LET’S GET REAL ABOUT CHANGING STANDARDS AT YU (from the archives 10/30/13)

Yeshiva University is going to be in the news again for mishandling sexual abuse, in this case the rape of a student by a varsity basketball player. Stay tuned for more details. But part of their legal team identified in the suit includes attorney Karen Bitar. This got me thinking of her ridiculous claims regarding the abuse by YU boys’ HS principal, George Finkelstein.


According to The Forward, yesterday’s 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.

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