Best Commentary on Rabbi Lamm’s Resignation Speech by David Morris

Rabbi Norman Lamm’s resignation speech was released by Yeshiva University at the end of June. It included a section about abuse, and his recognizing his grave mistake. It is an equivocal speech. David Morris, has done a great job of analyzing its strengths and weaknesses. Read his post, Rabbi Lamm’s Resignation – Honourable, or Too Little, Too Late?

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17 thoughts on “Best Commentary on Rabbi Lamm’s Resignation Speech by David Morris

  1. i am very sorry. The bottom line is, that no analysis is appropriate, Norman Lamm or i guess rabbi Lamm did not write this, this was ghost written perhaps by a family member or far more e likley by one of the lawyers already on staff to handle the Legal suit. so specific analysis line by line, l’fi daati (IMHO) is superflous. Waste of mental and intellectual effort. A barely lucid Rabbi, at his age, half way out the door, and yes, at his age he is closer to the end than the begiinning, which can be said about many of us, even I, he does not, have the cognitive ability to write this letter and i am not even referring to the wording, there remains a strong possibility that he never saw it. It was in preparation ifor the lawsuit, albeit a waste. Who the heck writes, “infrangible and pellucid”. pray tell was this translated from some slavic language, does the probably not lucid Rabbi Norman Lamm, who I understand was once a great scholar, does he have a clue that this letter was written at all. Get him on a talk show, eh???? Ask him what he wrote. sasson usameach.
    YU is f n desparate, and I”Y”H” it will not help them, Justice is due, albeit years too late. not everyone has the psychological strength to accuse the molester. Numbers help in fortifying that strength, and not for money, but heck, let the bastards pay, cover up over cover up over cover up. Time to pay the piper. and if YU goes under they can blame ezra and madoff. or whatever. Negligent re finances, negligent re the physical spiritual emotional psychological health of their students they really should depart, willingly. The more victiims who step forward, the more of those silent for decades will gain the strength to participate, to finally tell their story perhaps for the very first time.

    • It is my impression that the bulk of the letter was written about 5 years ago and dusted off. The portion re abuse is probably written by his family. I have no idea if the content was negotiated with YU (translate, as YU’s attorneys). If there were negotiations it is possible that the lawyers wanted some stuff that admitted too much removed, which would explain some of the odd disjunctures in that text.

      It is possible that these were Rabbi Lamm’s thoughts at some earlier point.

      However, the decision to represent it as his current lucid thoughts was most likely an act of deception by the YU administration. Even if his family had submitted it, it was a YU decision to broadcast it.

      In recent years, I am told Rabbi Lamm’s state could vary sharply from day to day.

      However, I second Shmarya Rosenberg’s observation that Paul Berger of the Forward took advantage of R. Lamm’s current condition. The best proof, is that the Norman Lamm of old would never have made the impolitic mistake of giving a reporter such a damaging quote about YU (whether or not that was how he felt). I have no idea if he came to regret his earlier decisions or not. However, his statement to the forward and his resignation speech are not informative about his state of mind in any useful way. The period when his thoughts merited this sort of attention passed.

      Nevertheless, there is a text, put forth proudly by YU. In some sense it is now YU’s statement rather than Norman Lamms. As such, it is worth examinging for its content, who ever wrote it. I know academic Biblical scholars who do not believe in Biblical authorship, yet study the torah portion of the week seriously engaging in the text as if it is an important coherent whole, however it got there. In that sense, I think David Morris, does a good job. By the way, if you read him with some subtlety, you will see that he is clued into the question of Rabbi Lamm’s authorship.

      As for describing his state, it gives me no pleasure to ridicule this sort of malady, but a purpose is served in setting the record straight. But I would rather say as little about that as possible, just sufficient to to avoid misinterpretation.

      • Re Rabbi Norman Lamm’s hypothetical mental condition, heck, not meant to disparage, unfortunately, those of us lucky enough, rather unlucky enough
        to reach his age, many (most??) will be confronted with mental deterioration,
        So, my intention was not to demean or denigrate, but that is the way of the world, how HE wants it, if you will. I dread that outcome myself, the lucky few, die quick overnight deaths. That being said, I still maintain and question (and you YL are the cognescenti here), in due deference, the letter in my mind is irrelevant, unles, we can know what was written by whom and when (the why would be clear if we had ansers to the first two)components) Otherwise it is open season on speculation, Mardi gras punching bags, excuse my illiteracy, hit the bag, and see what falls out?
        no disrespect the the Norman Lamm of old, l’daavoni harav, many of us will reach that awful stage. how to avoid? Not politic to discuss…..

