Thursday, December 13, 2012

Case of Rabbi George Finkelstein



Case of Rabbi George Finkelstein
(AKA: George Bernard Finkelstein, George B. Finkelstein, Gedalia Finkelstein)

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Yeshiva University High School - class of 1949, 
Yeshiva University College - class of 1953 
Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary - Ordained 1956 

(1976-2003) Talmud Teacher, Yeshiva University's High School - Washington Heights, NY

Congregational Rabbi, Congregation Bnai Yeshurun - Teaneck, NJ
Samuel Scheck Hillel Community Day School - North Miami Florida Beach, FL
Honorary President, Just One Life - Jerusalem, Israel
 Advisory Board Member, Council of Young Israel Rabbis in Israel - Jerusalem, Israel
Teacher - OU Israel Center - Jerusalem, Israel
Educator - Yeshiva University Israel - Jerusalem, Israel 
 

The Awareness Center suggests that if you were abused by anyone at YU, you contact The Awareness Center, a private attorney or a legitmate rape crisis center prior to making any calls to the University.  It's much better you share your experiences with a non-biased party to ensure your civil rights are protected. 
CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION


Rabbi George Finkelstein was accused of molesting boys he taught at Yeshiva University for nearly 30 years.


At Y.U.’s annual tribute dinner, held in March 1995 at the New York Hilton hotel in Manhattan, Lamm presented Finkelstein and his wife, Fredda, with the Heritage Award “for 25 years of dedicated service.”

Asked why Y.U. honored Finkelstein despite forcing him out because of the wrestling, a Y.U. spokesman said: “As you are aware, everything is being independently investigated by outside counsel who will make their report when the investigation is fully finished.” 

Allegations of Finkelstein’s inappropriate behavior preceded him when he applied for the job of director general of Jerusalem’s Great Synagogue, in 2001.

The Great Synagogue was concerned enough that its board launched an investigation and was twice reassured by a Y.U. “authority” that the rumors were baseless, according to Zev Lanton, the synagogue’s director general. Lanton told the Forward in December that after seeking legal advice the synagogue could not reveal the name of the Y.U. official who vouched for Finkelstein.


Finkelstein did inform the (Great) synagogue a few years prior to the statement that he had been summoned by police in Jerusalem regarding “a complaint reiterating the original allegation,” the statement said — apparently referring to allegations that Finkelstein abused a student in New York.

But the police report obtained by the Forward shows that the summons related to a complaint that Finkelstein assaulted a young man over a period of two-and-a-half years in Finkelstein’s home and inside the Great Synagogue.

If you or anyone you know was abused by Rabbi George Finkelstein, please contact The Awareness Center.
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Disclaimer: Inclusion in this website does not constitute a recommendation or endorsement. Individuals must decide for themselves if the resources meet their own personal needs.

Table of Contents

2012
  1. Student Claims of Abuse Not Reported by Yeshiva U.:  Lamm Says He Let Alleged High School Abuser Leave Quietly (12/13/2012)
  2. Statement from President Richard M. Joel in Response to Allegations of Past Abuse (12/13/2012)
  3. Former Students Recall Alleged Sexual Abuse at Yeshiva High School (12/13/2012)
  4. Advisory Board - Council of Young Israel Rabbis in Israel (12/13/2012) 
  5. Honorary President - Just Life (12/13/2012)
  6. An American Orthodox Dreamer: Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik (2004) 
  7. Yeshiva U. Apologizes Over Alleged Abuse (12/13/2012)
  8. Report of ’80s Sexual Abuse Rattles Yeshiva Campus (12/13/2012)
  9. Yeshiva University president apologizes for '70s and '80s molest allegations (12/13/2012)
  10. RCA 'Deeply Troubled' by Yeshiva Allegations (12/13/2012)
  11. YU President Calls Abuse Allegations 'Reprehensible' (12/14/2012)
  12. Confronting Abuse (12/14/2012)
  13. Norman Lamm = Joe Paterno – Shame On Yeshiva University! (12/14/2012) 
  14. Alleged Yeshiva Abuser Quits as Accusations Mount (12/16/2012)
  15. George Finkelstein's Open Office Door: Yeshiva University High School removed the door of principal accused of abuse, but not the abuser himself.  (12/21/1812)
  16. Yeshiva Officials, Rabbis Knew of Alleged Abuse: More Students Say Nothing Was Done About Allegations (12/20/2012)

2013
  1. No Religious Exemption When It Comes to Abuse (01/04/2013)
  2. Curious George FinkelsteinA former rabbi-teacher of mine has been accused of molesting students. So, why can’t I stop thinking of the good he did? (01/04/2013)
  3. Yeshiva U. Rabbi George Finkelstein Acted Inappropriately Even After Ouster (03/08/2013)
  4. As Yeshiva Child Sex Abuse Scandal Grows, Why Are We Afraid To Speak Out? (03/31/2013)
  5. Yeshiva U. Sex Abuse Probe Stalls Amid Fear and Mistrust (05/03/2013)  
  6. Yeshiva University High School former students file $380 million sex abuse lawsuit  (07/08/2013)  
Other Cases involving Yeshiva University

Also see: 
  1. Policies For inclusion on The Awareness Center's Sex Offender's Registry
  2. Listing Alleged and Convicted Sex Offenders
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Student Claims of Abuse Not Reported by Yeshiva U.
Lamm Says He Let Alleged High School Abuser Leave Quietly
By Paul Berger
Edited By Jane Eisner and Larry Cohler-Esses
Forward - December 13, 2012,

Accused: Yeshiva University High School for Boys, where George Finkelstein (left inset) and Macy Gordon (right inset) are alleged to have had inappropriate sexual contact with students, is located in Manhattan. Both men deny the charges. These images were taken from the 1970 Elchanite Yearbook.
A Forward investigation into allegations that two staff members at Yeshiva University High School for Boys’ Manhattan campus sexually abused students during the late 1970s and early ’80s has led to a startling admission by the university’s chancellor: The school dealt with allegations of “improper sexual activity” against staff members by quietly allowing them to leave and find jobs elsewhere.

For years, former students have asked Y.U., the premier educational institution of Modern Orthodox Judaism, to investigate their claims that a former principal had repeatedly abused students in the all-male high school that is part of the university. Another former high school student said Y.U. covered up for a staff member who sodomized him.


Y.U. President Richard Joel said in a statement issued on December 3 that the school was “looking with concern into the questions” the Forward had raised.


Rabbi Norman Lamm
But Norman Lamm, who was president of Y.U. from 1976 to 2003 and is now chancellor, indicated in an interview December 7 that he knew about some of the allegations and chose to deal with them privately. In one case, a suspected abuser of high school students was allowed to leave for a position as dean of a Florida school.



No law enforcement officials were ever notified, despite “charges of improper sexual activity” made against staff “not only at [Y.U.’s] high school and college, but also in [the] graduate school,” Lamm said. “If it was an open-and-shut case, I just let [the staff member] go quietly. It was not our intention or position to destroy a person without further inquiry.”



Asked whether in the case of staff assaulting minors the abuse should have been reported to police, Lamm said. “My question was not whether to report to police but to ask the person to leave the job.”


Lamm would not reveal names of the staff members involved. But he stressed that the incidents took place at a time before abuse scandals involving Catholic clergy or schools such as Penn State University, when institutions were ignorant of how to deal with such allegations. “This was before things of this sort had attained a certain notoriety,” Lamm said. “There was a great deal of confusion.”


Lamm was speaking following a Forward investigation into allegations of sexual assault committed at Y.U. high school’s Washington Heights campus by a former Talmud teacher, Rabbi Macy Gordon, and by former principal Rabbi George Finkelstein.


Both men, who currently live in Israel, deny the allegations against them.


Lamm said he had no recollection of accusations made against Gordon, who served at the school for 28 years. But he did remember that Finkelstein was forced out of Y.U.’s high school in 1995 following accusations that he had inappropriate contact with students by wrestling with them in a high school office. Finkelstein, who worked at Y.U. for 27 years, subsequently took a post as dean of the Samuel Scheck Hillel Community Day School, in North Miami Beach, Fla. In 2001, he immigrated to Israel where he became executive director of the Jerusalem Great Synagogue, where he served until stepping aside in November to become the synagogue’s ritual director.




“When [the wrestling] came up, [Finkelstein] had decided to leave because he knew we were going to ask him to leave,” said Lamm, who at 85 is a revered scholar, rabbi and communal leader. Asked why the university did not inform the Florida school about Finkelstein’s behavior, Lamm said: “The responsibility of a school in hiring someone is to check with the previous job. No one checked with me about George.”


Y.U., a 116-year-old institution, is perhaps the pre-eminent institution of Modern Orthodoxy, blazing a trail for Joseph Soloveitchik’s vision of “Torah Umadda,” or “Torah and secular knowledge,” the university motto. It includes several undergraduate and graduate schools, such as the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, as well as affiliated institutions such as the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary and the Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy Yeshiva University High School for Boys.


The very reverence with which the university and its staff is held by so many families made it all the more difficult for students to come forward with allegations of abuse.


One man interviewed by the Forward who asked not to be named said that in 1980, when he was a 16-year-old student at Y.U.’s high school, Gordon visited him in his dorm room after he skipped class.


“I don’t really remember exactly how it happened, but he [Gordon] wound up looking to see where I was developing physically,” the man, now 48, recalled.


Gordon went through the boy’s medicine cabinet and pulled out a bottle of Chloraseptic. He pulled back the boy’s bathrobe again and told him, “You have simanim [signs],” and sprayed Chloraseptic on the boy’s pubic hair. He then sodomized the boy with a toothbrush.


The man’s father, who also did not wish to be named, said he did not report the incident to police because he did not want to hurt his son or to damage Y.U.’s reputation. But the family did lodge an official complaint with the school.


The man’s father said he trusted that Israel Miller, a senior vice president of Y.U. in 1980 who died in 2002, would deal with his son’s complaint. “We had a lot of ties to Y.U., our family has a lot of ties to Y.U.,” the father said, “and at that point we also felt that this kind of exposé would not do [our son] any good, either.”


The man and his father said that Miller took detailed notes on the incident and promised that Y.U. would take care of the matter. Instead, Gordon was allowed to stay on staff and to retire a few years later without a blemish on his record.


The man said he does not blame his parents, who were only concerned with protecting him. But he said he does blame Y.U., which appeared only to be concerned with protecting itself.


“When the institution is more important than the people, then what’s the point of the institution anyway?” the man said. “It’s too late for justice, but it would be interesting to see some of this come to light.”


Since moving to Israel in 1985 after divorcing his wife, Gordon has spent much of his working life as a senior officer at the Council of Young Israel Rabbis in Jerusalem. Both Gordon and Finkelstein serve as advisory board members to the council, an affiliate of the American-based, right-leaning Modern Orthodox organization.


The Forward spoke to Gordon on November 28 at the Orthodox Union’s Israel Center, in Jerusalem, where he had just completed a lecture on the laws of Sabbath observance.


Gordon said that he had heard “various forms of [the sodomy accusation] before” but had “no recollection of such a thing.”


Asked if he had ever behaved inappropriately with students, Gordon said: “It depends on how you define ‘inappropriate.’ I would occasionally embrace the students, specifically if he (sic) was depressed… I think any teacher would do that. No, there was no inappropriate conduct.”


Asked whether there was any contact that could be defined as sexual between him and students, Gordon replied, “I don’t think so.” Pressed on his response, he said, “To the best of my memory there was not.”


Gordon said that he stopped teaching at Y.U. High School in 1984 and was placed on a one-year leave of absence until 1985 so that his children, who were on scholarships, could maintain benefits as offspring of a faculty member. He said that he left Y.U. as well as his post as a pulpit rabbi in Teaneck, N.J., because of his divorce, not because of any allegations of abuse.


He added that his personal circumstances were known to Lamm, who “okayed everything.”

Lamm said that he had no recollection of the details concerning Gordon’s departure.


The Forward has spoken to three men who say Finkelstein invited them into an office at Y.U. High School or to his home, where he told them to hit him and wrestle with him. The men recalled the overpowering smell of Old Spice cologne as, pinned to the floor, they felt Finkelstein’s erect penis brush up against them. Finkelstein also tried to kiss some students and told them that he loved them.

“He was unfit to be an educator on any level,” said Simeon Weber, a former Y.U. High School student who lived in a dorm at the school’s Washington Heights campus during the late 1970s and who said he was forced to wrestle with Finkelstein.


“I would sleep over [at Finkelstein’s house], and he would say to his wife, ‘Fredda, Simmy and I, we’re going to knock heads.’ Then, he would lock the door and wrestle with me,” Weber said.

“You could tell what was going on in his pants,” Weber added. “It wasn’t just a wrestling match.”

After Weber left Y.U. High School, he heard that Finkelstein had been promoted to principal from assistant principal. So he took his allegations against Finkelstein to Lamm. But Weber said Lamm refused to act.


“Everybody knew [Finkelstein] wrestled with boys,” Weber added. “Nobody cared.”

High school staff members also knew of Finkelstein’s wrestling habit. Elan Adler, director of the school’s dormitory from 1981 to 1986, said at least a couple of boys told him that “Rabbi Finkelstein would wrestle them sometimes,” and that “he would sometimes be inappropriately aggressive.”


Asked to explain what “inappropriately aggressive” meant, Adler said, “They talked about his hands on private places, but they weren’t sure what to make of it; when you wrestle, hands go everywhere.”

Adler, who described Finkelstein as “a decent, caring and competent person,” said the boys’ comments about Finkelstein’s wrestling were made during routine discussions about what students had done that weekend, which were common in his role as director of the dormitory.


“I don’t recall… anyone complaining per se or asking for advice, or any parent calling and asking any questions or bring[ing] up the subject,” Adler said. “I didn’t report anything, as there was nothing compelling to report.”


Over the years, former Y.U. High School students have detailed what they say is Finkelstein’s inappropriate behavior on websites and blogs. Earlier this year, galvanized by the unraveling abuse and cover-up scandal at Penn State University, Mordechai Twersky, a journalist in Israel, published a call for Y.U. to come to terms with its past in Y.U.’s unofficial online student newspaper, The Beacon. Twersky recounted how an unnamed “associate principal” used to wrestle students “to the ground against their will and pin his stimulated body over theirs.”


Twersky, who ran Y.U.’s high school newspaper and went on to work in the university’s publicity department, is the son of Avram Twersky, a leading Modern Orthodox communal leader in the Bronx for four decades.


“That both perpetrator and victim were fully-clothed, that there was no sexual penetration, does not make this violation, this searing betrayal, any less blasphemous,” Twersky wrote in The Beacon. He told the Forward that he was assaulted twice at Y.U. High School and once at Finkelstein’s home.


Two weeks later, the man who says he was attacked by Gordon published an anonymous letter in The Beacon, lamenting that Gordon had been able to retire without any recriminations.


Yet Y.U. officials today appear to be treating the Forward’s inquiries about accusations against both men as though they have only just heard of them.


Twersky says that is impossible. He said that he first complained about Finkelstein’s inappropriate wrestling to Lamm in 1986.


Twersky said he contacted Lamm again in 2000 after the Orthodox world was rocked by a scandal involving Rabbi Baruch Lanner, a leader of the Orthodox Union’s National Conference of Synagogue Youth who was outed by the New York Jewish Week newspaper for emotionally and physically abusing boys and girls. A wide-ranging investigation commissioned by the O.U. found that its own officials knew of the allegations against Lanner for years yet did nothing to stop him.


Shocked by the parallels between the Lanner scandal and Y.U.’s failure to act against Finkelstein, Twersky said he sent Lamm a long email in August 2000, asking for compensation and threatening legal action. Lamm said he has no recollection of that email.


Twersky said that several weeks after he sent the email, Y.U.’s vice president, Miller, visited him in Israel. According to Twersky, Miller told him that Y.U. was aware of Finkelstein’s behavior. But, Miller said, experts had assured Y.U. that Finkelstein could be treated and remain in his position.


Miller told Twersky that Lamm was prepared to issue an off-the-record apology but Twersky would receive no financial compensation. If Twersky were to commence legal action, “it would not be good for you, and it would not be good for Yeshiva,” Miller said, according to Twersky.


