Richard Joel and Yeshiva University
Richard Joel, President of Yeshiva University – 212-960-5300 firstname.lastname@example.org
Yeshiva University is the premier Modern Orthodox rabbinical seminary in the world. Thousands of Y.U. students have become ordained rabbis through Y.U. Many of them lead prominent synagogues and Orthodox institutions.
Unfortunately, some Y.U. rabbis have a very long history of either failing to protect Orthodox children and adults, supporting convicted child sex predators, failing to defrock abusive rabbis and ignoring the please of victims for help, as will be shown below.
1) Y.U. was sued by 34 former students alleging that Rabbi George Finkelstein, Rabbi Macy Gordon and Rick Andron sexually abused them over the course of many years. The case was dismissed not due to lack of evidence or witnesses willing to testify, but on statute of limitations grounds.
A report commissioned by Y.U. at a reported cost of $2.5 million confirms that abuse took place in many Y.U. locations, by numerous individuals and over the course of many years.
The summary report states –
“The Investigative Team has concluded that multiple incidents of varying types of sexual and physical abuse took place at YUHSB during the relevant time period. This conduct was carried out by a number of individuals in positions of authority at the High Schools at various times throughout the period covered by the Investigation, including, in certain instances, after members of the administration had been made aware of such conduct. In addition, the Investigative Team found that, during the relevant time period, sexual and physical abuse took place at other schools comprising the University as well.”
The Y.U. lawsuit was thrown out due to New York’s disgracefully short statute of limitations (courtesy of the Catholic Church and Agudath Israel).
In Judaism, there is no such thing as a statute of limitations. Criminal acts are never forgiven without the offender begging forgiveness from each and every victim and fully compensating the victims for their lifetime of pain, therapy and the damage that they suffered.
Ironically, the world’s most prominent Modern Orthodox rabbinical seminary uses secular law to skirt the Torah and Jewish values because of a statute of limitations that Torah law does not recognize.
Despite Y.U.’s own damning report –
- No one was fired over the scandal.
- Victims, to my knowledge, have not been compensated for the harm they suffered.
- Y.U. does not publicly identify the molesters.
- Y.U. will not name the rabbis and officials who covered up the abuse.
Former Chancellor Rabbi Norman Lamm has publicly admitted that he allowed Y.U. molesters to be hired by other Jewish institutions and he did not warn them.
Contrast Y.U.’s rabbis’ actions with an entirely secular university that had a similar sex abuse scandal – Penn State. In the Jerry Sandusky case, university officials lost their jobs, Penn State was severely sanctioned and Sandusky went to jail for at least 30 years for the sexual abuse of students that went on for years. Penn State has already paid $60 million in compensation to 26 victims and may pay more.
Instead of hiding behind its lawyers, it’s time that Y.U. displays humility, compassion, leadership and a commitment to adhering to Torah law.
- Y.U. needs to reach out to each and every victim, apologize, beg their forgiveness and amply compensate them for their lifetime of suffering.
- In addition, Y.U. needs to publicly identify every person it believes to be a sex offender and warn the communities in which the offender lives and works about him.
2) After Y.U. president Richard Joel made 2 public declarations that Y.U. was safe, Y.U. hired a convicted child sex offender, Akiva Roth, to teach Hebrew.
3) Rabbi Matis Weinberg was alleged to have abused numerous Y.U. students in Israel. Y.U. terminated its study abroad program in 2003 because of Weinberg but does not say what Weinberg is believed to have done to Y.U. students. I personally warned Y.U. rabbis about Weinberg 22 years prior to these events. They knew of abuse allegations against Weinberg for decades and yet Y.U. students were still sent to a yeshiva where Weinberg had access them.
4) Rabbi Marc Gafni was once a Y.U. rabbinical student and he also ran a teen outreach program from a Y.U. office. He has publicly admitted to having sexual relations with Sara Kabakov when she was 13. She alleges that she told several Y.U.-ordained rabbis about Gafni and that they either ignored her or defended Gafni.
Judy Mitzner alleges that she was repeatedly sexually assaulted by Gafni when she was a minor. She claims that she reported the abuse to Y.U. and that nobody did anything to protect her or stop Gafni.
“So, what is wrong here? Why did Yeshiva University (who heard my story at the time directly from me, and stories from others) permit Mordechai Winiarz (aka Marc Gafni) to continue his employ as the director of the then Jewish Public School Youth Movement?”
(From Judy Mitzner’s blog)
5) Rabbi Baruch Lanner is a former Jewish school principal and youth group leader. He is also a convicted child sex offender who was protected for years by Y.U.-ordained rabbis. Even after he served 6 years in jail, he was allegedly welcomed into the home and synagogue of Y.U.’s high school principal, Rabbi Michael Taubes.
6) Evan Zauder is a convicted child sex offender who was a rabbinical student at Y.U. Before his sentencing (he received 13 years), 50 individuals sent letters to the judge requesting leniency for Zauder.
Some of the letters were sent from prominent Y.U. staff including:
Rabbi Ezra Schwartz, Rosh Yeshiva of RIETS;
Rabbi Kenneth Brander, Vice President of university and community life;
Dr. David Pelcovitz, professor of psychology and special assistant to Y.U. president, Richard Joel.
Letters were also sent to the judge by prominent rabbis including:
Rabbi Steven Pruzansky, Congregation Bnei Yeshurun of Teaneck, New Jersey;
Rabbi Reuven Taragin, Dean Yeshivat HaKotel (Rabbi Mordechai Elon, Yeshivat Hakotel’s former Rosh Yeshiva, was convicted of child molestation);
Rabbi Baruch Taub, Rabbi Emeritus of Beth Avraham Yosef of Toronto Congregation.
No one sent letters to the judge voicing support for Zauder’s victims or advocating for a jail term commensurate with Zauder’s crime. Nothing tells victims of Orthodox child sex offenders that rabbis don’t give a damn about them like the Evan Zauder case.
7) Rabbi Barry Freundel is a world-renowned, Y.U.-ordained rabbi. He was also my rabbi in Washington, D.C. Freundel is currently serving a 6 1/2 year sentence after being caught secretly video-recording 150 women over the course of several years as they undressed to go into one of the most sacred places in Judaism – the women’s mikva (ritual bath).
I can’t think of one rabbi who has done more to damage and traumatize thousands of Orthodox women around the world than Freundel. There are women who refused to use the mikva (causing tremendous marital strife) after reading about Freundel’s disgusting betrayal of his rabbinic power. Women Freundel converted publicly questioned whether they even wanted to remain Jewish anymore.
Yet Y.U., to my knowledge, has not revoked his ordination. For that matter, I am not aware of any rabbi who has sexually abused women or children who has had their ordination revoked by Y.U.
Even the Catholic Church, as horrible as they have been (and still are) in protecting molesters, defrocks molester priests. In a recent 10-year period, the Catholic Church defrocked 848 molester priests and censured another 2,500. I have never heard of a single rabbi, anywhere, whose ordination was revoked due to him being a sexual predator.
Y.U. President Richard Joel, the $2.8 million man
According to The Jewish Forward, Richard Joel, Yeshiva University’s president, reportedly told a man who complained to him that he was molested at Y.U., “[I] told him to get on with his life…”
Also, according to The Jewish Forward, in 2014 (the year that the Y.U. lawsuit was dismissed on statute of limitations grounds), Richard Joel received a compensation package of $2.8 million. This made him by far the highest paid executive of any Jewish non-profit. His previous year’s salary was $900,000. Also in 2014, Y.U. ran a deficit of $150 million. Nice work if you can get it.