Yeshiva University in New York has been caught up in the sexual abuse scandal.
Back in the 1970s students and their parents alleged to the administration, including the then-president Norman Lamm, that they had been molested by a rabbis on the faculty.
As Vivian Yee reports in the NYT,
Yet administrators of Yeshiva University, the prestigious Modern Orthodox institution in Washington Heights that runs the high school, allowed each man to simply leave.
The university president from 1976 to 2003, Norman Lamm, who is now its chancellor, told The Forward that he never notified the police.
Dr. Lamm told the paper that when the school received complaints of sexual activity involving the staff, “if it was an open-and-shut case,” he would just let the staff member “go quietly.”
“It was not our intention or position to destroy a person without further inquiry,” he said.
“This was before things of this sort had attained a certain notoriety,” he added. “There was a great deal of confusion.”
In 1995, after administrators confronted Rabbi Finkelstein about the wrestling, the rabbi “decided to leave because he knew we were going to ask him to leave,” Dr. Lamm told the newspaper. The rabbi became the dean of Samuel Scheck Hillel Community Day School in North Miami Beach, Fla. Yeshiva did not notify the school about the accusations, Dr. Lamm told The Forward, and the school never asked.
The victims were unhappy with the way the matter was handled:
Mr. Twersky, now a journalist in Jerusalem, says he threatened to sue in 2000 unless Dr. Lamm publicly apologized or offered compensation, but was rebuffed. A Yeshiva official had said Rabbi Finkelstein’s “condition” would be treated, but nobody at Yeshiva reached out to victims, Mr. Twersky said.
“It dawned upon me that I had not merely been wrestled with and violated, but knowingly abandoned by the high school leadership,” he said Thursday.
Bishops, rabbis, ministers, all sacrificed children to preserve their institutions.
Mark Oppenheimer, also in the NYT, has some of the best reflections so far on the whole crisis:
Every religion has evildoers stalking its corridors. They just survive, and thrive, with different strategies.
Even Zen Buddhism is not immune:
Take Zen Buddhism, the paragon of open, nonhierarchical spirituality. Anyone may practice Zen meditation; you do not have to convert, be baptized or renounce your old religion. Yet leaders of major Zen centers in Los Angeles and New York have recently been accused, on strong evidence, of exploiting followers for sex. This weekend, Zen teachers ordained by Joshu Sasaki, the semiretired abbot of the Rinzai-ji Zen Center in Los Angeles, are holding a retreat to discuss sexual harassment accusations against Mr. Sasaki. The Zen Studies Society, in New York, is under new leadership after its longtime abbot, Eido Shimano, was forced out after he was accused of inappropriate sexual liaisons with students and other women.
Maintaining reputation is more important than helping victims:
Then there is the fear of bringing shame on the community, particularly prevalent in minority groups. “When I started in 1982,” said Phil Jacobs, the editor of Washington Jewish Week, “there was an 11th commandment — ‘Thou shalt not air thy dirty laundry.’ ” He learned that commandment in Baltimore, writing about the high percentage of Jews in a treatment program for compulsive gambling. “When I started calling people, they said, ‘You’re not going to put this in the paper, are you?’ So I found out Jews didn’t get AIDS, didn’t get divorced, didn’t abuse their wives or children.”
That fear of embarrassment may be why Dr. Lamm — who is still at Yeshiva and declined to be interviewed — stayed quiet about the abusive rabbis at Yeshiva. Perhaps he loathed what they had done, and wept for their victims. But, he also may have thought that people shouldn’t hear bad things about Jews. People shouldn’t know, in other words, that Jews are just like everyone else.
That is everyone else, not just religious people. The Satmar Hasidim may have wanted to protect a beloved member, the Modern Orthodox administrators probably worried about their community’s reputation — and the Penn State loyalists enabled Jerry Sandusky. Somehow, the victims never seem as important as the rabbi, the Zen master, the coach. In the words of a once-revered rabbi, Norman Lamm, may as well let the perpetrators “go quietly.”
Abusers are sociopaths who can so easily commit their crimes because they lack the empathy necessary to feel the pain that they cause in their victims. Abusers also manipulate the weaknesses of people and institutions. Each person, each institution, has its peculiar strengths and weaknesses. Abusers even manipulate the imperative of forgiveness.
I have noticed in my work as an investigator for the government and my private work in documenting sexual abuse, and in lesser matters as well, that almost always when asked to help, even by just giving information, almost everyone says “I don’t want to get involved.” They fear difficulties, inconveniences, retribution by the criminals. People far too often lack the virtue of fortitude.
Fortitude, courage, is not the highest virtue, but is a virtue without which it is impossible to have any other virtue.
Opposing evil will always cause us some trouble or inconvenience. Some people have to die because of their opposition to evil. Most people won’t even risk receiving bad publicity. Better that the innocent suffer, especially if they are unimportant people, than anyone else, especially a VIP, be inconvenienced in the slightest.