Schachter, Y.U. dean, warns about reporting sex abuses cases


Rabbi Hershel Schachter, a dean at Yeshiva University, has warned against reporting uncorroborated sex abuse allegations to police.

Schachter was recorded at a rabbinical conference in February in London warning that false allegations could lead to arrests and imprisonment with a “shvartze” — a dergatory Yiddish term for a black person. The recording was posted on FailedMessiah.com and the voice was said to be Schachter's.

Schachter did not respond to inquiries from the Forward newspaper, which has been running stories since December about allegations of abuse by former faculty members at Y.U.'s high school for boys. The alleged incidents took place decades ago.

“Before you go to the police and before you got to family services, every community should have a board…to investigate whether there’s any raglayim la’davar [substance] or not,” Schachter says, according to the recording. He also says that reporting people who are guilty of sex offenses does not contstitute mesirah, or betrayal — the traditional Jewish prohibition against informing on a fellow Jew to the secular authorities.

In state prisons, “the warden in the prison can kill you. They can put you in a cell together with a shvartze, with a…black Muslim who wants to kill all the Jews,” he added.

Yeshiva University ranks as 4th most popular U.S. college


Yeshiva University is the fourth most popular school in the country, according to a recent U.S. News and World Report ranking.

The annual rankings are based on the percentage of students who attend a university out of the total number who are accepted to the school. According to the report, which was released Tuesday, 70 percent of the accepted students enroll at YU.

Harvard, Brigham Young and Stanford universities respectively took the top three spots, with the University of Alaska-Fairbanks placing fifth.

“Most of our students have grown up with certain values and a certain belief system, and we believe that those should not be compromised when they hit college,” said YU President Richard Joel. “Our students are looking to continue growing in their Jewish and secular studies, and they know that we provide the pre-eminent university platform for them to grow Jewishly and intellectually.”

Shh! Don’t talk about sex at Yeshiva University


It wasn’t your typical college sex scandal. There were no accusations of molestation, inappropriate faculty-student relationships or date rape charges.

Instead, the precipitating incident was the publication by a student-run newspaper of a female student’s first-person account of a premarital sexual encounter.

But this is Yeshiva University, an Orthodox institution where the campuses for men and women are separated by approximately 10 miles, and the story’s publication in the YU Beacon newspaper prompted an intense, open discussion of a topic normally considered taboo in this conservative college community.

Following a cascade of negative comments by online readers of the piece, titled “How Do I Even Begin To Explain This?” the student council elected to withdraw its funding from the newspaper and several editors resigned. Meanwhile, stories about the clash between freedom of expression and fealty to Orthodox Judaism’s emphasis on modesty appeared in news outlets such as The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.

Yeshiva University officials issued a statement noting that the decision about de-funding the Beacon was made by students, but Y.U. officials declined to be interviewed by JTA about sexual health practices at the school.

The university’s reticence to talk publicly about student sexual activity extends beyond the pages of student publications. A review of the Health & Wellness section of the school’s website found no discussion of contraception or other relevant information, and several students—including the anonymous author—said the school had not provided them with any sort of orientation on health issues related to sexual activity.

That’s not to say student health services doesn’t provide students with guidance or resources—it does—but the university’s low-key approach to sexual health issues stands in stark contrast to the approach of many U.S. colleges.

“The information should be available,” said Lisa Maldonado, the executive director of the New York-based Reproductive Health Access Project. “If you look at the data of who is having the most unintended pregnancies, it’s young women in their 20s.”

Sarah Lazaros, 21, a senior at YU’s Stern College for Women, said it’s clear why Yeshiva doesn’t have such material available online.

Having information on the website “would go against a lot of what the university stands for, which is total devotion to Jewish law. A lot of potential students would see that and not come to the university,” Lazaros said. “I think the main reason is that they don’t want to encourage these behaviors.”

Several YU students interviewed by JTA said it’s a mistake to pretend that the university’s students are not sexually active.

The sex essay “addresses something that we don’t often talk about in the Orthodox Jewish community, especially at YU,” Simi Lampert, 22, the Beacon’s editor, told JTA.

The Beacon, an independent, online newspaper launched in January by students at Yeshiva’s men’s and women’s colleges, will continue to publish, albeit without funding from the student council.

Lampert said she saw the story’s publication as an opportunity to start a conversation about sex among YU students.