Later that year, Twersky said he had a friendly 20-minute conversation with Richard Joel, then the president of Hillel, about Finkelstein.


Joel led the O.U. investigation into the Lanner scandal, which found that the O.U. leaders had made “profound errors in judgment.” When Joel was appointed president of Y.U. shortly afterward, Twersky said, he sent Joel an angry email about Finkelstein but he received no reply.


Joel declined to respond to these assertions.



Lamm appeared to struggle for words when discussing the allegations against Finkelstein. He said that his knowledge of Finkelstein’s behavior was not “quite as graphic” as details recounted to the Forward and that as far as he was aware, Finkelstein had done “nothing that crossed a red line.”


When asked to clarify what he knew about the allegations against Finkelstein, Lamm replied: “The fact that he… he was not just wrestling, but it was actually… you know, what you said. That was not told to me. And not every complaint has to be assumed to be 100% accurate.”


Lamm said that anytime he had to dismiss a member of staff — of which there were “quite a number of cases” — he gave the job of investigating allegations to his vice president, Miller. “I had to trust people doing a job, and [I] had a great deal of trust in Izzy Miller,” Lamm said.


Reached at his Jerusalem home, Finkelstein admitted that he did “play fight as a way of trying to remove the distance between students and faculty.” But, he said, “there was never any sexual anything that was involved.” He added: “In retrospect it was wrong, but that’s what the boys did with each other.”


In the university’s statement issued on December 3, Joel said that, if true, the abuse allegations represented “heinous and inexcusable acts.” The university advised anyone who needed counseling to contact yucounseling@yu.edu.


“The thought that such behavior may have occurred at our boys high school, or anywhere at this institution, at any time in its past is more than sufficient reason to express on behalf of the university my deepest, most profound regret,” Joel said.


Although Joel told the Forward on December 3 that he was looking into the abuse allegations, Lamm said on December 7 that no one from Y.U. had yet contacted him to ask about them.


Besides, Lamm said, during the period many of the assaults are alleged to have taken place, about 30 years ago, he was preoccupied by the university’s dire financial state. “The question of homosexual relations by teachers or principals… was not that clear, and it was not that significant relative to other things that we were dealing with” at the time, Lamm said.


“We were a sinking ship,” he added. “We were very close to going into bankruptcy, and these were matters that occupied a great deal of my time.”


Asked whether Y.U. made a mistake by not reporting abuses to the authorities, Lamm replied: “We are all human. Show me anyone who is a human being who has not made a mistake.”


But decades later, some former Y.U. High School students remain deeply hurt. Twersky called the lengthy Y.U. statement “empty words.”


“It is clearly disingenuous,” Twersky said. “It’s understandable from an institution that cannot afford to be sued right now and does not want this to blow up… but I also find it offensive.”


The man who said Gordon abused him called Y.U.’s statement “a bland, calculated, defensive response that does not acknowledge past wrongs.”


He also noted that Y.U. later established a scholarship in Gordon’s name.


“As long as the Macy Gordon scholarship exists it will be … a stain on Y.U.,” the man said.

Nathan Jeffay contributed reporting from Jerusalem
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Statement from President Richard M. Joel in Response to Allegations of Past Abuse
By Rabbi Richard M. Joel
Yeshiva University - December 13, 2012
 http://blogs.yu.edu/news/2012/12/13/statement-from-president-joel/
 
Dear Yeshiva University Community,

The safety and well-being of our students is Yeshiva University’s highest priority. The inappropriate behavior and abuse alleged by The Forward to have taken place in the past, and described in statements attributed by The Forward to Dr. Lamm, are reprehensible. The actions described represent heinous and inexcusable acts that are antithetical both to Torah values and to everything that Yeshiva University stands for. They have no place here, in our community, or anywhere at all. The thought that such behavior could have occurred at our boys’ high school, or anywhere at this institution, at any time in its past, is more than sufficient reason to express on behalf of the University, my deepest, most profound apology.

At this institution we continually review and strengthen policies and practices addressing the safety of all members of the Yeshiva family. We are vigilant and responsible, and always will be. While we cannot change the past, I can say with absolute certainty that Yeshiva University has implemented, and will continue to maintain and enforce the policies and procedures necessary to assure a safe environment. Such policies and procedures, established in consultation with outside experts, include:

  • At each and every one of YU’s schools, including Yeshiva University High School for Boys, there is zero tolerance for abuse or sexual harassment of any sort, of students, faculty or staff. If, despite our best efforts, they should occur, procedures exist both to swiftly deal with the perpetrators and aid the victims. These policies are posted on our website and are communicated directly to all employees annually.
  • Members of our own faculty and staff, at every level, undergo training designed to increase sensitivity to these issues, including mandatory training for new hires concerning sexual harassment.
  • Students are encouraged to report any incidents of abuse to the University administration and should feel safe knowing that their security is our number one concern. A hotline exists to enable confidential reporting of such complaints. The hotline number is 866-447-5052.
Yeshiva University’s many programs in this area for rabbis, teachers, care providers, community leaders, parents and children widely impact the broader Jewish community:

  • The Comprehensive Abuse Response Education (CARE) program at YU’s Institute for University-School Partnership works with day schools around the country to keep children safe in their schools by addressing abuse issues with research, training and consultation.
  • YU’s Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration offers a NYS workshop and certification in preventing and identifying child abuse.
  • Members of our faculty advocate on behalf of victims of child abuse; consult and advise around the world, including with child protective service organizations, and in communities across the spectrum; and present educational programs designed to prevent abuse both to parents and children.
  • A curriculum developed at YU’s Center for the Jewish Future called “Life Values and Intimacy Education: Health Education for the Jewish School,” is now taught in grades 3-8 in many day schools around theUnited States.
  • CJF offers continuing educational programs to rabbis and rebbetzins, including a certificate program, to help them recognize and address all forms of abuse in their communities.
  • Before embarking on service learning and experiential education missions where they will work with children, students are taught to recognize warning signs of child abuse and to refer concerns to appropriate authorities.
  • All candidates for ordination at YU’s affiliated Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary are required to complete a course that addresses the role of rabbis in preventing and identifying child abuse. Additional related coursework, including simulation, is required for students planning to become congregational rabbis or chaplains.
Anyone who may have suffered harm is invited to contact us in confidence. By emailing yucounseling@yu.edu, counseling resources of the University will be made available to you, and I welcome the opportunity to personally and confidentially discuss any issues with anyone who may have suffered harm. I can be reached at president@yu.edu or (212) 960-5300.

Thank God, communities across the nation are well aware of these issues today, and hopefully address them appropriately. At Yeshiva University we are committed to our sacred obligation to ensure that best practices are set and followed on our own campuses, and to play a key role in the broader community in keeping our most precious resource, our children, safe from harm.

Sincerely,
Richard M. Joel
President and Bravmann Family University Professor

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Former Students Recall Alleged Sexual Abuse at Yeshiva High School




A new investigation by the Jewish Daily Forward unearths upsetting sexual abuse allegations by former students at the Yeshiva University High School for Boys in Manhattan at the hands of two faculty members decades ago, as well as a disturbing lack of action on the part of the school. According to men who attended the 116-year-old institution in the late seventies and early eighties, former teacher Rabbi Macy Gordon and and former principal Rabbi George Finkelstein repeatedly engaged in inappropriate conduct with young boys, including wrestling with sexual undertones and, in one case, alleged sodomy with a toothbrush.


Current president Richard Joel told the Forward in a statement that the school is "looking with concern into the questions" raised by the article, but the school's leadership at the time of the alleged abuses had a far more accepting attitude of the charges. Norman Lamm, president of the school from 1976 to 2003 and now its chancellor, said although he knew about the allegations, police were never notified. "My question was not whether to report to police but to ask the person to leave the job," he said. "This was before things of this sort had attained a certain notoriety. There was a great deal of confusion."


The charges, and their bungled handling in the days before Penn State and abuse by the Catholic Church, mirror those that surfaced earlier this year at New York City's hallowed Horace Mann school.


"I don't really remember exactly how it happened, but he [Gordon] wound up looking to see where I was developing physically," one of the alleged victims recalled, claiming he was then violated sexually. Gordan told the Forward he had heard "various forms of [the sodomy accusation] before" but had "no recollection of such a thing."


Three men also told the Forward that Finkelstein crossed the line with them, often inviting them to wrestle in private. "You could tell what was going on in his pants," one said. "It wasn't just a wrestling match." The educator defended himself, admitting to the play-fighting but insisting, "There was never any sexual anything that was involved," and adding, "That's what the boys did with each other."


"When the institution is more important than the people, then what's the point of the institution anyway?" said one victim recently, according to the in-depth investigation. "It's too late for justice, but it would be interesting to see some of this come to light."
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Advisory Board - Council of Young Israel Rabbis in Israel

The Awareness Center's Daily Newsletter - December 13, 2012
http://www.youngisraelrabbis.org.il/about.htm

Note that both Rabbi Macy Gordon and Rabbi George Finkelstein are listed as members of this advisory board.  Both are alleged sexual predators, who moved from New York to Israel



Both Rabbi Macy Gordon and Rabbi David Finkelstein are alleged Sex Offenders



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Yeshiva U. Apologizes Over Alleged Abuse 
By Paul Berger
Forward - December 13, 2012


Rabbi Richard Joel
Yeshiva University President Richard Joel has issued a statement of apology in response to a Forward story describing how Y.U. failed to report claims of child abuse made against staff members during the 1970s and ‘80s. Joel’s statement, released this morning, offered victims who were allegedly abused by members of YU’s faculty and administration “my deepest, most profound apology.”

The Forward investigation into allegations that two staff members at a Manhattan boys high school run by Y.U. sexually abused students led to a startling admission by the university’s chancellor Rabbi Norman Lamm: The school dealt with allegations of “improper sexual activity” against staff members by quietly allowing them to leave and find jobs elsewhere.

For years, former students have asked Y.U. to investigate their claims that a former principal at Yeshiva University High School for Boys, in Manhattan, Rabbi George Finkelstein had repeatedly abused students in the all-male high school. Another former high school student said Y.U. covered up for a staff member, Rabbi Macy Gordon, who sodomized him.

Joel’s statement tracks very closely with a statement issued to the Forward on December 3.

In the previous statement, Joel expressed his “deepest, most profound regret.” Now, that word has changed to “apology.”

The statement reads, in part: “The inappropriate behavior and abuse alleged by The Forward to have taken place in the past, and described in statements attributed by The Forward to Dr. Lamm, are reprehensible. The actions described represent heinous and inexcusable acts that are antithetical both to Torah values and to everything that Yeshiva University stands for. They have no place here, in our community, or anywhere at all. The thought that such behavior could have occurred at our boys’ high school, or anywhere at this institution, at any time in its past, is more than sufficient reason to express on behalf of the University, my deepest, most profound apology.”
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Report of ’80s Sexual Abuse Rattles Yeshiva Campus

By Vivian Yee 
New York Times - November 13, 2012 


Yeshiva University says it will review newly published claims that it had ignored accusations that teachers abused its high school’s students long ago.
A tall, imposing rabbi with a black goatee who served as assistant principal and principal during his 27 years at Yeshiva University High School for Boys, George B. Finkelstein was the face of authority to Mordechai Twersky, who graduated in 1981.


So when Rabbi Finkelstein asked Mr. Twersky to “hit him hard” during a meeting in his office in 1980, Mr. Twersky said in an interview on Thursday, he was mortified. When Mr. Twersky refused, the rabbi knocked him to the ground and sat on him, goading him to wrestle. He could feel the rabbi’s erection, Mr. Twersky, now 48, said. 

Mr. Twersky’s account was published Thursday on the Web site of The Jewish Daily Forward, which also reported that another former student said that in the same year, when he was 16, the Talmud teacher, Rabbi Macy Gordon, visited him in his dormitory room. Rabbi Gordon inspected his genitalia, the student told The Forward. Then he sodomized him with a toothbrush. 

Both rabbis have denied engaging in any inappropriate sexual behavior. 

Rabbi Gordon’s accuser said his parents had complained to administrators, who promised action but did nothing. Several years later, Mr. Twersky, who said he wrestled with Rabbi Finkelstein twice more, also raised concerns with administrators, and several other students also complained about the rabbi’s wrestling. Yet administrators of Yeshiva University, the prestigious Modern Orthodox institution in Washington Heights that runs the high school, allowed each man to simply leave. 

Rabbi Norman Lamm
The university president from 1976 to 2003, Norman Lamm, who is now its chancellor, told The Forward that he never notified the police. 

Dr. Lamm told the paper that when the school received complaints of sexual activity involving the staff, “if it was an open-and-shut case,” he would just let the staff member “go quietly.” 

“It was not our intention or position to destroy a person without further inquiry,” he said. 

“This was before things of this sort had attained a certain notoriety,” he added. “There was a great deal of confusion.” 

In 1995, after administrators confronted Rabbi Finkelstein about the wrestling, the rabbi “decided to leave because he knew we were going to ask him to leave,” Dr. Lamm told the newspaper. The rabbi became the dean of Samuel Scheck Hillel Community Day School in North Miami Beach, Fla. Yeshiva did not notify the school about the accusations, Dr. Lamm told The Forward, and the school never asked. 

Officials of the Florida school did not respond on Thursday to questions about Rabbi Finkelstein. 

Rabbi Finkelstein eventually moved to Israel, where he served as the director general of the Jerusalem Great Synagogue, and is now its ritual director. To The Forward, he acknowledged wrestling with students “as a way of trying to remove the distance between students and faculty,” but said the physical contact was not sexual. 

Around the time the Jerusalem synagogue hired him, rumors reached synagogue leaders about the rabbi’s inappropriate conduct, said Zalli Jaffe, the synagogue’s vice president, in an e-mail on Thursday. Mr. Jaffe said the synagogue’s president contacted a “very high authority” at Yeshiva, “who denied the charges outright.” 

The same allegations of sexual abuse resurfaced about four years ago, but the synagogue accepted Rabbi Finkelstein’s declarations of innocence because no charges had been filed. (Even if the police were to investigate the men today, criminal charges would be unlikely because the accusations described in The Forward happened too long ago under New York’s statutes of limitations.) 

“Naturally the synagogue will carefully study the article and we will take advise in this matter, so we can conduct ourselves as befitting the Great Synagogue,” Mr. Jaffe wrote. 

Rabbi Gordon retired from Yeshiva in 1984 and moved to Israel, and both he and Rabbi Finkelstein serve on an advisory board for the Council of Young Israel Rabbis in Jerusalem. 

In an interview from his home on Thursday, Rabbi Gordon denied the allegations and asked to know the identity of his accuser. 

“I heard the rumors years ago, but they’re simply rumors,” he said. “If I give it any credence at all, it is as an attempt by a disgruntled student to cast aspersions on a former teacher.” 

Dr. Lamm would not comment on Thursday. In a statement, Richard Joel, Yeshiva’s president, apologized and promised to remain vigilant in the future. 

“The inappropriate behavior and abuse alleged by The Forward to have taken place in the past, and described in statements attributed by The Forward to Dr. Lamm, are reprehensible,” Mr. Joel’s statement said.  

A Yeshiva spokesman added, “We are conducting an investigation into the allegations, and until that investigation is completed, it would not be appropriate to comment beyond what we have already said.” 

On Thursday, as the news spread across the campus shared by the university and the high school, Rabbi Hershel Schachter, 71, said he knew of another staff member who was dismissed for inappropriate behavior with students around the same time. He also said he once knew a university student who said Rabbi Finkelstein had touched him inappropriately, but was afraid to speak out. 

Mr. Twersky, now a journalist in Jerusalem, says he threatened to sue in 2000 unless Dr. Lamm publicly apologized or offered compensation, but was rebuffed. A Yeshiva official had said Rabbi Finkelstein’s “condition” would be treated, but nobody at Yeshiva reached out to victims, Mr. Twersky said. 

“It dawned upon me that I had not merely been wrestled with and violated, but knowingly abandoned by the high school leadership,” he said Thursday. 

That approach was not unusual for the time; an article in The New York Times Magazine in June described how teachers of the prestigious Horace Mann School in the Riverdale section of the Bronx had behaved inappropriately with students around the same era. By the late 1980s, several high-profile cases involving schools and youth organizations had begun to raise awareness of sexual abuse, said David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire. 

