Earlier today, Sullivan & Cromwell LLP released its report marking the completion of the firm’s eight-month investigation into allegations of past abuse at Yeshiva University High School for Boys. There are findings set forth in this report that serve as a source of profound shame and sadness for our institution. 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.
It is with them in mind that we move forward in continuing our efforts to lead our community away from a culture of apathy regarding issues of abuse and toward one of action, change and growth.
Today, the University is a safe place infused with a culture of warmth. For years we have enacted and enforced policies and procedures to protect our students and community members. We will continue to regularly review and, when appropriate, enhance those policies and procedures to ensure they always meet the standard of “best in class.” YU must continue to foster a culture of integrity, caring, responsiveness and, above all, place the safety of our students first.
The report includes important policy recommendations for YU’s high schools that will ensure that the absolute best policies, procedures, training and protections are in place. The University fully intends to implement each of these recommended actions, with the goal of maintaining an environment of safety already fortified by existing measures. We plan to continue to work with Lisa Friel, former chief of the Sex Crimes Bureau of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, to address any potential gaps in our existing policies and procedures at each of our schools, and we have asked Ms. Friel to oversee and ensure the full implementation of her recommendations.
It remains our desire to continue to help the broader community grow from such experiences. Using our resources and the talents of our experts and educators, YU will launch new efforts to supplement our existing programs and to strengthen awareness of, and to combat, abuse in our community. As a Torah-informed institution, imbued with the sacred values of our tradition, we pledge sustained commitment to our many programs that already prepare individuals to make the right choices and help others, among them:
• Required coursework addressing the role of rabbis in identifying and preventing child abuse, for all ordination candidates at YU’s affiliated Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary.
• The Comprehensive Abuse Response Education (CARE) program at YU’s Institute for University-School Partnership, which works with day schools around the country to help keep children safe in their schools by addressing abuse issues with research, training and consultation.
• New York State workshop and certification in preventing and identifying child abuse, offered through our Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration.
• Continuing educational programs for rabbis and rebbetzins, including a certificate program, to help them recognize and address all forms of abuse in their communities, offered through our Center for the Jewish Future (CJF). The CJF has also developed a curriculum called “Life Values and Intimacy Education: Health Education for the Jewish School,” which is currently taught in numerous day schools around the country.
• Pre-trip training for individuals leading service learning trips and missions that teach them how to recognize warning signs of child abuse and appropriately report concerns to authorities.
In addition, we plan to work with Ms. Friel and other University resources in assisting day schools, synagogues, summer camps and communal organizations around the country in addressing the issue of abuse.
Sullivan & Cromwell’s investigation and report serve as an important reminder to learn from the past and take responsibility for our future. 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.
We currently find ourselves on the eve of the Yamim Noraim, our High Holiday season. Our tradition describes that on Yom Kippur, Moses descended from Mt. Sinai with the second set of luchot, the Ten Commandments. These tablets differed from the first in that they were written by God and yet fashioned by Moses. In other words, they represented a true partnership between man and the Transcendent, between humanity and the Creator, in ensuring integrity and goodness on this earth.
In the season of introspection, we must fortify that relationship by recommitting to the ongoing work of creation. If our future is to align with the ethical and personal imperatives of our sacred Torah, then we must not wait – we must make it so, not merely in word but in action. This is our duty. This is what we teach our children. This is what we must remind each other as a community of aspiration.
God willing, Yeshiva University and communities everywhere will persevere with an unwavering commitment to protect our children as they themselves develop into the stewards of tomorrow.
Richard M. Joel
President and Bravmann Family University Professor