“You have someone like me who went to a coed high school, has had boyfriends and has no intention of waiting until marriage for intercourse,” said S.B., a freshman at Stern who, like others interviewed for this story, asked to be identified only by her initials. “I don’t think anyone should go around denying that there are students having sex because that is not reality.”

The author of the Beacon story, a 20-year-old Stern student with the initials L.P., said her essay was true. She said she penned the piece, which was published in the literary section, where fiction and nonfiction appear, to help resolve her own complicated feelings about the experience.

“I was really kind of distraught about the whole thing,” L.P. said, her voice cracking.

Maintaining the appearance of the typical Orthodox Stern girl, L.P. said she felt like she could not talk to her friends about her night in the hotel room.

“It’s not like it was expected of me by how I dress,” she said. “I wear skirts. I do that whole song and dance.”

L.P. complained that the culture of the Orthodox institution makes it difficult to take effective safeguards when engaging in intercourse. When her period was late in coming after her sexual encounter, L.P. said she was worried about pregnancy even though she and her partner had used contraception.

Panicked, she went to Stern’s Health & Wellness Center, where she said she was counseled nonjudgmentally and asked for and received a pregnancy test.

“They’ll have a conversation with you about sex,” she said. “They’ll talk to you about the risks of being sexually active.”

Responding to a JTA inquiry about the contraceptive and counseling options available to students, YU’s senior director of media relations, Mayer Fertig, referred to the website of the Health & Wellness center. The site does not list contraceptives, Plan B or pregnancy tests as an available resource, unlike the websites of other major universities, and students say that Stern College doesn’t explicitly inform students that there are pregnancy tests and counseling about sexually transmitted infection available in the university system.

“From what I know, there is no information that has been made very accessible in terms of contraception, rape or pregnancy,” S.B. said.

Many Stern students hail from Orthodox institutions and thus are unlikely to have picked up knowledge about condom usage, pregnancy or the risks of disease transmission from their high schools.

Tamar, a senior at Stern who asked that her last name not be used, said she could recall just one event in her three years on campus in which women’s sexuality and health was discussed. As for contraceptives, she said, “It’s not something that’s talked about.”

Lazaros, a women’s studies major, said that a student-run women’s studies society on campus once brought a sex therapist to the college to speak. She also said the Health & Wellness Center does not provide a broad spectrum of services, probably because of limited demand and the school’s small size.

While L.P.’s essay did not go into much detail about the sexual encounter, several YU students described how their friends at the school attempt to skirt the Orthodox ban on premarital intercourse by being sexually active in others ways.

M.H., 27, who graduated from Yeshiva College in 2007, told JTA that he engaged in oral sex with girls from Stern and talked with friends about their similar exploits.

“I know that they were definitely hooking up—oral sex, kissing, touching,” he said. “I found that it was much harder to get a religious girl to actually have sexual intercourse because they place a premium on virginity.”

In public, at least, the rule at Yeshiva remains unchanged, students say.

“I know couples that behind closed doors, they’ll cuddle or they’ll make out,” L.P. said. “But when it comes to sitting in the student lounge, they sit five feet apart.”

YU study finds correlation between services, optimism


A new study by Yeshiva University found a correlation between regular attendance at religious services and an optimistic outlook.

The study, to be published next week in the Journal of Religion and Health, examined data from 92,539 postmenopausal women who were participating in the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study. According to the report, 56% of those who attended services frequently have a more optimistic life outlook than those who do not and 27% were less likely to be depressed. In addition, 54% of those who attend services regularly said that they have strong social support. The study also found that those who attened services regulary were less likely to be characterized by cynical hostility. 

“There is a correlation, but that does not mean there is causality,” said Eliezer Schnall, the clinical associate professor of psychology at Yeshiva University who led the study. “One could argue people who are more optimistic may be drawn to religious services.”

Schnall also said that the findings may not apply to younger people or men because the study only focused on older women.

In 2008, Schnall led a study that found that those attending services regularly had a lower mortality rate during the time period in which they were being studied.

YU student to donate compensation award to terror victims


A Yeshiva University student who was the victim of anti-Semitism while an exchange student at St. Andrews University in Scotland will donate his compensation award to victims of terrorism.

The anti-Semitic act against Chanan Reitblat was committed in March on the same day that Palestinian terrorists murdered five members of the Fogel family while they slept in their West Bank home. Reitblat said in a statement that he will donate the nearly $500 in compensation ordered from his attacker to a fund set up to assist the family.

