Rabbi Norman Lamm, the chancellor of Yeshiva University, on Monday announced his resignation and acknowledged his failure to adequately treat and respond to sexual-abuse allegations against two rabbis at the prestigious institution’s high school during the 1980s.
In a long letter (full text here), Lamm tied his personal story to that of the biblical Judah, and said his stepping-down would end over 60 years of his official involvement at YU “as student, faculty member, Rosh Hayeshivah, President and Chancellor.”
“I want to acknowledge that conditions have caused me to rely on help from my family in writing this letter,” he wrote, praising the institution and its rich history before going on to explain why he was stepping down.
Lamm cited a passage from the daily prayer Aleinu, which he said “teaches us that only those who can, like Judah, confess, are those who can be acknowledged as real leaders.”
“It is to this I turn as I contemplate my response to allegations of abuse in the Yeshiva community. At the time that inappropriate actions by individuals at Yeshiva were brought to my attention, I acted in a way that I thought was correct, but which now seems ill conceived. I understand better today than I did then that sometimes, when you think you are doing good, your actions do not measure up. You think you are helping, but you are not.
“You submit to momentary compassion in according individuals the benefit of the doubt by not fully recognizing what is before you, and in the process you lose the Promised Land,” he states, adding that people must repent for their mistakes. In such situations, Lamm wrote, “all our work is in vain, all we have put into our children has the risk of being undone because of a few well intentioned, but incorrect moves. And when that happens — one must do teshuvah. So, I too must do teshuvah.
“True character requires of me the courage to admit that, despite my best intentions then, I now recognize that I was wrong. I am not perfect; none of us is perfect,” he wrote.