in at least one instance with a toothbrush. Both men have denied the allegations.
A group of former students filed a $380 million lawsuit against Yeshiva University in early July, just days after Y.U.’s longtime chancellor, Rabbi Norman Lamm, acknowledged mishandling the abuse allegations decades earlier. The lawsuit has since added plaintiffs and grown to $680 million.

After Y.U. hired Sullivan & Cromwell to conduct an investigation, the school’s board of trustees appointed a special committee to manage the relationship and receive periodic reports. The investigation was led by Karen Patton Seymour, a former criminal prosecutor, and carried out with the help of T&M Protection Services, a firm specializing in preventing sex abuse.

Some 6,300 hours were spent on the investigation, including interviews with 145 people, according to the report. Investigators sought to interview the former students named in the lawsuit, but their lawyers declined to make them available, the report said. According to the report, 70 people who were contacted either declined to be interviewed or did not respond to requests for interviews.

Most of the report was taken up with a new set of anti-harassment guidelines recommended by T&M Protection Services, which Joel said YU will implement fully.

The recommendations include setting clear boundaries for appropriate contact between faculty and students, educating them about the rules, screening new hires, establishing clear avenues for reporting allegations and putting in place policies for investigating allegations.


Waiting on YU
Forward - August 22, 2013

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.


Yeshiva University alleged to have kept insurer AIG in the dark about sex abuse claim
By Daniel Beekman
New York Daily News - August 26, 2013

A letter obtained by the Daily News reveals that Yeshiva continues to withhold information from the underwriter in the wake of a $380 million lawsuit brought by former students

More than 30 men are claiming they were molested by faculty members at the Yeshiva University High School for Boys between 1969 and 1989, but a letter obtained by The News indicates that the allegations were kept from its insurance company, AIG.

Yeshiva University may have kept its insurance company in the dark about allegations of sex abuse at its all-boys prep school, a letter obtained by the Daily News reveals.

And Yeshiva has continued to withhold information from the insurer in the wake of a $380 million lawsuit brought by former students, the letter suggests.

More than 30 men are claiming they were molested by faculty members at the Yeshiva University Hig h School for Boys between 1969 and 1989.

Yeshiva declined to comment because the lawsuit is pending.

But the Aug. 13 letter from AIG to a Yeshiva lawyer sheds at least a small ray of light on the case.

It says AIG won’t cover Yeshiva for potential settlements with many of the accusers and cites the lawsuit filed in July in Manhattan Federal Court.

“According to the complaint, it now appears that members of the administration of YUHS were specifically aware of abuse involving Mordechai Twersky and Does One, Two, Thirteen, Fourteen, Fifteen and Sixteen but failed to provide timely notice,” the letter states.

AIG writes that its decision to deny coverage is preliminary, in part because Yeshiva has “not yet responded to the questions propounded in our prior letters.”

The insurer has been waiting since June for the modern Orthodox Jewish university to disclose exactly what administrators knew about the sex abuse allegations and when they knew.

“Yeshiva University’s conduct since the public revelations of its multidecade sex-abuse coverup has been extremely dishonest and morally bankrupt,” said Kevin Mulhearn, a lawyer for many of the accusers.

“Yeshiva University seems to be operating from a twisted premise that if it sweeps its own craven and unconscionable conduct under the rug long enough and hard enough it will escape all accountability.”

Mulhearn argues Yeshiva should have come clean to AIG in order to reach settlements with the accusers. Instead, the men are headed toward trial on an “emotional roller coaster,” their lawyer said.

AIG covered the university under various policies from 1979 to 1994, with coverage limits ranging from $1 million to $9 million a year, according to the letter.

Yeshiva University failed to act on allegations of sexual abuse by its staff before 2001, new report says
By Daniel Beekman
New York Daily News - August 26, 2013

It took decades for the prestigious Jewish institution to respond to students' accusations, according to an investigation by an independent law firm.

Yeshiva University failed to act on multiple allegations of sexual abuse made by students until 2001, a report by a law firm hired by the institution said Monday.

But the report is skimpy on details because Yeshiva honchos directed the firm to publicize its findings only in summary form.

The 21-page document is the result of a months-long investigation by Sullivan & Cromwell LLP into claims by former students that they were molested by adults affiliated with Yeshiva.