His attacker, Paul Donnachie, 19, was sentenced in a local court Wednesday to 150 hours of community service for insulting in a vulgar way an Israeli flag given to Reitblat by his brother, an Israeli soldier. He also told Reitblat that Israel was a terrorist state and the flag was a terrorist symbol.

Donnachie, a member of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, was expelled from the university. Following the sentence, Donnachie stood outside the court with pro-Palestinian campaigners holding Israeli flags defaced with red paint.

A second student, Samuel Colchester, 20, was acquitted due to insufficient evidence. He was suspended from the university for one year.

Richard Joel, Maccabeats in LA for first YU Shabbaton


With 1,500 alumni in the Los Angeles area, including many rabbinic and educational leaders, Yeshiva University opened its first office here in September hoping to both raise YU’s visibility and offer its services and expertise to the local Orthodox community.

“We want to be able to provide our extensive resources as a large university and as the unique institution that we are to the community at large,” said Sarah Emerson Helfand, an attorney and YU alumna who moved from New York to direct YU’s West Coast regional office.

Helfand said she can help individuals and institutions answer admissions questions, access YU’s speaker’s bureau, or tap into resources from YU’s Center for the Jewish Future or its Institute for University-School Partnership. YU also runs college and high school service learning programs for non-YU students in the U.S., Israel and developing countries.

She will also reach out to parents and alumni to raise funds for YU.

Opening regional offices is part of YU President Richard Joel’s vision of linking the hundreds of Modern Orthodox communities in North America in a common conversation.

“The question is how do you keep communities vibrant, dreaming, aspiring and keeping their hands wide open in friendship to those to our right and our left, while being affirmative in who we are without defensiveness,” Joel said.

Joel believes the regional hubs can create a mutually beneficial “town-gown relationship.”

“What I need from the community is students and resources, and I need to feed back to the community all the ingredients for them to maintain purposeful communities—” inspired students, lay and professional leaders, rabbis and educators, and the resources to develop quality synagogues, school and institutions. “If we do that well we create inspired communities that form what I call sacred synergy.”

Joel will be a headliner at YU’s first Shabbaton in Los Angeles March 3-6, with programs in the Pico-Robertson area, Hancock Park, Valley Village and Westwood.

In addition to Joel, scholars in Los Angeles for the weekend include Rabbi Herschel Schachter, head of YU’s rabbinic seminary; Rabbi Kenneth Brander, David Mitzner Dean of the Center for the Jewish Future; Rabbi Lawrence Hajioff, instructor of Jewish studies at YU; Dr. Rona Novick, associate professor at Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration; and Dr. Efrat Sobolofsky, director of YUConnects.

The biggest draw, however, might be the Maccabeats, YU’s A Capella group whose Chanukah spoof, “Candlelight,” has gotten 4.6 million hits on YouTube. The Maccabeats will meet with high school students, lead Friday night services at Adas Torah in the Pico-Robertson area, daven with Young Israel of Century City Shabbat morning, sing over Shabbat lunch at Beth Jacob, and hold community concerts Saturday night and Sunday morning.

For more information, go to www.yu.edu/lashabbaton.

Man With a Plan


Students from Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life gathered one night during the recent General Assembly of the Jewish federation system and confronted Richard Joel.

The students peppered Joel, Hillel’s president and international director, with criticism that events during the United Jewish Communities’ annual gathering had condescended to them.

Joel — who had delivered speeches, participated in panels and spent days working the summit halls — listened intently. He expressed sympathy for the students and asked them how they would have done things differently.

For Neil Moss, the chairman of Hillel’s board of directors and a longtime colleague, Joel’s reaction was “warm and engaging” — typical for a corporate chief who also plays accordion, dances and sings into the wee hours at summer Hillel retreats.

“Sometimes I joke with him that he’s an overgrown camp counselor,” Moss said. “He’s the guy who loses his voice.”

Joel’s voice now will resonate in a much wider arena as the president of Yeshiva University (YU).

Joel is expected to stay with Hillel through the spring of 2003, at which time he will take up his post at Yeshiva University. Hillel has assembled a search committee of 12 members, representing its philanthropists, national and regional staff and student activists.

No short list of prospects is yet in the offing, and it could take from one to sixth months to find a new president.

Joel’s election capped a controversial two-year search that reflected the debate over whether to allow someone other than a Torah scholar to head the world’s largest Orthodox university.

“I think he’ll take an excellent institution and take it to all kinds of places we haven’t dreamed about,” said Barry Shrage, president of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston.

