NJY Camps board disbands, settles with at least one victim

NJY Camps board disbands, settles with at least one victim

Move follows resignation of chair after report detailed new allegations against Len Robinson

Illustrative photo of one of the summer camps in the NJY Camps network. Via NJYcamps.org
Illustrative photo of one of the summer camps in the NJY Camps network. Via NJYcamps.org

Ten months after the executive director of the largest camping organization in North America was forced to resign due to allegations of sexual harassment that stretched back years, the organization’s entire board has voted to disband.

NJY Camps, a Jewish camping association in New Jersey, announced on Feb. 7 that its board of directors voted unanimously to suspend itself after an independent investigation found that Leonard “Len” Robinson, the 74-year-old former executive director of the organization, had sexually abused or harassed at least 11 women during his 25-year tenure as NJY’s top executive.

“While most of us were blindsided by the allegations against Len Robinson, we quickly came together to take decisive action and ensure no one else would be subjected to sexual harassment or assault at NJY Camps,” said board president Peter Horowitz, who announced his resignation in December, the day after NJJN’s exclusive report on the investigation’s findings.

NJJN has also learned that the NJY board reached a settlement with at least one woman who was repeatedly sexually harassed by Robinson while she was employed by NJY Camps. The woman’s attorney, Richard S. Swartz of the Cherry Hill law firm Swartz Swidler, LLC, declined to comment about the settlement.

Horowitz confirmed to NJJN that such a settlement had been reached. In an email statement, Horowitz wrote that “NJY Camps was first approached in July of 2018 by the legal counsel of one of the victims of Robinson’s abuse seeking a financial settlement.”

NJY Camps attorneys entered into “good faith conversations” with that individual’s counsel and ultimately reached a settlement to address her allegations, Horowitz wrote.

The independent investigation, conducted by the law firm McCusker, Anselmi, Rosen & Carvelli, P.C. (MARC), was completed in September 2018. In December, Dov Ben-Shimon, executive vice president and CEO of Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, called for the resignation of the entire 60-member board of NJY Camps after viewing the report, according to an NJJN story.

According to the story, top board leadership was made aware of Robinson’s inappropriate behavior during his tenure, but failed to act.

Regarding the  NJY board’s decision to disband, Ben-Shimon told NJJN, “We are deeply grateful to the leadership of NJY in its new formulation and have faith in their abilities to lead the camp forward to greater success. We are all committed to the future of NJY and believe that this move will be of great benefit to our community, our camp, and our campers.”

Ellen Goldner, a former employee of NJY Camps and former president of the Greater MetroWest federation, told NJJN she warned the then-board president, Bruce Tucker, about Robinson’s behavior; Tucker dismissed the information, according to Goldner.

Tucker has declined repeated requests for comment.

Leadership at NJY Camps continues to decline NJJN’s requests to disclose the full report, citing the “confidentiality” of women who have made allegations, according to an NJY Camps spokesperson.

NJJN obtained a copy of recommendations the investigators suggested in order to overhaul NJY Camps’ governance. To implement these changes, the organization will appoint a “transitional board” for roughly one year with “the intent of handing off responsibility to a durable governing board as early as January of 2020,” according to the organization’s Feb. 7 statement.

Doron Krakow, president and CEO of JCC Association of North America, said in a statement that he is “honored” to help assist NJY Camps through what has been a difficult period.

Neither Krakow, who took up his post as president and CEO of JCCA in 2017, nor his immediate predecessor, Stephen Arnoff, said they received any complaints about Robinson. But a JCCA employee, who asked for anonymity for fear of reprisal, told NJJN last year that complaints about Robinson being “verbally abusive” were brought to the JCCA’s attention but disregarded.

Robinson was forced to resign from his position as executive director last April, a day before NJJN’s initial story was published. His resignation came less than a month after Debbie Findling, a philanthropic adviser in the San Francisco Bay Area, wrote an op-ed in The New York Jewish Week, NJJN’s sister publication, detailing how she had been sexually harassed and propositioned for sex by a communal leader she later identified as Robinson.

Hannah Dreyfus is a staff writer at The New York Jewish Week, NJJN’s sister publication. NJJN managing editor Shira Vickar-Fox contributed reporting.

read more: