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Both men, who currently live in Israel, deny the allegations against them.
Lamm said he had no recollection of accusations made against Gordon, who served at the school for 28 years. But he did remember that Finkelstein was forced out of Y.U.’s high school in 1995 following accusations that he had inappropriate contact with students by wrestling with them in a high school office. Finkelstein, who worked at Y.U. for 27 years, subsequently took a post as dean of the Samuel Scheck Hillel Community Day School, in North Miami Beach, Fla. In 2001, he immigrated to Israel where he became executive director of the Jerusalem Great Synagogue, where he served until stepping aside in November to become the synagogue’s ritual director.
“When [the wrestling] came up, [Finkelstein] had decided to leave because he knew we were going to ask him to leave,” said Lamm, who at 85 is a revered scholar, rabbi and communal leader. Asked why the university did not inform the Florida school about Finkelstein’s behavior, Lamm said: “The responsibility of a school in hiring someone is to check with the previous job. No one checked with me about George.”
Y.U., a 116-year-old institution, is perhaps the pre-eminent institution of Modern Orthodoxy, blazing a trail for Joseph Soloveitchik’s vision of “Torah Umadda,” or “Torah and secular knowledge,” the university motto. It includes several undergraduate and graduate schools, such as the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, as well as affiliated institutions such as the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary and the Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy Yeshiva University High School for Boys.
The very reverence with which the university and its staff is held by so many families made it all the more difficult for students to come forward with allegations of abuse.
One man interviewed by the Forward who asked not to be named said that in 1980, when he was a 16-year-old student at Y.U.’s high school, Gordon visited him in his dorm room after he skipped class.