Let’s Get Real About Changing Standards at YU

According to The Forward, yesterdays hearing on the lawsuit by over thirty former Yeshiva University (YU) High School students focused on the the statute of limitations. YU’s attorney:

Karen Bitar… said she wanted to make clear that “we do not think these allegations are in any way insignificant, unimportant or unserious.” But, Bitar added, the allegations took place at a time “when the [mores] or what was deemed typical or appropriate was much different than what it is today.”

Really? Does Ms. Bitar expect us to believe that at the time it was typical or appropriate for a yeshiva principal to:

take “defenseless boys,” and pin them to the floor, “where they couldn’t move, and proceed to hump them in the backside with an erect penis until he achieved climax.”

I cannot speak to her legal strategy in making these claims. But I can say, as someone familiar with the modern orthodox Jewish world, at the time, that such misconduct was unthinkable. I am willing to believe that many did not appreciate  magnitude of harmful, long-term effects of sexual abuse. But no one ever thought this was OK.

In her clumsy way, she is trying to say, at the time, everyone was covering up these sorts of things. This is largely true. But I can assure you that had George Finkelstein ever molested even one boy in full view of the community, he would have been fired immediately.

This sort of argumentation is shameful for a religious institution. As an orthodox institution it absolutely upheld that view that sexual expression was only appropriate between married adults. In the YU High Schools, rabbis worked hard to convince students that hand-holding on dates was wrong.

YU is trying to eat its cake and have it. It is trying to claim it ran its high schools in accordance with traditional Jewish law but that these things were viewed differently at the time. If so, I defy them to show the public one Jewish source they respect that claims this sort of sexual activity was OK.

YU has to come clean and admit they betrayed their religious principles when they let  George Finkelstein, behave this way when he was supposed to be a religious role model.


33 thoughts on “Let’s Get Real About Changing Standards at YU

  1. Excellent post. I was struck by the same line. It’s profoundly disturbing to me that we are still hearing these arguments a) in 2013 b) from the premier “modern” Orthodox institution c) in America. Not that it would be acceptable under any circumstances, but the confluence of these factors makes it particularly egregious.

    • Yes. It beggars the imagination that anyone can believe he was a suitable religious role model. If he was grabbing boys and smearing pork on their lips he would have been fired. What is scary is that almost all MO leaders with influence have dodged the issue or even defended YU’s misconduct.

  2. As one who was in the courtroom yesterday I can attest to the pain YU is causing the victims. As was stated by YU, “they had their chance to sue when when they were 14. It is their fault for causing the current situation. These plaintiffs should be held to account for not stepping forward in their childhood years. Nice yeshiva.

    • Apparently, the apple does not fall far from the tree. The current Rabbi of Boca Raton Synagogue ( A Yeshiva University Graduate) has proof sittling on his desk that there is
      a 60(ish) year old Doctor, a member of BRS, who has repeatedly molested underage boys and even a 20 year old boy in his office recently. The Rabbi has Board Meeting after Board Meeting, and checks with his lawyers and mental health professionals….but does NOTHING !!!!!!!!!!!!! This is an outrage !!!!! I am one of the mothers of one of the boys the doctor molested. Shame on you Rabbi. You should be stripped of you title Rabbi, and put in the back of the class for failing to learn the basic concepts of humanity

      • I forgot to mention the Rabbi referred to in the above post, Rabbi Efrem Goldberg….actually honors this molester from his pulpit for the engagement of his daughter and allows him to sponsor the kiddish at Boca Raton Synagogue. Does anyone have a Barf Bag handy ?

  3. Chelm and Sodom,2013. Arrogant,Clueless,Enabling Rabbis Destroying (Killing)our children with their great wisdom. What does our torah say when a man rapes a young child???? Destroy the victim and all evidence and then make a dinner Praising the Rapist? The very cold Karen Bitar,for YU said yesterday that the Many victims testimony is simply “alot of Fluff”. Amazing that YU spent $2,500,000 of Mr.Wilf and other Donors $$$$ on an internal report that in a FEW words ADMIT to ABUSE and Cover-up and yet want to Rape the victims one more time by simply stating ,”You’re out of time,HA HA! Lakewood is another Island of insanity, where Kolko’s victim was and is being Raped by the Many so called Rabbis of Lakewood. From LA to Sydney, this Sodom mindset is Destroying many Innocent Souls. and it continues….

  4. My son was molested estimated over 200 times in a 5 year span by this Dr., a member in good standing at Boca Raton Synagogue. I don’t know if my son will ever be able to recover…he suffers every day of his life. The molester is a sick man that will burn in Gehanim…..that is for certain. But where, oh where is Rabbi Goldberg……the community Rabbi of Boca Raton Synagogue ??????? All I can think to say….and I hope someone will say this to him “The Voice of Your Brother’s Blood Cries Out to You”…….for you have known about this for 6 months and done nothing !!!!! Maybe if you meet with another shrink, or hold one more Board Meeting……..the answer will come to you ?