"The investigative team found that, up until 2001, there were multiple instances in which the university either failed to appropriately act to protect the safety of its students or did not respond to the allegations at all," says the report obtained by the Daily News.

"Based on what the investigative team learned from its interviews with victims, this lack of an appropriate response by the university caused victims to believe that their complaints fell on deaf ears or were simply not heard."

Yeshiva began the probe after a bombshell article by The Forward newspaper in December 2012 about allegations of abuse by two Yeshiva University High School for Boys in the 1970s and 1980s.

Last month, a group of former students field a lawsuit in Manhattan Federal Court and are currently seeking at least $380 million in damages.

The report says abuse occurred at multiple Yeshiva affiliates, not just the boys high school, but is extremely short on details, with just four paragraphs devoted to findings.

The rest is dedicated to background, methodology, recommendations and other information.

The report says the investigative team planned to make public its complete findings on sexual and physical abuse but was directed by a special committee of the Yeshiva board of trustees, "as a result of the pending litigation," to describe the findings "in summary fashion."

It says the investigative team, which also included sex abuse expert Lisa Friel and her firm, T&M Protection Services, spent more than 6,300 hours on the probe, interviewed more than 145 people and "received full cooperation from the university administration … and operated with complete independence."


Yeshiva University President Expresses 'Profound Shame and Sadness' Over Child Sex Abuse Findings 
By Stoya Zaimov
Christian Post - August 27, 2013

NEW YORK – Richard Joel, president of Yeshiva University, a private Jewish university in New York City, has shared of his "profound shame and sadness" after an investigation determined that there had been numerous cases of child sex abuse that occurred at several affiliated schools in the 1970s and 1980s.

"There are findings set forth in this report that serve as a source of profound shame and sadness for our institution," Joel wrote in a statement on Monday, referring to a detailed 53-page report released by international law firm Sullivan & Cromwell LLP into allegations of abuse at Y.U. and affiliated schools.

"On behalf of the Board of Trustees and the entire University community, I express my deepest and most heartfelt remorse, and truly hope that our recognition of these issues provides some level of comfort and closure to the victims. Although we cannot change the past, we remain committed to making confidential counseling services available to those individual victims in the hope they can achieve a more peaceful future," he continued.

The report states that an article from December published by The Jewish Daily Forward reported of sexual abuse by two former staff members, Rabbi George Finkelstein and Rabbi Macy Gordon, who targeted students at Yeshiva University High School for Boys' Manhattan campus during the late 1970s and early 1980s.  

The Forward report states that at the time, the school dealt with allegations of "improper sexual activity" by "quietly allowing" staff members to leave and find jobs elsewhere. Although former students had demanded that the university investigates the claims, law enforcement officials were never notified.

After the article was published, the Y.U. Board of Trustees and the Board of Directors of YUHSB hired the law firm to conduct an investigation, which included interviews with over 145 individuals.

In its findings, the law firm determined that there had been multiple incidents of varying types of sexual and physical abuse that took place at YUHSB during the time period; that it was carried out by a number of staff members in positions of authority; and it took place at a number of different locations affiliated with the university.

In his statement, Joel assured the public that today Yeshiva is "a safe place infused with a culture of warmth" and promised that the university will take on a number of the recommendations laid down by Sullivan & Cromwell's investigation about improving safety and educating members on how to identify and stop abuse.

"We must fulfill our mandate to model the finest moral and ethical behavior for the many who look to Yeshiva University to lead, and to serve as a source of light unto the world," Joel added.

A follow-up article from The Forward, however, noted that a lawyer for a group of students who are suing Y.U for $380 million over the abuse claims called the report "a gross disappointment but not a surprise."

"There's nothing in here that wasn't known in January 2013 when this report was first commissioned," Kevin Mulhearn said.

The lawyer also rejected implications that some of the former students did not cooperate with the investigation, calling the claims "hogwash."

 "I've been saying [that] all along and I told the investigators that [abuse] was endemic to YU and systematic. It was part of the culture," added Barry Singer, one of the two former students named in the lawsuit. "It was not a one-time thing."

Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, honorary president of the Rabbinical Council of America, described the report as a "critical milestone" in the university's handling of abuse allegations.

Goldin said that the report was "very sobering in its limited findings," and added that it "clearly admits wrongdoings on the part of the university."


Y.U. Report on Sex Abuse Draws Mixed Reaction From Modern Orthodox
Some Say Administration Keeping Lid on Crucial Findings
By Paul Berger
Forward - August 28, 2013

Regret and Shame: Yeshiva U. President Richard Joel expressed regret and shame over the findings of the report, even though it states that conditions improved under his leadership.

The Modern Orthodox community has broadly welcomed a long-awaited report into allegations that Yeshiva University staff physically and sexually abused numerous students over several decades. But the report, which withheld most of the findings uncovered by investigators, was not enough to mollify some current and former Y.U. students and victims of abuse.

“More will need to be said” in the future, said Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, honorary president of the Rabbinical Council of America, the main clergy association for Modern Orthodox rabbis. But Goldin hailed the report, released August 26, as a “critical milestone” in Y.U.’s handling of the abuse allegations.

Y.U. cited a pending lawsuit as its reason for not releasing the specific findings by the New York law firm Sullivan & Cromwell, which conducted the investigation. The 21-page report instead offered a three-paragraph summary of the investigation, stating that “multiple incidents of varying types of sexual and physical abuse took place” from the mid-1970s through the 1990s at Yeshiva University High School for Boys in Manhattan, “in certain instances, after members of the administration had been made aware of such conduct.”

The report added that until 2001, “there were multiple instances in which the University either failed to appropriately act to protect the safety of its students or did not respond to the allegations at all.” In addition, the report stated that investigators found “that, during the relevant time period, sexual and physical abuse took place at other schools comprising the University as well.”

For now, Goldin said, Y.U.’s statement had to be “viewed against the backdrop of the litigation” and people have to “recognize there’s not going to be a detailed clarity because of legal concerns.” Despite this constraint, Goldin said, the report was “very sobering in its limited findings.”

“The report clearly admits wrongdoing on the part of the university,” Goldin said.

In contrast, Y.U.’s student newspaper, The Commentator, stated that the decision by a so-called Special Committee of the school’s board of trustees to withhold the law firm’s findings was “casting doubt on the true independence of the investigation.”

The Commentator’s story, by the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Gavriel Brown, noted that the report released by Y.U. cited the names of just two alleged abusers — rabbis George Finkelstein and Macy Gordon — who were first identified in a December 2012 investigative story published by the Forward, which led the school to commission the investigation.

“But [it] does not mention Richard Andron, a third alleged perpetrator,” the article stated. “The report does not detail the actions of Rabbis Norman Lamm, Israel Miller, Mayer Twersky, Yosef Blau, David Weinback, Robert Hirt or Herschel Schachter”—all senior Y.U. staff or officials—“who were accused of failing to act upon information given to them about abuse in the 148-page lawsuit filed by alleged victims.”

“Unlike the lawsuit,” the article stated, “the report does not mention any dates, locations, and details of abuse. It does not detail information about where additional abuse happened at Yeshiva University.”

Brown told the Forward that while he had total confidence that physical and sexual abuse could not go unpunished at Y.U. today, the report was too frustratingly short on detail. “To me, we’re back at square one,” Brown said. “The lesson of this was that these people [Y.U. administrators and staff] put the institution above the students, and what do we see now?” The institution appears to be doing the same again, he said.

Y.U. never publicly promised to release the full investigation that Cromwell & Sullivan submitted. In a statement released shortly after it hired the law firm in January, the school’s board of trustees said only, “We expect the findings of the investigation will be communicated to the public following completion of the investigation.”

But the report Y.U. ultimately released stated, “It was the intention of the Board of Trustees to have made public a report which would have set forth the specific details of the extensive interviews conducted and documents reviewed by the Investigative Team.” It was, the report said, the lawsuit filed against the school in July by former Y.U. high school students who claimed they had been sexually abused that led the board’s Special Committee to release the investigators’ findings “in summary fashion.”

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, who now number 34, are seeking $380 million in damages. One of the plaintiffs, who asked that his identity not be revealed because he is not identified in the lawsuit, said: “If [the Modern Orthodox community] accepts this kind of report, it shows they condone sexual abuse because instead of openness we have a complete, total coverup again.”

