Questions for Yeshiva

The Jewish Daily Forard

Published January 02, 2013, issue of January 04, 2013.

On December 13, the Forward published an explosive story by our Paul Berger detailing how Yeshiva University for years ignored students who claimed that they were sexually abused by two former staff members at Y.U.’s high school for boys in Manhattan. For that story, Berger spoke to four students who voluntarily offered their accounts. Since then, about 20 former students have called or written, and the number keeps growing.

Most of the allegations occurred in the 1970s and 1980s, and the statute of limitations prevents these men from suing the school, so they aren’t looking for money or other compensation. They are seeking answers, though. And so, independently, is the Forward.

Y.U.’s press office has issued several statements, including a sort-of apology and an offer of counseling to any former student who thinks he needs it. But Y.U. President Richard Joel has declined repeated requests for comment. Not so its chancellor and former president, Norman Lamm, but he left us even more confused, by acknowledging in an interview with the Forward that he knew of some of the allegations and let at least one of the alleged abusers leave quietly.

Why? Why was Rabbi George Finkelstein, a long-time teacher who rose to become principal, allowed to leave Y.U. in 1995 and become dean of a Jewish day school in Florida? Here was a man who has been accused by numerous students of inappropriate wrestling, kissing and simulated sex. And when the Jerusalem Great Synagogue said it hired Finkelstein in 2001 after being assured by Y.U. officials that the rumors of sexual abuse were false, who was responsible? Just because Finkelstein resigned his synagogue post after the initial Forward story was published does not erase the pressing need for answers.

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