YU Asleep During Holocaust?

Perhaps the title of this post is a bit harsh – but, perhaps not. The YU Commentator reports:

…[Yeshiva College] inaugurated a German Club in 1941 “to arouse a interest in German culture and an attempt to understand the German philosophy of life for the purpose of appreciation and good will.” The club met once a month to sing German songs and drink beer. After the war, the club rationalized its existence claiming that “Nazi brutality has not been able to blemish or desecrate contributions to world culture, whether they be of German origin or not.”

Yeshiva Professor of Jewish History Rabbi Bernard Rosensweig was one of the leading activists in Yeshiva during the later and post-War years. “At the begging of the War, the New York Times and the American government played down the events,” remembers Rabbi Rosensweig. “Our nominal community leaders were afraid to speak out. However, in 1944 – Rabbi Rosensweig’s first year at Yeshiva – America became heavily involved in the War and American Jewry gained interest in the Jewish Brigade (Fifteen units of Palestinian Jewish battalions incorporated into the British Army). It became a matter of great pride.”

America became “heavily involved” in WW2 in 1942. The man is a professor of history. Worse, he blames the Times and the US government, when Peter Bergson and his Jabotinsky group were publicizing the Holocaust in 1943. But, like most of the Jewish community, YU did not listen. The Commie continues:

Once the War had ended in 1945 and American Jewry became more acutely aware of the atrocities committed by the Nazis, Yeshiva rose to become a force in the Orthodox world.

“People were walking in the street and crying,” recollects Yeshiva Chancellor Rabbi Norman Lamm. “We were unaware of the enormity of the crimes that were going on. It was simply irrational. When the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was commemorated we then began to realize the magnitude of what had happened.”

Rabbi Lamm entered Yeshiva College in 1945.

“When it was over, there was a terrible depression,” says Rabbi Rosensweig. “The boys at Yeshiva – Stern had not been founded yet – decided to raise a campaign for money.” Rabbi Rosensweig was the chairman of this committee, which in 1946, managed to raise an unprecedented $20,000 and submitted it to then Head of the Vaad Hatzalah (Emergency Committee) Rabbi Zalman Sorotzkin. “The number of boys here with money was very limited, but a number of people worked hard to raise the money. Our success is a reflection of the care of many devoted Yeshiva students.”

In other words, during the time that mattered most, YU did not help the Vaad Hatzolah in any significant way. This is not a record to be proud of.

And what is it about Commie reporters and editors? This is a university paper?


Nachum writes:

… Bernard Revel, president until his death in late 1940, was working hard to bring Jews over however he could well before the Holocaust started. His successor, Samuel Belkin, did the same during the war. Many prominent professors and roshei yeshiva- and their families, and students, and anyone else who could be fit into the narrow laws- made their way out this way, not all winding up at YU.

Oh, and quite a few YU students were actually fighting. The yearbooks from the war years begin with lists of students from that year who were killed while serving in the Armed Forces .…

[A]nd speaking of Bergson: In his autobiography, “A Child of the Century,” Ben Hecht states that the cast and crew of the productions he put on with Bergson to publicize the Holocaust and, later, to support Israel were primarily made up of Yeshiva College students.

I have no reason to doubt Nachum’s information. But, one must ask, why is YU’s own paper ignorant of these facts? Perhaps YU needs to look at its standards, both in admission, and in how its own student paper is run.



Filed under History, Modern Orthodoxy

26 responses to “YU Asleep During Holocaust?

  1. tc

    Take it with a grain of salt, this is the Commentator for pete’s sake. The wrtiting and research hasnt been all that great lately.

    I used to flip through the commie’s archives in the library to try and gain some kind of insight as to what was going on there when the war was going, when the state was established, etc.

    For a long time during the war people really didnt know. Then suddenly the idea that so many jews had been killed was like big news.

    I wonder what it was like in the other major torah institutions in america at the time, too bad Torah Vodaas didnt have newspaper archives…

  2. Nachum

    Shmarya, you’re really digging here. Bernard Revel, president until his death in late 1940, was working hard to bring Jews over however he could well before the Holocaust started. His successor, Samuel Belkin, did the same during the war. Many prominent professors and roshei yeshiva- and their families, and students, and anyone else who could be fit into the narrow laws- made their way out this way, not all winding up at YU.

    Oh, and quite a few YU students were actually fighting. The yearbooks from the war years begin with lists of students from that year who were killed while serving in the Armed Forces.

    And what’s your problem with the Commentator? If they were otherwise, you’d accuse them of covering up.

