In a letter announcing his retirement from Yeshiva University, Rabbi Norman Lamm said his response to the allegations was "ill-conceived." Lamm is stepping down amid an ongoing investigation into accusations of abuse by alumni of the all-male high school that's part of the university.
Lamm's decision to retire was based on an agreement reached three years ago and was not connected with the abuse investigation, the university said. Lamm was the university president from 1976 to 2003 before he became chancellor.
Nearly two dozen men claim they were sexually and physically assaulted by administrators and teachers at Yeshiva University High School from 1971 to 1989.
In December, Lamm told the publication The Jewish Daily Forward, which broke the story of the abuse allegations, that he never notified the police of the complaints about sexual abuse. Lamm told the newspaper that when the school received a complaint about a staff member, he allowed the staff member to "go quietly."
"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," Lamm wrote in his retirement letter.
He added, "True character requires of me the courage to admit that, despite my best intentions then, I now recognize that I was wrong."
'Make amends as an institution'
A private law firm hired by the university, Sullivan & Cromwell, is investigating the allegations by the men.
"It is anticipated that the investigation will be finalized and a comprehensive report will be released by Sullivan & Cromwell in the coming weeks," the university said in a statement Monday. "We will address the findings publicly once the report is issued."
Attorney Kevin Mulhearn, who represents 22 plaintiffs alleging abuse, said his clients came forward to report the abuse years ago but the school turned a blind eye and did nothing.
Mulhearn said he is conducting his own investigation and has advised his clients not to speak to the media until a lawsuit is filed. He said the rabbi's statement was a good first step in the right direction.
"But Yeshiva University, as a whole, has to make amends as an institution," Mulhearn said. "Not just one man. Because there are many high-level administrators who had knowledge of misconduct and did nothing."
More than 6,000 students study at the university's campuses in New York City and Israel.