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April 16, 2014 / 16 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Yeshiva University’

Former UK Chief Rabbi’s Future: ‘Working With Students’

Saturday, October 26th, 2013

Last night Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks spoke at Eastern University, a Christian non-denominational school in suburban Philadelphia, to a packed audience of students which also included a large segment from a local modern Orthodox school, Kohelet Yeshiva High School.

The subject of the rabbi’s talk was: “Religion and the Common Good.”  It was presented by the Agora Institute for Civic Virtue and the Common Good, the Templeton Honors College at Eastern University, along with the Tikvah Program and the Beit Midrash program at Kohelet Yeshiva High School.

Rabbi Sacks forcefully delivered his take not only on religion and the common good, but his view that religion is for the common good.  He compared his views with that of philosophers such as John Rawls, who believed that there could be a language of public reason which all could share, “so long as religious conviction was left out.”  Sacks also mentioned the anti-religionists such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, both of whom view “religion not just as irrelevant, but also harmful.”

But for Sacks, once the public discussion begins to lose its mooring in religion, the strong sense of the common – as opposed to individual – good is lost.  The focus then becomes, eventually, “what is in it for me, instead of what is in it for the common good.”

It is in such a society, Sacks said, that Hobbes’s realization of life as being “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short” is inevitable.  For that is what becomes of a society based on a social contract, rather than on a societal covenant.

Rabbi Sacks explained that the first example of the social contract appears in First Samuel, when the people of Israel demanded a king. In the book, God told Samuel to explain to the people what kinds of liberties and rights they would have to give up in order to have a king, a centralized power, Sacks explained.  The people, to their later regret, demanded one anyway.

On the other hand, Rabbi Sacks explained that the first example of a social covenant is also found in the Hebrew Bible.  This was a pledge of mutual responsibility between the Jewish people and God.  A covenant, as opposed to a contract, is an exchange, a pledge to do together what neither can do alone.

Rabbi Sacks described the United States as a covenantal society, and pointed out that virtually every U.S. president renews that covenant during their inauguration.  A social contract creates what Rabbi Sacks called a “state,” in contrast to a true “society” which is created by a covenant.

“We the people,” are covenantal words, they are not ones expressed in a country such as England, or certainly any other monarchy.

Rabbi Sacks delighted the audience, delivering many “Jewish” jokes and Talmudic stories.

But the rabbi’s declaration that he hopes to be like the Lubbevitcher Rebbe: rather than have many followers, create many leaders, warmed the hearts of many.  This announcement came in response to the last questioner of the evening.

Harris Finkelstein, of Lower Merion, Pennsylvania, mentioned that he has read many of Rabbi Sacks’ more than 25 books, and that he looks forward to receiving the weekly email from Rabbi Sacks with his take on the weekly Torah portion.  But what, after having been chief rabbi of the United Kingdom for 22 years, “what could possibly be next?”

“I intend to spend the rest of my life with students, encouraging them to lead,” the rabbi said. “I want to support and encourage these students to do great things for others.”

RABBI SACKS TO BEGIN AFFILIATION WITH YESHIVA UNIVERSITY

His declaration last night was followed up by an announcement today that Rabbi Sacks has accepted a teaching position at Yeshiva University. The announcement was made to a small group of students, but YU said it will be releasing a statement next week in conjunction with the former chief rabbi’s office.

 

Adelson ‘Bomb Iran’ Comment Exposes Double Standard (Full Video)

Friday, October 25th, 2013

Last Tuesday I organized an event in New York City at Yeshiva University that addressed the two existential threats confronting the Jewish people worldwide: a nuclear Iran in the Middle East and assimilation in the West. The event, the full video of which is available here, was organized in response to President Obama’s recent overtures to Iran and the Pew Research study that painted a devastating portrait of the declining state of American Jewry.



