As CEO of 5WPR, a leading public relations firm and one whose children attend Jewish Modern Orthodox day schools I am cognizant and concerned over the repeated negative portrayal of so-called “religious” Jews in the media. Religious Jews should be seen for all the good they do in the world and for society – and not be associated with the smut which dominates headlines.
Religious people also have a responsibility to act accordingly, and in the case of the recently revealed Yeshiva University child abuse scandal, steps must be taken to hold all guilty parties to task.
In response to allegations that two staff members at the High School for Boys’ Manhattan campus sexually abused students, Rabbi Norman Lamm, who was President of YU at the time of these incidents (and is now Chancellor) has admitted that the school permitted the accused to leave YU and go on to teach other children elsewhere. (In one instance a suspected abuser went on to serve as dean of a Florida Jewish school.)
As Joe Paterno was fired from Penn State University for turning a blind eye to sexual abuse and child molestation, so too must Lamm immediately be terminated for his despicable behavior in turning a blind eye to the heinous crime of child abuse.
Lamm said in a public statement that he didn’t notify police of these acts and “This was before things of this sort had attained a certain notoriety.” Rabbi: child molestation has always “had a certain notoriety.”
Perhaps on the heels of this revelation and the rightful indictment of Satmar counselor Nechemya Weberman for the repeated rape of a young girl, the religious community should look inward and examine if morals, ethics and decency should be a more primary focus in yeshivas. Yes, bad apples exist in any community – but I am aghast at the lack of leadership from the Orthodox world in challenging bad people.
Why do many Orthodox leaders not speak out on these vital issues affecting the safety of children. Some rabbis don’t hesitate to pontificate about the dangers of the internet, or Rabbi Avi Weiss’ Yeshiva and any number of perceived threats to the community – which are clearly far less important than the matter of kids being assaulted.
Joe Paterno turned a blind eye and was rightfully fired from his position – is Rabbi Lamm’s turning a blind eye to these issues any different? YU needs to begin the healing process by firing Lamm and launching a proper investigation.
Ronn Torossian is a philanthropist and proud Jew.