It Was Arrogant of Yu to Misrepresent Lamm's Mental Competence

By Yerachmiel Lopin
Frum Follies
September 30, 2013

YU Pres. Richard Joel & Pres. Emeritus Norman Lamm

Back in July, (along with Shmarya Rosenberg) I reported that Rabbi Norman Lamm suffered from serious dementia. This has now been confirmed according to the NY Post.

After administering a battery of tests conducted over a period of nearly five hours, Dr. Caccopolo determined [in her written report] that ‘the pattern of Dr. Lamm’s cognitive impairment impedes his ability to independently comprehend and adequately respond to questions posed to him, as well to reliably retrieve and report past information.

I hate belaboring this point, but we are dealing with severe mental incompetence. An ordinary janitor is fit for court testimony but is lucky to earn more than $25,000 a year. Yet YU retained Rabbi Lamm as Chancellor and Rosh Yeshiva and paid him over $500,000 a year. These sort of salaries are shocking to most people but we are told that this is the market rate for exceptional talent. So how the hell could YU retain Rabbi Lamm in that position when he was no longer able to function in a court room at the level of an ordinary janitor?

YU is extremely arrogant. It disregarded its fiduciary responsibility in continuing him in that position well after he lost the ability to meet its most elementary demands. It seems YU decided to get PR value for that magnificent salary by exploiting his June 30th resignation to counteract the negative publicity about their high school’s sex abuse scandal. Their PR department distributed a resignation letter which sought to dampen the furor about their high school sex abuse scandal. The letter included a paragraph about the scandal:

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. I recognize now that when we make decisions we risk, however inadvertently, the tragedy of receiving that calamitous report: tarof toraf Yosef, “Joseph is devoured,” 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.

It was a lovely eloquent speech. Unfortunately it was an utter fraud since it purported to represent his thinking as of June 30th. There is no way he could have written that speech in his current state of functioning.

But that is not all there is to YU’s hypocrisy. Rabbi Kenneth Brander privately complains that the Forward’s account of YU abuse should not be trusted because they quoted Rabbi Lamm when they should have known he was mentally incompetent. This is true, but then of course Rabbi Brander, as VP at YU should also say the same about YU. But he dares not say that in public because he does not want to give up the PR value of the resignation speech.

I understand his reluctance given the storm that has greeted their so-called report on abuse at YU, one that has been widely lambasted as empty and mean-spirited, particularly, by a member of their law school faculty, Professor Marci Hamilton.

So there you have it: smoke and mirrors instead of substance and truth.


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