Before then, however, “the so-called passing the trash style of handling these events was very, very widespread,” he said. 

Rabbi Schachter said he thought both administrators and students now were less likely to sweep such issues aside: “The students are different students now; they would open their mouths. Years ago, students were quieter.” 

Randy Leonard contributed reporting. 

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Yeshiva University president apologizes for '70s and '80s molest allegations
New York Daily News - December 13, 2012 
By Reuven Blau and Rachel Monahan

THE PRESIDENT of Yeshiva University apologized Thursday over allegations two rabbis at the college’s high school campus abused boys in the late 1970s and early ’80s.

Yeshiva was repeatedly notified that a Talmud teacher, Rabbi Macy Gordon, and a former principal, Rabbi George Finkelstein, abused students, alums of the High School for Boys told the Jewish newspaper the Forward.

University President Richard Joel stopped short of confirming the allegations but called the abuse described in published reports “heinous and inexcusable.”

“The thought that such behavior could have occurred at our boys’ high school, or anywhere at this institution, at any time in its past, is more than sufficient reason to express on behalf of the University, my deepest, most profound apology,” he wrote in a letter posted on the Yeshiva website.

But the apology did not placate Mordechai Twerksy, who attended the upper Manhattan school from 1977 to 1981 and said he was moved to write about the abuse after the Penn State scandal broke.

“Joel’s so-called ‘profound regret’ is hollow,” he said in an email to the Daily News.

Norman Lamm, president of the Orthodox Jewish institution from 1976 to 2003, denied he’d heard allegations against Gordon. He acknowledged Finkelstein was forced out over inappropriate wrestling with students.

Lamm acknowledged he allowed alleged abusers to leave rather than reporting allegations to police.

“If it was an open-and-shut case, I just let [the staff member] go quietly,” he told the Forward.

One student told the Forward that in 1980 when he was 16, Gordon sodomized him with a toothbrush. Finkelstein, students told the Forward, wrestled students to the ground, rubbing his crotch against them.

Twersky said he’d raised the alarms over the abuse repeatedly with administrators over the years, including with Joel in 2002.

“It well-known among students that Finkelstein ‘wrestled’ with students,” he said.University officials would not comment on what actions they will take to address the past abuse pending an investigation.

Gordon and Finkelstein denied the allegations when contacted by the Forward.
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RCA 'Deeply Troubled' by Yeshiva Allegations
Shmuel Goldin Vows To Root Out Abuse in 'Our Own House'
Forward Staff - December 13, 2012.

The Rabbinical Council of America said it is “deeply troubled” over the allegations of sexual abuse at the Manhattan campus of the Yeshiva University’s High School for Boys that was revealed by the Forward.


Shmuel Goldin



The Modern Orthodox group said it was particularly disturbed by the allegations that occured at the flagship educational organization of the denomination, which it said “cannot be condoned or excused.”

“It is especially hard to confront improprieties which may have occurred in our own house, yet that is where the responsibility lies,” said Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, president of the RCA. ” We are confident that Yeshiva is equal to the task.”

The statement said the group “commends” Yeshiva President Richard M. Joel for his response to the allegations. It made no mention of Norman Lamm, the Yeshiva chancellor.

The Forward reported that two staff members at Y.U. high school’s upper Manhattan campus sexually abused students during the late 1970s and early ’80s. Lamm said the school dealt with allegations of “improper sexual activity” against staff members by quietly allowing them to leave and find jobs elsewhere.

Lamm said that anytime he had to dismiss a member of staff — of which there were “quite a number of cases” — he gave the job of investigating allegations to his vice president, Rabbi Israel Miller. “I had to trust people doing a job, and [I] had a great deal of trust in Izzy Miller,” Lamm said.

Miller died in 2002.

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YU President Calls Abuase Alegations 'Reprehensible'
JTA - December 14, 2012

The Awareness Center suggests that if you were abused by anyone at YU, you contact The Awareness Center, a private attorney or a legitmate rape crisis center prior to making any calls to the University.  It's much better you share your experiences with a non-biased party to ensure your civil rights are protected.


The president of Yeshiva University said the school had a "zero tolerance" policy for sexual abuse and harassment following a lengthy investigation of past abuse allegations in the Forward.

President Richard Joel issued a statement Thursday following the publication of an article in the Forward newspaper which investigated claims, most of them more than two decades old, that two rabbis at the university's high school for boys were known for acts of inappropriate and sexual contact with students.


According to the Forward, the activities of the two rabbis -- George Finkelstein and Macy Gordon -- were widely known in the university community and were reported to school adminstrators. Neither rabbi was disciplined by the university.


The university's former president and current chancellor, Rabbi Norman Lamm, said in the report that he had been aware of the allegations but allowed the two men to "go quietly" rather than investigate or report the allegations to authorities.


"The actions described represent heinous and inexcusable acts that are antithetical both to Torah values and to everything that Yeshiva University stands for," Joel said. "They have no place here, in our community, or anywhere at all. The thought that such behavior could have occurred at our boys’ high school, or anywhere at this institution, at any time in its past, is more than sufficient reason to express on behalf of the University, my deepest, most profound apology."


In his statement, Joel encouraged anyone with information about abuse to the administration via a hotline, 866-447-5052.


In a statement Friday, Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, president of the Rabbinical Council of America, an Orthodox organization, said it was "deeply troubled" by the allegations. "It is especially hard to confront improprieties which may have occurred in our own house, yet that is where the responsibility lies. We are confident that Yeshiva is equal to the task."


The group Survivors for Justice, dedicated to victims of abuse in the Jewish community, said the univerity's actions were inconsistent with Jewish law. "Established halacha places a pedophile in the category of a rodeph (an imminent threat), the group said, "in part because of a recidivism rate of more than 50 percent. In his 2004 psak (ruling) on the issue, the late Rabbi Shalom Elyashiv writes that one should report those who sexually abuse children directly to the police and that doing so is of benefit to society."

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Confronting Abuse
Forward - December 14, 2012

This has been the year when the historically opaque veil of secrecy about child sexual abuse has been lifted. Thanks to courageous reporting by our Paul Berger and others in the Jewish and mainstream media, the belated activity of law enforcement officials and, most importantly, the willingness of victims to come forward, Jewish institutions and entire communities are finally confronting the abuse by some and the cover-up by many.

Sadly, there are no geographic boundaries to this story. In February, Berger reported on how a child sexual abuse scandal in Australia was spilling over onto America’s shores. Since then, one convicted sex offender has been extradicted from the United States to Australia.

And as Berger reports in this week’s Forward, two former staff members of Yeshiva University High School for Boys, accused by former students of inappropriate sexual behavior, were allowed to leave without investigation and went on to build lives and careers in Israel.


This is why the denial of such crimes, or the unwillingness on the part of authorities to deal with serious allegations, is so insidious. The cover-up is never as hurtful or damaging as the act itself — it’s rare to find anyone who was victimized as a youngster who is able to forget the pain and humiliation. But when those in authority deny or dismiss such claims, it only opens up the possibility that another person will be hurt. That may sound obvious, but it is routinely ignored.


Or at least has been routinely ignored. Finally, in the Jewish community and beyond, there is a growing recognition that abuse must be confronted, that there cannot be a moral statute of limitations that absolves those in authority of the duty to investigate. Finally, the first, understandable impulse to protect the alleged abuser is being weighed against the imperative to listen to the alleged victim.


Because, while the heinous acts may be sexual in nature, this is really about the abuse of power — the power of a teacher, a priest, a principal or a coach to impose his twisted will on those least able to resist. Occasionally, a brave youngster will be able to come forward to testify, as the young Satmar Hasidic woman did in the trial that recently convicted Nechamya Weberman, an unlicensed therapist, of repeated counts of sexual abuse. But it is unfair and unrealistic to expect violated youngsters to challenge authority voluntarily, without the explicit, genuine support of those in power.


While the Forward’s reporting has focused on abuses within the broad Orthodox community, surely those Jews are no more prone to commit abuse than any other people. The difference is the effective way in which communal norms against challenging authority in that community are enforced, at times with law enforcement apparently turning a blind eye. The prosecution and conviction of Weberman by the Brooklyn district attorney, whose office has been rightly criticized for its tepid pursual of such crimes, signals a new willingness to hold members of the powerful Satmar community to the same standards as other citizens. That is to be applauded.


In his statement to the Forward regarding allegations of abuse by Y.U. high school staff, President Richard Joel said that such behaviors “have no place here, in our community, or anywhere at all.” Let this be the year those words are backed up by true action.

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Norman Lamm = Joe Paterno – Shame On Yeshiva University!
By Ronn Torossian
Times of Israel - December 14, 2012

In the latest high-profile sex scandal in the New York religious community, claims of sexual abuse and cover-up of these acts in the 1970’s and 1980’s at Yeshiva University have emerged in the last few days and have attracted extensive media attention.  Owning 5WPR, a NY PR agency and as an involved concerned Jew whose children attend Orthodox Day Schools I am very cognizant and concerned about Jewish portrayals in the media.

If you aren’t following the story, yesterday the President of Yeshiva University (YU) issued a carefully worded apology regarding claims of child abuse made against YU staffers which offered victims YU’s “..deepest, most profound apology.” Rabbi Norman Lamm, the Chancellor (who was YU President at the time) never notified police of the acts and admittedly allowed the abusers to quietly leave YU and go on to teach other kids. Lamm told the media yesterday that “This was before things of this sort had attained a certain notoriety.”

As one who attended schools in New York City during this time period, I’d assure anyone that child abuse and molestation has always had “a certain amount of notoriety.” Shame on Norman Lamm for turning a blind eye and enabling these acts to continue.  YU covering up and protecting those who abuse children are despicable actions – and the furthest thing from “religious” behavior.  This issue is not only about child molestation – it is an institution turning a blind eye. An awful story for a so-called institution of higher learning to tell.

It infuriates me for anyone to dare claim they are religious to behave in this sort of manner. One cannot be a “religious Jew” simply because they pray and don tefillin daily.  Morality and decency are required. Perhaps on the heels of the rightful indictment of Satmar counselor Nehamaya Weberman for repeated rape of a young girl, there should be a little less chumash study in yeshiva and a little more on normal ethics and decency

I find myself wondering why these people are referred to as religious, or Orthodox.  Ze’ev Jabotinsky, the Zionist prophet said “Silence is despicable” – and the fact that Lamm and who knows how many others said and did nothing must be addressed. Joe Paterno turned a blind eye and was rightfully fired – should we demand any less from a Jewish yeshiva?

“Rabbi” Norman Lamm must be fired immediately – turning a blind eye and being silent is despicable. There must be an immediate investigation into this matter immediately. 

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Alleged Yeshiva Abuser Quits as Accusations Mount

Finkelstein Steps Down at Shul; 5 More Students Claim Abuse
Forward - December 16, 2012
By Paul Berger and Nathan Jeffray 

Yeshiva University - Washington Heights, NY
Rabbi George Finkelstein has resigned his position at the Great Jerusalem Synagogue after the Forward reported that he had sexually abused students at Yeshiva University High School for Boys in Manhattan during the 1970s and ‘80s.

“He sent us an email saying he’s resigning because he does not want to expose the Great Synagogue to embarrassment,” Zalli Jaffe, the synagogue’s vice president, said in an interview. Finkelstein had served as the institution’s executive director since 2001; last month, he began serving as its ritual director.

Jaffe said that the resignation was received on Thursday, “immediately following the publication” of the Forward’s investigation. The correspondence came from France, where Finkelstein is currently vacationing.

Around the same time as Finkelstein resigned, senior staff of the Orthodox Union in America and Jerusalem held a teleconference regarding the position of the other Y.U. high school staff member investigated by the Forward, Rabbi Macy Gordon. They decided to impose a “leave of absence” on Gordon’s teaching duties at the OU Israel Center in Jerusalem, where he gives a weekly class on the laws of the Sabbath, Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, OU executive vice president emeritus, told the Forward on December 16.

He said that the unilaterally-imposed leave of absence will last until the OU can “clarify exactly what happened.” This is in spite of the fact that the OU has “to presume that he’s innocent until we find out more about it.”

Weinreb said: “When we became aware of the news article we felt we had to investigate ourselves to see what kind of credence to give [the claims].” He stressed that the allegations were dated to a time before Gordon started teaching at the OU.

He said of Gordon: “I know that he has no memory of the alleged incident whatsoever.”
The dramatic news came as five more men have stepped forward to say they were inappropriately touched and suffered emotional and sexual abuse at the high school.
In its investigation published online December 13, The Forward described the claims of three former students who said that they were abused by Finkelstein, who rose to become principal of the high school. Another former student said he was sodomized with a toothbrush by Gordon, a Talmud teacher.

Three of the former students said that their subsequent appeals to Y.U. to take action were ignored.

While denying that he knew about the severity of the allegations against the staff members, Norman Lamm, the chancellor of Y.U., told the Forward on December 7 that the school dealt with allegations of “improper sexual activity” against staff members by quietly allowing them to leave and find jobs elsewhere. Lamm was president of Y.U. from 1976 to 2003.

In particular, Lamm said that he did not report anything about the allegations against Finkelstein when he left after 27 years at the high school for a position at a Jewish school in Florida. Finkelstein was dean of the Samuel Scheck Hillel Community Day School in North Miami Beach, Fla. until moving to Israel.

Now, the Forward has heard from five more men who say they were harassed by Finkelstein and Gordon during the 1970s and ’80s.

The claims included description of how both men thrust their hands under boys’ shirts to check whether they were wearing tzitzit, the tasseled undershirts required under Orthodox Jewish law.

Finkelstein and Gordon, interviewed by the Forward in Israel where both men now live, denied the initial allegations. Efforts to reach them to respond to the latest allegations were unsuccessful.

“Macy Gordon was malevolence personified,” said Barry Singer, who graduated from Y.U.’s Manhattan High School for Boys in 1975, “whereas George Finkelstein was a more complicated, disturbed individual.”

“I fought these guys tooth and nail the entire time I was in school,” Singer added. “I had no idea that what was being done to me was sexual abuse or any abuse, I merely knew I didn’t want these guys touching me and I did my best to keep them away from me.”

Singer, now a New York City journalist and bookseller, recalled walking into a school stairwell one day and being grabbed by Finkelstein who thrust him over the railings and “groped me looking to see if I was wearing tzitzit.” “It went under the shirt to the skin and below the waistline,” Singer said. “Hanging over the stairwell I didn’t understand what was being done to me, I just knew I hated him for it.”

Singer said Gordon emotionally abused him. “I believe that Macy Gordon found a way to emotionally abuse and intimidate any student that ever crossed his path,” Singer said. “He conducted tzitzit checks under my shirt that made me very uncomfortable.”

Singer, along with two other former students, also described being wrestled by Finkelstein in his office. “I was 6 foot tall and a basketball player,” Singer said. “I didn’t know I was fighting someone off sexually, I just knew I was fighting someone off I didn’t want near me.”

Zack Belil, who graduated from Y.U. in the early 1980s, said that he was forced to wrestle with Finkelstein for four years, at his home or in an office at the high school. Often, Belil said, Finkelstein would initiate the wrestling by asking Belil a question he could not answer and then wrestle him as a form of punishment. “It was very rough for an adult and a child…You can feel an erection through someone’s pants rubbing up against you. That was the most horrifying part,” Belil told the Forward.

Belil, now a New York real estate developer, said that during school hours Finkelstein could appear at the classroom door at any time of day and pull him out of class. On one occasion, Belil said Finkelstein led him to a staircase behind a closed door and asked him a question that he knew Belil could not answer.

“[Finkelstein] slapped me,” Belil said, “And then he said, ‘Aren’t you going to slap me back?’

“What are you to do at that age when this man of authority says something like this to you?” Belil said he gave Finkelstein a light slap on the cheek hoping that it might make Finkelstein stop, but Finkelstein replied, “Harder!” Belil said.
Belil, like other Y.U. high school alumni, said Finkelstein often called him at home. “I think that my parents actually felt honored that he took such an interest,” Belil said.


A fourth man, aged 57, contacted the Forward to describe months of emotional abuse by Finkelstein that drove the man out of Y.U. high school and away from Judaism for more than a decade.


