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

Pelcovitz and Leading Orthodox Rabbis Line Up Behind Sex Offender Evan Zauder

Guest Post by David Cheifetz

David Cheifetz

David Cheifetz

David Cheifetz is a resident of Teaneck, New Jersey. He is also the founder of a new non-profit organization, Mi Li – Who Is For Me, designed to educate the Jewish community about sexual abuse of children and provide support to victims and their families.

About a year ago I came forward in the pages of The Jewish Week and shared my experience as a victim of sexual abuse by a senior member of the staff at Camp Dora Golding in 1979. I also had the opportunity to address the annual conference of the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) on the topic. In both instances and in other articles and venues, I spoke about the challenge that we face in the Orthodox community regarding a pervasive tolerance of sexual abuse of children.

This is not limited to any corner of the Orthodox community – It exists in the Modern Orthodox world just as it exists in the Ultra-Orthodox world. And while there is a growing recognition of this scourge, there has been little progress in addressing the underlying culture that tolerates abuse and excuses Orthodox pedophiles. Indeed, when someone is accused of abuse, and even found guilty of committing heinous acts of sexual abuse against minors, many communal leaders continue to bend over backwards to show Rachmunus (mercy and empathy) to the perpetrators, and little regard to the victims.

Evan Zauder

Evan Zauder

The terrible phenomenon has been highlighted once again this past week, coinciding with the scheduled sentencing of Evan Zauder. Evan Zauder, was a teacher at the Modern Orthodox Day School Yeshivat Noam located in Paramus New Jersey. Zauder also had a long history of working with Jewish youth, including as a synagogue youth director and participant in numerous youth related programs. In 2012, Zauder was arrested for possessing child pornography, and was subsequently found by the US Government to have distributed child pornography as well. He was also found to have engaged in illicit sexual relationships with underage males that involved graphic discussion, mutual masturbation 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.

Is Richard Joel Incompetent or Just Covering Up?

By now the world knows that Yeshiva University (YU) hired a convicted child molester, Akiva Roth, as a Hebrew instructor. This was rank incompetence and a PR disaster. This comes on top of YU’s failure to keep their promise to produce an open report about the sex abuse in their HS by George Finkelstein, Macy Gordon and Richard (Ricky) Andron. Instead the report dwelled on their terrific new policies from preventing this from happening again.

It took them four days to announce Akiva Roth’s resignation. That is way too long for an institution in the limelight for sex abuse.  Their belated press release states:

After an extensive review of this matter, Mr. Roth is no longer employed by the University. To our knowledge, he has not engaged in any inappropriate conduct during his time at YU. While all appointments are subject to thorough background checks, the University erred in this case, permitting the new hire to begin teaching before the screening process had been completed. Yeshiva University will continue to re-evaluate its hiring processes and work to close any gaps in our procedure.

YU President Richard Joel was hired for his administrative and fund-raising skills. But he is also screwing that up. On September 9th, Moody’s downgraded YU’s bonds. The Forward’s reporting of the downgrade focused on the ongoing sex abuse litigation. However there was a lot more to it. Their summary states:

Moody’s Investors Service has downgraded Yeshiva University’s rating to Baa2 from Baa1 and kept the rating on review for downgrade. The rating action reflects the university’s weak liquidity with a full draw on operating lines of credit, expected covenant breach on lines of credit Continue reading

It Is Time to Fire Richard Joel

What in the world is the matter with YU. They issued a report with no content about its history of abuse, blaming it all on their lawyers. Penn State consulted with lawyers and issued a report detailing many damning and embarrassing details about their handling of abuse by Jerry Sandusky. But of course, Penn State also fired football coach Joe Paterno and their president. They were determined to put the scandal behind them by addressing it  head on and by entering into serious negotiations to settle claims by individual victims of Sandusky.

But then Penn State has an independent board of trustees. YU should also settle and fire President Richard Joel, but it seems he controls the board. So he produced his absurd report which was all about how they are now better and padded it with their texts of their policies.

Now we know that still haven’t gotten it together. They hired Akiva Roth as an instructor of Hebrew for their Yeshiva College undergraduates in spite of his history of serious sex abuse violations. News of the hire came out yesterday. A competent organization wouldn’t have made the mistake. A competent organization, if it did goof Continue reading