Shrage, who also is a member of the modern Orthodox movement, predicts Joel is “going to continue to develop a vision for modern Orthodoxy that can be communicated within the community and outside of it.”

But others aren’t as pleased, because Joel is neither a rabbi or an academic.

“The choice of Richard Joel for the presidency of Yeshiva University raises a question on leadership of the institutions of Judaism in the USA: what credentials are required?” Jacob Neusner, Research Professor of Religion and Theology at Bard College wrote in a letter. “The trustees of Yeshiva University have repudiated the twin-ideals that Yeshiva University was founded to embody: both Torah and secular learning (Torah umada). Mr. Joel has neither.”

For his part, Joel insisted he’s setting his sights strictly on the world of YU, where he once was dean of the Cardozo School of Law. He has a daughter at the school’s Stern College for women and a son at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS).

“With real humility, I’ve accepted the presidency of YU. No one has offered me the leadership of the Orthodox world,” he said.

Many who have worked with Joel said they’re confident he’ll succeed. In part, they point to Joel’s professional skills and his 14-year track record at Hillel: He took an organization of campus religious chapters loosely tied to B’nai B’rith and on the brink of financial collapse, and transformed it into a high-profile, well-funded, corporate-style entity, they said.

“He took an organization that was considered dorky and turned it around into a place kids want to be,” said Lynn Schusterman, president of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Foundation, which has donated a good portion of Hillel’s $46 million annual budget.

Many involved in Hillel said Joel fueled the turnaround with his sheer magnetism. Schusterman calls Joel a “pied piper,” while many cite his “charisma” in the near-reverent tones groupies reserve for rock stars.

“He has a vision for Jewish life that is very deep and compelling and profound,” said Rabbi Jim Diamond, director of the Center for Jewish Life at Princeton University and of the Princeton Hillel.

“He is the total package. He has extraordinary ability in all areas — vision, speaking, people skills, management skills, creativity,” added Jay Rubin, Hillel’s executive vice president.

Joel’s rhetorical abilities are well-known. Nathan Diament, director of the Orthodox Union’s Institute for Public Affairs, said Joel “realizes the power of language in conveying ideas, in motivating people and institutions.”

It was Joel who created the two key catch-phrases at the core of Hillel: “Jewish renaissance” and the motto, “maximize the number of Jews doing Jewish.”

Still, some say the key is Joel’s ability to marry lofty words to real strategies.

“It’s not a JFK-style charisma, it’s something deeper,” Shrage said. “What he has is a real vision that he can articulate and bring to life. People know he’s for real.”

Joel is also a workhorse, many said. Seth Goldstein, now a New York University law school student, earned an Edgar Bronfman scholarship while he was a Hillel member at Cornell University, which enabled him to work as an aide to Joel for a year.

“He’s nonstop; he never said no,” recalled Goldstein, 24. “His days start at 6:30 a.m. and go to 2:30 a.m. I would leave him at 1:15 a.m. and he’d still be going.”

Joel also served as chairman of an Orthodox Union (OU) commission that investigated sexual harassment in the case of Rabbi Baruch Lanner. In December 2000 the panel released part of a scathing 332-page report blaming OU leaders for ignoring reports of Lanner’s abuse and urging major organizational reforms

At Hillel, Joel applied the kind of power-sharing leadership techniques that management gurus advocate. Colleagues speak of having “autonomy” and being allowed to “take ownership” of their work.

But he also set the bar high.

“One of Richard’s hallmarks was to say, ‘We’ve done this — now what?'” Rubin said. “He strives for excellence.”

“Now what?” is a good question.

The search for a new YU head was so fraught with tension that it was only in the two days preceding the Dec. 5 vote that the boards of trustees for the university and RIETS appeared ready to back Joel.

Even then, it came only after Joel met with the trustees at length, face to face.

In the end, YU officials arrived at an arrangement that some called surprising: Joel was named president of YU and chief executive officer of RIETS, while YU’s outgoing president Rabbi Norman Lamm, a highly regarded Torah scholar, will become rosh yeshiva of RIETS and university chancellor.

Yeshiva, a top-ranked university with five locations in New York — including RIETS, medical and law schools, affiliated health-care centers and high schools — has become a “variegated” entity, according to Julius Berman, president of the RIETS board and a former president of Jewish Telegraphic Agency’s board of directors.

In light of its “complex” character, Berman said, Yeshiva “requires that much more leadership.”

