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. 

7 comments:

  1. FYI Rabbi Dratch is Rabbi Lamm's son-in-law

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  2. Having been both a student and teacher at Yeshiva University during these years, I pose one question: Why didn't the parents of these students call the police. If it was my child I would have confronted these instructors and gone to the police and administration immediately and hired a lawyer. Had any of these students approached me when I was a young teacher of speech at Yeshiva College and told me of this I would have acted with vigor. Yeshiva University is a great institution. Let's not forget that many of today's Jewish leaders are products of YU. It is good that this horrendous part of the history of Yeshiva University has gone public so the individuals can find some degree of justice and peace. We are all awaiting Yeshiva University's response. It is still a great institution with fantastic teachers and Rebbaim.
    Rabbi Dr. Bernhard Rosenberg






    Having been both a student and teacher at Yeshiva University during these years, I pose one question: Why didn't the parents of these students call the police. If it was my child I would have confronted these instructors and gone to the police and administration immediately and hired a lawyer. Had any of these students approached me when I was a young teacher of speech at Yeshiva College and told me of this I would have acted with vigor. Yeshiva University is a great institution. Let's not forget that many of today's Jewish leaders are products of YU. It is good that this horrendous part of the history of Yeshiva University has gone public so the individuals can find some degree of justice and peace. We are all awaiting Yeshiva University's response. It is still a great institution with fantastic teachers and Rebbaim.
    Rabbi Dr. Bernhard Rosenberg

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    1. Dear Rabbi Dr Rosenberg,

      You ask "Why did the parents not turn to the police?"

      I think the answer is that there was probably a conflict between the parent's concern for their child's welfare and their loyalty to the "camp".

      Many parents are faced with that dilemma.

      The "camp" may be the school, the yeshiva, the shul, the community, the Jewish People, and most tragic of all, the "camp" may be one's own family.

      It is relatively easy to sit on the sidelines and say "my child would come first". But it can be extremely distressing and traumatic for parents to "betray" their camp, particularly when the facts are often confusing (was it friendly wrestling? or was it sexual assault?).

      I see parents struggle with this dilemma on an almost daily basis - and they often will decide not to "upset the apple cart" by reporting crimes, even against their own children, to the police.

      David

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  3. So far there is an anonymous accusation against Rabbi Macy Gordon


    MY SOURCE TELLS ME MR. ANONYMOUS GRADUATED EINSTEIN. MEDICAL SCHOOL OF YESHIA UNIVERSITY SEEMS LIKE HE OWES Y.U. HIS CAREER. YESHIVA UNIVERSITY is the school where I spent most of of academic life. Do not lecture me on what I owe or do not. For your information, RIETS and .J.S.S. made be who I am. I will fight for the school that produced abbey that cared for me and nutured me. It is not my fault that parents who knew of these acts did nothing including showing up in mass to punish the individual who did malice to their child. Do not lecture me on sexual violence. Where were the parents who knew. ? Stop whining and trying to destroy Yeshiva University and have Rabbi Lamm resign. He did what was proper at the time. Prove that Rabbi GORDON molested anyone. The story about the toothbrush is ludicrous. I have had my own issues with the R..C.A. AND Y.U. , but I did not wake up 35 years later to realize I was molested. Go to ISRAEL AND CONFRONT these abusers , they are still alive. I call upon current students and alumni to speak up on behalf of their school. I FOR ONE HAVE HEARD ENOUGH UNPROVEN ALLEGATIONS THAT HAVE RUINED TWO LIVES. DO NOR RESPOUND SHAME ON YOU OR I DO NOT UNDERSTAND SEX ABUSE. I understand if this happened to my child and I knew of it I WOULD HAVE CALLED FRIENDS and made sure the culprit never did this to any child again. Rabbi Dr. Bernhard Rosenberg

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  4. now thousands will come forward to cash in. follow the money . rabbi rosenberg Submitted by Rolly Sass (not verified) on Sun, 12/30/2012 - 14:13. IN THE JEWISH WEEK


    I am tired of this crybaby stuff.Rabbi DR. BERNHARD Rosenberg is telling a truth people cannot handle.It is one thing to deal with a powerless child.It is another for middle aged men to hide behind a veil of anonymity and cry "victim".There parents were not children.They knew what was going on.How many even pulled their kids out of YU?You mean to tell me that they knew but let their children remain.Gordon and Finklestein should be held responsible.But where were the parents and why didn't they act?

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  5. After reading Dr. Norman Lamm's statement, I want all the people who were allegedly sexually abused at YU to know that in late December I was posting on other sites that I supported their right to take the issue to court. I wrote that after reading up on sexual abuse cases and speaking to many who contacted him, I understood why neither the victims nor their parents spoke up .I encourage YU, its leadership to offer a sincere apology for what happened to these victims. I also encourage the RCA to make a similar statement regarding their members who either looked away or shook off complaints. RABBI DR. BERNHARD ROSENBERG

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  6. I have come to the conclusion that it is the YU administration which constantly protects themselves. There are a number of dinosaurs who have been at YU forever who are responsible for allowing some of these students to be abused when information was known regarding the abusers. They are still at YU and some serve on the board of directors. All the excuses regarding Rabbi Finkelstein are absurd. He should never have been allowed to obtain employment at other schools or in Israel after YU. I have proof that students with disabilities are not treated fairly and teachers do not appreciate nor make the effort to understand the severity of their disabilities. YU is supposed to be a private school where Jewish students are treated with Jewish moral laws and compassion. This is not happening. In addition there is favoritism towards children of the big "machers" who can get by with anything. This is cruel. This favoritism holds true throughout YU. As one who has always shown loyalty to YU, raised over 1.5 million dollars for YU, as well as taught there for at least ten years since 1972 . THE JUDGES RULING WAS PREDICTABLE. IT IS SAD THAT RABBI DR. NORMAN LAMM WAS MADE THE FALL GUY, THE KAPPORAH HIN. SOME OF THE OTHER ADMINISTRATORS AND THE OTHERS ACCUSED SHOULD BE MADE TO PAY.
    Rabbi Dr. Bernhard Rosenberg

    Read more: http://forward.com/articles/182348/judges-ruling-is-big-victory-to-yu-in-m-sex-ab/?p=all#ixzz2cRT3yMaZ

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