Note: Views expressed in letters to the editor reflect those the writer alone, and do not in any way indicate the views of The Observer editorial board.
As a graduate of SCW and TIW [YU’s Teachers Institute for Women], I was deeply saddened to hear of YU’s termination of Rabbi [redacted]. Exercising my inherent right to free speech as an individual, I would like to state my own opinions on this unfortunate incident. I was not there–true–but from my own experiences with Rabbi [redacted], he has always shown himself to be a perfect gentleman, the perfect fit of Torah U’Madda–halachic and secular knowledge. He has always lent SCW a gregarious, friendly ambience, while still reflecting Torah values. Whenever I asked him a question regarding halacha, his answers always conformed with the more stringent side of Jewish law. Thus, I find it difficult to believe the Rabbi guilty of “sexual harassment”.
Now, suddenly, students are saying he came too close to them, another girl saying he “made her feel uncomfortable”–what does that mean? Leering? Flirting? Why not be specific? We have all these nice, vague accusations–all of a sudden. Then, “complained that the Rabbi has made comments about their physical appearance”–what does this mean? Did he remark that a skirt was too short or jeans were too tight? Did he say it to be lascivious or because a student at YESHIVA University was not dressed in a manner that reflects an Orthodox institution? He is (was) a mashgiach from the OU at YU. I assume SCW students have heard the word tznius?
Yes, I am a modern, Orthodox women with three university degrees, who still studies and in my opinion dressing in tight jeans or mini-skirts is just not proper at Yeshiva University. That is my opinion–which I have the right to state. Or has freedom of speech been limited now only to “feminists”? I could go into an entire thesis on feminism and my opinion of what it has done to society–but this is neither the place nor time to embark on that road, here, in this letter. Maybe the Rabbi was just doing his job of mashgiach and being a Rabbi?
“I had never spoken to him before this incident, but had heard things from friends about his unprofessional conduct.” “Unprofessional conduct”–in what way? Now we are in the realm of lashon hara–I assume that a student at SCW knows what that is?
“I felt nervous after, because every time I entered the cafe he would begin speaking about and pointing at me, telling students and even other staff how we were being ridiculous and sensitive.” Does that mean staff at YU are not allowed to have conversations with other staff members about students, because maybe a student might overhear and her feelings might be hurt?
As to the remarks about “shomer negiah”–let’s not play games. What would you expect you an Orthodox Rabbi to say–that it’s perfectly acceptable? Ask a Chassidic rabbi and he will be much more descriptive in his criticisms.
I would like to hear Rabbi [redacted]’s side of the incident, but apparently he has been silenced. “We need to have a voice”–what about his voice? The quotes attributed to him–were his words twisted? Taken out of context? There’s that famous children’s game of “telephone”, where entire stories are warped by the time the third person hears it.
I don’t see why his opinions on affirmative action and homosexuality deserve to have him fired either. The latter is prohibited in the Torah as an abomination. As to affirmative action, there are African Americans who themselves do not agree with it, believing it a crutch that does not advance the Black community. But apparently, conservatives have no right to state their opinions, only liberals and leftists.
All I have read are vague accusations and words that reflect only one side of the incident. Where is the justice for this article to condemn him? And cleverly, deemphasizing complimentary remarks about the rabbi from other students.
Do these “hurt” students realize what they have done? This Orthodox Rabbi–with a wife and children–will forever have his record marred, as if he had physically molested women. Is that why these girls feel guilty? If he was such a menace why would they feel guilty?
Now, do you feel better?
College is not real life. Life is tough and cruel and lives can be ruined just because someone did not talk to you so nicely.
In my opinion, the worst reaction from YU should have been a severe reprimand not to get emotional in a discussion with undergraduates.
In my opinion, the whole definition of “sexual harassment” has become completely unglued and gone overboard.
This is, again, my opinion.
SCW ’79 TIW ’82