The discussion, featuring the world’s leading Jewish philanthropist, Sheldon Adelson, Pulitzer-prize winning Wall Street Journal Foreign Affairs columnist Bret Stephens, and Yeshiva University President Richard Joel, was widely reported on and attracted scores of press. But one comment in particular made global headlines and lit up the blogosphere.

In response to my question as to what the United States should do to show Iran that we are serious about preventing them from getting a nuclear device, Sheldon said that an atomic bomb should be detonated in an empty Iranian desert as a warning to the regime of the lengths to which we will go to stop them from obtaining nuclear weapons. The nuclear demonstration in a desert wasteland should “not hurt a soul, except for a few rattlesnakes,” but should serve as a shot across their bow.

Asked the next day how earnest Sheldon had been, Ron Reese, his spokesman, said, “As one of the country’s most successful entrepreneurs, Mr. Adelson was using hyperbole to make a point that — based on his nearly seven decade-long experience negotiating business deals — actions speak louder than words.”

But whether media commentators saw Sheldon as being serious or purposefully using exaggeration in order to make the larger point that the United States must go to extremes to ensure that Iran never gets a nuke, I found the reaction to his statement illuminating as to the double standards that are often employed on matters relating to Israel.

In 2005 when former Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, suggested that Israel must be wiped off the map, with the murder of the six million Jews who live there being the precondition of such erasure, he somehow managed to get invited to speak at Columbia University and, repeatedly, from the rostrum of the United Nations where he reiterated his genocidal intent against the Jewish state. And yes, Ahmadinejad’s comments of course provoked outrage. But his stated intention of perpetrating a second holocaust still did not get him barred from receiving prestigious invitations from the likes of the Council on Foreign relations.

Sheldon’s glib comments about nuking rattle snakes seemed to rattle many of the bloggers who were at our event even more than Ahmadinejad’s threats.

And let’s not fool ourselves about Iran’s genocidal posture toward Israel even post-Ahmadinejad. As recently as this March, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the true power in Iran, threatened to “destroy Tel Aviv and Haifa.” Last August he said that “the fake Zionist [regime] will disappear from the landscape of geography,” adding that the “cancerous tumor” Israel had to be removed, expressing the hope that the Arab spring would inspire an Islamic “awakening” that would ultimately fulfill Iran’s goal of annihilating Israel.

Indeed, when I sat with Sheldon on the podium and heard him make his remark, my initial thought was that his purpose was to goad his more liberal critics into attacking the policy so that their double standards on nuclear threats against Israel could be exposed. Would they show outrage at Sheldon’s comments about a nuke in an empty Iranian desert, but not be at least as enraged by Iran’s continued threats of annihilation of the Jewish state?”

Why is the government of President Rouhani of Iran being treated as moderate when it has yet to repudiate the genocidal aspirations of both Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Khamenei? Why is President Obama calling Rouhani on the phone and trying to shake his hand at the UN while he is still enriching uranium to build a nuclear bomb? Should there not first be the demand that Iran at least stop?

When I read of the holocaust I often ask myself how Hitler was allowed to rise to prominence in the first place. After all, the world bore continuous witness to the hatred and venom that spewed from his speeches and writings against the Jews. So why didn’t they stop him?

YU Employee with Abuse Conviction No Longer At University

Saturday, October 12th, 2013

Yeshiva University has terminated Akiva Roth, 42, after past sexual misconduct came to light, officials said Friday.. The university admitted that it had “erred” by allowing Roth to begin teaching before his background check was completed.

Roth, who had been hired as a Hebrew teacher at Yeshiva College, had pleaded guilty to four counts of abuse against boys he tutored for their bar mitzvahs in 1997. He received ten years of probation.

The university has been at the center of a recent firestorm of controversy after alumni filed a lawsuit alleging years of abuse from multiple faculty members.

“Yeshiva University will continue to re-evaluate its hiring processes and work to close any gaps in our procedure,” the statement said.

Report: YU Hired Faculty Member Convicted Of Sex Contact with Boys

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

Yeshiva University hired a new faculty member convicted of inappropriate sexual behavior with boys, according to the Forward.