The institution will remain committed to the motto “Torah U’madda” — Torah and science — indicating a synthesis of Jewish and general studies, Berman said.

Joel also has vowed to encourage “a more integral relationship” between different segments of the university, Berman added.

For example, Joel might invite Lamm or other Torah scholars to lecture at the medical school on cloning and Jewish law, Berman said, or ask a medical school professor to speak at the college.

Exactly how Yeshiva’s new power structure will develop remains to be seen. Berman and others, including Joel himself, said the exact parameters of the roles Joel and Lamm will play still need be defined.

But those who know Joel said he embodies what Yeshiva is about, and is deeply committed to the university’s success.

A former New York assistant district attorney, Joel remains devoted to his wife and six children, reportedly never missing a Shabbat with them.

He also helped found a modern Orthodox congregation, Kemp Mill Synagogue, in his home city of Silver Spring, Md., that today includes 250 families.

Diamond said Joel will “do great things” for Yeshiva, though even his friend is “not the Moshiach.”

No one is perfect. He moves very fast, he has a clear idea of what he wants and doesn’t want, and he can be very tough,” Diamond said. “But I think that’s going to help him at Yeshiva. To be a university president, you have to be tough.”

Back to Center for YU?


Will Richard Joel — elected Dec. 5 as Yeshiva University’s (YU) new president — redirect the flagship institution of modern Orthodoxy from its rightward move of the past several decades back toward the center?

That’s a question being asked in the halls of YU and throughout the community at the culmination of a long and difficult search process for a successor to Dr. Norman Lamm, who has guided the institution since 1976.

During that time, the level of talmudic instruction, and learning, at YU has risen dramatically. At the same time, though, the school’s role as a bridge between the Orthodox world and the rest of the Jewish community has diminished as YU focused inward.

Now, in a religious environment that has become more polarized, much of the future of modern Orthodoxy depends on the path taken by the new president. It is a moment ripe with religious and sociological import.

While it is too early for answers, it appears that Joel, 52, who for the past 14 years has served as president and international director of Hillel, the Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, will seek to make YU a more open, tolerant and spirited school, albeit gradually, with a renewed vision of academic excellence.

Joel said his skills for the new posts include “taking institutions where people look askance at my capacities, and being able to empower them.

“Ultimately,” he added in an interview this week, “the success of the president of the institution will not be based on how I shine but on how others shine, and I am pretty good at lighting Chanukah lights.”

Joel’s background and views have emphasized inclusion, dialogue and creative tension in his Hillel work, dealing with all stripes of religious and secular Jews. That makes some on the right of the religious spectrum at YU nervous, if not fearful, while pleasing those who believe YU’s mission of synthesis between Torah and secular studies has been expropriated by the rabbinic faculty.

Joel had spent much of the time leading up to the election in New York, meeting individually and in groups with key faculty, students and lay leaders of YU, outlining his goals and seeking to assuage the fears of those who worry that he lacks rabbinic credentials, or is too liberal, or both.

His message has been less about religious politics and more about raising academic standards, paying more attention to the needs of students, and unifying the many strands of YU, consisting of undergraduate and graduate schools, including the Albert Einstein Medical School and the Benjamin Cardozo Law School. He has said that his hashkafah (religious outlook), was formed by Lamm, who has written extensively about the values of modern Orthodoxy.

Joel becomes the first YU president who is neither a rabbinic nor academic scholar. His lack of rabbinic authority was a major point of contention with some affiliated with the rabbinic school, the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS).

Two of the rabbis, Michael Rosensweig and Mayer Twersky, were invited by RIETS chairman Julius Berman to address the RIETS board, made up of more than 40 people, before the vote last Thursday evening. (The meeting took place after the board of trustees of YU elected Joel by a vote of 30-2.) The rabbis offered impassioned speeches as to why YU should be led by a rabbinic scholar, and voiced concern that YU could become a more secular school, like Brandeis University or Bar-Ilan in Israel.

Yet Joel seems undaunted by the fact that some of the faculty and lay leaders at YU’s rabbinical school opposed his becoming chief executive officer of RIETS. “I am just filled with yir’ah [awe], and I am grateful to the ribbono shel olam [Master of the Universe] to be worthy of such a position,” Joel told the campus newspaper, Commentator, after the vote. “I’m thrilled to lead this wonderful team, to keep building something special.”

