NEW YORK – Richard Joel, president of Yeshiva University, a private Jewish university in New York City, has shared of his "profound shame and sadness" after an investigation determined that there had been numerous cases of child sex abuse that occurred at several affiliated schools in the 1970s and 1980s.
"There are findings set forth in this report that serve as a source of profound shame and sadness for our institution," Joel wrote in a statement on Monday, referring to a detailed 53-page report released by international law firm Sullivan & Cromwell LLP into allegations of abuse at Y.U. and affiliated schools.
"On behalf of the Board of Trustees and the entire University community, I express my deepest and most heartfelt remorse, and truly hope that our recognition of these issues provides some level of comfort and closure to the victims. Although we cannot change the past, we remain committed to making confidential counseling services available to those individual victims in the hope they can achieve a more peaceful future," he continued.
The report states that an article from December published by The Jewish Daily Forward reported of sexual abuse by two former staff members, Rabbi George Finkelstein and Rabbi Macy Gordon, who targeted students at Yeshiva University High School for Boys' Manhattan campus during the late 1970s and early 1980s.
The Forward report states that at the time, the school dealt with allegations of "improper sexual activity" by "quietly allowing" staff members to leave and find jobs elsewhere. Although former students had demanded that the university investigates the claims, law enforcement officials were never notified.
After the article was published, the Y.U. Board of Trustees and the Board of Directors of YUHSB hired the law firm to conduct an investigation, which included interviews with over 145 individuals.
In its findings, the law firm determined that there had been multiple incidents of varying types of sexual and physical abuse that took place at YUHSB during the time period; that it was carried out by a number of staff members in positions of authority; and it took place at a number of different locations affiliated with the university.
In his statement, Joel assured the public that today Yeshiva is "a safe place infused with a culture of warmth" and promised that the university will take on a number of the recommendations laid down by Sullivan & Cromwell's investigation about improving safety and educating members on how to identify and stop abuse.
"We must fulfill our mandate to model the finest moral and ethical behavior for the many who look to Yeshiva University to lead, and to serve as a source of light unto the world," Joel added.
A follow-up article from The Forward, however, noted that a lawyer for a group of students who are suing Y.U for $380 million over the abuse claims called the report "a gross disappointment but not a surprise."
"There's nothing in here that wasn't known in January 2013 when this report was first commissioned," Kevin Mulhearn said.
The lawyer also rejected implications that some of the former students did not cooperate with the investigation, calling the claims "hogwash."
"I've been saying [that] all along and I told the investigators that [abuse] was endemic to YU and systematic. It was part of the culture," added Barry Singer, one of the two former students named in the lawsuit. "It was not a one-time thing."
Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, honorary president of the Rabbinical Council of America, described the report as a "critical milestone" in the university's handling of abuse allegations.
Goldin said that the report was "very sobering in its limited findings," and added that it "clearly admits wrongdoings on the part of the university."