        • Gaon, I would argue that the text is worth discussing even if we have no idea if the author is Francis Bacon, William Shakespear, Rabbi Lamm hismelf, his relative(s), or a copy writer in the YU PR office. Try this as a mental experiment. Imagine the text was printed as a YU news story where some old colleague of Rabbi Lamm, writes, about 12 years ago, shortly after he retired, Rabbi Lamm shared with me these thoughts….. and said he hoped to soon feel well enough to put them in writing and issue them. Under that scenario, if the report is truthful, we could proceed to a discussion of the content of the statment. Alternatively, imagine the entire section about the abuse scandals was wrtten by YU PR hacks. It does not illuminate Rabbi Lamm’s thoughts but it does tell us how YU wants to spin the story. Lets even make believe that we are completely unable to figure out whether the statement is closer to R. Lamms thoughts when he was in in better health or was a PR fabrication, presented as his views. However, either way the text is identical, and for purposes of convenient labelling we call it “Lamm’s resignation letter.”

          Either way we have a document that YU wishes to have out there as part of a strategy for dealing with the abuse case. The mere fact that YU wants this out there is reason enough to read it carefully to see what they are and are not able to admit, and what they are and are not willing to do to respond to victim/survivor grievances.

          I think that is how David Morris was reading the “Lamm” text. If you were not so focused on the authenticity issue, you would see that there was value in David’s reading. Moreover, by careful attention to his subtle references, he was aware of the question of who wrote the letter.

  2. What all of you may not be aware of is that about a decade ago when advocates for survivors began posting information on the Rabbi Gafni case online and began looking into the Rabbi Finklestein case, Rabbi Norman Lamm wrote and distributed a letter (I do not have a copy at this time so I can only relate its contents from memory) condemning the efforts of an advocate for survivors. The letter as I recall stated something to the effect that it was improper to post/publicize allegations of abusive behavior unless there was a criminal conviction (which of course was almost impossible in NY due to the severe limitation period and the insttutional efforts to cover up such abuse).

    I now realize that not only was Rabbi Lamm destroying competition to his son-in-law’s new Jsafe orgaization, but he was likely actively trying to silence those who were starting to expose Rabbi Lamm’s and YU’s coverup for various child molesters and protect Rabbi Lamm’s “legacy”. His son-in-law is employed by Yeshiva University and receives a salary which of course further compromises Jsafe as an advocacy goup in the current YU scandal.

    Several decades ago, there was a child sex abuse scandal at YULA involving Rabbi Aron Tendler, can anyone advise if the school was still affiliated with Yeshiva University at the time and whether Yeshiva University officials were involved with the internal investigation and cover-up?

    Also, Yeshiva University has $227 Million in Investments in Central America and the Caribbean. That and other real estate investments should cover any award against Yeshiva University so Rabbi Maryles fearmongering as to the demise of Yeshiva University. There is a Matthew Maryles who is a trustee at Yeshiva University.

  3. A little history on West Side Jewish Center of West 86th where Dr. Norman Lamm was the rabbi while Andron was plying his “trade” there.

    http://jewishcenter.org/content.php?pg=history&ID=244

    This supposedly “orthodox” shul hired the infamous Mordechai Kaplan from the Conservative JTS to be their rabbi.

    They don’t tell you but they were forced to kick Kaplan out when the frum press went beserk and the Young Israel movement called Kaplan a kofer. The Agudas Harabbonim under Rav Lazer Silver later put Kaplan in cherem.

    After even Conservative rabbis started attacking Kaplan as going too far, Kaplan then went on to found the Reconstructionist movement.

    Does anyone know by way if the WS Jewish Center rabbi after Norman Lamm, Rabbi Dr. J.J. Schachter had any knowledge of Andron’s proclivities?

    http://www.jstandard.com/content/item/rabbi_of_rabbis_looks_back/27879

    Meanwhile the NJ Jewish Standard 2 weeks ago interviewed Rabbi Shmuel Goldin who is helping YU with their cover up pr campaign. Shmuel Goldin is a former employee of Norman’s brother Maurice Lamm. Shmuel Goldin calls his grandfather Rabbi Hyman Goldin a “Renaissance man.” When the newspaper asks for more details they are informed that Hyman Goldin was kicked out of his yeshiva in Vilna for studying Darwin. (I think I will pass on his translation of Kitzur Shulchan Aruch & other publications)

    Hyman Goldin operated a summer camp where he brought a JTS “scholar” that was so put on a pedestal that a camp building was named for this Conservative rabbi.

    Shmuel Goldin’s father Isaac Goldin went off the derech as did the other siblings while they were still living in Hyman Goldin’s house. When Isaac Goldin became infatuated with the daughter of a Slabodker talmid who rejected him as he was not frum, he kept pestering her and promising to become frum again. She finally agreed and her father’s friend Rav Yaakov Kaminetzky was the mesader kiddushin.