  3. Nachum

    Oh, and speaking of Bergson: In his autobiography, “A Child of the Century,” Ben Hecht states that the cast and crew of the productions he put on with Bergson to publicize the Holocaust and, later, to support Israel were primarily made up of Yeshiva College students. Look it up.

  4. Nachum –

    Thanks for the information. Perhaps you can share it with the Commie’s editor and the reporter. You’ll note I drew my conclusions based on their reporting – reporting which you claim is inaccurate.

    Maybe they’ll upgrade their standards.

    Thanks again.

  5. Anonymous

    I too have no reason to doubt that this is true; but I also have little reason to believe it either and the information is extremely vague.

    How many people were helped and how much time was spent on these efforts? How many YU students were involved and what percentage of their time did it take?

    Why the lack of your usual skepticism? Is it because the left wing, not the charedi community is the subject here?

    Was the effort limited to Roshei Yeshiva or did it include non-frum persons and (your question, in another post, not mine) how many Roma (Gypsies) were saved.

    At least be an equal opportunity criticizer; if you must.

    And how would you have acted if you lived through those terrible times? Do you really think that you would have been at the forefront of rescue efforts (or even at the back?).

  6. I have no reason to doubt it because I believe both sources.

    As for how I would have acted, who knows? I can say that I acted strongly to rescue Ethiopian Jews, and did so over a period of time greater than WW2. And I also acted to help Iranian Jews after Khomeni took power.

    Very few Jews can make those claims.

  7. Anonymous

    You still do not answer my other questions.

    Once again, I urge you to be even handed and demand proof when it comes to YU; ask if they saved non-frum Jews or Roma or limited their efforts to professors and Roshei Yeshiva. After all, these are criticisms you directed against the your favorite targets; why the sudden silence?

    And, in the interest of fairness, condemn Rabbi Saul Berman for supporting Gafni, an admitted child molester, instead of saying it depends on the “circumstances.”

    Or is statutory rape acceptable from the left wing of orthodoxy?

    If you examine the record of YU during the war you will find no sense of urgency to help Jews being slaughtered in Europe. I bet that not one class was cancelled to go out and save Jews.

    And yes, the same criticism can be made against others, and has been. Read Lookstein’s “Were We Are Brother’s Keeper’s” The Public Response of American Jews To The Holocaust 1933-1945.

    As for Ethiopian Jews or Iranian Jews, the times are different and you had the negative example of the Holocaust to learn from.

    What are you doing for the Jews of Judea and Samaria who are threatened with being forced out of their homes?

  8. Boy are you a nutjob.

    1. I condemned Rabbi Berman very clearly.

    2. You had the “lesson of the Holocaust” to learn from. What did you do?

    3. “If you examine the record of YU during the war you will find no sense of urgency to help Jews being slaughtered in Europe. I bet that not one class was cancelled to go out and save Jews.”

    And you won’t find that in haredi circles, either. But what you do find are some haredi rabbis FORBIDDING their students to help the Vaad HaTzalah.

    4. The Vaad operated without the support of many roshei yeshiva, or with limited support – yes, but not my students.

    5. The Jews of Yesha live there by the permission of the Government of Israel, with the expressed caveat that they can be removed if the State so decides. This in no way compares to the Holocaust or the horrible dangers and persecutions Ethiopian Jews (and iranian Jewish leaders) faced.

    Slink away.

  9. Anonymous

    Can you ever write without resorting to name calling?

    This is what you wrote about Rabbi Berman.

    “Gafni, a man I met once years ago and immediately filed in my “creep file, ” has lived under the protection these past few years of the leaders of the Jewish Renewal Movement and of the left wing of Modern Orthodoxy, including Rabbis Saul Berman (of Edah), Joseph Telushkin, and others. Victims’ advocates are calling for the heads of these rabbis. Is this justifiable?

    It depends upon the individual circumstances….”

    Your post, not mine. Your exact words, not mine. Hardly a clear condemnation, but let those who can read plain English decide.

    Show me what government resolution which allows Jews to move to Yesha contains an “express caveat” that they may be moved anytime the government so decides. It simply does not exist; nor would the right wing governments who established the settlements have any reason to put in such a clause.

    The government may retain that power, just as it supposedly retains the power to move Arabs from their villages. Having the power hardly renders its exercise moral, any more than exempting certain groups from Army service, o.k. by the Israeli High Court and the Kaqdima led government, makes it moral.

    I (and my Gemora charusa at the time both)protested the Cambodian Genocide. I protested in support of Soviet Jewry. I was not alive at the time of the Holocaust, so I did nothing.

    I do not know if any so called charedi rabbanim forbade their students to help the Vaad Hatzalah, but I am certainly interested in a source for this curious statement.

