Beliefnet
Last summer, accusations of sexual and physical abuse were made public against Rabbi Baruch Lanner, a youth leader working for the Orthodox Union (OU) and its youth group, the National Conference of Synagogue Youth (NCSY). The OU was also accused of failing to act against Lanner, even though numerous complaints were lodged against him over a 30-year period.

On Dec. 26, 2000, the OU released a summary of a report issued by a commission it established to investigate the matter. The following is the text of a statement issued by the OU in response to the report:

NEW YORK--The NCSY Special Commission, comprised of prominent members of the Orthodox Jewish community, which was convened by the Orthodox Union (OU) several months ago, has found that Rabbi Baruch Lanner, who recently resigned as an executive of its youth division, engaged in "abusive" behavior with teenagers during his years with the organization.

The Commission also found that some members of the lay and professional leadership of the OU and NCSY "made profound errors of judgment in their handling of Lanner throughout his career with NCSY." As a result of the Commission's findings, the organization has begun a review of its leadership in order to implement any changes that may be necessary.

The 331-page Report, which took nearly four months to complete, also addressed what it termed serious weaknesses in the OU's overall management structure, including: procedures for staff selection, development, training, supervision and evaluation; procedures for financial accountability; and internal audit and lay oversight.

Since the allegations surrounding Rabbi Lanner were raised this past summer, the OU Officers and Board of Directors have instituted a number of new management programs and policies in NCSY. These include:

  • establishing a comprehensive sexual harassment policy for staff;
  • an ongoing sensitivity training program for staff that was launched during a two-day seminar at which attendance was mandatory;
  • stricter hiring policies and training programs for NCSY advisors.
  • An NCSY ombudsman will be appointed shortly who will investigate any allegations brought to his or her attention. NCSY is also creating a professional standards committee--comprised of mental health professionals, educators, rabbis and parents--to address issues that confront those who work with children and teenagers.

    NCSY has also initiated a program with a leading New York medical institution to refer mental health professionals to work with current and former members of NCSY who feel they could benefit from counseling as a result of Rabbi Lanner's actions. For further information on this program, please call the NCSY national office at 212.613.8380.

    Additionally, new policies and procedures for all OU programs and staff will be developed--including overall management and governance of the organization.

    "On behalf of the Orthodox Union, I want to personally thank each of the Commission members and their counsel for presenting us with a very comprehensive Report that provides a thorough road map of ways we can improve the management and operations of our organization," said OU President Mandell I. Ganchrow, M.D.

    "We view the findings and recommendations of the Report with great seriousness. Now we will begin the process of how we set our house in order. The Commission has taken several months to do its work and write the Report. There is no doubt that it will also take the OU several months to consider and implement the changes that are necessary to improve our operations.

    "We are distressed that behavior like this could ever have occurred within our organization," Dr. Ganchrow added. "We sincerely apologize for the pain and suffering these young people experienced as a result of Rabbi Lanner's actions. We also wish to apologize to the families of these young people who entrusted their children to us. We promise to use this sad event as an opportunity to assure that behavior such as this will never again occur within our organization."

    Harvey Blitz, who will assume the presidency of the OU later this week at the group's biennial convention, added, "I am grateful to the members of the Commission for their thoughtful Report. The new administration will promptly and carefully study the Commission's recommendations and adopt and implement them appropriately to ensure that the Orthodox Union becomes a more responsible and responsive organization. We believe this will greatly enhance our ability to serve the community in the future."

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