The university, which is facing a major lawsuit concerning its handling of allegations of sexual abuse over several decades, has hired Akiva Roth, who pleaded guilty in 1997 to four counts of lewdness against several boys he tutored. Roth, 42, began teaching Hebrew at the college this fall.

In response to questions from the Forward, a university spokesman issued a statement saying it “has policies and procedures in place that require background checks for new hires” and is “currently in the process of thoroughly exploring the matter you brought to our attention.”

After pleading guilty, Roth was sentenced to 10 years of probation.

Lamm Deemed Unfit to Testify in YU Sex Abuse Case

Monday, September 30th, 2013

Rabbi Norman Lamm, the former chancellor of Yeshiva University, was found unfit to testify in a $380 million sex abuse lawsuit against the school.

Dr. Elise Caccappolo of Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center said Lamm cannot provide reliable testimony, the New York Post reported, citing Lamm’s attorney Joel Cohen.

Caccappolo, a neuropsychologist, evaluated Lamm on Sept. 16.

“Dr. Caccappolo found that a deposition was unlikely to pose a risk or threat to Dr. Lamm’s health,” Cohen wrote to U.S. District Court Judge John Koetl last week, the Post reported. “However, after administering a battery of tests conducted over a period of nearly five hours, Dr. Caccappolo determined [in her written report] that ‘the pattern of Dr. Lamm’s cognitive impairment impedes his ability to independently comprehend and adequately respond to questions posed to him, as well to reliably retrieve and report past information.”

Koetl had ruled earlier that the choice of doctor should be agreed upon by Yeshiva University and former students of Y.U. institutions who are suing the school.

The students allege they were sexually abused between 1976 and 2003, when Lamm was chancellor, according to The Forward and other media outlets.

Lamm is among top members of Y.U.’s former administration named in the suit filed by 19 former students of the Yeshiva University High School for Boys in Manhattan.

In July in a letter announcing his retirement, Lamm, 85, acknowledged mishandling the abuse allegations decades earlier. He apologized for not alerting police when he learned of the abuse accusations. Lamm also indicated that he may be suffering from a decline in his mental acuity.

Lawyers for the students said they wanted to depose Lamm as soon as possible due to fears that his mental status could further deteriorate, according to The Forward, which first published details of the abuse claims against two former Yeshiva University staff members late last year.

12 Plaintiffs Join $380 Million Sex-Abuse Suit against YU

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

Twelve former students joined a $380 million lawsuit against Yeshiva University for covering up sexual abuse at its high school.

The new plaintiffs’ names came out in court papers used in a hearing Tuesday in U.S. District Court in White Plains, N.Y., according to the New York Daily News, and bring to 31 the number of plaintiffs in the case.

Rabbi George Finkelstein and Macy Gordon, former staff members at Y.U.’s High School for Boys in Manhattan, as well as a youth volunteer, Richard Andron, have been accused of sexual abuse. Some of the cases allegedly took place as far back as the 1970s.

Finkelstein left the high school in 1995 and took a post at a Jewish school in Florida before moving to Israel. Gordon also lives in Israel and until recently was a teacher at the Orthodox Union’s Israel Center. Both men deny the charges. Andron has not issued a statement on the accusations.

The suit also names top members of Y.U.’s former administration, including Norman Lamm, its former president and chancellor.

Although the statute of limitations has passed on the cases, the alleged cover-up could negate the restrictions, according to Kevin Mulhearn, the plaintiffs’ attorney.

We Cannot Allow Pain to Drive the Jewish Agenda

Sunday, July 14th, 2013

I am reluctant to write about this as I am sure it will get me into trouble with victims and victims advocates. But as a seeker of truth, I have no choice.

