Eleven More Claim Sexual Abuse at Yeshiva University's High School

By Rachel Monahan (NY Daily News)
December 24, 2012

More victims of two creepy rabbis at Yeshiva University’s high school have come forward with claims that the shocking sexual misconduct spanned more than two decades and affected at least a dozen students.

The alleged abuse, by former principal Rabbi George Finkelstein, started as early as 1972 and continued until the mid-1990s, the Jewish newspaper the Forward revealed after 11 more former students stepped forward.

Three more former students said they suffered at the hands of Talmud teacher Rabbi Macy Gordon, who, in one case, allegedly penetrated a boy using a device from a medical cabinet — an eerie parallel to a previous revelation.

“I have a very strong feeling that Finkelstein should be punished even though he’s old,” Ivan Hartstein, 48 and a 1982 graduate at the school, told the Daily News, while also calling for for Yeshiva University to explain how the abuse was covered up.

“You want to be idealist and say that institution founded on the Torah — the law of God — would do the right thing. You would, of course, be wrong.”

University President Richard Joel issued a carefully worded apology after the first published reports of abuse earlier this month, but did not confirm any of the allegations.

In an update, he announced the university’s board had hired the white-shoe law firm Sullivan & Cromwell to assist in an ongoing internal investigation. Joel also said he would be willing to talk with former students directly.

“I welcome the opportunity to personally and confidentially discuss any issues with anyone who may have suffered harm,” he said in a statement.

It was well-known among students that Finkelstein had a penchant for sexually charged wrestling, former alumni have told The News. Hartstein said Finkelstein first crossed the line of inappropriate behavior by feeling his back on a daily basis to make sure he was wearing his tzitzit — the traditional Jewish undergarment.

But the allege abuse escalated when Finkelstein insisted Hartstein come to his home for extra tutoring. As punishment for not knowing answers, Finkelstein said he would wrestle the boy to the ground.

“I was down on the ground pretty quickly. I felt his erection pressing against my (back) and his breath against my neck,” said Hartstein, now a business owner in upstate New York, noting he escaped the rabbi’s clutches quickly. “I was a really scared kid. I had bad stuff going on in my family life. . . . Maybe he saw me as someone who wouldn’t put up a fight.”

In an essay published earlier this year, former student Mordechai Twersky recounted how he had approached Yeshiva University officials multiple times, seeking to address the issue.

Another former student Simeon Weber told the Forward he first talked with a high school board chairman, who later removed the door to Finkelstein’s office. Weber said he also approached Robert Hirt, now a university vice president emeritus, who wouldn’t even listen to the allegation.

“It was like I was abused all over again,” Weber told the Forward. Gordon and Finkelstein have denied the allegations.

Norman Lamm, former university president, admitted to the Forward earlier this month that Finkelstein was forced out over inappropriate wrestling with students and that he never went to police.