view counter
YU President Calls Abuse Allegations 'Reprehensible'
Photo Galleria: 

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."

Last Update:

01/19/2013 - 18:58
George Finkelstein, Norman Lamm, Richard Joel, sexual abuse, Yeshiva University
The Jewish Week App -- Now Available!
view counter


The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

Comment Guidelines

The Jewish Week feels comments create a valuable conversation and wants to feature your thoughts on our website. To make everyone feel welcome, we won't publish comments that are profane, irrelevant, promotional or make personal attacks.

Please consider signing this petition urging YU to commit to releasing a full and transparent report of its investigative findings. This is something victims have been requesting to ensure that there is no more ennabling and colluding with regard to hiding sexual abuse and that their hearings are fully taken into account. Full release of the finding will ensure healing of the past and implementation of new policies to protect students in the future.

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 &
T&M Protection Resources

I graduated MTA in 1992 and the allegations against George Finklestein are absolutely true. He was a very sick man who called me out of class, back me against a wall and would repeatedly ask, "So, when are you and I gonna wrestle, huh? When we gonna roll around on the mat - just you and me? Cmon, I'm gonna take you down" while getting really close and in my face, and pushing my chest and shoulders. This would go on for 5 minutes or so, probably around once every other week. I never let it go further, and as a 9th or 10th grader, didn't have the wherewithal to report it, but needless to say, it was very uncomfortable. There were others I know who had it much worse, but I'll let them speak for themselves (and some have in the Forward).

As time goes on, you move on with your life and don't think of these things much, but whenever his name came up, I couldn't help but wonder but the secret that so many of us knew wasn't out. The attention it is getting is very long overdue.

I attended MTA and knew Rabbi Gordon and especially Rabbi Finkelstein. Both Rabbis were exceptionally kind to me, both welcomed me into their homes to share shabbat with their families, and I personally experienced the avid interest which they took in my own, and as far as I saw in each and every student's academic and personal growth. Never did either of them attempt any inappropriate advances on me; on the contrary, each and every encounter with these fine educators was an lesson in middos (manners).
As a disciplinarian I found Rabbi Finkelstein tough but fair and I know I tried his patience to the limit on many occasions but over time he helped me become a mench.
In judging his actions we all owe him and Rabbi Gordon the same fairness
Neal I Mitnick, D.D.S.

Rabbi Lamm is one of the most amazing Rabbis I knew in my life. It does not sound like him and he was one of the most helpful people in my life and my families. My Brother went to MTA with the accused and luckily was not a victim. I am sorry for the vicitms its a Tragedy and the Rabbis that are proven guilty or anyone else for that matter she be put away so they cant harm or hurt others

I've been sick over this ever since I heard about it. I was a student at MTA and YU during the period in question. I remember both Macy Gordon and George Finkelstein very well. But I don't recall anything improper regarding either of them. I certainly never saw anything. Looking back, apparently I was simply naive or oblivious, and that troubles me. While I had nearly no contact with Gordon and can't speak to the accusations against him, Finkelstein was another story. We talked frequently, and he taught my Jewish History class. He had a tremendous rapport with the students, probably because of his age... not much older than the kids he was teaching. There was always a lot of kidding around and laughter. I'm not certain, but I have a vague memory of stories of "wrestling," but never for a minute did I suspect anything. I remember feeling comfortable enough to go to his office one evening to speak to him about a personal problem... though in retrospect I feel lucky that I turned down his offer to drive me home that night. It's most unsettling to learn such awful things about people from the past. I find myself rewriting my own history... and wondering how clueless I really was.

"Innocent Until Proven Guilty." unfortunately never applies to sexual criminal allegations. One is immediately considered 'GUILTY UNTIL PROVEN INNOCENT. '" I can tell you as a police chaplain that many innnocent people have been accused falsely and served time; only later were they found innocent. The person's reputation is ruined and finances depleted. I wonder if Dr. Norman Lamn is being used as the fall guy. I have the greatest respect for him and can only imagine that even if complaints were brought to him, he as president of the university asked others to investigate and take action. It is true that in the late 60's and 70's such instances were handled differently, but now if the allegations are true action should be taken. We should give credit to current President Richard Joel for immediately taking a stand.

Rabbi Dr. Bernhard Rosenberg

Norman Lamm should be removed from any position within the YU family - even if such position is only honorary or titular.

Joe Paterno was fired. So too must Norman Lamm be fired. Shame on YU for allowing this to continue.

Richard Joel spoke with a victim years ago for 20 minutes about the abuse. But did nothing. Did he inform the schools where YU educators accused of abuse went when they left YU? He did not. For 9 years, he did nothing until an expose by the Forward. And then shocked, shocked he said he would investigate. Do you trust him? He should resign.

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.

view counter