My Empathy Questions for Richard Joel

YU Pres. Richard Joel &  Pres. Emeritus Norman Lamm

YU Pres. Richard Joel &
Pres. Emeritus Norman Lamm

From the Frum Follies archives 9/3/13. Still pertinent.

Richard Joel, imagine the principal of one of your high schools was pressing ham sandwiches against the lips of many students. Would you say the incident should be ignored to protect the reputation of this principal who was clearly suffering from some mental illness? If you fired him or her, would it be OK with you if some other synagogue or orthodox school hired them?

Richard Joel, imagine several physicians in the Albert Einstein medical system systematically and maliciously botched dozens of critical operations over several decades which left their patients permanently disabled. Furthermore, imagine dozens of past and current staff, supervisors and administrators violated their ethical code and looked the other way instead of forcing immediate corrective action. Would you be content to announce, “Henceforth we will behave well but we should avoid talking about what happened?”

Richard Joel, imagine your grandchild was seriously disabled for life because of someone else’s reckless negligence. Imagine the offender could avoid paying a single penny because of some legal loophole. Would the lawyer in you admire the opposing attorney or would you rage against the injustice? Imagine the offending party was a worthwhile not-for-profit institution which claimed paying the settlement would force it to trim back its program budget by one percent. Would that change your reaction? Would your reaction depend on the percent of the budget that was affected? At what percentage would you forgive them for their recalcitrance?

Richard Joel, Continue reading

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.

My Empathy Questions for Richard Joel

YU Pres. Richard Joel &  Pres. Emeritus Norman Lamm

YU Pres. Richard Joel &
Pres. Emeritus Norman Lamm

Richard Joel, imagine the principal of one of your high schools was pressing ham sandwiches against the lips of many students. Would you say the incident should be ignored to protect the reputation of this principal who was clearly suffering from some mental illness? If you fired him or her, would it be OK with you if some other synagogue or orthodox school hired them?

Richard Joel, imagine several physicians in the Albert Einstein medical system systematically and maliciously botched dozens of critical operations over several decades which left their patients permanently disabled. Furthermore, imagine dozens of past and current staff, supervisors and administrators violated their ethical code and looked the other way instead of forcing immediate corrective action. Would you be content to announce, “Henceforth we will behave well but we should avoid talking about what happened?”

Richard Joel, imagine your grandchild was seriously disabled for life because of someone else’s reckless negligence. Imagine the offender could avoid paying a single penny because of some legal loophole. Would the lawyer in you admire the opposing attorney or would you rage against the injustice? Imagine the offending party was a worthwhile not-for-profit institution which claimed paying the settlement would force it to trim back its program budget by one percent. Would that change your reaction? Would your reaction depend on the percent of the budget that was affected? At what percentage would you forgive them for their recalcitrance?

Richard Joel, Continue reading

The Negative Reviews of YU’s Abuse Report Are Coming In

Yesterday I posted my reaction, YU Waits Eight Months to Issue a Report that Says Nothing

Others feel the same way.  Rather than summarize the reactions of others, I will pin this post for a while, and try to list articles I found significant. Here are some of my candidates (in the order I encountered them):

  • Report Faults Yeshiva U. on Sex Abuse ChargesInside Higher Ed (8/27/13). “Originally, the university said that the entire report would be released, but it provided only a summary, citing issues raised by suits filed against Yeshiva.”
  • Y.U. Report’s Three Paragraphs Fails To Do Justice to Abuse — or Jewish Ethics. Hiding Behind ‘Pending Litigation’ Is Tired Excuse” Rabbi Irwin Kula (Director of CLAL: The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership) The Forward (9/29/13) [Kula identifies himself as another YU HS victim who first disclosed to his brother after the story came out in December 2012 and discovered his brother was another YU HS victim. He writes eloquently about the moral failings of YU’ approach to the unfolding revelations.]
  • Serious Allegations Against Yeshiva University High School” CBS 2’s Tony Aiello [Video footage of plaintiff’s lawyer] Attorney Kevin Mulhearn slammed the report released by Yeshiva University. “I think this is a whitewash. They’re trying to establish with the community the fact they’re being open and candid and this report indicates the opposite,” Mulhearn said. “We’re looking for the information that they promised to provide, but didn’t. We’re looking to get that through litigation,” Mulhearn said.
  • Yeshiva U., release the full report now!” Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld (of Ohev Sholom–The National Synagogue in Washington DC). Times of Israel (9/1/13) [He compares YU very unfavorably to Penn State, makes it clear they broke their promise to openly report about the abuse at YU, and did this at the behest of a Special Committee of the Board, in defiance of the full board of Trustees].
  • My Empathy Questions for Richard Joel” Yerachmiel Lopin, Frum Follies (9/3/13).

YU Waits Eight Months to Issue a Report that Says Nothing

At last, eight months and two million dollars later, Yeshiva University (YU) has issued its long awaited report on the scandal of molesting by its high school principal (Rabbi George Finkelstein) and another teacher (Rabbi Macy Gordon) which was first revealed by The Forward in December 2012. The “YU Investigation Report” goes by the ungainly title, “Report of Sullivan & Cromwell LLP Regarding Allegations of Abuse at Yeshiva University and its Affiliated Schools.”

YU Pres. Richard Joel &  Pres. Emeritus Norman Lamm

YU Pres. Richard Joel &
Pres. Emeritus Norman Lamm

Save yourself the trouble. It is not worth reading. Mostly, they document what the money was spent on but not what they found other than some unspecified abuse in their high school, by unnamed offenders and uncounted victims. Completely missing is any account of who was responsible for mishandling allegations and letting the dismissed rabbis go on to other positions of trust. Whoopee doo, I really feel enlightened.

Most of the report is devoted to their new detailed policies for dealing with abuse going forward. They adhere to both versions of Kol Nidre. It absolves them of past sins and their policies will absolve them in the future. Continue reading