George Finkelstein's Open Office Door

Yeshiva University High School removed the door of principal accused of abuse, but not the abuser himself.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Editor and Publisher

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.

gary@jewishweek.org

Comments

Not at all surprising to hear. At Telshe Yeshiva in Cleveland , in 1965, the administration reacted to reports of adolescent boys experimenting with each other by 1) removing the locks from all doors in the dormitory 2) labeling all offenders as homosexuals and expelling them from the Yeshiva.

Is this a job for Hella Winston??

I wish there was more than hearsay for such charges. Peoples' reputations are at stake.

Back then, rabbeim hit us, which is a form of abuse but not sexual abuse. There wasn't even a whisper of such things at MTA in the late 60s and there certainly would have been if it was going on.

Does JW have PROOF of wrong-doing by Finkelstein? If so, SHOW US. Otherwise you are just doing more Orthodox bashing.

George Finkelstein, as I remeber him in his younger years at YU was a dweeby nerdy brown noser to the administrator of the HS and RIETS, Rabbi Abrams (iirc correctly) a S. african.

I never had any personal interactions with George and had no reason to suspect him of sexual misconduct (though I those days I was too naive to even realize such things went on). However, I wanted to correct the misperception that his conduct had anything to do with being a holocaust survivor. He was an american boy, and based on his speech and mannerisms I think he grew up in the modern orthodox world. So I don't think holocaust survival had anything to do with his wrestling tactics. If anything, YU, compared to the ultra orthodox world was a place that distinguished itself by having athletic teams including basketball, wrestling and a few other sports. He may have used purported wrestling as his camouflage to defend himself as a cool modern guy. That way he could dismiss critics as being country bumpkins.

Ask anyone who went to that school for proof. If the VP is making someone feel uncomfortable and asking to "wrestle" with him or to "hit him back," he is looking for the vulnerable students who will let him do more. Wake Up. The man was diseased and everyone knew it. Back then we just didn't know what to do about it. He did this to everyone, you do not need to do any heavy research. How far did he go? That is the question, my guess is that whichever unfortunate kids actually took him up on his offers to go to his house for weekends felt the brunt of his perversions.

I just sent a note to the paper after looking through the print edition, complaining that there is almost nothing there about this story. I am glad that there is at least something on the web. But this story demands a full investigative hearing and not just a few posts. I am really shocked that you have ceded the playing field on this to The Forward.

Wouldn't you know that the Jewish Week would have something to say about this having been out-scooped by the Forward. The simple truth apparently is that some boys refused to wear Tzitzis and were "persecuted" ie "checked" all the time for Tzitzis. These same boys grew up to be whiny irreligious or semi-irreligious kids who come to shul for Musaf on Shabbos, if at all, and wasted their parents' hard-earned cash on Yeshiva High School which they hated as much as the irreligious boys hated Talmud Torah. Given an opportunity by an enterprising Foreward "investigative" (ie looking to make trouble for Orthodox Jews) reporter they cried and wailed about how miserable they were. Rabbi Pruzansky's article is a beacon of light in this matter. Put up or shut up - and do it before the Statue of Limitations has run to give everyone involved a fair shot.

If you think this is all about tzitzis checks you are either not following the story or are willfully blind to clearcut allegations of full-blown physical and sexual abuse. Your insensitive "put up or shut up" remark to victims of abuse is reflective of the reason so many of them don't want to come forward at all.

People have come forward and are willing to be named in these allegations. That is not hearsay.

If you have been following the story carefully you would know that the alleged assaults happened in the 70s and 80s so that your recollections about MTA in the 60s is not really relevant.

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