Yeshiva University’s Child Molesters
In 2013, Yeshiva University was sued by 34 plaintiffs alleging that they were sexually abused when they were students there. Although the Torah does not recognize a statute of limitations, YU invoked this arbitrary secular law to get the lawsuit dismissed, arguing that the plaintiffs filed their claims too late.
Due to the scandalous revelations contained in the lawsuit and the resultant public outcry, YU hired a law firm to investigate it. YU’s Board of Trustees pledged to make public the “specific details” of the investigation. But before the report could be made public, the law firm claimed that a “Special Committee” (it doesn’t say who was on the committee)intervened and directed it not to report the details, reneging on YU’s public pledge of transparency. The result was that the law firm issued a 53-page report that said nothing about the pervasive sexual and physical abuse of YU students except, for a vague 3-paragraph summary buried on page 8.
The summary stated the obvious — that numerous students were indeed sexually and physically abused over the course of many years by a number of individuals in positions of authority. It also stated that the abuse wasn’t just limited to YU’s high school, but extended to other YU facilities that were not identified. It further stated that members of YU’s administration were aware of the abuse, and on multiple occasions did not act to protect students — and sometimes didn’t even respond to allegations of abuse.
The report did not name a single child molester known to YU and its rabbis. It did not name a single rabbi or administration official who knew about the abuse, covered-up the molesters, ignored victims, and did nothing to protect YU students. It did not identify who quashed the full report. It did not reveal how many students were molested, during what time period, or if the abuse extended beyond just the boys or if it also included girls and women at YU educational facilities.
The report did not explain why YU officials did not warn other Orthodox institutions who subsequently hired its child sex predators. It did not explain why YU has assumed no responsibility for caring for, healing, and adequately compensating students who have suffered their entire lives due to being sexually assaulted by YU staff in YU buildings. The report did not explain why no one at YU was fired over the monstrous abuse of its own students, by its own staff.
Warning the public about dangerous men with a history of harming Jewish children is a basic Torah requirement. Begging forgiveness and fully compensating victims who were abused is the least YU could have done, as this embodies fundamental Jewish concepts. Nevertheless, it seems that YU’s rabbis, Torah scholars, and officials ignored Torah law, Jewish morals, and basic human decency and did nothing.
YU was willing to pay lawyers to fight its own students to prevent them from receiving money that could have helped them recover. YU was willing to pay its investigative law firm a reported $2.5 million to issue a censored report that held no YU staff or administrators accountable for their failure to protect its students.
According to The Jewish Forward, in 2014 (the year that the lawsuit was dismissed), YU lost a reported $150 million and its credit rating was downgraded to junk-bond status. Despite YU’s desperate financial situation, it nevertheless paid president Richard Joel a compensation package of more than $2 million above his base salary. His base salary just by itself made him the highest paid president of any Jewish non-profit.
To see how disgracefully a major Torah institution and rabbinical seminary deals with sexual abuse, it’s helpful to compare YU’s actions to a secular university that had a similar abuse case.
Penn State faced allegations that popular coach Jerry Sandusky sexually abused his students for 40 years. As a result, Penn State commissioned a truly independent investigation led by former FBI head Louis Freeh. Unlike YU, Penn State’s detailed report was made public. Sandusky was sent to jail for at least 30 years, top Penn State officials who covered-up the abuse were criminally charged, fired, or resigned. Penn State will pay 32 victims more than $92 million. And the press has written scathing reports saying that Penn State didn’t do nearly enough.
By contrast atYU, no one who committed child sex crimes went to jail, no one who covered-up the abuse was fired or forced to resign, the details of the abuse were concealed, and YU didn’t pay a dime to its victims.
Instead of enriching its lawyers and president, YU could have offered that same money to its students, and taken this opportunity to show the world that rabbis, Torah scholars, and Orthodox institutions are willing to accept responsibility for their failures and show caring and compassion to defenseless kids who were victims of horrific sexual abuse.
But instead, YU chose money over morals, rabbis over victims, and cowardice over accountability.