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Yeshiva U. has ‘substantial deficits,’ President Richard Joel tells staff

NEW YORK (JTA) — Yeshiva University President Richard Joel acknowledged the school was facing “substantial deficits.”

In an email to faculty and staff obtained by JTA, Joel disclosed that the measures taken to shore up finances at the New York City university following the financial crisis in 2008 have been insufficient.

“We intended to achieve a balanced budget by this year so that we could then begin to reverse the trend of cutbacks,” Joel wrote in the email sent Tuesday night. “Despite our best efforts, we have not yet succeeded. Simply put, the spending required to support what we have built outpaces the income we generate and the substantial deficits that we have incurred cannot be sustained.”

The university’s director of communications declined to comment further.

Now entering his second decade at the helm of Yeshiva University, the flagship institution of Modern Orthodoxy, Joel enjoyed a fundraising windfall in his early years. The school recorded a record-breaking fundraising year in 2007. In 2006, businessman Ronald Stanton gave the university $100 million, the largest gift in its history.

But the recent years have been difficult. The university lost substantially from its heavy investments with Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff. More recently, Moody’s downgraded the school’s credit rating. And the school is facing a $380 million sex abuse lawsuit.

Joel did not specify the size of the deficits facing the university, nor did he outline the precise steps being contemplated to address them. He wrote that the school would “reframe the way we educate” and formulate a “new strategic vision” to increase revenue and efficiency, including new graduate programs.

“Our immediate next steps, though, are clear,” the email said. “We must spend in accordance with our financial resources. We are looking at all aspects of our operations to increase revenue, improve operational efficiencies, and manage costs. We will require more support and more philanthropy. We must distribute financial aid more deliberately.”

In 2011, Joel was the highest-paid Jewish communal professional in the United States, earning a salary of $879,821, according to the Forward.

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