The president of Yeshiva University said the school had a “zero tolerance” policy for sexual abuse and harassment following a lengthy investigation of past abuse allegations in the Forward.
President Richard Joel issued a statement Thursday following the publication of an article in the Forward newspaper which investigated claims, most of them more than two decades old, that two rabbis at the university’s high school for boys were known for acts of inappropriate and sexual contact with students.
According to the Forward, the activities of the two rabbis — George Finkelstein and Macy Gordon — were widely known in the university community and were reported to school adminstrators. Neither rabbi was disciplined by the university.
The university’s former president and current chancellor, Rabbi Norman Lamm, said in the report that he had been aware of the allegations but allowed the two men to “go quietly” rather than investigate or report the allegations to authorities.
“The actions described represent heinous and inexcusable acts that are antithetical both to Torah values and to everything that Yeshiva University stands for,” Joel said. “They have no place here, in our community, or anywhere at all. The thought that such behavior could have occurred at our boys’ high school, or anywhere at this institution, at any time in its past, is more than sufficient reason to express on behalf of the University, my deepest, most profound apology.”
In his statement, Joel encouraged anyone with information about abuse to the administration via a hotline, 866-447-5052.
In a statement Friday, Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, president of the Rabbinical Council of America, an Orthodox organization, said it was “deeply troubled” by the allegations. “It is especially hard to confront improprieties which may have occurred in our own house, yet that is where the responsibility lies. We are confident that Yeshiva is equal to the task.”
The group Survivors for Justice, dedicated to victims of abuse in the Jewish community, said the univerity’s actions were inconsistent with Jewish law. “Established halacha places a pedophile in the category of a rodeph (an imminent threat), the group said, “in part because of a recidivism rate of more than 50 percent. In his 2004 psak (ruling) on the issue, the late Rabbi Shalom Elyashiv writes that one should report those who sexually abuse children directly to the police and that doing so is of benefit to society.”