Some rabbis were strongly resisting the break in YU tradition of having a Talmudic scholar and academic intellectual at the helm of the institution. They also opposed separating the positions of president of the university, CEO of RIETS and rosh yeshiva (head of the yeshiva) of RIETS.

In past meetings with Joel, which were described as tense and difficult, some of the rabbinic faculty voiced deep concerns and predicted that splitting the leadership of RIETS and the university would spell doom for YU.

Others dismissed their complaints as overly worrisome and reflective of the wide gap between the rabbis and the rest of the university.

Some observers say that Joel, a reluctant candidate who has said he was perfectly happy with his tenure at Hillel, had become increasingly interested in the YU post because he feels he could breathe fresh life into the institution.

Joel is only the fourth president in YU’s long history; founded in 1897, it became a college in 1928. He will assume the position in spring.

The Joel candidacy did not come about easily. Over the last 20 months as candidates and potential candidates have been named, withdrawn, discouraged or discarded, it became increasingly clear that no one individual was suitable to fit the Lamm mold of Torah and academic scholar, with additional skills as an administrator and fundraiser comfortable with people.

In wooing Joel over the last several weeks, the lay leadership of the school either lowered the bar or came to grips with reality, depending on one’s point of view.

Leaders said they came to agree that their first goal was to find the best possible person to head — and drive — YU, rather than a spokesman or academic model for modern Orthodoxy.

Why Joel?

In interviews with key lay and professional leaders of YU and Hillel, and other parts of the community, the portrait that emerges of Joel is one of a committed and passionate leader who excels at inspiring a sense of teamwork and pride in students and faculty.

“Richard is never content with mediocrity, and that’s a wonderful quality,” said Steven Bayme, national director of Contemporary Jewish Life for the American Jewish Committee, who has known Joel since they were both working at YU in the mid-1970s. Bayme taught history at the time and Joel was director of alumni affairs.

“His track record at Hillel is encouraging,” Bayme said, “in that he turned it around, infused it with spirit and was a superb manager of people. He also had a magnetic effect on leading philanthropists, a key ingredient for a successful university president.”

Joel’s challenges, insiders say, will include providing greater balance within the school, strengthening the secular faculty and restoring ideological vibrancy to modern Orthodoxy and its belief in the importance of living in two worlds.

This is certain to create tension among some of the rabbis and their students, as YU and its student body have been perceived as moving closer to the more authoritarian form of Orthodoxy in recent years on issues like the status of women, attitudes toward non-Orthodox Jews and encountering modernity.

Partly as a result of this shift, Rabbi Saul Berman and others founded the organization Edah in the past five years, with the slogan “the courage to be modern and Orthodox”; Joel has been associated with the organization. A new Orthodox rabbinical school, Chovevei Torah, was created in Manhattan by Rabbi Avi Weiss, seeking a similar mission of encouraging open intellectual inquiry and expression in a halachic framework.

These institutions probably would not have been formed had YU maintained the direction it took prior to the illness and death of Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik (known simply as The Rav), who was the intellectual leader of the modern Orthodox movement and who espoused the values of secular and religious studies.

In practical terms, Edah is seen as a threat to YU by the RIETS faculty, and there was much discussion on campus in recent days as to where Joel, whose temperament and ideology seem aligned with Edah, would stand on the organization and its goals. Joel reportedly told the RIETS that he would disassociate himself from any organization RIETS objects to.

In the interim, Lamm will stay on as rosh yeshiva. Widely respected for his religious and secular scholarship, Lamm has enjoyed a long tenure that will be remembered most for his saving YU from financial bankruptcy in his first days at the helm and increasing its endowment from $8 million to holdings worth about $1.4 billion.

During his presidency, enrollment at YU and Stern College doubled, and he became a voice of moderation in the religious wars that were waged, within YU and throughout the Jewish world, on issues ranging from homosexuality to the question of who is a Jew.

Even critics would admit that Lamm has overseen tremendous growth at YU, while even supporters would acknowledge that he has paid less attention to internal and administrative problems in recent years and tolerated the move to the right among the rabbis. According to Bayme, YU, like modern Orthodoxy itself, has become “institutionally vibrant and ideologically weak,” noting that while synagogues and schools are flourishing, the growth has come at the expense of allowing “the dominant voices” to come from “the more ultra-Orthodox” segments.

That is why the machinations at YU are being watched so closely recently in many segments of the Jewish community as the school’s forces of tradition and modernity — once said to be in synthesis — struggle for its future.