At least, that's what YU got the NY Times to…
…believe, because the Times wrote an entire piece chock full of repentant rabbis and distraught students.
And the Times glosses over the key point, the point that proves YU's "teshuva" is so far only skin deep:
…[Madoff] has resigned from the Yeshiva board, and his name has been wiped clean from the university Web site. But in classrooms, coffee shops and late-night e-mail messages, his story is inevitably the hot topic.…
Who outed YU and the Madoff coverup? The Times doesn't tell you, so I will: We did.
The Times goes on to talk about various YU teachers' inclusion of the burgeoning Madoff scandal in their classes. But the story also notes:
…Yeshiva’s president, Richard M. Joel, declined to be interviewed for this story, as did the dean of the business school and members of the board of trustees. In a letter distributed last Tuesday intended to quell concerns about financial aid and research funding, Mr. Joel announced that the school had hired lawyers and investment consultants to examine its conflict-of-interest policies and governance structures.…
In other words, students have been deeply shocked by Madoff's scam and by YU's sloppy management. And these students want answers.
Teachers are providing answers in the form of business ethics and halakhic (Jewish law) responses.
But YU itself?
It sanitized its website of all mention of Madoff without posting any type of clarification or apology. By contrast, as the scandal broke, Hofstra, another university closely associated with Madoff, immediately suspended Madoff from its board of trustees and noted that suspension prominently on its website.
Hofstra told the truth. YU whitewashed and lied.
This is on par for an institution that still employs Rabbi Mordechai Willig, the protector of serial child physical and sexual abuser Rabbi Baruch Lanner.
Willig, who did irreparable harm to victims and their supporters, was allowed to remain after issuing a forced apology. That apology did not include some the necessary components of true teshuva, repentance, like righting the wrongs done, changing future action and personally apologizing to each victim.
Instead, Willig was able to make a public apology before a largely supportive audience. Most victims were never contacted personally by Willig. And Willig has done nothing of note since that day to stop the scourge of rabbi-on-child sexual abuse in the Orthodox community.
(In contrast, Rabbi Blau, who also sat of the religious court that protected Lanner, has devoted much of the ensuing years to helping the victims of such abuse and worked to stop the abuse itself.)
YU's actions here are not really any different from YU's actions in the Lanner case.
Will real changes be made? Certainly. But most of what happens will be spin, an apology to a supportive crowd, a dodge of true responsibility.
Josh Harrison (a good guy who may very well disagree with much of what I've just written) is quoted by the Times:
…Several students said they felt dual, even competing, pressures to achieve material success as well as religious devotion, and worried that some might be prone to follow immoral paths if the rewards were alluring.
“There’s no such thing as wanting to be a professor in this community,” said Josh Harrison, 23, a graduate student pursuing Jewish philosophy. “All my friends who are intelligent and interesting and asking questions are pre-med and beginning law school.”
He added, “This will force a whole reassessment.”…
That "reassessment," I think, has so far been from the bottom up. That bodes well for the long term, if this reassessment can be sustained.
But normally, to sustain this type of culture change the top has to want it and believe in it.
I see no evidence this is yet true for YU's management, any more than YU's rabbinical school and management showed any real, positive change post-Lanner.
Sanitizing history, Richard Joel, is not the way to teshuva.
A Historical Note: Both the Times and YU claims YU was founded in 1886. This is false. A heder (Jewish primary school) was founded in 1886. About 1912 or so it merged with a high school yeshiva that also had some yeshiva classes for older students.
That second institution, Yeshivat Rabbi Isaac Elchanan (RIETS) was itself only formed in 1896, and really became a full fledged yeshiva only when the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (JTS) moved away from strict Orthodoxy in the early years of the 20th century.
In fact, at one point in the early 1900s, RIETS and JTS almost merged.
RIETS did not even grant smicha (ordination) until 1906.
The university aspect of YU was added later, as a response to Orthodox kids going to secular colleges rather than to yeshiva.
(Before that, in about 1906, American-born RIETS students went on strike to get the curriculum to reflect a more Americanized outlook.)
It is gross historical inaccuracy to say YU itself was founded in 1886.
What was "YU" like in 1887? What type of "university" or yeshiva was it?
Cahan records that the curriculum was loosely drawn to provide for the study of grammar, arithmetic, reading, and spelling—all within the “English Department.” But because the directors of the school had no clear idea of what should be taught, the English Department functioned haphazardly, more out of a perfunctory acknowledgment for these subjects than a sincere desire to “provide the children with a modern education.”
The English Department was divided into two classes. The first was taught by aboy about fourteen, who had just graduated from public school and the second was taught by Cahan, who was a little less than twenty-eight years old. The students ranged from the ages of nine or ten to fifteen and many were exposed to the formal study of secular subjects for the first time. One of the native students received his first lessons in the English language when he entered the Yeshiva after passing his thirteenth birthday.
The young immigrants presented an immense challenge to their devoted teachers. The students drank up the instruction with a thirst centuries old. Cahan frequently remained long after the prescribed teaching hours to tutor his pupils, who were uniformly poor in reading and mathematics and who regarded grammar as an exquisite form of torture. On these occasions, the directors would ask Cahan why he “worked so hard,” saying that the students “already knew enough English.”
And who is this teacher named Cahan mentioned above?
As Yitzchok Levine notes, he was Abraham Cahan, the socialist who would later become the long-serving editor of the Jewish Daily Forward and the author of the preeminent novel of the Eastern European immigrant experience, The Rise of David Levinsky.
Yeshiva University founded in 1886? Please.
[Hat Tips: Dr. Rofeh-Filosof, Yisroel-by-the-Bay.]