A Mark Of Cain: Charges of Pedophilia/Sex Abuse Rocks Yeshiva University, Modern Jewish Orthodoxy’s Flagship Institution of Higher Learning…Commentary By Adina Kutnicki

Full Disclosure: The following report hits very close to home. A dagger in the heart. It involves an institution which evokes many wonderful childhood memories. There was free rein to explore its vast campus, not to mention the opportunity to flirt with cute boys. This is a result of having a father – of blessed memory – who worked at Yeshiva University (YU), for 45 years, as a Rabbi in its main center of administration. In fact, he taught at its esteemed school for Rabbinical Studies, REITS, when he first arrived in New York from Europe. NEVERTHELESS, the subject matter at hand is so serious that bypassing it becomes unthinkable. Besides, as one who duly reports on the depravities of the Gay-in-Chief (and surrogates), as well as deviance embedded at Hill’s State Dept., surely keeping this topic under communal cover is a non-starter, regardless of its shameful nature.

But for those not in the know, it is important to understand that The Forward (cited below) is a widely read Jewish communal newspaper for many generations of Jews, and by other groups as well. More specifically, it is socialist leaning and highly in sync with Demster politics. Its publishers are reflexively hostile towards Jewish Orthodoxy. So, it is no surprise that they collaborated on an interview with Huffington Post. Fellow travelers.

That being said, just because tragic news is reported at leftward papers, doesn’t obviate the truths discussed, at least in this particular case. Even a broken clock is right once.

And being that this blog rarely veers off geo-politics – aside for occasionally discussing the devastating societal costs due to alcoholism/substance abuse – some may be shocked by this posting. Personally, it’s not a walk on the beach…  

Rabbi Norman Lamm Resigns; Yeshiva University Chancellor Cites Mishandling Of Sex Abuse Allegations

Religion News Service  |  By DAVID GIBSONPosted: 07/01/2013 4:54 pm EDT

Norman Lamm Resigns

NEW YORK (RNS) The chancellor and head of the seminary at Yeshiva University, the flagship U.S. school for Orthodox Judaism, resigned his posts on Monday (July 1) and acknowledged that he had mishandled sex abuse allegations against staff members in the 1980s.

In a letter sent to students, faculty, alumni and donors, Rabbi Norman Lamm, 85, said that in failing to report the abuse complaints to police, he was acting “in a way that I thought was correct, but which now seems ill conceived.”

“I understand better today than I did then that sometimes, when you think you are doing good, your actions do not measure up,” wrote Lamm, for decades a leading figure in Orthodox Judaism.

“And when that happens — one must do teshuvah,” he said, using the Hebrew word for repentance. “So, I too must do teshuvah.”

Lamm’s resignation comes more than six months after a Jewish newspaper, The Forward, revealed that university officials responded to complaints of sexual abuse by staff at an affiliated boys’ school by quietly allowing at least two suspected abusers to leave and find work elsewhere.

More than 20 men have said that they were abused by either Rabbi George Finkelstein or Rabbi Macy Gordon and that the university knew about the allegations and covered them up; both rabbis, who now live in Israel, have denied the charges.

Kevin Mulhearn, a lawyer representing 22 men allegedly abused at Yeshiva University High School between 1971 and 1989, said Lamm’s apology was “a positive first step” but said the university needed to do more.

“The conspiracy of silence at Y.U. involves many high-level administrators, not just Rabbi Lamm,” Mulhearn told The Forward. “It is the institution as a whole, not just one man, which needs to make amends.”

Lamm took over as Yeshiva president in 1976 and remained as chancellor and head of the prestigious seminary after he retired as president in 2003.

In his letter on Monday, Lamm did not directly say that he was stepping down because of the abuse scandal. He said the resignation was “in accordance with an agreement reached 3 years ago” and indicated that he was not in good health, saying that his family had to help him write the letter.

His discussion of the abuse episodes also took up just four paragraphs in a lengthy six-page reflection on his tenure.