“As soon as I saw the picture [of Finkelstein in the Forward] I got nauseous,” the man said. “I wasn’t touched by him, but he emotionally almost destroyed me.”


The fifth man said Finkelstein and Gordon put their hands under his shirt to check for tzitzit. The man, who had been abused by a rabbi at his elementary school, said he did his best to give both men a wide berth. After the Forward submitted a list of questions to Y.U. on November 26, detailing allegations of abuse against Finkelstein and Gordon, the University said that it would look into the claims.


Asked how the investigation was progressing on December 14, a spokesman for Y.U. said: “I can’t offer you any update beyond the fact we are conducting an investigation and when we have something to share we will do so at the proper time.”


Asked who was leading the investigation, how many people were involved and how it was being conducted, the spokesman said: “I’m not the right person to speak to about that.”


In a statement released December 13 Y.U. President Richard Joel said the “inappropriate behavior and abuse alleged by The Forward…and described in statements attributed by The Forward to Dr. Lamm, are reprehensible.”


The statement continued: “The thought that such behavior could have occurred at our boys’ high school, or anywhere at this institution, at any time in its past, is more than sufficient reason to express on behalf of the University, my deepest, most profound apology.”

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George Finkelstein's Open Office Door: Yeshiva University High School removed the door of principal accused of abuse, but not the abuser himself. 
By Gary Roseblatt
Jewish Week - December 18, 2012

One of the more telling and unreported aspects of the George Finkelstein situation at Yeshiva University is the fact that at some point during the time he was principal of the high school several decades ago and accused of wrestling with students in his office, the door to his office was removed, according to a number of former students.

Was this the administration’s response to the reports and rumors that he was behaving inappropriately, in a sexually aggressive way, with teenage boys in his charge?

It’s hard to pin down the chronology of the door removal all these years later when former officials are deceased or not responsive to such inquiries, but it’s certainly a powerful statement about the lack of seriousness given to the many stories of Finkelstein’s alleged abuse.

The principal is wrestling with students in his office? Take off the door. End of problem.

But of course, as we see now, the emotional scars abuse victims carry with them can be deep and long lasting.

It’s true that the times were different. What is now described as sexual abuse in an age of mandated reporting was then perceived of, if not openly discussed, by students at MTA (the YU high school) and too many other yeshivas, was annoying behavior by rebbes – Judaic teachers, some of them Holocaust survivors untrained pedagogically and no doubt suffering from their own traumatic experiences.

It could be a slap, a “tzitzis check” under a boy’s shirt, a verbal curse, a grope, or worse. Somehow the students knew among themselves who to watch out for, who to stay away from, but they rarely talked to adults, including their parents, about these situations.

Especially if they saw that the end result of their complaints was to remove the door, not the abuser.
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Yeshiva Officials, Rabbis Knew of Alleged Abuse

More Students Say Nothing Was Done About Allegations
By Paul Berger, Edited by Jane Eisner
Forward - December 20, 2012 


After the Forward published an investigation into sexual abuse allegations against two former staff members at a high school for boys run by Yeshiva University, Y.U. issued an immediate statement and said that it would investigate. Later that day, Modern Orthodoxy’s official rabbinic association, the Rabbinical Council of America, said it was “deeply troubled” by the report and confident that the university was “equal to the task” of confronting “improprieties.”

But interviews with current and former staff members of Y.U. and with high-ranking RCA officials, as well as with several former high school students who say they were abused, indicate that Y.U. and the RCA have known about some of the allegations against at least one of the alleged abusers, Rabbi George Finkelstein, for a decade or longer.
 
The Forward has spoken to 14 men who say that Finkelstein abused them while he was employed at Yeshiva University High School for Boys, in Manhattan, from 1968 to 1995.


From the mid 1980s until today, however, Y.U. officials and RCA rabbis have dismissed claims or kept them quiet. Some of these officials allowed Finkelstein to leave the Y.U. system and find a new position as dean of a Florida day school without disclosing the abuse allegations. Later, an RCA rabbi and a Y.U. rabbi warned the Florida school that Finkelstein could be a threat. And when Finkelstein’s next employer, the Jerusalem Great Synagogue, asked whether the allegations that dogged him were true, Y.U. assured the synagogue that there was nothing to worry about.

Maurice Wohl, the synagogue’s president at the time, “spoke to the responsible authorities at Y.U, who denied the charges outright,” Zev Lanton, the synagogue’s director general, said in a statement. “Later, the same authority, upon visiting Israel, offered similar denials, both to the chairman of the board of the synagogue and the vice president.”

In response to a Forward request for the identity of that Y.U. official, Lanton replied that the synagogue would “take outside advice” before responding.

The abuse allegations against Finkelstein and against Rabbi Macy Gordon, a Talmud teacher who served at Y.U.’s High School for Boys from 1956 to 1984, have shocked many in the tight-knit Modern Orthodox community. Even Jack Lew, the White House chief of staff, decried the allegations in his keynote address at the Y.U. annual dinner, held on December 16.

Following the Forward’s December 13 story, Finkelstein immediately resigned from the Jerusalem Great Synagogue; Gordon was placed on a “leave of absence” from his teaching duties at the Orthodox Union’s Israel Center, in Jerusalem. Both men denied the allegations to the Forward.

The story quoted three former students who said they were sexually abused by Finkelstein in a high school office or at his home, where he coerced them into wrestling with him. Each of the men said he could feel Finkelstein’s erect penis dig into him while the rabbi pinned him to the floor. One of them said Finkelstein kissed him on the neck; another said that Finkelstein declared his love for him. A fourth former student said that Gordon sodomized him with a toothbrush.

By December 18, the Forward had spoken to at least 11 more former students who said Finkelstein emotionally, physically or sexually abused them. Three more former students came forward to say that they were emotionally abused by Gordon, including one man who said that he was sodomized with an item taken from a medicine cabinet in his dorm room.
The former student, who is now in his late 40s and who does not wish to be identified, said he had returned to his dorm room during a lunch break to find Gordon sitting at his desk.

“I do remember that he said: ‘I have three coins in my pocket. If they’re heads, that’s bad for you, and if it’s tails, that’s good for you,’” the man recalled. “And I distinctly remember two heads and one tails, and he said, ‘That’s not good for you.’”

Gordon “pulled my pants down, went to [the] medicine cabinet and inserted something in my anus,” the man said.

Gordon denied that such an incident took place.

Finkelstein did not respond to a request for comment.

The Forward has interviewed former Y.U. high school students who say that Finkelstein abused them as early as 1972 and as late as 1995. They said that current and former Y.U. staff members were aware of abusive behavior by Finkelstein from at least 1984.

It was an open secret in the Modern Orthodox world.

But Finkelstein was never publicly questioned during his 27-year tenure at Y.U.’s high school, during which he rose to become principal, nor during his six years at the Samuel Scheck Hillel Community Day School, in North Miami Beach, Fla., nor during his 11 years as executive director of the prestigious Jerusalem Great Synagogue.

As the Forward has reported previously, Mordechai Twersky, a former high school student, said he told Y.U.’s then president, Norman Lamm, in 1986 that Finkelstein behaved inappropriately when he wrestled with boys. Twersky said he repeated the allegations to Lamm in 2000. Lamm said he could not recall either of the reports.

Twersky said he also had a conversation with Y.U.’s current president, Richard Joel, about Finkelstein’s abuse in 2001 and wrote to him again a couple of years later.

Now, the Forward has learned of allegations of at least three more occasions when a Y.U. staff or board member was made aware of Finkelstein’s inappropriate behavior.

In 1984, a former student who does not wish to be identified said he was invited to stay overnight at Finkelstein’s home. The student, who had already been wrestled by Finkelstein several times in a school office, told Finkelstein he had a bad back and did not want to wrestle.

“Less than three minutes later, he comes up behind me, grabs both of my shoulders and sticks his knee right into my back, and I went down on the floor, writhing in pain,” said the man, now 44.

He described what he said felt like 15 to 20 minutes in which Finkelstein lay on his back, with the short, lightweight 16-year-old student on top of him, facing the ceiling. Finkelstein started “shark-biting” him, which involved pinching very hard using all four fingers and the palm of his hand, all over the boy’s inner and outer thigh.

“I’m begging him: ‘Rabbi, please stop. I’m not feeling well,” the man said. “But he was twisting me and turning me and shark biting me all over my body and all over my thighs.”
The next day, at school, Rabbi Samuel Scheinberg noticed marks on the boy’s neck. He asked him to take off his shirt and lift his undershirt, revealing welts all over the boy’s body.
“He goes, ‘Who did this to you?’” the man said. “Rabbi Finkelstein walks in at that very second… and I look up, and I said, ‘He did.’”

The man said Scheinberg took Finkelstein out of the room and argued with him for some time before Finkelstein returned and reprimanded the boy. “I thought what happened last night was between the two of us,” the man said Finkelstein told him. He said he never reported the abuse to his parents. Scheinberg has since died.

In 1991, when Finkelstein was promoted to principal, another former student, Simeon Weber, said he went to Y.U. to complain that he had been sexually abused when Finkelstein wrestled with him.

Weber said he first approached Irwin Shapiro, chairman of the high school board. Weber said Shapiro removed the door from Finkelstein’s office. “He meant well but was naive,” Weber said. Shapiro did not return a call for comment.

Weber said he also approached Robert Hirt, who today is a vice president emeritus of Y.U. But Hirt cut off Weber before he could finish telling his story, Weber said.

“[Hirt] said, ‘Mr. Weber, stop speaking lashon hara [malicious gossip],’” Weber recalled. “It was like I was abused all over again.” (When reached by the Forward, Hirt referred questions to Y.U.’s communications department. A spokesman declined to comment.)

Lamm told the Forward on December 7 that Finkelstein was forced out of Y.U.’s high school in 1995 following accusations that he had inappropriate contact with students by wrestling with them in a high school office. But Y.U has not confirmed that explanation.

Finkelstein had risen to the principal’s position after a life spent almost entirely within Y.U.’s family. He attended Y.U. high school and then went on to Yeshiva College, graduating in 1967, one year before taking an office job at the high school. He graduated from Y.U.’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary in 1972.

In those days, former students say, Finkelstein was known as the “office boy.” He was “very tall and thin,” recalled Steven Winter, who attended the high school from 1966 to 1970.

“He walked around with a severe facial expression and played the role of disciplinarian,” Winter added, “but [the staff] all did that; it was the cultural norm.”

One former student told the Forward that Finkelstein wielded a lot of power and that he was emotionally abusive even in the early 1970s. The man, now 57, said that his parents complained about emotional abuse to Rabbi Samuel Belkin, then president of Y.U., but the report only made Finkelstein’s bullying worse. “He thumbed his nose to all of them and kept doing what he wanted to do,” said the former student, who left halfway through his junior year because of the abuse. Belkin has been deceased for decades.

Interviews with former students who attended the school between 1968 and 1995 portray a man who tyrannized students psychologically, physically and sexually. According to these former students, his favorites could do no harm — though they might be pulled into his office for wrestling bouts. Those to whom he took a disliking could be threatened with expulsion for the most minor of infractions: a haircut that Finkelstein did not like, or being in the gym when they were not supposed to be.

“What could potentially have been a great experience turned into a tortuous and anxiety-filled [experience], because you never knew if that was the day you were going to commit some sort of infraction that was going to land you in a heap of trouble,” said Coby Hakalir, who says he was threatened with expulsion about 40 or 50 times between 1991 and 1995.
“It was just constant [fear],” Hakalir added. “If you weren’t afraid or anxious that day, then [Finkelstein] had not accomplished his task for that day.”

Then there was the wrestling. In an interview with the Forward, Finkelstein said that the grappling was “a way of trying to remove the distance between students and faculty.” But former students have told the Forward that it constituted much more. Ivan Hartstein, who attended the high school from 1978 to 1982, said Finkelstein invited him to his apartment one night because he was lagging in his Judaic studies. “I didn’t want to go,” said Hartstein, who already disliked the way Finkelstein rubbed his back all the way down to his belt line, checking to see if he was wearing tzitzit, ritual undergarments.

When Hartstein arrived at the apartment, Finkelstein was home alone. “The deal was if I couldn’t answer the questions, he would wrestle me to the floor,” Hartstein said.

“It was pretty quick that he was on top of me. I was on the ground and he was on top of me. I could feel his breath on my neck, and his erection pressing against my butt.”

Hartstein, who was 16, said he pushed Finkelstein off and left. Zack Belil, who attended the high school at the same time, also said he was wrestled by Finkelstein and felt his erection pushing against him.

Barry Singer, who graduated from the high school in 1975, said Finkelstein wrestled with him and also put his hand down his trousers during a tzitzit check.

Another man, who did not wish to be named, said Finkelstein wrestled with him through the 10th and 11th grades at Y.U. high school, occasionally telling him that he loved him. After the student left the school in 1983, Finkelstein met the former student at a yeshiva in Israel and invited him back to his room at the Laromme Hotel — now known as the Inbal Jerusalem Hotel — which had two beds.

The man said that once he and Finkelstein were in the hotel room, Finkelstein began to wrestle. The man recalled, “He had me pinned on all fours and began to reach for my privates.”

The man told him to stop. “After he got off of me, [Finkelstein] proceeded to rail at me that he was very disappointed in me,” the man said. “I noticed that he was indeed quite aroused, and [I] was nauseated by it.”

The man, who came from a troubled family and who had seen Finkelstein as a father figure, said he was devastated. “I could not believe that this is what he believed our relationship was all about,” he said.

The man said that in 1995 one of his coworkers, another Y.U. high school graduate, contacted him to say that people were “speaking out against George” and asked if he had any bad experiences to report.

“I am embarrassed that I did not step up then, and I’ve not spoken with this individual regarding George since,” the man said. “I think at that time I was either embarrassed or in denial. I can’t say for sure. But it haunts me.”

The Forward asked Y.U. if a complaint against Finkelstein had been made in 1995. A spokesman said, “As mentioned before, Y.U. is looking into the allegations you’ve reported on, and as such we are not in a position to comment any further.”

In 2000, former student Twersky said he approached Michael Broyde, a Modern Orthodox rabbi who had just left a position at Beth Din of America, the official religious court of the RCA. Twersky asked if he should bring charges against Finkelstein in the beit din, and said that Broyde advised him that the allegations were “not flagrant enough.”

Broyde said he does not recall the exchange with Twersky “in any way, shape or form.”

“I don’t even know who Mordechai Twersky is,” Broyde said. “If he said he was sexually assaulted, I would have said to call the police.”

Twersky said Broyde ought to remember him; they were in the same constitutional law class at Yeshiva College in 1983. During the late 1990s, Beth Din of America retained Twersky for public relations work that involved “working closely with Broyde on the marketing materials for their newly established rabbinic court,” Twersky said.

Although he denied knowing about Twersky’s allegations, Broyde, a member of the RCA’s executive committee, said he had heard rumors about Finkelstein. “There had always been a rumor out there that there were kids who said this going back I don’t know how long,” Broyde said.

Weber said that in 2001 he persuaded Rabbi Hershel Schachter, a Y.U. seminary official, and Rabbi Basil Herring to contact the school in Florida to warn about Finkelstein. Herring, who went on to serve as executive vice president of the RCA from 2003 until 2011, declined to comment “on the record.” Schachter did not return calls for comment.

The Forward tried multiple times to contact Rafael Quintero, chief operating officer of the Florida school, about this report and to find out if any complaints had been made against Finkelstein. A colleague at the school said Quintero was “extremely busy.”

Weber also said he confronted Joel about Finkelstein several years ago, but nothing happened.

In Israel, the allegations against Finkelstein and against Gordon, who immigrated in 1985, have dogged both men.

Finkelstein and Gordon are listed as members of the advisory board of the Council of Young Israel Rabbis in Israel.

But Michael Strick, the organization’s executive director, said that the advisory board was suspended “three or four” years ago. Strick said the organization had heard “over the course of time” about allegations against the two men but had “no way of investigating.”

Strick insisted that the allegations were not the main reason for suspending the 13-member advisory board. But he acknowledged that the allegations against both men were “maybe in the background” of the decision.

Meanwhile, Lanton said that the Jerusalem Great Synagogue was informed about four years ago that Finkelstein “had been summoned to [Israeli] police following a complaint reiterating [an abuse allegation].”

