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

Your confused response to my post only adds to my suspicion that certain aspects of the bawdy allegations concerning George lack credibility. However, if the burgeoning demand for an independent investigation is heeded, you and others may finally have an opportunity to discuss your experiences. As of now, given your extremely poor prose, the only aspect of your allegations that I find credible is that you were a student at MTA.

I would like to know what would be sufficient proof, and for that matter what would count as abuse. Do the supporters, or those that discount the allegations need medical reports showing actual penetration, or is it enough that the principal would close the door jump on a 14 yr old and in full erection grind his genitals and make noises and breathe deeply and erotically while on top of the teenager. And there is a whole other set of circumstances I heard where george took kids to the basement wrestling room as well.

Where does inappropriate turn into abuse. because i am sure that is what obfuscated many of the facts in this case and why kids and parents sat silently.

Funny the parallel, a weak teenager gets taken advantage of as lamm sits idly by, now a enfeebled lamm gets taken advantage of and is thrown under the bus by YU leadership.
Ironic

I live not 5 blocks from you, and I am a victim of George Finkelstein. The bottom line is that many of us victims selected by Finkelstein were marginalized by our parents and teachers and looked toward Finkelstein as our mentor and champion. I did not share the abuse with my father until 3 years ago, after suffering from emotional and behavioral consequences of this abuse. As in many articles subsequently published by the Forward, several individuals did come forward, and Dr Lamm chose to focus on fundraising rather than on our safety. He claims to have delegated the disposition of Finkelstein to Dr Miller, now deceased. But even this action taken 15 years after Finkelstein abused me and decades after he should have been dismissed. I am shocked by your insensitivity. I too am conflicted by a tremendous loyalty to the Roshei Yeshiva and other positive aspects of YU, but these will never eclipse the damages caused by their willful neglect of Finkelstein's misconduct. I'm now in my late 40s and still have concerns about coming forward, mostly because of people like you, who would place the reputation of YU above the abuse that I suffered. If not for the Forward's attacks on Orthodox Judaism, my abuse would not have had a voice. I'm not a fan of the Forward's motive's or politics, but in this case, YU's motives and politics are equally suspect. It is very sad that the current President of YU chose to use his apology document as a fundraising opportunity listing all of their current anti-abuse programs. And it is insulting that he suggested that we contact YU counselors to help us get through this, rather than offering reimbursement for independent help. The notion that their investigative attorney will not even publish a written report to the YU Bd of Trustees shows that YU is much more interested in creating and protecting a false narrative, and not at all interested in doing the right things by its victims. It's time for you to take a good look at your comments and the damage they cause to the victims.

very sad

Many of you have posted comments concerning sexual abuse that occurred at YUHS. My name is Lisa Friel and I am a former prosecutor from the Manhattan DA’s Office where I was in the Sex Crimes Unit for over 25 years, the last 10 as its Chief. Because of this background, I have been retained to assist the law firm Sullivan & Cromwell LLP in conducting a full and independent investigation of the reported sexual abuse at YU. We have been contacting and interviewing anyone who has any knowledge regarding such abuse. If you have any such knowledge, we want to hear what you have to say. You may contact me in confidence if you choose and your personal information will not be shared with the school unless you grant us permission to do so. Please contact me at your earliest convenience to set up a time we can meet and talk about your experience at YUHS. If you have any questions or concerns about having such a meeting, please call me and let’s talk about them. We truly want to get to the bottom of what happened at YUHS and we hope you will help us do so.

Sincerely yours,
Lisa M. Friel
Vice President
Sexual Misconduct Consulting &
Investigations
T&M Protection Resources
212-417-9160
lfriel@tmprotection.com

I have written a post on this controversy entitled "Communication, Language, and a High School Controversy". It may be found at www.shalombayitblog.wordpress.com. It is fascinating that each opinion sees this issue in stark terms. There are white hats and black hats. (No pun is intended). The fact remains that few controversies are a battle between pure evil and pure righteousness. This is not truth v. falsehood. The truth lies on a continuum. I invite you to read my thoughts at the blog and ponder how this matter might be more appropriate for discussion that is found outside of the comments section of sundry blog sites. Perhaps someone who feels victimized needs to challenge both YU, and fellow aggrieved parties, to have a proper dialogue, outside the virtual world created by internet sites. Until that time will come to pass, little will be gained by these toxic exchanges.

The Jewish Week will Not hesitate to Share a Tragic Story, If you ask them for Proof ... Did you also randomly ask for Proof every time a person asks to hold Memory for 6 million Jews? This is Not Orthodox Bashing, This is Cover up Bashing,

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