      • The problem so often with sex abuse of children is that they do not disclose to their parents or others until years later. Even if reported promptly when first disclosed to others, it can be too late because of the statute of limitations. In many cases the law is not sensitive enough to the reality that a lot of abuse is only disclosed years later. That is why Floriday, NY and other states are debating extending the statute of limitations for child sex abuse. The problem of delayed sharing of abuse is especially prevalent in the orthodox community.

        Orthodox predators know they are helped by the modesty norms of the community. The process of grooming includes inducing shame, dependance, intimidation and an agreement to keep a secret.

        Besides extending the Statutes of Limitation, the orthodox community needs to do a much better job of educating kids to reduce their vulnerability, educating adults so they are more alert to early signs of grooming and abuse, and creating communal norms which out the abusers and get them under the control of the criminal justice system. Nothing will ever completely eliminate abuse, but these steps could dramatically reduce the incidence and lessen the severity of the effects.

        BRS has a ways to go. Their rabbi and rabbi emeritus spout the correct rhetoric but have a poor record in practice, and as in many other matters, favor the older, the wealthier, and more long-time members.

        It is typical of their focus on PR over substance that they harbored Rick Andron for almost 30 years but forced him to resign on a day’s notice when his name surfaced in the YU lawsuit and was reported in the Forward. Clearly, G-d’s mandate only applies when it is reported in the press. I suppose they imagine, that is how G-d finds out about these things.

        BTW, I am flattered to hear that Rabbi Iffie (sic) Goldberg claims I am a menuval. Just for the record, in current Yiddish usage, the term is reserved for someone guilty of sexual indiscretions. I grant you I have been nasty to him but I have never been accused of sexual abuse. Really, if he wants to start throwing around the word menuval, he should be searching closer to home.

        For those of you in BRS who want to have some fun, try mentioning my blog to him.

    • I am truly sorry for what your son had to endure and continues to have to endure. He will recover in time. It is a slow and life long recovery but woth love and support such is possible.

  5. I completely agree with you Yerachmiel. This was never okay even back then. My parents and the parents of my friends at that time were attuned to any signs of people being inappropriate with their children. This was not okay by any standard. It’s so disturbing how low this attorney is stooping with all of her arguments.

    • I would not blame the attorney. I am sure she gave YU the option of using or not using that argument in court. I am not saying that the attorney is a noble creature or anything like that. However, she is YU’s agent/shliach. YU has to stop claiming it is stonewalling because of advice from its attorneys. Penn State had some of the same legal vulnerabilities and came clean in a report delivered in just a few short months.

      I am willing to bet that YU and Penn State both got the same initial legal advice including options ranging from stonewalling to coming clean. The difference is that Penn State had an independent board and used its judgement to come clean on the abuse and fire its president and head coach, Joe Paterno. YU’s board seems to be controlled by Richard Joel and he obviously does not want a report that ends his tenure as President. At this point appealing to Richard Joel is hopeless. He has blood on his hands. The Board is self perpetuating. Frankly, only a financial crisis will force the board to give up on Joel. Even then it is not clear whether they care more about their own positions on the board than about the institution. Those that care about YU will have to admit that their institution has been hijacked by Richard Joel and his cronies.

  6. Why does the blog owner allow you to keep posting under different names?

    Isn’t that a rule of the blog?

    And why aren’t you using your real name?

    You use your real name when you make similar posts on Facebook?

    Why aren’t you suing the doctor?

  7. What the YU stance depicts is the arrogance of people who do G*d’s work; and are therefor exempt from common-sense morality. It is not unique to Jews, but we claim to be “better”. I am sure that the former Rabbi from Boca can produce profound halachik issues which exonerate all of the accused. This hubris prevents healing and repairing.
    YU’s motto needs to be changed.

  8. here is what congration sharey tfilah has on the website after they alleged fired dovid Weinberger.

    Important notice:

    Shaaray is seeking a new Rav for the Kehilla. Please submit any communications about potential candidates for the position to search@shaaray-tefilah.org

  9. Per Siggy “YU’s motto needs to be changed”. I got it….instead of YU……
    Y ME ? Y did I have the misfortune of having YU Rabbis who worry about being
    sued instead of worrying about protecting innocent children ? Y Me ? Why do I have the misfortune of YU Rabbis who care far more about their plight in This World with little or no regard for The Next World ? Y ME ? Y did I end up living on Montoya Circle being part of a shul that is such shecker…..Y Me ???????