Yesterday I took the trouble to read the complaint filed against Dr. Lamm and Yeshiva University (YU) which asked for a $380 million dollar judgment in compensatory and punitive damages for 19 victims of abuse. Abuse that took place over 20 years ago and longer. After reading the complaint, I must confess that my reaction was visceral. I wanted to vomit. I was disgusted by what allegedly happened to these 19 survivors of sex abuse during their time as students in YU’s high school (MTA). And I felt extreme sympathy for all the pain they have suffered since. The picture painted of YU’s leaders who were in a position to do something about it and yet seemed indifferent to their pain – made me want to close down the school right then and there.

And now there are six more students that have come forward as well as new accusations about yet another sexual predator that was allowed to roam the halls of their dorm.

But the truth is that unlike the survivors of abuse that took place at YU, I do not want to see YU close down. That would not serve any useful purpose other than satisfying the anger these survivors have against the school – legitimate though it may be.

Yeshiva University is a unique institution. If it were to close down, there is nothing that would replace it. It is the only home of Torah U’Mada – that remains true to not only Halacha, but Mesorah too. It has a glorious heritage and currently has some of the finest minds in both Torah  and Mada in all of Orthodoxy. I am not going to go into all of YU’s singular contributions. It would take volumes to do that.

That said, I am not here to defend YU or any of the people who seemed to act so callously and indifferently to the victims’ pain – a pain that was enabled by years of indifference. That truly has to be addressed. However, a judgment of $380 million is in my opinion excessive – if it could lead to the demise of the school.

Lest I be accused of feeling this way only with respect to YU, (which would in and of itself be understandable since I am such a strong fan of the school and its Hashkafos) I refer you to my past posts about the Markey Bill. That was a bill that would have extended New York State’s statute of limitations on lawsuits filed against abusers and their enablers. I supported Markey. But I also defended the Agudah’s legitimate position against it. They felt that if these lawsuits were allowed to be extended, Yeshivos that had different rebbeim, administrators and directors at the time of abuse would now be unfairly socked with damages they could not afford.

They also believed that these kinds of lawsuits could destroy Chinuch as we know it, something they could not allow. And in any case it would not advance the cause of protecting our children from future abuse.

Photo credit: Jewish Standard

Photo credit: Jewish Standard

I disagreed with them since I felt Markey would not destroy Chinuch as we know it. In California where a similar law was passed, it did not seem harm their Chinuch at all. So it was only fair that a survivor be allowed to have their day in court – no matter how long ago the abuse took place. Nonetheless, I did not think the Agudah’s position was an unreasonable one.

Victims advocates on the other hand ‘went to town’ against Agudah and anyone else who agreed with them. Including one of the strongest victims’ advocates in the public square, Rabbi Yakov Horowitz. He opposed Markey right along with Agudah. He was vilified for that at the time.

Why do I feel there is a difference between YU and other Yeshivos in this respect? Because YU is uinique like I said. And it is a major contributor to Judaism in its uniqueness in ways that other Yeshivos are not. On the other hand there are tons of Charedi Yeshivos of like minded Hashkafos. If one of them had to close down (like R’ Lipa Margolis’s Torah Temminah for example) there are literally hundreds if not thousands of Yeshivos like them. The Charedi Hashkafa would not be damaged in any siginificant way. If on the other hand YU closed down, there is no other Yeshiva that could replace it. The loss is immeasurable.

I’m sure that such distinctions make absolutely no difference to a survivor. Understandably so. But if one is truly objective, there is a major destructive consequence. The philosophy of Torah U’Mada would have no institution behind it.

I am not saying that YU shouldn’t pay a price. I am only saying that it should not be so big that it would be destroyed by it. $380 million is a huge amount for YU to lose. One will recall that Dr. Lamm raised $100 million to save it from financial ruin. Before that YU was on the verge of collapse. I see taking away $380 million now as a serious threat to its existence.