“Rabbi Finkelstein informed the executive that in his interview with the police, he insisted that he be submitted to a polygraph test on the spot,” Lanton said in a statement. “The police responded that this would not be necessary. No further action was taken by the police.”

Joel and Lamm have been frequent guests for services at the synagogue. Y.U. has held at least one event there.

Joel did not respond to multiple requests for an interview. In a statement on December 19: Y.U. said it “continues to examine with concern the allegations of past abuse recently reported in the media. A subcommittee of the Board of Trustees is working with the law firm of Sullivan & Cromwell as outside Counsel, who is assisting us in investigating the allegations and consulting with nationally recognized specialists in this area to review our policies and procedures.”

Joel’s initial expression of regret was enough for the RCA’s president, Shmuel Goldin, to commend Joel for “his forthright response and statement of concern.”

Reached for comment December 18, Goldin said: “When you compare this community to others, at least what you are getting is an immediate expression that we are going to deal with this, not that we are going to sweep this under the rug.”

Goldin said he was not aware that Broyde or Herring, or any other RCA rabbis, knew about the allegations against Finkelstein.

The RCA’s executive vice president, Rabbi Mark Dratch, said he, too, was unaware of allegations against Finkelstein or any other former Y.U. staff members. Dratch, who is Lamm’s son-in-law, declined to comment on Lamm’s actions as Y.U. president.

Goldin said that he was not sure what he would have done if he had learned of such allegations in the past. But he added: “Our position is, individuals who are aware of such allegations should go directly to the authorities… And anything short of that does not satisfy that position.”

Goldin said Finkelstein and Gordon, “deserve to have a fair hearing on these allegations.”
“Nobody should be tried on the pages of a newspaper,” he added.

Nathan Jeffay contributed reporting from Jerusalem

_________________________________________________________________________________


No Religious Exemption When It Comes to Abuse
By MARK OPPENHEIMER
New York Times - January 04, 2013

"Yeshiva University High School in Manhattan let rabbis accused of sexual abuse "go quietly."

Just as we think we know what an abuser looks like, we think we know what an abusive religious community looks like. We may think it is highly insular - like the Satmar Hasidic community in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, a prominent member of which was convicted last month of sexually abusing a young girl sent to him for help. Or it is hierarchical and bureaucratic: if the Roman Catholic Church did not have so many bishops and archbishops who refused to dismiss or defrock molesters in their ranks, would so many pedophile priests have been able to carry on for so long?

But we don't know a thing. Consider Yeshiva University.

As Paul Berger reported last month in the Jewish newspaper The Forward, two rabbis at the Modern Orthodox high school run by the university were accused of sexually abusing students in the 1970s and '80s. Leaders, Mr. Berger wrote, responded by "quietly allowing them to leave and find jobs elsewhere." The university president at the time, Norman Lamm - until last month a titan of contemporary Judaism - told Mr. Berger that he had let the staff members "go quietly."

"It was not our intention or position to destroy a person without further inquiry," Dr. Lamm said.

But Yeshiva University is supposed to be modern, engaged, contemporary. Its rabbis are not treated as infallible demigods. The school's graduates work and live in the secular world. The culture of Yeshiva is supposed to permit, even encourage, argument, not punish or ostracize critics. So surely there were no impious skeletons in the closet, right?

But the truth is, there are not two kinds of religions - the enlightened and the medieval. Every religion has evildoers stalking its corridors. They just survive, and thrive, with different strategies.

Take Zen Buddhism, the paragon of open, nonhierarchical spirituality. Anyone may practice Zen meditation; you do not have to convert, be baptized or renounce your old religion. Yet leaders of major Zen centers in Los Angeles and New York have recently been accused, on strong evidence, of exploiting followers for sex. This weekend, Zen teachers ordained by Joshu Sasaki, the semiretired abbot of the Rinzai-ji Zen Center in Los Angeles, are holding a retreat to discuss sexual harassment accusations against Mr. Sasaki. The Zen Studies Society, in New York, is under new leadership after its longtime abbot, Eido Shimano, was forced out after he was accused of inappropriate sexual liaisons with students and other women.

Paul Karsten, a board member of the Rinzai-ji Zen Center, said the intense relationship between Zen teacher and student can be trouble. For example, in private meetings, some teachers touch students. The touching is never supposed to be sexual, but there can be misunderstandings, or outright abuse. "I know of stories I have heard," Mr. Karsten said, "where people feel like this experience has been very important to them, and others where they feel like it has been the opposite."

Mr. Karsten acknowledged complaints against Mr. Sasaki - largely on the Internet, some anonymous - that the teacher went beyond what most reputable teachers would consider appropriate. But Mr. Karsten seemed torn between valuing extremely close teacher-student relationships and acknowledging the dangers.

"People see there has been something going on with students that on the one hand has been remarkable, and on the other hand has been inappropriate in teacher-student practice," Mr. Karsten said. "And consensual, or nonconsensual?"

Questions e-mailed to Mr. Karsten for Mr. Sasaki, who is 105, were not answered.

Some churches have checks and balances that discourage unethical behavior. "A lot of it is secrecy versus transparency," said Hugh Urban, author of "The Church of Scientology: A History of a New Religion."

"If you have a church like the Episcopal Church, with a fair degree of transparency, that is going to make a difference," he said. "But Scientology - almost every aspect of it from early on has tended toward secrecy."

Scientology is known for both secrecy and, at the highest levels, extreme insularity. Committed Scientologists may fear that if they complain about abuses, they will lose their friends, even their families. Mr. Urban mentioned one woman who had told him about human-rights abuses at the church headquarters in Clearwater, Fla.

"I said, 'Why don't you go down the street and talk to the police?'" Mr. Urban said. "Her answer was, once you are so deep in, invested in that community, it doesn't seem like a real possibility to go talk to the police."

Then there is the fear of bringing shame on the community, particularly prevalent in minority groups. "When I started in 1982," said Phil Jacobs, the editor of Washington Jewish Week, "there was an 11th commandment - 'Thou shalt not air thy dirty laundry.' " He learned that commandment in Baltimore, writing about the high percentage of Jews in a treatment program for compulsive gambling. "When I started calling people, they said, 'You're not going to put this in the paper, are you?' So I found out Jews didn't get AIDS, didn't get divorced, didn't abuse their wives or children."

That fear of embarrassment may be why Dr. Lamm - who is still at Yeshiva and declined to be interviewed - stayed quiet about the abusive rabbis at Yeshiva. Perhaps he loathed what they had done, and wept for their victims. But, he also may have thought that people shouldn't hear bad things about Jews. People shouldn't know, in other words, that Jews are just like everyone else.

That is everyone else, not just religious people. The Satmar Hasidim may have wanted to protect a beloved member, the Modern Orthodox administrators probably worried about their community's reputation - and the Penn State loyalists enabled Jerry Sandusky. Somehow, the victims never seem as important as the rabbi, the Zen master, the coach. In the words of a once-revered rabbi, Norman Lamm, may as well let the perpetrators "go quietly."

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Curious George Finkelstein
A former rabbi-teacher of mine has been accused of molesting students. So, why can’t I stop thinking of the good he did?

By Shalom Auslander
Tablet Magazine - January 15, 2013

The abuse of power, said the artist Jenny Holzer, comes as no surprise, and it certainly never has to me. I spent my childhood beneath the omnipotent thumb of the omniscient God of the Old Testament, and nobody abuses power like Yahweh abuses power.

Do what I say, proclaimeth the Lord, and nobody gets hurt. I might even turn you into a great nation.

My ass.

Jehovah wasn’t the only one in my universe, though, to abuse his position of power. There was my father, to begin with, who abused alcohol and then, when the alcohol was gone, abused his family. There was the vice principal of my yeshiva grade school, who invited the seventh- and eighth-graders to play racquetball at his health club and then go to his home to sit—in various states of undress—in his private Jacuzzi. There was the head of an Orthodox summer sleep-away camp I attended a year later, who used the excuse of nighttime “bed checks” to reach beneath the blankets of the boys he fancied and fondle their genitals.

So when, a year or so later, I arrived at Yeshiva University High School and heard all the stories of Rabbi George Finkelstein taking students into his office and wrestling with them—and we all heard the stories—I wasn’t exactly taken aback. The abuse of power, rabbinical or otherwise, comes as no surprise. Frankly, the wrestling bit seemed refreshingly Greco-Roman. At least there were rules, at least it involved fighting and anger and rage; you could, with enough effort, pin the piece of shit. No, what bothered me more than the wrestling was something common in the minds of the unabused: What bothered me most was that he never wanted to wrestle with me.

What’s wrong with me? I wondered. Why is he wrestling David and Ari and Eli and not me? I wasn’t the best-looking kid in the world, sure, but I wasn’t hideous. I mean, if I were a weirdo rabbi who liked wrestling kids, I’d totally want to wrestle me. I’d be all over myself.

But George didn’t wrestle me. He didn’t rub up against me, or massage my shoulders. It was worse.

He encouraged me.

He supported me.

He was kind to me.

And that’s what makes this whole sordid tale so personally difficult. Because while my other rabbis encouraged me to be observant, to be a Good Jew, George encouraged my interest in art. He encouraged me to draw, to go to museums. He encouraged me to write, and to read, and to write some more. He encouraged me to not let my friends keep me from my goals, to not let myself get dragged down by the others around me.

Of course I did have what my mother back then proudly called proteczia—protection, in the form of my uncle, who was the president of the yeshiva. There’s abusive, after all, and then there’s just stupid; my uncle was George’s boss’s boss, and even the horniest rabbi wouldn’t risk rubbing his throbbing Covenant with God against his boss’s boss’s nephew’s ass.

Proteczia would explain why George never wrestled me. It would explain why he might have stayed away from me, ignored me, smiled politely but safely had nothing at all to do with me.

But it doesn’t explain, to my mind, why he supported me. I smoked pot, I smoked cigarettes, I walked around the halls wearing pseudo-philosophical Jenny Holzer T-shirts I’d shoplifted from the Museum of Modern Art gift shop; I was hardly a believable witness. Even if George had wrestled me, who could I tell who would have believed me? Cain had a better shot of getting a fair trial than I did.

And so I’ve thought of George now and then over the years, wondering whatever became of him. Because somewhere along the way I’d come to the conclusion that if I had to make a list of all the rabbis in my life I could genuinely admire, rabbis who seemed like decent people and not just Good Jews, the list would be exactly one rabbi long:

George.

And then, a few weeks ago, the “Did you hear about George” emails began, and all the old stories about his wrestling and the yeshiva’s failure to protect the students were new again, and my first thought, again, was the very childlike, “Gee, why didn’t he ever wrestle me?”

And my second thought was the very adult-like, “Fuck.” Because the Rabbis I Actually Admired list was now down to zero.

Oh, well.

There’s something to be said for hitting bottom, I guess.

Unless there’s a horny rabbi lying on top of you.

***

George was … curious.

He spoke in a curious manner, he walked with a curious gait. He was fastidious, almost antiseptic, his hair always in place, his beard always trimmed. My friends and I were certain he was gay, but we were teenagers, and we were certain everyone we disliked was gay.

Most students hated him.

Some tolerated him.

Nobody liked him.

Except, secretly, me.

Because George was curious.

Because he was vice principal of the high-school yeshiva, it was one of his responsibilities to convince the students to continue their education at the yeshiva college, and he made the case for it whenever he could. I had taken an interest in art and was reading about artists whenever I could. One day George saw me in the cafeteria reading a book on Picasso, my favorite artist at the time.

He walked over and looked down at me.

“You know,” he said, “the yeshiva college has a very good art program.”

I looked up at him.

“No, they don’t,” I said.

He threw his head back and laughed.

“No,” he said. “No, they don’t.”

He asked me if I was considering Parson’s School of Art. I told him I was thinking about Cooper Union, but that it was tough to get in.

“You’ll get in,” he said with a confidence in me I’d never heard before. “You’ll get in.”

Then he glanced at his watch.

“Ten minutes to Talmud class,” he said. “Get moving.”

I didn’t mind Talmud class—it was pointless arguing, but I liked arguing. It was the daily prayers I hated the most. I hated God and didn’t feel like praising him; if anyone should be asking forgiveness, it was fucking Yahweh. So, each morning I sat in the back with my friends and talked. Loudly. Usually, George let it go. But one morning, he didn’t; he was in a bad mood, and so was I. He stormed over to us and told me to keep quiet. I told him I wasn’t praying anyway, so what was the difference. My friend laughed. George’s face reddened, and he told me to get out. He followed me outside to the crowded lobby.

“And don’t come back,” he said loudly. The other students turned around. He held up three fingers. “Three days.”

“You’re suspending me?”

“Three days.”

I felt the room spin. I didn’t care about missing yeshiva, but I knew what would happen when my father found out. So did George, though; I had not kept my family’s dysfunctions a secret from him, and he could see the terror on my face. He stepped toward me and spoke quietly so the others wouldn’t hear.

“I’m not calling home,” he said. “I don’t care what you do, or where you go, but don’t let me see you here, not even for a minute.”

He walked away, turning back at the stairway door and holding his three fingers up again.

“Three days,” he said loudly again, the anger in his face still visible. “Three days.”

I spent the next three days at the Museum of Modern Art, with occasional stops at the peep shows in Times Square.

George never called home.

When I returned to yeshiva three days later, he asked me where I’d gone.

“MoMA,” I said.

“I prefer the Met,” he replied with a smile.

George was curious.

***

Three weeks ago, thanks to the reporting of the Forward, I found out what happened to George: He’d fled, like so many other Jews who find themselves under a cloud of suspicion, to Israel. He fled there, as Rabbi Naked Jacuzzi had, and as Rabbi Under the Covers Bed Check had. It’s no surprise that NAMBLA is changing its slogan to “Next Year in Jerusalem.” (You can use that joke, by the way, but I totally want credit for it.) I’m certain this is not what God had in mind for his Promised Land. “And you will reach the land that I promised you, and you will settle there, and you will bring with you there all your perverts and all your molesters, and all your murderers and all your embezzlers, and all your tax cheats and all your white-collar criminals, to live in freedom from all charges and fines and legal authorities that pursue them, and you will be for me a less-than-great nation with questionable ethics and perverted morals, but I’ll take what I can get. PS: no cheeseburgers.”

So, what is all this then, Auslander? What’s with all these positive reminiscences of a clearly troubled man? Is this some kind of defense of a rabbi accused of physically and emotionally hurting countless number of yeshiva students? Is that what this is about?

No.

It’s not about a defense.

It’s about monsters.

The strange thing about monsters is that, as children, we believe in them and the adults tell us they’re not real, that there are no such things and we should just go back to sleep. And we believe them. But later, as we grow up and become adults and we see the world in all its misery and suffering and injustice and cruelty and shit … we decide to believe in monsters again. Because monsters help us to make sense of the world. Monsters help us feel better about our obviously non-monster selves.

There are monsters, after all, and then there’s … us.

If only.

If only all the monsters were full-time, green-skinned horror-show monsters. If only they were ogres top to bottom, demons start to finish. If only they had pointy horns and red eyes and razor-sharp claws.

But they don’t.

They have ties and jackets and jobs.

And some have beards.

And some wear yarmulkes.

And sometimes they do good.

And sometimes they do bad.

And sometimes the bad they do nullifies the good; in my case, looking back now on the situation, I am even more disillusioned than before, which is no small feat. Disillusioned with rabbis, religion, people, men, with the whole goddamned planet. If I were God, I’d fucking flood it.

So, trust me—I’d love it if George was a monster. Because George (allegedly, Ms. Attorney) did a lot of bad. But he also did some good.

He was curious.

Just like birth, and life, and love, and death, and all the unbearable and barely bearable moments in between.

Very, very curious.

____________________________________________________________________________________

Yeshiva U. Rabbi George Finkelstein Acted Inappropriately Even After Ouster
Wrestled With Boys in New Posts in Florida and Jerusalem
 
By Paul Berger and Jane Eisner
Forward - February 28, 2012


Rabbi George Finkelstein was quietly forced out of Yeshiva University High School for Boys in 1995 because of inappropriate wrestling with students that some of them considered abusive.