But Juda Engelmayer, a former Y.U. high school student who was initially cynical about the investigation after being interviewed by Y.U.’s investigation team earlier this year, said he was impressed with the report. “They seem to indicate serious things happened,” said Engelmayer, who contacted investigators because he knew, secondhand, of abuse.

“Because of what I do,” added Engelmayer, a public relations executive, “I understand that when there’s a lawsuit present, there are things you cannot say. As principled and as high a road as you might want to take, that might not be in Y.U.’s best interest.”

“Now, we have to see how they choose to address the victims,” Engelmayer said.

Last year, a report into allegations of sexual abuse and cover-up over many years at Penn State University was released fully and without preconditions by the school, despite pending legal action. In that case, former FBI director Louis Freeh, published a damning, 144-page report that blamed key Penn State administrators, including its president and the school’s revered longtime football coach, Joe Paterno, for covering up abuse allegations over 14 years.

In the Forward’s December 2012 article, Rabbi Norman Lamm, a former president of Y.U., said that during his tenure, which ran from 1976 to 2003, he dealt with credible allegations of improper behavior against staff by quietly allowing them to leave and find jobs elsewhere. The allegations were made against staff “not only at [Y.U.’s] high school and college, but also in [the] graduate school,” Lamm said.

Lamm presided over three Y.U. high schools — two boys schools and one school for girls — three undergraduate schools and several other schools such as the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary.

In the December article and in subsequent reports, the Forward interviewed about 20 students who said they were abused by Finkelstein and by Gordon, a senior Talmud instructor, covering a period from the late 1970’s into the early 1990’s. Finkelstein, an administrator, served as the school’s principal during part of this time.

There was initial skepticism when Y.U. announced it would commission an independent investigation. Y.U.’s board issued a statement in January that said: “The Board of Trustees is fully aware that it will be judged on the manner in which it conducts this critical and sensitive matter and, in that connection, will, as always, seek to meet, if not exceed, the best possible practices employed by institutions that have confronted similar circumstances.”

Sullivan & Cromwell hired Lisa Friel, a former head of the Manhattan District Attorney’s sex crimes unit, to assist with the investigation. Friel heads up a sexual misconduct consulting and investigations division of T & M Protection Resources.

The investigative team conducted more than 145 interviews and sifted through tens of thousands of paper documents, including items from university archives, personnel and payroll files.

The report stated that the team reviewed 70,000 emails “that hit on a broadly-defined set of targeted search terms” dating back to 2003. But it said that the period in which Y.U. 
failed to deal adequately with abuse ended in 2001. The report noted that 70 people either did not respond or declined to be interviewed by investigators. It said that the attorneys who represent former students suing Y.U. did not make their clients available for interview.

At least one of those students, Barry Singer, told the Forward that he was interviewed by investigators in February. Kevin Mulhearn, who represents the majority of the alleged victims, said that he provided investigators with a fact sheet, detailing the assaults against each of his clients and the reports of the assaults that they made to Y.U.

Y.U.’s president, Richard Joel, issued a statement August 26 expressing his “deepest and most heartfelt remorse” for the findings of the Sullivan & Cromwell report which, he said, “serve as a source of profound shame and sadness for our institution.”

Joel said that Y.U.’s board and community “truly hope that our recognition of these issues provides some level of comfort and closure to the victims.” Joel, who took over the Y.U. presidency in 2003, no doubt breathed a sigh of relief when the report was published.
The report absolves the current administration of any blame.

“The University’s response to allegations of physical and sexual abuse that occurred at the University since 2001… significantly improved,” the report found. “Indeed, with respect to all such allegations, the Investigative Team found that the University acted decisively to address the allegations and to ensure the safety of the University’s students.”
The bulk of the report focused on Y.U.’s existing policies and guidelines on bullying, harassment and physical and sexual abuse.

The report praised Y.U.’s current guidelines before offering a raft of measures that would improve student safety and wellbeing. The measures were intended for students of Y.U.’s boys and girls high schools only. The report noted that further examination of similar guidelines for Y.U.’s schools of higher education was needed.

Y.U. will not reveal which of its board members served on the Special Committee overseeing the investigation.

Although the Sullivan & Cromwell report stated that details could not be revealed because of pending litigation, the report did not say whether further information would be released once litigation was complete.