The university said in a statement released to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency on Monday that Lamm had agreed to leave three years ago when his contract expired in June 30 of this year. The current YU president, Richard M. Joel, released a brief statement that made no mention of the abuse scandal and praised Lamm for guiding the university with “steadfastness and vision” and for making “unparalleled” contributions to Jewish life.

Still, Lamm’s departure is another jolt to a cornerstone of the Modern Orthodox movement.

In May, The Forward reported that an investigation commissioned by Yeshiva’s board of trustees to delve into the charges had stalled.

And in March a top rabbinic dean at Yeshiva’s seminary gave a talk in which he said sex abuse charges can be “tall tales” spun by children and that they should be screened by a board of rabbis before being reported to authorities.

In the talk, Rabbi Hershel Schachter, one of the most respected members of the seminary’s faculty, was also quoted using a derogatory Yiddish term for black people when he said that reporting abuse allegations is especially dangerous because officials could put a Jew “in a cell together with a shvartze, with a … black Muslim who wants to kill all the Jews.”

The YU episodes also tracked reports that leaders in the ultra-Orthodox movement have covered up allegations of child sexual abuse in their insular communities, and may still do so.

These incidents, as well as reporting on sexual abuse scandals in schools, college football, the Boy Scouts and other organizations that work with children, have often mirrored the dynamic that led to the abuse crisis that has rocked the Catholic Church in the past decade.

Child safety experts say that broadening the focus on abuse to communities outside the Catholic Church would be a positive development if it prompts an awareness of the scale of the problem and the need to take act.

Let there be no doubt: This posting will rile up some in the Jewish community, simply by the fact that too many prefer ‘dirty laundry’ to hide behind closed doors. But this address brooks no such quarter, as many already realize from various ‘airings’exposing the problem of alcoholism and substance abuse.

Most significantly, what about the students who are still suffering from the abuse? Do they not deserve the community’s support and courage to tell their tales? And, don’t the perpetrators, regardless of the passage of time, warrant punishment, not only by the justice system, but the court of public opinion? 

It is on behalf of the victims (and future ones too) that it is incumbent to keep the issue at the forefront. This crime cries out for justice. Pedophiles, regardless of their religion, race or stature in the community, deserve nothing but contempt. Certainly not our protection, a circling of communal wagons, so to speak.

A mark of Cain.

8 thoughts on “A Mark Of Cain: Charges of Pedophilia/Sex Abuse Rocks Yeshiva University, Modern Jewish Orthodoxy’s Flagship Institution of Higher Learning…Commentary By Adina Kutnicki

  1. I wanted to reach you before Sunday ends to say how sorry I am. Your heart must be very heavy. It is the secrets that keep us sick. People in AA eventually have to make amends to all those they have harmed. If they are dead, a letter may be written to ask forgiveness. So many people now believe everything is relative and the means are unimportant, only the outcome. So out with God, out with the Constitution and out with traditions. Anything goes! No, it does not work that way and never will. Thank you again.

  2. Leith, if my father were alive today, I cannot imagine how he would react to this news. Yeshiva University was his heart and soul, he gave it everything he had for 45 years, just to make sure that its mission was fulfilled, as he toiled from his administrative post.

    I spent most of my childhood/teenage years on its campus, every time I had off from school.
    To be sure, most of its teachers are highly dedicated and noteworthy. But it is the twisted few who tarnish its good name. Most egregiously, its TOP leadership covered it up. For that, and so much more, they should never be forgiven. Whatever it takes, they must be punished, to the fullest extent of the law. At the very least, the students, regardless of their ages now, must receive punitive damages from the University, even if it means taking it out of the paycheck of the current President’s (Richard Joel) hefty paycheck. He too bears the onus, as he helped cover it up, that’s for sure.

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  6. Pingback: Yeshiva University, Flagship Of Orthodox Jewry, Will Pay The Price – Finally, Decades After Students Were Sexually Abused! What’s Going On? Commentary By Adina Kutnicki | Adina Kutnicki

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