But the Forward has learned that the wrestling did not stop after his departure from Y.U. It continued during Finkelstein’s next two posts, as dean of a Jewish school in Florida and as director general of the Jerusalem Great Synagogue in Israel, where he worked until abruptly resigning this past December.


The most recent wrestling incidents documented by the Forward were in 2009.


Finkelstein, 67, has been a respected figure in the Modern Orthodox community for decades, first as an administrator at Y.U.’s high school in Manhattan and later at the Jerusalem Great Synagogue. But allegations that he behaved inappropriately with boys have trailed him for at least 30 years, according to dozens of interviews with former students, colleagues and peers in the United States.


Although former students of Y.U.’s high school long complained about Finkelstein’s behavior to staff members and administrators — both while he worked at the school and after he left — Y.U. appears never to have reported the complaints to police. Nor did Y.U. open an investigation until December 2012, when the Forward published allegations that Finkelstein and another former Y.U. staff member, Rabbi Macy Gordon, had sexually, emotionally and physically abused students over decades. Finkelstein and Gordon deny the abuse charges.


The Forward’s initial reporting concerned Finkelstein’s behavior before he left New York in 1995 for an administrative position at the Samuel Scheck Hillel Community Day School in North Miami Beach. But a former student at that school, who requested anonymity, has now told the Forward that Finkelstein wrestled with him around 1999. The former student said Finkelstein initiated the wrestling one Shabbat when the boy, then about 14 or 15 years old, slept over at Finkelstein’s home.


The Forward has also learned that a young man filed a complaint against Finkelstein with the Jerusalem police in 2009. The man, then aged 26, reported that Finkelstein had taken advantage of his vulnerability — he had serious family problems — and that Finkelstein used his prestigious post at the Jerusalem Great Synagogue to gain his trust. The wrestling took place over two-and-a-half years, in Finkelstein’s home and inside the Great Synagogue.


“Rabbi Gedalia [George Finkelstein] began to wrestle me and told me he is doing it in order to strengthen me and develop my self-confidence,” the man said in a 2009 police statement obtained by the Forward and translated from Hebrew into English.


“I remember one time in particular when he hugged me against my will, about a year ago at his home, and pulled me close to him and I was completely passive,” the statement continued.


“[Finkelstein] pushed me to the floor and I was on my knees facing the floor and he was behind me with his chest on my back. He put his body very close to mine and I think he could not get any closer than that.”


“I think he enjoyed it,” the man continued. “He was breathing heavily and I said to him ‘enough, what are you doing?’ and he stood up and I felt very angry and sexually abused.”


Israeli police dropped the case because of insufficient evidence, according to a letter sent by police to the man in 2010.


Finkelstein did not respond to several requests for comment.


More than one dozen former students who attended the Y.U.-run high school during the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s have told the Forward that Finkelstein had emotionally or physically abused them.


Finkelstein would try to wrestle with students in a Y.U. school office or at his home. Several students said Finkelstein told them that he loved them and that they could feel his erect penis rub up against them while they were pinned to the floor.


In a December interview, Rabbi Norman Lamm, the former president of Yeshiva University, told the Forward that during his tenure — from 1976 to 2003 — he dealt with allegations of “improper sexual activity” against staff members by quietly allowing them to leave and to find jobs elsewhere.


Lamm, a revered figure in Modern Orthodoxy and the current chancellor of Y.U., told the Forward that Finkelstein was forced out of the high school because of the wrestling. “He knew we were going to ask him to leave,” Lamm said.


Lamm said that Y.U. did not inform the Florida school about Finkelstein’s wrestling because “the responsibility of a school in hiring someone is to check with the previous job. No one checked with me about George.” Reached at his home on February 25, Lamm declined to respond to allegations that there were subsequent wrestling incidents after Finkelstein left Y.U.


Y.U.’s knowledge of Finkelstein’s problematic behavior did not stop the school from honoring him upon his departure. At Y.U.’s annual tribute dinner, held in March 1995 at the New York Hilton hotel in Manhattan, Lamm presented Finkelstein and his wife, Fredda, with the Heritage Award “for 25 years of dedicated service.”


Asked why Y.U. honored Finkelstein despite forcing him out because of the wrestling, a Y.U. spokesman said: “As you are aware, everything is being independently investigated by outside counsel who will make their report when the investigation is fully finished.” The spokesman did not respond to a request for details about how the investigation is proceeding and when it might be complete.


Finkelstein took up his post at the Hillel school in Florida in 1995. Many former students and school officials in Florida, including staff and board members, remember Finkelstein as a positive influence. “We had no difficulties with Rabbi Finkelstein whatsoever,” said Martin Hoffman, president of the Hillel board when Finkelstein was hired.


Samuel Maya, 30, a former Hillel student, said Finkelstein was “an incredible person and one of the kindest men I have ever met in my entire life. I have a lot of friends that spent a lot of time with him and never once did I hear one complaint about him,” Maya added.

Another former student, Elie Yudewitz, said that he spent a lot of time at Finkelstein’s home in North Miami Beach and he never saw or heard of Finkelstein wrestling. However, Yudewitz said that rumors about Finkelstein wrestling with boys in New York began to trickle down from former Y.U. high school students to Florida during the late 1990s.


A former Hillel staff member, who requested anonymity, said: “The kids went to convention or camp and they met kids from Y.U. and they asked, ‘Did Finkelstein touch you already?’”


Yudewitz and Maya said Finkelstein often invited boys to stay over at his house during Shabbat. Such behavior was typical for a Jewish educator trying to persuade students to become more observant.


It was during one such sleepover that one former Hillel student said Finkelstein asked him to wrestle.


Even before then, the former student recalled, Finkelstein had taken a particular interest in him. Finkelstein often told the boy that he loved him and, when he called him into his school office, he hugged him “a little bit closer than a normal person might hug.”


“He would lock his feet together and come in close [with his] legs touching each other and he was flat against me,” the former student said. “I never took it as he felt anything more than affection in a father-son type way,” he added.


The former student said he stayed at Finkelstein’s house many times. Then, one time when the two were alone, Finkelstein asked him to wrestle.


“His demeanor changed and he puts on this face like I would do with my kid if I was pretending to be angry,” the former student said. “[He] starts making a fist and says, ‘We’re going to come to blows.’”


“The whole thing ended with my getting pinned to the ground and he’s on top of me and I’m thinking, ‘I don’t know what the hell is going on,’” the former student said. “And he starts tickling me…and he got off [me] and that was the end of it.”


The man said that he felt uncomfortable enough that the next time Finkelstein asked to wrestle he refused. But he said that he remained friendly with Finkelstein, even visiting him in Israel during his honeymoon.


A few years ago, he discovered a blog where former Y.U. High School students wrote of what they perceived to be the sexual undertones beneath Finkelstein’s wrestling. “It made me furious,” the man said. “I realized if he’s doing this to all these guys he’s either really naive or some kind of predator.”


He sent an email to Finkelstein last year asking him to explain his behavior. Finkelstein wrote back to say that he wanted to talk on the phone, but the man could not bring himself to speak to Finkelstein.


“I technically said yes [to the wrestling] which is why at the time I didn’t think anything about it,” the man said. “It’s only as I got older and thought of [the incident again] that I thought about it in a new light.”


In 2001, a former student from Y.U.’s high school, Simeon Weber, warned the Florida school that Finkelstein liked to wrestle with boys. He persuaded two prominent New York rabbis to corroborate to Hillel administrators his own story of wrestling with Finkelstein. Finkelstein left the school the same year.


When the Forward tried to contact the Hillel school in December, the school’s chief operating officer, Rafael Quintero, did not return multiple calls and emails for comment.


On February 20, the Forward sent an email to Quintero and to other Hillel officials alerting them to the 1999 incident involving their former student. The email asked what, if anything, the Hillel school had done to investigate Finkelstein’s employment at the school and to ascertain whether students were harmed.


No one responded to the email or to subsequent calls to Quintero and head of school, Rabbi Pinchos Hecht.


Allegations of Finkelstein’s inappropriate behavior preceded him when he applied for the job of director general of Jerusalem’s Great Synagogue, in 2001.


The Great Synagogue was concerned enough that its board launched an investigation and was twice reassured by a Y.U. “authority” that the rumors were baseless, according to Zev Lanton, the synagogue’s director general. Lanton told the Forward in December that after seeking legal advice the synagogue could not reveal the name of the Y.U. official who vouched for Finkelstein.


But in a statement released the same month Lanton said: “We would like to emphasize that during the ten years in which Rabbi Finkelstein served the synagogue, there was never any hint, direct or indirect, of any inappropriate behavior on his part.”


Finkelstein did inform the synagogue a few years prior to the statement that he had been summoned by police in Jerusalem regarding “a complaint reiterating the original allegation,” the statement said — apparently referring to allegations that Finkelstein abused a student in New York.


But the police report obtained by the Forward shows that the summons related to a complaint that Finkelstein assaulted a young man over a period of two-and-a-half years in Finkelstein’s home and inside the Great Synagogue.


The man who filed the complaint said he had family problems and few real friends when Finkelstein befriended him after he emigrated from Israel to America in 2005. “I remember [Finkelstein] saying, ‘I can play the role of father for you,’” the man, now 29, recalled in a telephone interview with the Forward.


He said Finkelstein would invite him to his synagogue office mostly when no one else was around. “He would say, ‘I love you. Do you love me?’” the man recalled. “At a certain point he wanted me to hug him. He would always seem to press me too tightly.”


“After hugging me, he would push me,” the man said. “He’s got a big office in a shul with an operating budget of millions of dollars and I’m like, ‘What the hell is going on here?’”


He said that the “bizarre relationship” continued as the “gray-haired” rabbi, now in his 60s, graduated from pushing to “tussling” and then to wrestling. One day, he found himself pinned to the floor in Finkelstein’s Jerusalem home, his face pressed to the ground. “I could feel his [penis] pushing against me,” the man said. “It was such a thin line between a wrestling move and humping someone.”


After contacting the police, the man also opened an anonymous email account and sent an email to the synagogue warning them about Finkelstein. He said that he never received a response.


“These are extremely painful memories, you can’t imagine,” the man said.


Jacob Rowe, a Great Synagogue board member, did not directly address whether the synagogue received an anonymous complaint about Finkelstein. But he said that he never heard “anything but positive” things about Finkelstein. “People who make anonymous things are destroyers of Judaism,” Rowe said. “No one can be protected against anonymous things like this.”


Rowe said Finkelstein still attends the synagogue and is welcomed warmly. “Everybody knows him to be a tzaddik [righteous man] here,” Rowe added.


One year after the police complaint was made, Mordechai Twersky, a former student of Y.U. High School, said he also tried to warn the Great Synagogue board.


Twersky said Finkelstein wrestled him several times in 1980, during his junior year at the school. In February 2010, he attended a meeting in Jerusalem where he met Tobias Berman, an officer of the Great Synagogue.


“Toward the conclusion of the meeting I got into an exchange with Berman, and I mentioned that I was a victim of his shul’s director general,” Twersky said. “Berman said he didn’t believe what I was alleging.” (Berman said he recalled a conversation with Twersky, but not what the conversation was about.)


The following month, Twersky filed a complaint against Finkelstein with Takana, a Jerusalem-based forum made up of educators, rabbis, yeshiva heads, lawyers and therapists who deal with allegations of sexual harassment and abuse made against clergy.
After hearing Twersky’s testimony, Takana met with several members of the Great Synagogue leadership who said they would look into the matter.


Zalli Jaffe, the Great Synagogue’s vice president, said the board took the allegations raised by Takana “very seriously.” But Finkelstein’s denial and the fact that he was able to become principal of the Hillel school after leaving Y.U. were seen as proof that he was innocent.


Jaffe, a commercial lawyer, said the synagogue had always believed the Israeli police investigation and the Takana investigation to be about the same allegation. He said he was surprised at the time that Israeli police would investigate allegations of abuse decades earlier in the U.S., but that he was “stunned” by the Forward’s suggestion that the police investigation referred to allegations of incidents in the synagogue.


He said that the synagogue had “no reason to suspect anything” when Finkelstein was employed at the synagogue, and that if Finkelstein was providing guidance to anyone in Jerusalem it would have been “outside his position” as director general.


Finkelstein retired from his post as director general of the Great Synagogue last summer, slipping into a lesser role of ritual director. He resigned from that post in December after the Forward published its first story detailing allegations against him.
Nathan Jeffay contributed to this story from Jerusalem.

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Yeshiva U. Rabbi George Finkelstein Acted Inappropriately Even After Ouster

Wrestled With Boys in New Posts in Florida and Jerusalem
By Paul Berger and Jane Eisner
Forward - March 8, 2013

Rabbi George Finkelstein was quietly forced out of Yeshiva University High School for Boys in 1995 because of inappropriate wrestling with students that some of them considered abusive.

But the Forward has learned that the wrestling did not stop after his departure from Y.U. It continued during Finkelstein’s next two posts, as dean of a Jewish school in Florida and as director general of the Jerusalem Great Synagogue in Israel, where he worked until abruptly resigning this past December.

The most recent wrestling incidents documented by the Forward were in 2009.

Finkelstein, 67, has been a respected figure in the Modern Orthodox community for decades, first as an administrator at Y.U.’s high school in Manhattan and later at the Jerusalem Great Synagogue. But allegations that he behaved inappropriately with boys have trailed him for at least 30 years, according to dozens of interviews with former students, colleagues and peers in the United States.

Although former students of Y.U.’s high school long complained about Finkelstein’s behavior to staff members and administrators — both while he worked at the school and after he left — Y.U. appears never to have reported the complaints to police. Nor did Y.U. open an investigation until December 2012, when the Forward published allegations that Finkelstein and another former Y.U. staff member, Rabbi Macy Gordon, had sexually, emotionally and physically abused students over decades. Finkelstein and Gordon deny the abuse charges.

The Forward’s initial reporting concerned Finkelstein’s behavior before he left New York in 1995 for an administrative position at the Samuel Scheck Hillel Community Day School in North Miami Beach. But a former student at that school, who requested anonymity, has now told the Forward that Finkelstein wrestled with him around 1999. The former student said Finkelstein initiated the wrestling one Shabbat when the boy, then about 14 or 15 years old, slept over at Finkelstein’s home.

The Forward has also learned that a young man filed a complaint against Finkelstein with the Jerusalem police in 2009. The man, then aged 26, reported that Finkelstein had taken advantage of his vulnerability — he had serious family problems — and that Finkelstein used his prestigious post at the Jerusalem Great Synagogue to gain his trust. The wrestling took place over two-and-a-half years, in Finkelstein’s home and inside the Great Synagogue.

“Rabbi Gedalia [George Finkelstein] began to wrestle me and told me he is doing it in order to strengthen me and develop my self-confidence,” the man said in a 2009 police statement obtained by the Forward and translated from Hebrew into English.

“I remember one time in particular when he hugged me against my will, about a year ago at his home, and pulled me close to him and I was completely passive,” the statement continued.

“[Finkelstein] pushed me to the floor and I was on my knees facing the floor and he was behind me with his chest on my back. He put his body very close to mine and I think he could not get any closer than that.”

“I think he enjoyed it,” the man continued. “He was breathing heavily and I said to him ‘enough, what are you doing?’ and he stood up and I felt very angry and sexually abused.”
Israeli police dropped the case because of insufficient evidence, according to a letter sent by police to the man in 2010.

Finkelstein did not respond to several requests for comment.

More than one dozen former students who attended the Y.U.-run high school during the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s have told the Forward that Finkelstein had emotionally or physically abused them.
Finkelstein would try to wrestle with students in a Y.U. school office or at his home. Several students said Finkelstein told them that he loved them and that they could feel his erect penis rub up against them while they were pinned to the floor.

In a December interview, Rabbi Norman Lamm, the former president of Yeshiva University, told the Forward that during his tenure — from 1976 to 2003 — he dealt with allegations of “improper sexual activity” against staff members by quietly allowing them to leave and to find jobs elsewhere.

Lamm, a revered figure in Modern Orthodoxy and the current chancellor of Y.U., told the Forward that Finkelstein was forced out of the high school because of the wrestling. “He knew we were going to ask him to leave,” Lamm said.