    So tell us Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, are you covering up for YU child abuse while still taking dishonest potshots at Rav Yaakov’s Agudah because you believe as Darwin does that Man descends from apes and therefore do not deserve appropriate compassion?

    When the paper asks Shmuel Goldin which personal accomplishments he is proud of, he cites fighting child abuse (SAY WHAT???) and fighting for women to daven and lein with a minyan at the Kosel.

    • Just some historical context. At the time Kaplan was hired by Harry Fischel, JTS was considered orthodox by the modern orthodox and Kaplan was considered orthodox enough to have been an assistant rabbi under Ridbaz, and one of the advisors who founded the National council of Young Israel.

      When he deviated he was fired. He was never kicked out of JTS.He retired in his old age (I believe in his 70s). The Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (and thus a movement was founded by his son-in-law but Kaplan stayed on at JTS.

      You can attack being interested in Darwin, but Natan Slifkin makes a plausible case for such beliefs being compatible with halachah. If you want to attack Lamm, the Jewish Center or Goldin, (some of which is deserved) just stick to your facts and get your facts right.

      • Yerachmiel, I completely agree that we should stick to facts.

        I never said that Kaplan was kicked out of JTS. I did say that he was attacked by some Conservative rabbis. That in part led to him virtually leaving the Conservative, actually just stopping short of officially resigning when he started the Reconstructionist movement. Louis Ginzberg & Saul Lieberman lambasted Kaplan in HaDoar newspaper.

        According to CCAR’s Amy Scheinerman who wrote a biography of Kaplan, he co-founded Reconstructionist together with his son in law Eisenstein.

        I don’t understand how you could say JTS was still considered orthodox at that point being that Solomon Schechter (a former Lubavitcher) took the helm of JTS in 1902. American Hebrew reported as early as 1895 that Schechter was mechalel Shabbos befarhesya. WS Jewish Center even admits on it’s website that Kaplan had non-orthodox hashkofos but his agreement with Fishel was to keep his views to himself while acting like an orthodox leader (maybe this is another motive for Fishel’s great-grandson Aaron Reichel who is so sensitive over predators operating at WSJC that feels compelled to defend YU)

        Are you sure that Kaplan worked under the Ridbaz? I know that he worked under Rabbi Margolies, the great-grandfather of Haskell Lookstein who is another YU apologist

        I once heard that Slifkin backs Darwin but I thought it was a joke. Can you point me to Slifkin’s supposed sources?

        I did make one error that you did not catch. I only know for sure that Shmuel Goldin attacked today’s Agudah, not the Agudah of yore when it was led by honorable men like Rav Kaminetzky, not that it makes Goldin any less of a hypocrite as he denies there is any cover up corruption at YU and the OU.

        • I don’t know why you think this discussion should be devolving into an attack on people like Rabbi Goldin. He is not central to this discussion, and whatever shortcomings of his you feel necessary to criticize, please try to discuss them in a way relevant to this discussion. As far as Rabbi Lamm’s son in law goes, he is not employed by YU, and just for the record, he has been a good ally in this fight. I can tell you for a fact that without Mark Dratch, Cheifetz would not have spoken at the RCA. Dratch was incredibly supportive of Cheifetz, including the less comfortable details of his address.

  4. That’s because Rabbi Shmuel Goldin talks out both sides of his mouth. He is a hypocrite for saying that “we don’t cover up child molestation like the Agudah” when he is essentially doing just that by refusing to allow any criticism of the YU cover up.

    It is also alleged that he attacked his own member Susan Rosenbluth from the pulpit when she wanted to expose Lanner and he was a senior RCBC member when the organization threatened an ad boycott of her newspaper by RCBC restaurants.

    Goldin is not the only culprit. There is an old boys network from the revolving doors at YU that will cover for Norman Lamm & each other. This includes Kenny Brander, Kenny Hain & Haskell the rascal Lookstein.

  5. >As far as Rabbi Lamm’s son in law goes, he is not employed by YU,
    He is employed by YU. YU’s financial statements confirm he receives a salary of just under $80,000.

    >and just for the record, he has been a good ally in this fight.
    I do not disagree. As with many activists, I do not agree with all his positions, particularly his opposition to naming documented abuse cases with no criminal convictions. A position his father-in-law took in writing as many of us were investigating YU related cases. The difficulty is that his father-in-law is an evil man who acted with utter disregard to children under his care and it appears Rabbi Lamm knew a pedophile he quietly “let go” was at the BRS while his son-in-law was Rabbi and did nothing.

    • He received that salary, for which fiscal year?
      Is he currently employed by YU in addition to to his employment at the RCA as of September 2012.

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