NEW YORK — Incidents of physical and sexual abuse at Yeshiva University were not limited to its high school for boys, an investigation has found.
An outside investigation commissioned by the university following reports of sexual abuse by two faculty members at YU’s high school for boys in the 1970s and ’80s confirmed that “multiple incidents of varying types of sexual and physical abuse took place” at the school, perpetrated by individuals in positions of authority and continuing even after administration members had been made aware of the problem.
The investigation also found sexual abuse at other schools comprising the university but did not describe them in any detail or specify where they took place.
Carried out by the law firm Sullivan and Cromwell and released Monday, the investigation was prompted by a Dec. 13, 2012 article in the Forward newspaper titled “Student Claims of Abuse not Reported by Yeshiva U.”
That article centered on abuse allegations against two YU faculty members, Rabbi George Finkelstein, an administrator and faculty member from 1963 to 1995, and Rabbi Macy Gordon, a teacher from 1956 to 1983.
A group of former students filed a $380-million lawsuit against Yeshiva University in early July, just days after Y.U.’s longtime chancellor, Rabbi Norman Lamm, announced he was stepping down and acknowledged mishandling the abuse allegations decades earlier. The lawsuit later grew to $680 million.
Investigators at Sullivan and Cromwell, led by Karen Patton Seymour, sought to interview the former students named in the lawsuit, but their lawyers declined to make them available, according to the Sullivan & Cromwell report.
“Up until 2001, there were multiple instances in which the University either failed to appropriately act to protect the safety of its students or did not respond to the allegations at all,” the report found. “This lack of an appropriate response by the University caused victims to believe that their complaints fell on deaf ears or were simply not believed by the University’s administration.”
The report noted that YU’s responses to allegations of abuse after 2001 significantly improved but issued detailed recommendations for new policies at the school to prevent and report sexual or physical abuse or harassment.
Investigators at the law firm and T&M Protection Services, a firm specializing in preventing sex abuse, spent 6,300 hours on the investigation, including interviews with 145 people, according to the report. Investigators said 70 people contacted either declined to be interviewed or did not respond to requests for interviews.
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.
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.