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. will 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.
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.
Y.U.’s credit rating was downgraded by Moody’s to the junk-bond status of B3, one of Moody’s worst ratings. Y.U. is reported to have incurred yearly deficits of $100 million or more for each of the last 6 years under Joel’s presidency.
Excerpt from The Jewish Week (March 18, 2015) –
“Lack of sound financial records and irresponsible spending have left Y.U. nearly $600 million in debt, according to a faculty letter.”
Some of Richard Joel’s statements –
“I can say with absolute certainty that Yeshiva University has implemented, and will continue to maintain and enforce the policies and procedures necessary to assure a safe environment.”
Richard Joel, President, Yeshiva University – 12-13-12
“Today, the University is a safe place infused with a culture of warmth. For years we have enacted and enforced policies and procedures to protect our students and community members.”
Richard Joel, President, Yeshiva University – 8-26-13.
A month and a half later, the following is reported…
“Yeshiva University Hires Lecturer With Criminal Record of Sexual Misconduct With Boys – Hebrew Teacher Akiva Roth Convicted of Lewdness”
The Jewish Forward – 10-8-13.
“Yeshiva University said it was terminating its association with the Jerusalem school because of “compelling evidence” of a history of alleged sexual abuse by Weinberg and cult-like behavior toward his students.”
The Jewish Forward 8-22-03
“YU, in turn, is expected to drop its counter suit that claimed Derech Etz Chaim “utterly refused to protect” its students from Rabbi Weinberg. Charges about Rabbi Weinberg’s behavior, dating back more than 20 years and including an alleged incident from 2003, first came to light last year, and were taken up by a bet din (religious court) in Brooklyn.”
“Speaking to journalists, students described Weinberg over the years kissing their cheeks and necks “making these noises that one would make if eating something delicious or making love to a woman,” nibbling on their ears, and “embracing guys for longer than what would be considered a friendship hug,” according to alleged victims who spoke on condition of anonymity.
One told how Weinberg had called him into his room and started unbuttoning his shirt, kissing his chest, unbuttoning his pants and fondling him. Another told how Weinberg had come into his dorm room and hugged him, and then put his hand inside his robe and fondled him.
Weinberg has denied any kind of abuse, but has admitted that he once slapped a boy wearing braces in the mouth so hard that it drew blood, while the whole student body looked on. He also acknowledged that he had once extinguished a burnt cigarette in the palm of a student’s hand.”
The Jewish Week 5-7-04
Throughout the past four weeks, YU administrators on the Joint Israel Committee have ascertained that the rabbi, under whose influence and tutelage DEC operates, has a longtime record of allegedly exhibiting exceedingly inappropriate behavior with his students. “What he has allegedly done,” one close source said, “is inconceivably shocking.”
The Yeshiva University Commentator 3-6-03
I told Y.U. rabbis 22 years before these incidents that Weinberg abused me and was destroying the lives of many boys. Despite this knowledge about Weinberg, Y.U. still sent its students to a yeshiva where Weinberg had access to them.
I cannot find a single instance where Y.U. has publicly disclosed the details it knows about the alarming and serious allegations against Weinberg. Every parent who has a child in Israel has a right to know exactly what Weinberg is alleged to have done over many decades and why Y.U. saw fit to terminate its affiliation with Derech Etz Chaim.
“A top rabbinic dean of Yeshiva University has warned rabbis about the dangers of reporting child sex abuse allegations to the police because it could result in a Jew being jailed with a black inmate, or as he put it, “a shvartze,” who might want to kill him.”
“Rabbi Hershel Schachter, one of the most respected faculty members of the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, also said that children can lie and ruin an innocent man’s life.”
(Regarding alleged molesters at Y.U.,) “Schachter told the New York Times, in December, that in addition to Finkelstein and Gordon he knew of another staff member who had been let go for similar reasons. He has never revealed the name of that member of staff.”
The Jewish Forward – 3-14-13
An open letter to Rabbi Hershel Schachter
Dear Rabbi Schachter,
Please allow me to inform you that, statistically speaking, children almost never lie about being sexually abused. Seven year-old Orthodox kids, with no sex education, would have no ability to be able to describe accurately and in detail how they were sexually violated if the violation didn’t occur. Furthermore, Orthodox children have no incentive to lie about abuse when they know that they can be (and usually are) punished for saying bad things about their rabbi, teacher, principal or father.
Your assertion that children can lie and destroy an innocent man’s life is ill-informed. Usually, it’s the other way around. Rabbis can, and do, destroy many innocent children’s lives by accusing them of being liars, by protecting their molesters and by punishing and publicly humiliating child victims for speaking the truth.
Unlike rabbinical courts that almost always whitewash Orthodox child molester’s crimes against Orthodox kids, we live in a nation with an independent judiciary and rules of law. America has a robust judicial system that gives every opportunity to exonerate the accused. If the evidence isn’t compelling, the accused goes free.
Instead of warning rabbis about the dangers of reporting Orthodox molesters to the police, why don’t you allow the police to do their jobs? Unlike rabbis and rabbinical courts, the police are staffed with highly experienced, qualified detectives who know how to investigate allegations of child sexual abuse. Why don’t you warn rabbis about the dangers of NOT reporting molesters to the police?
One last thing – please publicly name everyone that you know who is an Orthodox child molester. Parents and employers cannot protect the children in their care if rabbis cover up and conceal the identities of Orthodox child sex predators.