Yeshiva University Announces Layoffs Following Madoff Mess


untitled3The Jewish Star is reporting that Yeshiva University will lay off 60 employees. This follows the announcement several months ago of millions of dollars in losses incurred in the debacle involving Bernard Madoff, former chairman of Yeshiva’s Sy Syms School of Business. President Richard Joel made the grim announcement today in a letter addressed to the “Yeshiva University Community,” obtained by The Jewish Star. The cuts will be made across the university’s Manhattan campuses in an attempt to trim the budget by $30 million, he said.

An angry YU employee who lost her job today spoke to The Jewish Star on the condition that she not be identified.

“They affect the little people, the people that make the university run. The administration is the bread and butter of the university. Had all the senior staff taken a two percent cut it wouldn’t have been necessary to cut all these jobs for the people that aren’t making that much money… Richard Joel makes half a million dollars a year. Why didn’t he take a pay cut? ”

The letter describes the layoffs as part of an overall staff reduction that, including voluntary separation packages and retirement, will eliminate a total of 120 positions, believed to be about 2.5 percent of YU’s total workforce.

The move is part of Yeshiva University facing “new economic realities,” Joel said.

When the Ponzi scheme allegedly conducted by Madoff was announced, Yeshiva University first estimated having lost $110 million, though that number was later scaled back, apparently to remove from the calculation profits that never really existed.

Madoff reached a partial agreement with the Securities and Exchange Commission Monday in which he agreed to not contest the facts of the civil case against him. Penalties are to be assessed at a later date, and Madoff still faces criminal prosecution. A list of Madoff’s victims released earlier this week includes dozens of residents of the Five Towns.

Joel said a strong severance package would be offered to the employees who lost their jobs, including salary continuation and health benefits. In his words the package goes “beyond that which is required and normally provided by an institution like ours.”

The letter from Joel also cites additional measures like “cutting non-personnel expenses by 23 percent;” “fortifying sound business processes” and “radically scaling back our capital expenditures.”

Yeshiva University also plans to “keep the cost of attending its undergraduate schools as affordable as possible by freezing tuition and increasing financial aid,” and to focus its “substantial fund raising efforts on student aid and other core priorities.”

The letter concludes that Yeshiva University is special because of “people whose positive attitudes enliven student living and learning in ways both memorable and subtle,” and that YU is now “poorer for having to say goodbye to several of them today.”

Hedy Shulman, a spokeswoman for the university, told The Jewish Star tonight that there would be no further comment at this time.

 Letter from Yeshiva University President Richard Joel:

Dear Members of the Yeshiva University Community,

I write to you at a challenging moment for Yeshiva University and its family. In an effort to maintain the strength of the special enterprise that is YU, we are making hard choices and reducing our operating budget by close to $30 million. None of the choices has been harder than the decision, announced today, that we are laying off approximately 60 of our employees throughout the Manhattan campuses.

As I have reported to you, we have taken many steps over the past few months to find other ways to meet our budget reduction mandate, ranging from charging our vice presidents to find new ways to reduce spending wherever possible, to offering voluntary separation packages to qualifying employees. Our overall goal has been to do whatever we could to minimize the impact of our financial issues on the student and academic experience both in and beyond the classroom.

We cannot eliminate the pain felt by those members of our community who are losing their jobs, particularly in these economic times, but we have put measures in place to show support and give assistance. We have developed a generous severance package which includes salary continuation and extended benefits, such as health insurance and on-campus tuition benefits, beyond that which is required and normally provided by institutions like ours. We are also offering additional support to affected employees by providing job search support and counseling.

It is essential that YU deal properly and purposefully with the new economic realities that confront us all. Part of our commitment is ensuring that students and their families can afford a Yeshiva University education: We are reframing our budget, not just to eliminate the structured deficit, but to keep the cost of attending the undergraduate schools as affordable as possible by freezing tuition and increasing financial aid. We have always been mindful of the costs of education, looking for ways to do more with less, while building a great university; now we must look harder. These layoffs are part of an overall reduction in staff – through a hiring freeze, early retirement and voluntary separation packages – that totals approximately 120 positions. Other steps we are taking include:

Cutting non-personnel expenses by 23 percent
Fortifying sound business processes
Ensuring all appropriate savings, consistent with the unique research-driven academic programs, at Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Radically scaling back our capital expenditures
Focusing our substantial fundraising efforts on student aid and other core priorities
Continuing to find efficiencies through vigilant review of all expenses by the professional staff and the trustees; vehicles such as the staff Cost Savings Task Force; and suggestions made by faculty, staff and students to the President
As a result of all of this, we have an operating plan for the coming year that ensures our delivering on the promise we make to our families: providing a superb education for every Yeshiva University student, while keeping YU strong and helping us weather the economic climate. We are very fortunate to have an extraordinary group of lay leaders who share our commitment to the future.

Yeshiva University’s mission has never been as vital as it is today.
Our values are invaluable and our education is non-negotiable. But to write this is to be reminded that it is not words, but people, who bring wisdom to life. What make Yeshiva special are the caring and best actions of those who serve this community every day in a myriad of ways and places – people whose positive attitudes enliven student living and learning in ways both memorable and subtle. We are an institution filled with such people; but we are the poorer for having to say goodbye to several of them today.

In these challenging times, I encourage you to convey your concerns
through all appropriate channels.

{The Jewish Star/ Newscenter}


  1. did you investigate any other yeshivas or universities who laid off employees? responds:

    The report, as it clearly states, is from The Jewish Star, published by Mayer Fertig. The Star was simply reporting about the situation in YU. There was no intent for it to be disparaging or taken the wrong way. The report simply states the facts – facts that our readership would find relevant. In addition, no other similar type yeshiva or university is at that level financially where mass layoffs or changes would have as great an impact on so many people.

    Dovid Bernstein,


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