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Asked why Y.U. honored Finkelstein despite forcing him out because of the wrestling, a Y.U. spokesman said: “As you are aware, everything is being independently investigated by outside counsel who will make their report when the investigation is fully finished.” The spokesman did not respond to a request for details about how the investigation is proceeding and when it might be complete.
Finkelstein took up his post at the Hillel school in Florida in 1995. Many former students and school officials in Florida, including staff and board members, remember Finkelstein as a positive influence. “We had no difficulties with Rabbi Finkelstein whatsoever,” said Martin Hoffman, president of the Hillel board when Finkelstein was hired.
Samuel Maya, 30, a former Hillel student, said Finkelstein was “an incredible person and one of the kindest men I have ever met in my entire life. I have a lot of friends that spent a lot of time with him and never once did I hear one complaint about him,” Maya added.
Another former student, Elie Yudewitz, said that he spent a lot of time at Finkelstein’s home in North Miami Beach and he never saw or heard of Finkelstein wrestling. However, Yudewitz said that rumors about Finkelstein wrestling with boys in New York began to trickle down from former Y.U. high school students to Florida during the late 1990s.
A former Hillel staff member, who requested anonymity, said: “The kids went to convention or camp and they met kids from Y.U. and they asked, ‘Did Finkelstein touch you already?’”
Yudewitz and Maya said Finkelstein often invited boys to stay over at his house during Shabbat. Such behavior was typical for a Jewish educator trying to persuade students to become more observant.
It was during one such sleepover that one former Hillel student said Finkelstein asked him to wrestle.
Even before then, the former student recalled, Finkelstein had taken a particular interest in him. Finkelstein often told the boy that he loved him and, when he called him into his school office, he hugged him “a little bit closer than a normal person might hug.”