The Forward sent a list of questions to Y.U.’s executive director of communications and public affairs, Michael Scagnoli, on August 26 and August 27. The Forward asked:
  • Which members of YU’s board are on the committee that oversaw the investigation team?
  • How many alleged abusers have been identified by the investigation team?
  • How many victims have been identified by the investigation team?
  • In addition to Y.U.’s Manhattan high school for boys, at which other Y.U. schools were instances of physical and sexual abuse discovered?
  • Once the litigation is complete, will YU commit to releasing the report in full?
  • Scagnoli did not respond.


Y.U. Report's Three Paragraphs Fails To Do Justice to Abuse — or Jewish Ethics
By Rabbi Irwin Kula
Forward - August 29, 2013

On August 26, the law firm of Sullivan & Cromwell, hired by Yeshiva University to look into allegations of past abuse at the university’s High School for Boys, finally concluded its eight-month investigation and released a report detailing its findings. As one of the high school students abused in the early 1970s and as one of the more than 145 people interviewed in the investigation — though not party to the impending multi-party lawsuit against Y.U., now $380 million — I am disappointed, though not surprised, by the report. Eight months, 6,300 hours of investigation, more than 145 interviews and the best that Y.U.’s administration and board could come up with was three paragraphs that said many people were abused at many Y.U. institutions but they could not give any details because of “pending litigation.” Of course some people are happy with this and some people are angry.

Kevin Mulhearn, a lawyer for the group of students that filed the lawsuit, called the report, as one would expect, “a gross disappointment,” while those abused students, willing to be quoted, were justifiably “shocked.” As someone who spent more than two hours being interviewed and rehashing what was so locked away that I never even mentioned it to my wife of 30 years, nor to my brother, who also attended the Y.U. high school and unbeknown to me was similarly abused — I can attest that it is shocking to have your traumatic experience summarized in a few legally cool paragraphs. Y.U. President Richard Joel expressed in an equally expected way the school’s “deepest and heartfelt remorse,” and his hope that this “recognition” brings “comfort and closure.” This was an appropriately lawyerly response, with a concluding flourish referring to Yom Kippur, the High Holy Days season and forgiveness — as if this process has been anything like Maimonides’s wrenching prescription for genuine teshuvah, repentance.

There we have it — a report that offers nothing we don’t already know. (Though I want to make clear that the lawyer who interviewed me was thorough, extremely professional, compassionate and honest.) The report confirms that a part of Y.U.’s high school (and university) culture was predatory and that until 2001, the school’s administration simply did not do what any decent and morally evolved authorities are supposed to do: protect and ensure the safety of its students. No surprises here, and actually quite sad.

It seems the adversarial nature of our legal system is set up to ensure that truth and justice, let alone repentance and repair, are not really the issues. So we now have victims who are understandably suing for millions of dollars, though one wonders what amount of money can actually make up for the loss of innocence and the life-long trauma of being abused by one’s rebbe. And we have a leading Jewish institution that now must go into protection mode. No doubt for solid legal reasons it refuses to release the full report, will offer what I am sure are heartfelt but rote admissions of shame and then request forgiveness, in soulful, pretty Jewish language, for acts committed long ago.

What won’t we have? We will have no serious ethical or spiritual reflection about the relationship between patriarchal all-male adolescent communities and sexual predators. We will not have any conversation about the relationship between highly hierarchical religious cultures in which idealization and transference are common psychological features and lead to abuse of power. We will have no collective thinking about possible common causes for such abuse shared with other religious communities that have been guilty of similar crimes. And of course we will have no public conversation — by a religious and spiritual institution, no less — about the difference between legal categories of civil liability and the psycho-spiritual and psycho-social category of healing and teshuvah.

So it turns out that Y.U. is just one more religious institution among many in America in which young people were abused by people with authority, which failed to protect those whom it was responsible to protect and which now is doing the best it can to acknowledge its wrongdoing while protecting itself. No ohr lagoyim — light unto nations — here, just an administration and a board that is k’chol hagoyim: just like everyone else.

Irwin Kula is a rabbi and the president of CLAL: The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.


