Report of ’80s Sexual Abuse Rattles Yeshiva Campus

December 18, 2012 Comments Off on Report of ’80s Sexual Abuse Rattles Yeshiva Campus

Report of ’80s Sexual Abuse Rattles Yeshiva Campus

December 13, 2012

A tall, imposing rabbi with a black goatee who served as assistant principal and principal during his 27 years at Yeshiva University High School for Boys, George B. Finkelstein was the face of authority to Mordechai Twersky, who graduated in 1981.

So when Rabbi Finkelstein asked Mr. Twersky to “hit him hard” during a meeting in his office in 1980, Mr. Twersky said in an interview on Thursday, he was mortified. When Mr. Twersky refused, the rabbi knocked him to the ground and sat on him, goading him to wrestle. He could feel the rabbi’s erection, Mr. Twersky, now 48, said.

Mr. Twersky’s account was published Thursday on the Web site of The Jewish Daily Forward, which also reported that another former student said that in the same year, when he was 16, the Talmud teacher, Rabbi Macy Gordon, visited him in his dormitory room. Rabbi Gordon inspected his genitalia, the student told The Forward. Then he sodomized him with a toothbrush.

Both rabbis have denied engaging in any inappropriate sexual behavior.

Rabbi Gordon’s accuser said his parents had complained to administrators, who promised action but did nothing. Several years later, Mr. Twersky, who said he wrestled with Rabbi Finkelstein twice more, also raised concerns with administrators, and several other students also complained about the rabbi’s wrestling. Yet administrators of Yeshiva University, the prestigious Modern Orthodox institution in Washington Heights that runs the high school, allowed each man to simply leave.

The university president from 1976 to 2003, Norman Lamm, who is now its chancellor, told The Forward that he never notified the police….

On Thursday, as the news spread across the campus shared by the university and the high school, Rabbi Hershel Schachter, 71, said he knew of another staff member who was dismissed for inappropriate behavior with students around the same time. He also said he once knew a university student who said Rabbi Finkelstein had touched him inappropriately, but was afraid to speak out.

Mr. Twersky, now a journalist in Jerusalem, says he threatened to sue in 2000 unless Dr. Lamm publicly apologized or offered compensation, but was rebuffed. A Yeshiva official had said Rabbi Finkelstein’s “condition” would be treated, but nobody at Yeshiva reached out to victims, Mr. Twersky said.

“It dawned upon me that I had not merely been wrestled with and violated, but knowingly abandoned by the high school leadership,” he said Thursday.

That approach was not unusual for the time; an article in The New York Times Magazine in June described how teachers of the prestigious Horace Mann School in the Riverdale section of the Bronx had behaved inappropriately with students around the same era. By the late 1980s, several high-profile cases involving schools and youth organizations had begun to raise awareness of sexual abuse, said David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire….

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