    Yes, there was no urgency in the entire Jewish world, possibly with the exception of Bergson and Hecht and that chevra, may they be remembered for good. But that is exactly what Lookstein’s book says.

    I already said the same criticism can be made of others, by which I meant to include the entire Orthodox Jewish world and other Jews, both Conservative, Reform and secular.

    The next big crisis facing Jewry is the promised destruction of the Yesha communities. We have met the enemy, and he is us.

  10. mikhaelmeir

    re: stadards in the YU Commentator also refers–they could use some better copy editing/proofreading-they translate “Va’ad ha Rabbanim” as “Rabbinical Caucasus”–instead of “caucus”–confusing a caucus with a region in near the Ural Mountains and the Black Sea.

  11. Here is the rest of my post. Your small quote from it distorts its meaning:

    But I do believe the following: These rabbinic backers of Rabbi Gafni all cited the Chofetz Chaim and claimed the laws of lashon hara did not permit publication of information related to Gafni’s crimes. This is a common assertion in the rabbinic world. The Chofetz Chaim’s code of speech, as well intentioned as its author clearly was, ends up protecting powerful abusers and criminals, while at the same time oppressing victims and the powerless.

    A point from recent history. Rabbi Mordechai Willig excoriated relatives of Rabbi Baruch Lanner’s victims, silencing some and damaging all. He did so based in large part on the Chofetz Chaim. Lanner was eventually exposed, arrested, tried and convicted – no thanks to Rabbi Willig and the other OU leadership who protected Lanner to the end.

    This pattern repeats itself, because, as critics of the Chofetz Chaim told him, your codification – no matter how technically accurate – lends itself to this exact type of abuse. The Chofetz Chaim did not understand this, much as he did not understand the need for Jews to leave Europe. (In fairness, note the Chofetz Chaim died in 1933, years before Kristallnacht. But a secular leader like Ze’ev Jabotinsky did see the danger that early, and did urge Jews to flee.)

    Along with the removal of any of Gafni’s backers whose actions warrant removal, we should ‘remove’ the root cause – the Chofetz Chaim itself. Our society’s first job is to protect its weakest members. If only rabbis would busy themselves with that holy task, rather than spend copious amounts of time cozying up to the rich and powerful. If only …

    The Chofetz Chaim was wrong.

    So you see, your selective reading is a distortion.

  12. The Commentator is University-run, and is censored somewhat by the University. However, they occasionally do come out with a piece that doesn’t defend YU’s interests.

    It does not surprise me, though, that YU did nothing. After all, that’s what they’re best at.

  13. Anonymous

    My quote was not selective. You only refer to any “backers whose actions warrant removal.”

    Thus, concerning Rabbi Berman you state that, depending on the individual circumstances, if his actions warrant removal, he should be removed. This is the only way to read fairly the totality of what you wrote. This is hardly unequivocal and you should admit it.

    Concerning Rav Yisroel Meir Hacohen Kagan, Z”tzl, you do not mince words. He was “wrong.”

    Which would be fine except (and this what bothers me) you seem unable to point to what language that he wrote which supports the coverup of wrongdoing as applied to this case.

    I suspect that you condemn his work without having ever read it, just as I suspect many use his work as a tool without having studied it. If all you mean is that his work should not be used for nefarious purposes (which I wholeheartedly agree with), say it.

    If you are talking about a specific ruling which applies to a case like this, fine. But please, tell us what page and what language you are talking about.

  14. 1. The very nature of the sefer – which I have learned – causes the abuse.

    2. This criticism was voiced both in the Chofetz Chaim’s lifetime by some of his contemporaries, and today.

    3. A tremendous amount of evil has been done under the “protection” of the Chofetz Chaim. Did the Chofetz Chaim intend this? Of course not.

    4. Rabbi Berman was WRONG. He protected a serial abuser. The only question that remains is what did Rabbi berman do to check out the allegations? Is that effort – if there was one – enough to exonerate Rabbi Berman? We’ll see. But from what I now know, it is not.

  15. Anonymous

    Thank you.

    However, I do not know how a sefer which warns against the lashon harah, by its very nature, causes abuse.

    I still suspect that most people who use it as a defense have never learned it.

    In addition, the prohibition of lashon harah was not invented by Rav Yisroel Meir Hacohen Kagan, Z”ztl. The gemoro in Archin, daf 15 or thereabout, strongly condemns lashon harah. Take away Rav Kagan’s sefer and you still have the Gemora to coverup anything that needs to be.

    People who want to will always quote things out of context to prove their point. Should we then omit the Gemora in Archin and others the next time we print an edition of Shas?

