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YU Fires Hebrew Professor with History of Sexual Misconduct

Yeshiva University Hebrew teacher Akiva Roth was dismissed last Friday from his newly acquired position in the Hebrew department. After word got out that Mr. Roth had a history of sexual abuse, on the heels of a large sexual misconduct scandal, the university made the quick decision to dismiss Mr. Roth. The administration acted in accordance with its “efforts to lead [its] community away from a culture of apathy regarding issues of abuse and toward one of action, change and growth,” a statement made by President Richard Joel in August 2013.

In 1996, the New Jersey resident Roth was arrested on suspicion of abusing several boys while tutoring them for their bar-mitzvahs, The Jewish Forward reported. The following year, Roth pleaded guilty to four counts of sexual misconduct, was sentenced to a ten-year probation, and placed in the lowest category for risk of re-offense. Probation includes, as the New Jersey Judiciary website explains, “supervising offenders and monitoring their behavior.”

Before joining the YU faculty this semester, Roth worked at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey as a lecturer in Biblical and modern Hebrew from 1999 until December 2006. According to his LinkedIn profile, he was also chaplain and director of the Hillel at Drew. He then worked at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee as its northeast region synagogue initiative director, and for the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York as an Israel engagement coordinator, before applying for a spot at YU in the Hebrew department. The candidate application to be hired at the university includes--as outlined in the resource department of the university website--that once a potential candidate “is selected, professional references are checked and a background screen is conducted by a third party vendor.” Included in this background screen is a criminal history check. Seemingly passing these screenings, Roth was hired as a Hebrew professor in the beginning of this year’s fall semester, delivering multiple lectures to four separate classes every week.

“As you may have heard, questions were raised regarding past activities of a newly hired instructor in the college. After an extensive review of this matter, the individual is no longer employed by the University,” said Dean Barry Eichler in an email to students this past Friday. “While all employees are subject to thorough background checks, the University erred in this case, permitting the new hire to begin working before the screening process had been completed. Yeshiva University will continue to re-evaluate its hiring processes and work to close any gaps in our procedure”. The statement also assured students that, to the knowledge of the university, no misconduct took place between Roth and students during his short stay on campus.

One of his students, YC sophomore Ezra-Shimon Rosenfeld, remarked, “It is very unfortunate that this happened.  He seemed to be a great teacher and a nice guy.” Until further notice, Akiva Roth’s classes will be taught by other instructors for the duration of the semester, a follow-up email directed to the members of his four classes explained. It is unclear whether a new full-time professor will be hired, or if his classes will be covered by current faculty members.