Rabbi George Finkelstein has resigned his position at the Great Jerusalem Synagogue after the Forward reported that he had sexually abused students at Yeshiva University High School for Boys in Manhattan during the 1970s and ‘80s.
“He sent us an email saying he’s resigning because he does not want to expose the Great Synagogue to embarrassment,” Zalli Jaffe, the synagogue’s vice president, said in an interview. Finkelstein had served as the institution’s executive director since 2001; last month, he began serving as its ritual director.
Jaffe said that the resignation was received on Thursday, “immediately following the publication” of the Forward’s investigation. The correspondence came from France, where Finkelstein is currently vacationing.
Around the same time as Finkelstein resigned, senior staff of the Orthodox Union in America and Jerusalem held a teleconference regarding the position of the other Y.U. high school staff member investigated by the Forward, Rabbi Macy Gordon. They decided to impose a “leave of absence” on Gordon’s teaching duties at the OU Israel Center in Jerusalem, where he gives a weekly class on the laws of the Sabbath, Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, OU executive vice president emeritus, told the Forward on December 16.
He said that the unilaterally-imposed leave of absence will last until the OU can “clarify exactly what happened.” This is in spite of the fact that the OU has “to presume that he’s innocent until we find out more about it.”
Weinreb said: “When we became aware of the news article we felt we had to investigate ourselves to see what kind of credence to give [the claims].” He stressed that the allegations were dated to a time before Gordon started teaching at the OU.
He said of Gordon: “I know that he has no memory of the alleged incident whatsoever.”
The dramatic news came as five more men have stepped forward to say they were inappropriately touched and suffered emotional and sexual abuse at the high school.