    There was nothing to invesigate about Gafni. He admitted and still admits to statutory rape. The only investigation that needed to be done was Google.

    Once again, thank you for your reply.

  16. Really?

    Gafni admitted to PAST misdeeds that were 15-20 years old, and he charactrerized those acts as consentual. He also claimed to have done teshuva. That is a far cry from admitting rape and abuse.

    Other rabbonim told the Chofetz Chaim that his sefer would be MISUSED. That is EXACTLY what has happened with many of these abuse cases, including these two.

    Surely Rabbi Scheinberg learned that sefer, as did Rabbi Willig, as did Rabbi Berman and Rabbi Telushkin, etc., ad naseum. Yet they all held that exposing Gafni or Lanner or Kolko was lashon hara.

    Again, the Chofetz Chaim was wrong.

  17. Nachum

    The Commentator is not censored by YU. In fact, it’s the only student organization with no faculty advisor, for just that reason. Of course, YU can apply pressure in other ways, but doesn’t. This isn’t to say the paper couldn’t improve.

    Rabbis Revel and Belkin had limited options to get visas- they could only state that they needed teachers, and stretched even that quite a bit. A number of the people they got out happened to be non-Orthodox scholars, yes. I doubt there were many Roma professors, to answer that odd question.

  18. Anonymous

    I said statutory rape.

    By definition, under the law, a 13 year old can not “consent” to sex with a 30 year old, which are the ages that Gafni was (30 plus) and the girl (13).

    So, you really do have a double standard.

    As for the allegations being old and the alleged tshuvah, halacha does not recognize a statute of limitations and it is up to shamayim, us, to judge repentance. I will wait until a bas kol issues forth and says that Rebbi Gafni is prepared for the World to Come. (See Gemora Avodah Zara daf ?).

    The fact that Gafni could characterize his molestation of a 13 year old girl as consensual is conclusive proof to me, and to any fair minded person, that he did not do tshuvah. YOU MIGHT AS WELL CHARACTERIZE ALL THE HORRIBLE THINGS YOU COMPLAIN ABOUT ON YOUR WEBSITE AS CONSENSUAL, FOR THAT MATTER.

  19. Gafni admitted to a consentual relationship with a 14 year old gir that happened when Gafni was 18, 35 years ago. He claimed to have done teshuva.

    Statutory rape is NOT RECOGNIZED BY HALAKHA. Therefore, because Gafni claimed to have done teshuva, this was not an isues for many rabbis.

    The point is, a consentual relationship with someone halakha views as an adult and who is vey close to your age – WHILE WRONG AND DISGUSTING – is not the same thing as rape and other types of abuse Gafni is alledged to have done.

    Again, Rabbi Berman et al were WRONG. Should Rabbi berman be fired? See my above comment.

    What you cannot process due to youu evident bias is this: I OPPOSE AND FIGHT RABBIS WHO ACT THE WAY RABBI SCHEINBERG OR RABBI BERMAN ACT. The difference between the two cases should be clear. that it is not clear to you exposes your bias.

  20. Anonymous

    Actually, he was 19 or 20; she was 13; and, according to her, it was physical rape, by force, without any consent whatsoever. This is on the Awareness Website.

    Arguendo, accepting, with no good reason, your version of his version of the facts, it is still horrible terible abuse.

    As for the recognition or non-recognition of consent by Halchah, there is such a thing as Minuvel Birishous Hatorah (translation “perverted with the permission of the Torah”). The age of consent has changed both in reality and in secular law over time.

    Also, do you think this girl went to the Mikvah; at 13 or 14 she was almost a vadai nidah and certainly bchezkas nidah. The punishment is Kares.

    There was no consent in any of the cases, including Gafni and never any reason to believe there ever was or that he did teshuvah, as your most recent post about Rabbi Berman at least implicitly acknowledges.

    All these disgusting things are forbidden by the Torah. My only comparison was to the issue of consent, a 13(14) year old can not consent to a 18, 19 or 20 year old period.

    I have no bias. I am truly disgusted by it all.

  21. You clearly do have a bias. Either that, or you never learned how to paskin.

    The point, for the umpteenth time, is that Gafi claimed to have done teshuva, and the rabbis investigating him, including Berman, believed him.

    My point has been consistent. If Rabbi Berman did a full investigation, including speaking to women claiming to be victims and checking out their stories, and if he caim to the conclusion based on real evidence that the women either were not credible or that there was evidence that proved gafni’s innocence, then it is too much to demand Berman’s removal from public life. But, if this is not the case – and newer evidence posted this morning seems to prove this, Berman should be drummed out of public Jewish life immediately.

    What you do not understand is the difference between the two cases.

    Rabbi Scheinberg is alledged to have spoken with victims, determined that no penetration took place, and then told those victims that the sexual contact did not rise to the level of abuse. Therefore, he paskined, the victims were forbidden to publicize the issue because doing so would violate the laws of lashon hara.

    Rabbi Berman claimed to have done a full investigation that exhonerated Gafni of many charges. Other, earlier charges were written off to youthful indescretion and, in any case, were not an issue because Gafni had done “teshuva.”

    Rabbi Scheinberg knew the truth about Rabbi Kolko’s abuse. But he covered for him and Margulies.

    Rabbi Berman did not know the truth. But, it now turns out, he exhonerated Gafni without really looking for it. Until that fact was known, Berman was in a better position than Scheinberg, because he claimed to have done a full investigation that found no credible abuse.

    It now turns out that investigation was a sham. None of us knew that with any certainty until this morning.

    Now do you understand?

  22. Anonymous

    Your right, I never learned to pasken; that is why I do not pasken and do not claim to be a posek. Where is your smicha from?

    If you just discovered that the so called investigation was a sham, welcome aboard; I knew it was a sham long ago. It was obvious.

    According to the Jewish week and Forward, Gafni was 19 or 20 and the abuse started when the girl was 13. Gafni’s 13 year old victim stated that she was raped, by overpowering force.

    Gafni himself justified his actions by saying the 13 year old he raped, at least as a matter of statutory rape, “was 14 going on 35.”

    Even if we accept, with no good reason, his version of the facts, his justification shows that there was no way he did teshuvah. Teshuvah is chatasi, avasi; hershanu bagadnu; sarnu mmitzvosecha vilo shavah lanu.

    It is not, I was right; it is not tzidkasi, nakesi. It is not “I fufilled all the mitzvos and my actions were justified,” because she was 14 going on 35.

    And even if this is a defense, which it is not, how could anybody simply reject the accusation of the girl that he forced hi8mself on her. Were there videotapes? Did she have counsel who was allowed to cross examine witnesses? Was there discovery?

    On these facts I simply never believed that Gafni’s defenders had an ounce of credibility.

    I never offered a word of defense of any of the other persons you mentioned. If i did plaese point out what words you refer to. I only compared the situations by pointing out the “consent” defense in both cases are absurd.

    Now, do you get it?

  23. You still don’t get it.

    You write: “I only compared the situations by pointing out the “consent” defense in both cases are absurd.”

    Kolko does not claim consent. Neither does Rabbi Scheinberg.

    Now, do you get it?

  24. Anonymous

    I did not say that anybody claimed a defense
    excuse in the Kolko case. I said that the defense is equally absurd in both cases.

    Saying that you might as well defend Kolko by claiming consent does not imply that he made the claim.

    Please, do not infer what I did not imply.

  25. You wrote: “I only compared the situations by pointing out the “consent” defense in both cases are absurd.”

    You either write unclearly, or speak in doublespeak. (Probably the first and unintentional.)

    Since Kolko never claimed consent, and no one has argued there was consent, why bring up the issue in Kolko’s case? There is no comparision to be made.

    Again, I have been both clear (which you certainly are not) and consistent.

    Now, try to process. You did not believe that Berman’s investigation was real and that the conclusions drawn from it were correct. Neither did I. But what you do not understand is the following: As long as it was possible that Berman had done a real investigation, but that investigation in honest error came up with the wrong information, I could not call for his dismissal, only for the details of the investigation and its thoroughness and honesty to be made public. That information would tell us what should happen to Rabbi Berman.
    And it did.

    Once it became clear the investigation was a sham, as happened early this morning, that changed. You’ll note that I strongly called for Rabbi Berman’s removal from public Jewish life the minute that became clear.

    Rabbi Scheinberg knew Kolko was fondling little boys. He used halakha to silence them and their families. This was not an issue of doubt. He knew what Kolko did and covered for him. Rabbi Berman took Gafni at his word, did a surface check of the facts, and backed Gafni, all without speaking to his victims. But we did not know the true nature of that invesigation until this morning.

  26. Anonymous

    Well we disagree, both (slightly) on substance and (strongly), on the clarity of my writing.

    Their is a concept in secular law called “reckless disregard for the truth,” which can substitute for actual knowledge. It is beyond “should have known,” which is mere negligence.

    It has a loose counterpart in Jewish law as shogeg korov limazid, whem somebody does something unintentionally but he is in reality close to having done it intentionally.

    That is exactly where I put Rabbi Berman on this issue.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s