Forward Thinking

Norman Lamm, the Truth — and Me

By Paul Berger

yeshiva university

Norman Lamm has retired as chancellor of Yeshiva University. The exit of one of the most revered figures in Modern Orthodoxy has been tarnished, perhaps indelibly, by Lamm’s admission to me last year that he covered up sexual abuse of students during his tenure as president of Y.U. between 1976 and 2003.

Since I first reported Lamm’s admission there has been a great deal of speculation surrounding the circumstances of our interview. I have been accused of knowingly taking advantage of a man with a deteriorating mental state while his daughter was terminally ill. There is even a version of our interview circulating in which Lamm’s wife turns me away from his apartment door, so that I have to lurk outside until she leaves before I can sneak back in and take advantage of Lamm.

None of the above is true.

Prior to my interview with Lamm, I was unaware of rumors that Lamm or his daughter, Sara Lamm Dratch, were ill. All I knew was that a handful of former students had told me painful stories of their sexual abuse at Y.U.’s Manhattan high school for boys and that, according to them, the person who knew the most about it was Lamm.

So I did what any reporter would do. I looked up Lamm’s address and, one morning, I showed up at his apartment door. I told Lamm who I was.

I told him why I was there. At first, he appeared unwilling to talk. He went back inside his apartment and had a brief conversation — with his wife, I believe — and then he invited me inside.

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Wrestling With Details of Noah Pozner's Killing

By Naomi Zeveloff

Noah Pozner

This post originally appeared on the web site of the Dart Society, an independent association of journalists who cover violence and tragedy.

Nine days after Veronique Pozner’s son, Noah, was killed in the Newtown schools shootings, I interviewed her and other members of the family about their grieving process. The family had just finished observing the official Jewish mourning period.

I spent over an hour with Veronique; she talked me through her experience on December 14 and the days that followed. Her story was filled with moving and harrowing details: her dream of wandering an abandoned building calling out for Noah, her meeting with President Obama at a vigil at the local high school and her decision to get a tattoo of angel wings and Noah’s name the day after his death. The details that stuck with me the most — and the details which I felt most conflicted about putting in print — were Veronique’s descriptions of the damage to her son’s body. He was shot multiple times; she told me that his jaw and his left hand were mostly gone.

There were certain things Veronique wanted for Noah’s funeral. She felt that his body had suffered too many indignities already; she was adamant that he not be autopsied. She wanted him to be buried with a Jewish prayer shawl and with a clear stone with a white angel inside — an “angel stone” — in each of his hands. Veronique was only able to put the stone in his right hand because the left was “not altogether there,” she told me, crying for the first time in our interview. She asked the funeral director to put the other one in the left hand spot. “I made him promise and he did.”

Veronique told me that Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy visited her in the funeral home, and she brought him to see Noah’s open casket. I asked her why it was important for her and for the governor to see Noah’s body. “I needed it to have a face for him,” she said. “If there is ever a piece of legislation that comes across his desk, I needed it to be real for him.”

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Mitt's Balancing Act

By Nathan Guttman

getty images
Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney started off his overseas tour on the wrong foot, with a series of gaffes in his first stop in London.

But the presumptive Republican nominee seems well aware of the pitfalls waiting ahead as he reaches Israel on Saturday night.

The main point for Romney is to avoid overtly criticizing President Barack Obama (he wants to adhere to the unwritten rule that partisan politics stops at the water’s edge) while expressing his views loud and clear.

Early reviews are he handled the balancing act well. The key is in the location of the interview.

Romney gave one interview to Israel Hayom on the sidelines of the VFW conference in Reno, Nevada. There, on U.S. soil, he felt free to throw punches at Obama regarding his relations with Israel. “I cannot imagine going to the United Nations, as Obama did, and criticizing Israel in front of the world,” he said. “You don’t criticize your allies in public to achieve the applause of your foes.”

He called Obama’s reference to the 1967 borders “not the right course for America to take” and said Obama “abandoned the freedom agenda” in his dealing with the democratic uprisings in the Arab world.

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