Thursday, 20 December 2012
Shame on YU
A series of reports in the Forward have brought to light abusive practices allegedly perpetrated by two senior members of staff at the YU High School for Boys in Manhatten.
These practices allegedly were carried out by Rabbi George Finkelstein and Rabbi Macey Gordon, collectively between the 1970's until 1995.
The mode of operation for Finkelstein seems to have consisted of wrestling with teenage male students in a private location, while committing sexual acts upon them. According to the Forward, the newspaper has received around a dozen such complaints.
At least two reports against Rabbi Gordon allege that he inserted objects into their anus.
According to the Forward, numerous complaints were brought to the YU authorities over the years, including the highest levels of YU, yet these were not acted upon in any way - and certainly in no way which was transparent or accountable.
Apologists for YU are saying that these events happened 30 or 40 years ago, and "things were different then".
They have also pointed out that Rabbi Finkelstein was eventually removed from his position.
However, this is unacceptably lame.
At no point in the 20th Century has such reported behaviour been considered anything but reprehensible.
And that YU enabled Finkelstein to receive employment after dismissal at another school, a Jewish one to-boot, stinks of abject failure to alert others of a known danger. "Al Taamod Al Dam Rea'echa" - it is biblically forbidden to stand by while your brother's blood is spilled. In 1995, such organizational behaviour was just as reckless as it is in 2012.
This whole scandal is particularly abhorrent because YU prides itself, and the modern orthodox worldwide take pride in it, as the paragon of the best of torah study combined with the best of modernity, science and academia - Torah Im Avodah.
And this is particularly disappointing, as several YU staff members have taken courageous leadership positions in confronting and combating the scourge of child abuse in the Jewish community.
Dr David Pelcovitz, Rabbi Yosef Blau and Rabbi Mark Dratch are both faculty members of YU and are outspoken leaders of the Jewish child protection movement - they are heroes of mine in particular!.
When such events happen in closed, suspicious and backwards-looking enclaves, such as Satmar, then at least there is a certain logic that unpleasant realities will be denied to the hilt and systematically covered-up.
The YU scandal is a mark of shame on all of us - that children were allegedly sacrificed by these two entrusted rabbonim on the altar of perverse gratification, and by their esteemed colleagues to preserve the integrity of the institution.
The only better-late-than-never hope is that an open public enquiry is conducted by universally trusted third parties, with full disclosure, protection for witnesses/victims, and empowered to enact changes so that such actions and re-actions will never again be possible in these damaged institutions.
Shame on YU.