  10. I agree that it is absurd — or obscene — to say that ” the [mores] or what was deemed typical or appropriate was much different than what it is today.” This is a comment I wrote on R. Harry Maryles’ blog when he attempted to defend R. Norman Lamm’s toleration of George Finkelstein:

    “Rabbi Finkelstein did not “resign” until 1995. To say that 1995, or even 1985, was “a time where these things were not as well understood” is a distortion. Perhaps Dr. Lamm didn’t understand the sexual significance of a teacher compelling his adolescent students to wrestle with him, but I would wager that any competent psychologist would have understood it in 1975, and probably much earlier than that. Finkelstein’s behavior was clearly unusual and potentially physically abusive, even if the sexual aspect wasn’t recognized. I was in a public high school in the 1960’s, and I can’t imagine such behavior by a teacher or principal being tolerated.”

  11. A true story. I was in Netanya, Israel during Pesach. An Ethiopian girl fell, and the car did not see her and was about to run her over. Instinctively, I jumped in front of the car and threw her to safety. I never measured, will I get hurt, will I get sued, will I get dirty ? I just simply saved a life….no questions were ever asked in my own mind. So too, the redemption from Egypt. The Jew that jumped in the sea before it split never asked himself …..will I get wet, will I get dirty,will G-d split the sea? He instinctively jumped in with his strong yet simple belief in G-d.
    These true stories are the exact opposite of the Cover Up Rabbis at YU and BRS. First they check with their lawyers, then they check with their Boards….and the first question they ask is “will I get dirty?” Instead of taking an action with a complete yet simple faith in G-d…..knowing Hashem wants them to save the innocent children…….these rabbis put themselves first in their chesbon. It is beyond tragic.

  12. To COMPLETE EMUNAH IN HASHEM…if your going to post accusations and derogatory comments about our friends the Rabbi and the Dr. , own your words and post under your real name KAREN ALBERT.
    Judi Krasna and Nancy Markovitch

    • Karen has no shame going public on Facebook or telling people in the community about it. But a question Karen: why have you refused to give all the information you claim to have to the police? Who called the police in – you or the Rabbi? Why are you hiding and not sharing your real name?
      The community is disgusted by your behavior. Own it.

    • More pain to the alleged victim, for sure, and if it were in New Square or Kiryas Yoel, the pain might be concretized due to arson (car, house, body). They are not yet so m’tuchkam in BR. Yet.

      • Yep, they are anesthetized….like sheep being led to slaughter…..I suppose the ONLY thing that would captivate their attention is if it was their son or daughter (G-d forbid).. Like I say……the results will speak for themselves…………………..

  13. For those who care, I have decided to NEVER post on this blog or read this blog again. If u have anything u want to tell me….FB message me privately. Hashem should bless all of u with only good. Amen

    • Karen, this is the second time you’ve said this. Why would we believe you after the first time. We know you’ll be back because other than your Facebook page, you have no means of public slander.
      Your father was a tzadik and an intimate of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
      Can you imagine your father behaving like this?
      Can you imagine the Rebbe giving you permission to slander another Jew in public?
      Yes, “the results will speak for themselves”.

      • To BRS Member
        Yes, my Father in Law…..Melvin Landow was indeed a Tzadik. My wife Karen has always
        followed THE PATH her Father taught her. In fact, my Father in Law referred to my wife always as his best disciple, the “apple of his eye” and loved her “beyond measure”. My wife Karen is an honest and honorable person who always seeks to do the right thing . She was presented with an impossible situation finding out that her son was molested for 5 years by a member of the BRS community. She tried to work within the system. Due to the Statute of Limitations a roadblock exits. Her pursuit of the perpetrator is not only done to heal our son, but also to protect other children in the future. I believe that in this case the truth will prevail G-d be willing. My wife is telling THE TRUTH.

        • That didn’t take long. She was never going to read this blog or post her again. She she posts using her husband’s name. Kind of obvious it’s Karen posting when she talks about “her son” instead of “our son.”
          The Lubavitcher Rebbe never spoke ill of another Jew. Even in a case of a murderer, he refused to allow the letters “HY”D” on a grave because of his suspicion that the murderer was Jewish.
          There is no way the Rebbe would have encouraged this behavior. And Michael, you were never known for not speaking out. As a former president and long time board member, you were never the one to be silent.
          Why are you silent now?

  14. I know Michael Albert. The real Michael Albert uses his computer to check his stocks on AOL. His wife Karen even runs his Faxebook account. This is an example of Karen posting as Michael. By the way Karen, why not post who your best friends are in Boca on this blog? You think the blog owner would be thrilled to find out who they are?

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