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“Rabbi Gedalia [George Finkelstein] began to wrestle me and told me he is doing it in order to strengthen me and develop my self-confidence,” the man said in a 2009 police statement obtained by the Forward and translated from Hebrew into English.
“I remember one time in particular when he hugged me against my will, about a year ago at his home, and pulled me close to him and I was completely passive,” the statement continued.
“[Finkelstein] pushed me to the floor and I was on my knees facing the floor and he was behind me with his chest on my back. He put his body very close to mine and I think he could not get any closer than that.”
“I think he enjoyed it,” the man continued. “He was breathing heavily and I said to him ‘enough, what are you doing?’ and he stood up and I felt very angry and sexually abused.”
Israeli police dropped the case because of insufficient evidence, according to a letter sent by police to the man in 2010.
Finkelstein did not respond to several requests for comment.
More than one dozen former students who attended the Y.U.-run high school during the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s have told the Forward that Finkelstein had emotionally or physically abused them.
Finkelstein would try to wrestle with students in a Y.U. school office or at his home. Several students said Finkelstein told them that he loved them and that they could feel his erect penis rub up against them while they were pinned to the floor.
In a December interview, Rabbi Norman Lamm, the former president of Yeshiva University, told the Forward that during his tenure — from 1976 to 2003 — he dealt with allegations of “improper sexual activity” against staff members by quietly allowing them to leave and to find jobs elsewhere.
Lamm, a revered figure in Modern Orthodoxy and the current chancellor of Y.U., told the Forward that Finkelstein was forced out of the high school because of the wrestling. “He knew we were going to ask him to leave,” Lamm said.
Lamm said that Y.U. did not inform the Florida school about Finkelstein’s wrestling because “the responsibility of a school in hiring someone is to check with the previous job. No one checked with me about George.” Reached at his home on February 25, Lamm declined to respond to allegations that there were subsequent wrestling incidents after Finkelstein left Y.U.
Y.U.’s knowledge of Finkelstein’s problematic behavior did not stop the school from honoring him upon his departure. At Y.U.’s annual tribute dinner, held in March 1995 at the New York Hilton hotel in Manhattan, Lamm presented Finkelstein and his wife, Fredda, with the Heritage Award “for 25 years of dedicated service.”