Lamm said that Y.U. did not inform the Florida school about Finkelstein’s wrestling because “the responsibility of a school in hiring someone is to check with the previous job. No one checked with me about George.” Reached at his home on February 25, Lamm declined to respond to allegations that there were subsequent wrestling incidents after Finkelstein left Y.U.

Y.U.’s knowledge of Finkelstein’s problematic behavior did not stop the school from honoring him upon his departure. At Y.U.’s annual tribute dinner, held in March 1995 at the New York Hilton hotel in Manhattan, Lamm presented Finkelstein and his wife, Fredda, with the Heritage Award “for 25 years of dedicated service.”

Asked why Y.U. honored Finkelstein despite forcing him out because of the wrestling, a Y.U. spokesman said: “As you are aware, everything is being independently investigated by outside counsel who will make their report when the investigation is fully finished.” The spokesman did not respond to a request for details about how the investigation is proceeding and when it might be complete.

Finkelstein took up his post at the Hillel school in Florida in 1995. Many former students and school officials in Florida, including staff and board members, remember Finkelstein as a positive influence. “We had no difficulties with Rabbi Finkelstein whatsoever,” said Martin Hoffman, president of the Hillel board when Finkelstein was hired.

Samuel Maya, 30, a former Hillel student, said Finkelstein was “an incredible person and one of the kindest men I have ever met in my entire life. I have a lot of friends that spent a lot of time with him and never once did I hear one complaint about him,” Maya added.

Another former student, Elie Yudewitz, said that he spent a lot of time at Finkelstein’s home in North Miami Beach and he never saw or heard of Finkelstein wrestling. However, Yudewitz said that rumors about Finkelstein wrestling with boys in New York began to trickle down from former Y.U. high school students to Florida during the late 1990s.

A former Hillel staff member, who requested anonymity, said: “The kids went to convention or camp and they met kids from Y.U. and they asked, ‘Did Finkelstein touch you already?’”
Yudewitz and Maya said Finkelstein often invited boys to stay over at his house during Shabbat. Such behavior was typical for a Jewish educator trying to persuade students to become more observant.

It was during one such sleepover that one former Hillel student said Finkelstein asked him to wrestle.

Even before then, the former student recalled, Finkelstein had taken a particular interest in him. Finkelstein often told the boy that he loved him and, when he called him into his school office, he hugged him “a little bit closer than a normal person might hug.”

“He would lock his feet together and come in close [with his] legs touching each other and he was flat against me,” the former student said. “I never took it as he felt anything more than affection in a father-son type way,” he added.

The former student said he stayed at Finkelstein’s house many times. Then, one time when the two were alone, Finkelstein asked him to wrestle.

“His demeanor changed and he puts on this face like you would do with a kid if [you were] pretending to be angry,” the former student said. “[He] starts making a fist and says, ‘We’re going to come to blows.’”

“The whole thing ended with my getting pinned to the ground and he’s on top of me and I’m thinking, ‘I don’t know what the hell is going on,’” the former student said. “And he starts tickling me…and he got off [me] and that was the end of it.”

The man said that he felt uncomfortable enough that the next time Finkelstein asked to wrestle he refused. But he said that he remained friendly with Finkelstein.

A few years ago, he discovered a blog where former Y.U. High School students wrote of what they perceived to be the sexual undertones beneath Finkelstein’s wrestling. “It made me furious,” the man said. “I realized if he’s doing this to all these guys he’s either really naive or some kind of predator.”

He sent an email to Finkelstein last year asking him to explain his behavior. Finkelstein wrote back to say that he wanted to talk on the phone, but the man could not bring himself to speak to Finkelstein.

“I technically said yes [to the wrestling] which is why at the time I didn’t think anything about it,” the man said. “It’s only as I got older and thought of [the incident again] that I thought about it in a new light.”

In 2001, a former student from Y.U.’s high school, Simeon Weber, warned the Florida school that Finkelstein liked to wrestle with boys. He persuaded two prominent New York rabbis to corroborate to Hillel administrators his own story of wrestling with Finkelstein. Finkelstein left the school the same year.

When the Forward tried to contact the Hillel school in December, the school’s chief operating officer, Rafael Quintero, did not return multiple calls and emails for comment.

On February 20, the Forward sent an email to Quintero and to other Hillel officials alerting them to the 1999 incident involving their former student. The email asked what, if anything, the Hillel school had done to investigate Finkelstein’s employment at the school and to ascertain whether students were harmed.

No one responded to the email or to subsequent calls to Quintero and head of school, Rabbi Pinchos Hecht.

Allegations of Finkelstein’s inappropriate behavior preceded him when he applied for the job of director general of Jerusalem’s Great Synagogue, in 2001.

The Great Synagogue was concerned enough that its board launched an investigation and was twice reassured by a Y.U. “authority” that the rumors were baseless, according to Zev Lanton, the synagogue’s director general. Lanton told the Forward in December that after seeking legal advice the synagogue could not reveal the name of the Y.U. official who vouched for Finkelstein.

But in a statement released the same month Lanton said: “We would like to emphasize that during the ten years in which Rabbi Finkelstein served the synagogue, there was never any hint, direct or indirect, of any inappropriate behavior on his part.”

Finkelstein did inform the synagogue a few years prior to the statement that he had been summoned by police in Jerusalem regarding “a complaint reiterating the original allegation,” the statement said — apparently referring to allegations that Finkelstein abused a student in New York.

But the police report obtained by the Forward shows that the summons related to a complaint that Finkelstein assaulted a young man over a period of two-and-a-half years in Finkelstein’s home and inside the Great Synagogue.

The man who filed the complaint said he had family problems and few real friends when Finkelstein befriended him after he emigrated from Israel to America in 2005. “I remember [Finkelstein] saying, ‘I can play the role of father for you,’” the man, now 29, recalled in a telephone interview with the Forward.

He said Finkelstein would invite him to his synagogue office mostly when no one else was around. “He would say, ‘I love you. Do you love me?’” the man recalled. “At a certain point he wanted me to hug him. He would always seem to press me too tightly.”

“After hugging me, he would push me,” the man said. “He’s got a big office in a shul with an operating budget of millions of dollars and I’m like, ‘What the hell is going on here?’”

He said that the “bizarre relationship” continued as the “gray-haired” rabbi, now in his 60s, graduated from pushing to “tussling” and then to wrestling. One day, he found himself pinned to the floor in Finkelstein’s Jerusalem home, his face pressed to the ground. “I could feel his [penis] pushing against me,” the man said. “It was such a thin line between a wrestling move and humping someone.”

After contacting the police, the man also opened an anonymous email account and sent an email to the synagogue warning them about Finkelstein. He said that he never received a response.

“These are extremely painful memories, you can’t imagine,” the man said.

Jacob Rowe, a Great Synagogue board member, did not directly address whether the synagogue received an anonymous complaint about Finkelstein. But he said that he never heard “anything but positive” things about Finkelstein. “People who make anonymous things are destroyers of Judaism,” Rowe said. “No one can be protected against anonymous things like this.”

Rowe said Finkelstein still attends the synagogue and is welcomed warmly. “Everybody knows him to be a tzaddik [righteous man] here,” Rowe added.

One year after the police complaint was made, Mordechai Twersky, a former student of Y.U. High School, said he also tried to warn the Great Synagogue board.

Twersky said Finkelstein wrestled him several times in 1980, during his junior year at the school. In February 2010, he attended a meeting in Jerusalem where he met Tobias Berman, an officer of the Great Synagogue.

“Toward the conclusion of the meeting I got into an exchange with Berman, and I mentioned that I was a victim of his shul’s director general,” Twersky said. “Berman said he didn’t believe what I was alleging.” (Berman said he recalled a conversation with Twersky, but not what the conversation was about.)

The following month, Twersky filed a complaint against Finkelstein with Takana, a Jerusalem-based forum made up of educators, rabbis, yeshiva heads, lawyers and therapists who deal with allegations of sexual harassment and abuse made against clergy.

After hearing Twersky’s testimony, Takana met with several members of the Great Synagogue leadership who said they would look into the matter.

Zalli Jaffe, the Great Synagogue’s vice president, said the board took the allegations raised by Takana “very seriously.” But Finkelstein’s denial and the fact that he was able to become principal of the Hillel school after leaving Y.U. were seen as proof that he was innocent.

Jaffe, a commercial lawyer, said the synagogue had always believed the Israeli police investigation and the Takana investigation to be about the same allegation. He said he was surprised at the time that Israeli police would investigate allegations of abuse decades earlier in the U.S., but that he was “stunned” by the Forward’s suggestion that the police investigation referred to allegations of incidents in the synagogue.

He said that the synagogue had “no reason to suspect anything” when Finkelstein was employed at the synagogue, and that if Finkelstein was providing guidance to anyone in Jerusalem it would have been “outside his position” as director general.

Finkelstein retired from his post as director general of the Great Synagogue last summer, slipping into a lesser role of ritual director. He resigned from that post in December after the Forward published its first story detailing allegations against him.

Nathan Jeffay contributed to this story from Jerusalem.
_______________________________________________________________________________

As Yeshiva Child Sex Abuse Scandal Grows, Why Are We Afraid To Speak Out?

Community Will Be Judged Harshly If We Stay Silent
By Stacey Klein
Forward - March 31, 2013


We in the Orthodox Jewish community claim to value children deeply. We want to have children, and we pressure our own children to get married and have children, and yet, when it comes to really ensuring those children’s utmost protection from harm, somehow the silence is deafening.

As a Yeshiva University alumnus and a psychotherapist who works with abused children, I was horrified to learn that my alma mater was apparently involved in a 30-year cover-up of sexual abuse that affected hundreds of children and protected known abusers. Y.U. — an institution to which I am grateful for making me who I am today — also has refused to commit to releasing to the public details of its investigation into these abuses.

So I created a petition urging Y.U. to commit to sharing the report findings with the public. Nearly everyone I know — many alumni from Y.U. and its Stern College for Women, including rabbis, did not sign. Other than one or two brave figures, the people I worked with for years through Y.U., programs teaching Jewish children worldwide about Jewish values, wouldn’t sign, nor would they do anything else I am aware of to support victims.

I am deeply saddened by this blinding lack of empathy for our fellow suffering Jews.

As a psychotherapist, I know firsthand about the long-term effects of sexual abuse on children: It impacts their self-esteem, their faith, their trust in others — especially in the community. Silence in the face of abuse conveys the message to victims that their suffering matters much less than protecting the abuser or the leaders who covered up the abuse. With each day of silence that passes, the victims feel more isolated and betrayed. What is this passivity in the face of such terrible injustice?

I have come to understand that most people in my community are blocked by fear. Most people want to do the right thing, but are afraid of being judged by others, or they don’t want to “break with Y.U.” While loyalty is an important value, it cannot take precedence over the safety of our children.

People invent intellectual arguments that enable them to avoid doing what’s difficult. They argue that holding someone responsible for particular actions will amount to vilifying an institution they care about. But this crisis is about holding specific people accountable for criminal and reckless behaviors and cover-ups, not about indicting a beloved school.




_______________________________________________________________________________




Yeshiva U. Sex Abuse Probe Stalls Amid Fear and Mistrust

Some Victims Not Contacted, Others Wary of Investigation
By Paul Berger
Forward - May 2, 2013


It has been more than four months since Yeshiva University hired an international law firm to investigate allegations of emotional, physical and sexual abuse at a Y.U.-run high school.

Yet investigators working for the firm of Sullivan & Cromwell still have not contacted several former Y.U. school staff and students who described the abuse in a series of articles published in the Forward last year.

Meanwhile, many other former students who have been contacted say they refused to cooperate with investigators because they do not trust Y.U.’s motives. Such mistrust has only increased since Y.U. retained another international law firm, Greenberg Traurig, to fight a possible multiparty civil lawsuit.

Barry Singer, a former student who has spoken to a Y.U. investigator, said the investigator “made it clear that she had nothing to do with any sort of defense that Yeshiva might mount.” But, Singer added, she also told him that Greenberg Traurig “can use whatever they gather” to defend against a civil lawsuit.

Singer said he believed that the investigator, Lisa Friel, a sex abuse expert hired by Sullivan & Cromwell to assist with its investigation, was well intentioned. But he added that Friel has no control over how much of the information she gathers will be made public.

“It’s not really about her investigation at all,” Singer said. “It’s about [the Y.U. board], of course, and what they do with it.”

Despite protests from Y.U. alumni, Y.U.’s board has not committed to making the results of its investigation public. Instead, the board’s most recent statement, published in January, said. “We expect the findings of the investigation will be communicated to the public following completion of the investigation.”

The board will not say which of its members are overseeing the investigation. Several board members reached by the Forward declined to comment. Jayne Beker, who is listed as a board member on Y.U.’s website, said she knew nothing about the investigation and had not taken part in board meetings for some time. Ronald P. Stanton, a chairman emeritus, declined to answer any questions. “I can’t help you, sorry.” Stanton said, and then cut off the call.

Y.U.’s board launched what it called an “independent investigation” into the alleged abuse in December 2012. The investigation followed an article in the Forward citing several men who said they were abused by two former staff members at Y.U.’s High School for Boys, in Manhattan.

Since then, about 20 former students have told the Forward they were emotionally, physically or sexually abused by Rabbi Macy Gordon, a former Talmud teacher, or by Rabbi George Finkelstein, the school’s former principal, over a period spanning three decades. Both men, who deny the allegations, served at the school for about 25 years. Gordon left the school around 1984. Finkelstein left the school in 1995.

Several former students said they or their parents informed Y.U. staff members of the abuse either at the time or after they left the school, but no action was taken.

Rabbi Norman Lamm, who was president of Y.U. from 1976 until 2003 and is now chancellor, appeared to suggest in a December interview at his home that the abuse was even more widespread. Lamm told the Forward that during his tenure, law enforcement officials were never notified, despite “charges of improper sexual activity” made against staff “not only at [Y.U.’s] high school and college, but also in [the] graduate school.”

Rabbi Hershel Schachter, a dean of Y.U.’s rabbinical school, told the New York Times in December that in addition to rabbis Gordon and Finkelstein he knew of another staff member who was dismissed for inappropriate behavior with students.

In the wake of the allegations, Y.U.’s board swiftly assured staff, students and alumni that Sullivan & Cromwell had been hired “to conduct a full and independent investigation of the allegations as well as to review our current policies and procedures.”
In statements posted to Y.U.’s website, the board assured alumni that it would “only be satisfied with a broad and far-reaching investigation” and that Sullivan & Cromwell had been given “the unrestricted authority to pursue any leads that may shed light on all matters related to the investigation.”

But the Forward has found that many people who were named months ago as having information about the abuse have yet to be contacted.

Elan Adler, a director of Y.U.’s school dormitory from 1981 to 1986, told the Forward in December that some boys complained to him about Finkelstein’s “inappropriately aggressive” wrestling. In an April 23 email, Adler said that investigators had not contacted him and that he had no idea an investigation had been launched.

Coby Hakalir, a former high school student, told the Forward in December about an atmosphere of “constant [fear]” that pervaded the school during the 1990s. Hakalir said on April 23 that he did not know an investigation was being conducted. “It’s not that hard to find me,” he added. Investigators contacted him on April 30, after the Forward asked about his case.

Investigators have also failed so far to pursue obvious leads that people familiar with Y.U. might explore. Abuse victims in the Orthodox community often turn to Rabbi Yosef Blau, a long-standing victims advocate who has been a spiritual adviser at Y.U. for almost 40 years. The Forward is aware of at least one person who contacted Blau during the past few years to say that a Y.U. staff member abused him decades ago. However, investigators have not contacted Blau.

Blau said that he had not taken the initiative to contact investigators, because they are only interested in “people who were personally abused.” In fact, the investigators’ mandate is much wider; they have interviewed several former students who have secondhand knowledge of abuse. “I can’t tell you for sure what are the full guidelines given to the law firm and how they chose to function,” Blau said. “Did they send a message to people working at Y.U., asking for anyone who knows anything to please contact us? I don’t recall that.”

Perhaps the most striking omission is the investigators’ failure thus far to contact Mordechai Twersky. Twersky wrote about his allegations of abuse at Y.U.’s high school in an online publication, the Y.U. Beacon, in February last year. Since then, he has been quoted extensively in the Forward about the abuse he says he suffered and also about his repeated attempts to alert first Lamm and then the current Y.U. president, Richard Joel.