As sympathetic as I am to survivors of abuse, I do not think it wise or even fair to let them set the agenda for us on this issue. That’s because it is their pain that is talking, not their sense of objectivity or altruism. Doing the right thing should not be a scorch and burn policy. And yet those of us who are sympathetic to their pain and suffering – thinking ‘but for the grace of God, there go my children’ – tend to completely agree with everything they say. Sympathy for the victim plus the fear of ‘it could have been my son or daughter’ tends to make many of us to take a hard line on this subject.

I agree with a no tolerance policy for the future. No efforts should be spared to assure that the schools which educate our children be given the tools to prevent anything like this from ever happening again. And in the event that it does, God forbid, they should immediately report the abuse to the police.  No more self serving cover-ups.

But a no tolerance policy should not include punishing good people who are perceived to be making mistakes about how to treat abusers who have paid their price.

There has been a lot of anger expressed by victims and their advocates at Rabbi Michael Tuabes, the current principal of YU’s high school (MTA) for inviting convicted abuser Baruch Lanner to his Shul in Teaneck, and to his home. Personally, I would not give Lanner the time of day. But to spew venom at someone who did, and demand his resignation for that – is terribly wrong.

I know it may be hurtful to victims that hear about Rabbi Taubes doing that. But is giving a man a second chance akin to abuse or even enabling it? And what is Lanner to do? Should he just hide under a rock for the rest of his life? Should he just commit suicide? Even if he is no longer a danger to others and paid the price of years in prison? Is that justice? Even if he did not personally apologize to his victims?

Should Rabbi Taubes be judged so harshly for that – even though survivors might think he should? And who is to say that Rabbi Taubes does not have a legitimate reason for hosting him? Maybe he feels that he can somehow rehabilitate Lanner or get him to apologize directly to his victims. Can anyone honestly say that they know what is on his mind – and that it is evil?

This is what happens when we allow victims of sex abuse drive the agenda. Their legitimate pain causes them to see red at the slightest departure from their point of view. Justice in their eyes is not only no tolerance, it is to assign guilt by association to anyone who even dares to purposely be in the same room with a man who sinned against them – even if he paid the price for it – like Lanner did.

I say all of this even though I have never met Rabbi Taubes. I just think it is wrong to scorch and burn. Survivors have right to feel as they do. And so do their advocates. But so too do heroes like Rabbi Horowitz, and people like Rabbi Taubes, Agudah, and even me. Yes, we have an obligation to understand and support survivors and their advocates. And to demand a no tolerance policy in our schools. But what we should not do is allow their pain to push aside our objectivity.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah .

Former Yeshiva University Students file $380 Million Lawsuit

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

Former Yeshiva University students have filed a $380 million lawsuit against the institution, alleging that the university covered up allegations of sexual misconduct by staff members.

The lawsuit, which was filed Monday in White Plains, N.Y., alleges a “massive cover-up of the sexual abuse of [high school] students … facilitated, for several decades, by various prominent Y.U. and [high school] administrators, trustees, directors, and other faculty members,” the Forward reported.

The newspaper first published details of the claims against two former Yeshiva University staff members late last year. Rabbis George Finkelstein and Macy Gordon were accused of inappropriate contact with several students at the Yeshiva University High School for Boys in Manhattan.

Finkelstein left the high school in 1995 and took a post at a Jewish school in Florida before moving to Israel. Gordon also lives in Israel and until recently was a teacher at the Orthodox Union’s Israel Center. Both men deny the charges.

The lawsuit, filed by 19 former students, names Rabbi Norman Lamm, the university’s former president and chancellor who stepped down last week, and Rabbi Robert Hirt, a former vice president of Y.U.’s rabbinical seminary. Only two of the alleged victims — Mordechai Twersky, who lives in Israel, and Barry Singer of New York — are named. The rest are listed anonymously.

The complainants’ attorney, Kevin Mulhearn, claims that university administrators are guilty of fraud for portraying Gordon and Finkelstein as men of good character despite the many warnings they had sexually abused young boys.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/former-yeshiva-university-students-file-380-million-lawsuit/2013/07/09/

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