Victims’ Attorney: Yeshiva University Report On Sex Abuse ‘A Whitewash’ 
Top Manhattan Private School Admits Problems, But Not Enough For Some
CBS News - August 26, 2013


NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A top Manhattan private school has admitted it failed to protect students from physical and sexual abuse.
But a lawyer for three-dozen alleged victims says Yeshiva University High School is still hiding the extent of wrongdoing, CBS 2’s Tony Aiello reported Monday.
Yeshiva University promised to “meet or exceed” the openness of Penn State and other institutions that have hired outsiders to investigate abuse claims, but a lawyer suing the school says an investigative report released Monday falls far short of that promise.
Attorney Kevin Mulhearn slammed the report released by Yeshiva University.
“I think this is a whitewash. They’re trying to establish with the community the fact they’re being open and candid and this report indicates the opposite,” Mulhearn said.
A lawsuit accuses two former faculty members of physically and sexually abusing boys over a 20-year period — from the 1970s into the 1990s — at Yeshiva’s high school in Washington Heights.
Yeshiva ordered an independent investigation, Aiello reported.
The report out Monday admits “multiple incidents of sexual and physical abuse took place,” and found “multiple instances in which the school either failed to protect the safety of its students or did not respond to the allegations at all.”
“It confirms that the school acted grossly inappropriately,” Mulhearn said.
A statement from President Richard Joel calls the findings “a source of profound shame and sadness for our institution.” He offered victims his “deepest and most heartfelt remorse.”
Yeshiva’s report is far less revealing than last year’s “Freeh report” on the scandal at Penn State. Yeshiva admits it is withholding details as a legal tactic in the face of a lawsuit demanding millions for the victims.
“We’re looking for the information that they promised to provide, but didn’t. We’re looking to get that through the litigation,” Mulhearn said.
The two sides will square off in court in early September.
The report released Monday found that since 2001 Yeshiva has had excellent protections in place to safeguard students.


Only 200 Words About Abuse at Yeshiva University
The Forward - August 30, 2013


Here are the numbers you need to know regarding the Yeshiva University sex scandal. Nearly two dozen students first told the Forward that they were physically and sexually abused by staff members at Y.U.’s high school for boys. Eventually, 34 of those students sued the school. The university spent a reported $2.5 million on an eight-month investigation by the respected law firm Sullivan & Cromwell, in which about 145 people were interviewed and 70,000 pertinent emails reviewed.

But in the end, the actual hard findings in the report released August 26, acknowledging abuse and cover-up in only vague terms, were contained in precisely 200 words.

Two hundred words are no match for the years of pain suffered by students at the hands of their rabbis. Two hundred words are no answer to the haunting question of why multiple people in authority at America’s flagship Orthodox educational institution repeatedly ignored pleas by the students they were entrusted to keep safe. Two hundred words hardly explains how these abusers were allowed to quietly leave the school and take jobs with other Jewish institutions in the United States and Israel without ever being held accountable.

The justification that Y.U. offers for its brief, public explanation of what went wrong for decades at various branches of the school is “pending litigation.” That is, the $380 million lawsuit brought by 34 former students who allege that university officials knowingly covered up the abuse, a suit that is now slowly winding its way through U.S. District Court.

Simply put, that is an unworthy and unsupportable excuse. As our Paul Berger notes, even the mighty Penn State University allowed a scathing detailed report of sexual abuse and cover-up to be publicly released while individual lawsuits were pending.

Y.U. President Richard Joel, who years ago presided over a far more forthcoming and honest investigation of a different instance of rabbinic sexual abuse, owes the university and its supporters more than 200 words. All the assurances he can offer, all the newly-revised reporting guidelines that make up the bulk of Sullivan & Cromwell’s report, do not obviate the need for a full, transparent accounting of how a pervasive culture of abuse was allowed to continue until the Forward exposed it through dogged, at times unpopular — and now entirely legitimated — reporting.

Rabbi Irwin Kula, a celebrated, nationally known religious leader, acknowledged publicly for the first time in the pages of the Forward that he, too, was a victim of abuse as a Y.U. student. His alma mater’s paltry disclosure and lack of accountability, he wrote, robs us of a “public conversation” about the difference between legal categories of civil liability and true healing and repentance.

That is a terrible lesson for this historic, important university to impart. But there it is. In 200 words.

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