Yeshiva University has declined to say if it will make public the results of an investigation into sexual abuse allegations at its Manhattan high school despite former students’ fears about the scope, openness and motivation behind the probe.
In a statement to the Forward, released January 8, a Y.U. representative promised “a full and completely independent investigation,” but declined to say what will happen to the work now being conducted by an international law firm hired by the university. In a follow-up statement issued the next morning, the representative said that after the investigation was complete, the board expected that it “will be in further communication with the public.” He declined to explain what that means.
Y.U. launched its investigation after the Forward published allegations by three former students that they had been abused by Rabbi George Finkelstein, who served at Y.U.’s High School for Boys from 1968 to 1995, where he rose to become principal. Another student said that he had been abused by a Talmud teacher, Rabbi Macy Gordon, who taught at the school from 1956 to 1984.
Immediately following the story, Finkelstein resigned from his executive position at the Jerusalem Great Synagogue, and Gordon was placed on indefinite leave from his teaching position in Jerusalem.
In the weeks that followed, more than a dozen former students contacted the Forward to say that they had been sexually, emotionally or physically abused by Gordon or Finkelstein. Y.U.’s board of trustees hired a top international law firm, Sullivan & Cromwell, to investigate the allegations, and within days investigators began calling former students to invite them in for an interview.
But former students and legal experts who are experienced in abuse cases have raised concerns about Y.U.’s refusal to tell victims whether the report will ever be publicly released. Some fear it is a public relations ploy or intended to guard against potential lawsuits rather than to investigate how Y.U. staff members may have physically, emotionally and sexually abused boys over almost three decades, despite complaints from students and their families.