Twersky is among about 20 former students who have retained a lawyer to launch a possible multiparty lawsuit against Y.U. He said that the potential lawsuit, as well as his deep mistrust of Y.U., meant that he would likely decline to speak to investigators. Nevertheless, he said, the symbolism of investigators “not reaching out” to him is striking.

Certainly, the investigation has been complicated by the potential lawsuit.

Abuse victims in New York have until their 23rd birthday to bring a civil claim of child sexual abuse. But that has not stopped some victims from winning settlements in cases where alleged incidents fall well beyond the statute of limitations.

Kevin Mulhearn won just such a settlement last year on behalf of 12 men who said they were sexually abused by football coach Philip Foglietta at Brooklyn’s Poly Prep Country Day School.

Now, he represents the former Y.U. students who, Mulhearn said, have helped him compile a dossier showing that Y.U. administrators “facilitated, condoned and excused” the abuse of students over decades.

Such a lawsuit could be embarrassing for some of Modern Orthodoxy’s most respected leaders. It could also deal a blow to Y.U.’s fundraising at a critical time.

Y.U., which recently launched a drive to raise $600 million toward a capital campaign and scholarships, has suffered significant financial problems lately. In June 2011, a Moody’s Investors Service analyst reported that “Yeshiva is reporting the largest operating cash flow deficits of any research university rated by Moody’s.” The analyst downgraded Y.U.’s credit rating, noting that “significant operating deficits and very thin operating cash flow are key components to the rating downgrade and maintenance of the negative outlook.”

The Y.U. investigation is being led by Karen Seymour, a co-managing partner of Sullivan & Cromwell’s litigation group. Seymour, who specializes in internal investigations, said she could not say when the investigation might be completed. “We want to follow all the leads, and so we’re still in the midst of a very active investigation,” she said. “We’re moving as quickly as we can, because we want to get this completed.”

Seymour was reluctant to disclose many details of the investigation on the record. But she did reassure victims who were reticent to talk to her out of fear that their information could be turned against them during a civil lawsuit that their identities would be “anonymized.” She reiterated that the information is not being “gathered for the purposes of the defense.”

Still, many former students say they do not trust a law firm paid by Y.U. to conduct a truly independent investigation. “I did not trust that through my talking to them I would reach any sort of closure,” said one former student, who is in his late 40s and who did not wish to be named, in an email. “I had no assurances as to what Y.U. would do with any information I shared with them.”

The man said that the Forward’s articles about Y.U. had reawakened terrible memories that he had suppressed for decades. “People can’t and do not realize that the mind can hide something like this for years and then suffer flashbacks,” he said.

“I have been seeing a therapist since December and have been diagnosed with [post-traumatic stress disorder],” he added. “It keeps me awake some nights, or I wake up having had a nightmare. I am typing this with one hand because I finally snapped and punched a… wall and broke my hand about three weeks ago.”

After more than four months, Y.U.’s investigation is now longer than a three-month probe that Deerfield Academy, an elite Massachusetts boarding school, conducted into abuse allegations at its campus. It is also just one month short of a five-month investigation into abuse at the Orthodox Union’s youth organization, NCSY, which was led by Joel before he became president of Y.U.

At its current pace, the Y.U. investigation threatens to take as long as the probe into abuse at Penn State University, led by former FBI director Louis Freeh. Although that investigation, which took about eight months, included more than 400 interviews and the examination of more than 3.5 million emails and documents.

Asked how Y.U.’s investigation was progressing and when it might be completed, a Y.U. spokesman said the probe “continues to be ongoing, and as soon as it has been completed in the proper way and to the satisfaction of investigators, we will have an update to offer.” Asked whether there was a conflict of interest between Sullivan & Cromwell, whose mission is to shed light on the abuse, and Greenberg Traurig, whose mission is to protect Y.U from abuse claims, the spokesman did not respond.

A spokesman for Greenberg Traurig said no one from the firm was available to comment.

Some former students who have spoken to Y.U.’s investigators remain cynical. Although Juda Engelmayer was not abused at Y.U., he said that he contacted investigators because he knew, secondhand, of abuse. Engelmayer said he was disappointed by the investigators’ line of questioning. He said that the questions seemed more designed to explain why abusive behavior might have taken place than to seriously investigate what happened. “I don’t think they’re being genuine,” Engelmayer said.

Others were more sanguine. Neal Lehrman, who also knew secondhand of abuse, said that Friel appeared to be sincere. “She said, ‘The only thing I can tell you is I have been doing this for 25 years and I am not staking my reputation on something that’s going to be swallowed up,’” Lehrman said. When he last corresponded with Friel, she told him that the investigative team continued to interview “numerous people a week” and that the investigation would be complete “in about a month.”

That was on March 5.

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Yeshiva University High School former students file $380 million sex abuse lawsuit 
The school ‘was allowing known sexual predators to roam the school at will seeking other victims,’ says attorney Kevin Mulhearn, who filed the suit on behalf of the 19 plaintiffs.

By Michael O'Keeffe
New York Daily News - July 8, 2013

   Chancellor of Yeshiva University Rabbi Norman Lamm announced his retirement on Monday, July 1, 2013, Lamm said he was wrong in the way he handled allegations of sexual abuse at the university’s high school decades ago. Lamm is stepping down after decades at the university amid an ongoing investigation into accusations of abuse by alumni. 
Nineteen former students at Yeshiva University High School have filed a bombshell $380 million lawsuit against the prestigious Jewish institution claiming horrific acts of sexual abuse that went unchecked for two decades at the Manhattan school.

"Yeshiva University High School held itself out as an exemplary Jewish secondary school when in fact it was allowing known sexual predators to roam the school at will seeking other victims," said attorney Kevin Mulhearn, who filed the suit on behalf of the 19 plaintiffs. "Childhood sexual abuse in the Orthodox Jewish community can no longer be condoned and excused.”

One victim claims administrators ignored his protests when he told them a Judaic studies teacher sodomized him with a toothbrush. Other victims — the children of Holocaust survivors — say a former principal persuaded them not to tell their parents after he sexually assaulted them because their mothers and fathers had already suffered through so much.

The 148-page lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in White Plains, claims Yeshiva officials ignored and covered up the complaints because they feared the sexual abuse allegations would damage fund-raising efforts and bruise the schools reputation.

Yeshiva University
The abuse took place between 1969 and 1989, the lawsuit says. New York state law requires survivors of childhood sexual abuse to file civil litigation by the time they turn 23 years old.

But Mulhearn said the clock on the statute of limitations should have stopped ticking because school administrators and officials at Yeshiva University, which operates the high school, engaged in years of fraud by portraying the former Judaic studies teacher and ex-principal as exemplary educators long after Yeshiva officials had received reports of sexual abuse.

Shaya Greenwald stands with Norman Lamm and Rabbi Zevulun Charlop at Yeshiva University. The defendants in the sexual abuse suit include Lamm, a former chancellor who served as the president of Yeshiva University from 1976 to 2003.
Administrators honored former Judaic studies teacher Rabbi Macy Gordon and Rabbi George Finkelstein, the ex-principal, when they left YUHS, and scholarships were awarded in both their names even though officials knew 


Mulhearn represented 12 men who settled a sex abuse lawsuit in December against Poly Prep Country Day School in Brooklyn. That suit also faced significant statute of limitations challenges. Mulhearn said the legal arguments in the Yeshiva suit are "more developed" than the Poly Prep case.

Gordon and Finkelsetein denied the abuse allegations in stories published by the Jewish Daily Forward in December. Both men now live in Israel. A Yeshiva University spokesman said officials could not comment on the litigation.


Three of the plaintiffs say they were abused by Gordon; one of those men left the school in 1980, shortly after he and his father told a high-ranking school official that Gordon had sodomized him with a toothbrush during a violent assault in the student's YUHS dormitory in Washington Heights.

The administrator, Rabbi Israel Miller, failed to report the assault to police and took no punitive action. Gordon later assaulted another plaintiff, according to the suit.

Sixteen plaintiffs say they were physical and sexually assaulted by Finkelstein, who was named principal even though several students had complained he had abused them. Finkelstein allegedly kept students quiet about the abuse with emotional manipulation.

"Finkelstein, as a YUHS administrator, specifically targeted vulnerable boys for physical and sexual abuse. He preyed upon children of Holocaust survivors and after he abused them implored these children to not add to their parents' suffering by telling them about his assaults," the suit claims.

The suit claims that officials allowed former YU student Richard Andron to visit the high school dorm despite the fact that officials knew “Andron had a propensity to sexually abuse boys.”

Only two of the plaintiffs — Mordechai Twersky and Barry Singer — are identified in the suit; the remaining 17 are named as John Does. The abuse lead to depression, drug and alcohol abuse, broken marriages, failed careers and other problems, the suit claims.

King Juan Carlos 1 receives honorary Doctorate in Laws from New York Yeshiva University. The school has been sued by 19 former students claiming sexual abuse.
The defendants include Rabbi Norman Lamm, a former chancellor who served as the president of Yeshiva University from 1976 to 2003. Lamm acknowledged mishandling abuse allegations in a letter when he retired as chancellor on July 1.

"It is our fervent hope that the leaders of Yeshiva University and YUHS will embrace the daunting challenge of reconciling with the survivors of these abuses with the fullest measure of grace, compassion, and humanity,” Mulhearn said. “My clients are brave and courageous men. They now, at long last, are seeking the justice they were denied as children."

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12 comments:

Anonymous said...

I attended Yeshiva University High School and left on early college admissions in 1973. It was common knowledge that George Finkelstein was a molestor and it was common knowledge that Macy Gordon was as well. There were so many bizarre characters in that school. The English teacher, Alfie Shapiro, was a feminized version of a man. Finkelstein was a very strange character who was very dull and never smiled. The school should have done a better job of providing an education. We learned everything from reading a book knowing full well that the teachers were either awful or too tired to teach. I went very far in life and my kids have gone even farther. Unfortunately, none of our success is due to a "wonderful learning environment" at MTA. Norman Lamm is a very decent human being who should not be blamed for any of this. He single-handedly saved the University from bankruptcy. Richard Joel is another story. He was about to rename the Business Department, the Bernard Madoff School of Business. Richard, how many dinners did you make for Bernie Madoff? Next time you get up at a graduation with your Al Sharpton medallions someone should toss a tomato at you. Richard Joel's apology is worthless. He just wants to negotiate a better pay package next time around.

Anonymous said...

I went to MTA in 69,was tortured by George F. in 72. I had to leave in the middle of my junior year or else I was heading towards a Nervous Breakdown. I was a Straight A student with no discipline issues whatsoever. George DESTROYED me. I was only 16 years old!As far as informing YU, Weinbach (principal) was cold and indifferent to the matter. My Dad went to the top of YU Rav Belkin and He Immediaelly reprimanded George. George blew a gasket and tortured me even MORE!leaving me with NO one I could Trust at YU

Vicki Polin said...

I want to send my apologies out to those of you who were so badly harmed by George. Thank you so much for the courage it took to share your story. You are all heroes and should be honored and respected for the tenacity it took to come forward.

If you would want to reach someone at The Awareness Center, I can be reached by sending an email to: vickipolin@aol.com

Anonymous said...

I graduated in the class of 81. George was the reason many of us wanted to have nothing more to do with religion when we graduated. He and other educators in that school seemed to be very out of touch with the needs and concerns of the students.

As far as inappropriate behaviors, we were all aware of his propensity for wrestling with certain students. Frankly if he would have touched me in any way I would have kicked the crap out of him. In my senior year when George threatened me to go learn in one of those brain-washing yeshivas in Israel, I let him know to his face what a failure he and his school had been.

I was validated the following year when my Hebrew Professor at YC upon hearing I had graduated YUHS looked at me and said, "And you're still Jewish?".

I do not believe I am alone in saying that there is much unresolved anger amongst students of George's era. As I move through the modern orthodox world I have met many people who have "George" stories to tell. Most are not complimentary in nature.

The lack of moral and ethical practices in the orthodox jewish world is despicable. We as Jews need to re-evaluate our positions. Derech Eretz and treating each other with dignity and respect should be what we are about. I hope that the children today are the benefactors of a better educational experience.

Anonymous said...





all I have heard is heresay which would never hold up in court. Use real names and give dates, time and place. So far two reputations have been ruined and where is the solid proof, witnesses, pictures, RECORDINGS, anything. THIS WILL NEVER GO TO COURT THERE IS . SO FAR THERE IS A LOT OF HERESAY AND NO REAL PROOF. Dr. Lamm is a hero at Y.U. He saved Y.U. THERE were others who should have handled the alleged sexual issues. Where are they and who are they? Rabbi DR. BERNHARD ROSENBERG

Anonymous said...

Another 1973 graduate

I knew George when I attended MTA many years ago. I never heard the accusations that he was a well known abuser. I spent time in his office- for poor behavior on my part- but he never touched me. Having been abused as a child myself- I would have never tolerated him touching me in an inappropriate way. I probably was in class with anonymous #2 and year behind #3. Alfie was probaly gay- so what. Macy - I never had to deal with. It hurts me to think that George did these things.

zoni stein said...

i lived at finkelstein houe for over a year...people lie...he if the one of the mot caring peron i have ever met.. he was like a father to me..

finkelstein was also my fathers principal in MTA when my father was a student,

think about this: MTA high school had say 4000 boys, he works there for over 20+ if he had some kind of "off thinking" this would have come out a long time ago..

It should be a crime to slander such a good person like Finkelstein,

chazonistein@aol.com
chazon zoni tein

Vicki Polin said...

When thinking of the cases that recently made it to the news from YU (Rabbis George Finkelstein and Rabbi Macy Gordon), we all have to remember the way that YU's Rabbi Mordechai Willig handled the Lanner case.

Do you really think much has changed? http://theawarenesscenter.blogspot.com/2001/01/case-of-rabbi-mordechai-willig.html

Anonymous said...

I attended MTA from 1969-1972 and then continued on to YU. I would first like to comment that I received an excellent education - limudei kodesh (religious studies) and limudei chol (secular studies) and was well prepared to face the religious, moral and secular challenges that I have encountered over the past 40 years. As I read the articles I too remember Tzizit checks. I did not think of them at the time as sexual - and I believe for the most part they were not. Today any physical activity between a faculty member and a student would be considered inappropriate. Unfortunately, at the time such activity was not considered inappropriate. Some of the activities which [in my days] Mr. Finkelstein, officially [but everyone called George]is accused of, if true are truly reprehensible under any standard. Yes, George, did wrestle with students [I was spared]. Yet, surprisingly, I never heard of any sexual accusations by any of my friends who wrestled with George. And, George methods of discipline were discussed at great length between the boys. In fact in the dormitory George was a frequent topic until the wee hours of the morning, yet I never remember any sexual encounter being discussed. Among adolescent boys his arousal would have been a very hot topic. I ask that wen one reads the accusation, one condemn certain activities but not throw out the baby with the bath water.

Anonymous said...

. I grew up in the Midwest and attended an elementary school where anti Semitism was rampant. There were only two Jewish children in the school; because we were poor we lived in that neighhborhood. Being beaten up because I was Jewish and fighting back was a common occurrence. I knew how to fight back and would have fought against anyone who molested me. Yeshiva students have to be taught to physically protect themselves against abuse.
Rabbi Dr. Bernhard Rosenberg

Anonymous said...

Rabbi Dr. Bernhard Rosenberg - you're an insensitive putz.
I am another one who George "wrestled" while i was at MTA. class of 1984. I'm sorry it took this long for him to be outed. At the time I and others mentioned the "in-office private wrestling" to MTA staff, such as Rabbi Dulitz and others, but they were in disbelief. I hoped they would escalate the story to higher-ups - and perhaps they did, but ultimately it was swept under the rug and George was merely transferred away. Shame on you Dr. Lamm.

Anonymous said...

Finkelstein and Gordon were not only physical abusers, they mentally abused us as well. I will never forget the cold and menacing behavior they exhibited to us in those days. We were just kids.

I second the motion that Rabbi Dr. Bernhard Rosenberg is a ... well moron. You should stop posting and find a job that keeps you occupied and hopefully away from young people.