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Convicted Sex Offender Taught For Years at JTS

Akiva Roth made headlines as recent hire at Yeshiva University

Yair Rosenberg
October 10, 2013
The campus of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York (JTS/Flickr)
The campus of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York (JTS/Flickr)

On Tuesday, the Forward reported that Akiva Roth, a newly hired Hebrew instructor at Yeshiva University, pleaded guilty in 1997 to lewd conduct involving several bar mitzvah students. Omitted in that story and today’s follow-up editorial, however, was another aspect of Roth’s biography: he taught summer courses in Hebrew Grammar at the Jewish Theological Seminary just a few years after he was convicted in court.

Roth’s online resume at Radaris states:

Position: Instructor of intensive ulpan in hebrew grammar Jun 2000 to 2004
Company: Jewish theological seminary of america – New York, NY

These revelations about Roth’s prior employment, first noted by blogger FailedMessiah and subsequently confirmed by Tablet, suggest that Roth’s past conduct was either not investigated or overlooked by two of America’s preeminent Jewish educational institutions. Notably, Roth’s father, Rabbi Joel Roth, is a professor of Talmud and Jewish Law at JTS who previously stepped down as dean of its rabbinical school after allegedly making a sexually explicit statement to a student.

Asked for comment on the story, a JTS spokesperson said, “The senior administration of JTS was unaware of the prior conviction. JTS is committed to an educational and work environment free of sexual harassment and discrimination and has strict policies in place along these lines.” They added that contrary to the information on Roth’s resume, he did not teach in 2004.

A spokesperson for Yeshiva University released the following statement: “Yeshiva University maintains an unwavering commitment to preventing sexual misconduct or harassment of any kind and has instituted numerous policies, procedures and practices to ensure a safe environment for our students, faculty, staff and community. We will continue to review all of the University’s policies and procedures related to such matters to ensure they reflect the best in class standard. Although we cannot comment on the details of this particular case, as it involves a personnel issue, we will continue to review this matter.” The spokesman also said that YU expects to release an updated statement soon. We will update if and when they do.

UPDATE: Yeshiva University has let Roth go. Full story here.

Yair Rosenberg is a senior writer at Tablet. Subscribe to his newsletter, listen to his music, and follow him on Twitter and Facebook.