Yeshiva U. Rabbi George Finkelstein Acted Inappropriately Even After Ouster

Wrestled With Boys in New Posts in Florida and Jerusalem


By Paul Berger

Published February 28, 2013, issue of March 08, 2013.
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When the Forward tried to contact the Hillel school in December, the school’s chief operating officer, Rafael Quintero, did not return multiple calls and emails for comment.

On February 20, the Forward sent an email to Quintero and to other Hillel officials alerting them to the 1999 incident involving their former student. The email asked what, if anything, the Hillel school had done to investigate Finkelstein’s employment at the school and to ascertain whether students were harmed.

No one responded to the email or to subsequent calls to Quintero and head of school, Rabbi Pinchos Hecht.

Allegations of Finkelstein’s inappropriate behavior preceded him when he applied for the job of director general of Jerusalem’s Great Synagogue, in 2001.

The Great Synagogue was concerned enough that its board launched an investigation and was twice reassured by a Y.U. “authority” that the rumors were baseless, according to Zev Lanton, the synagogue’s director general. Lanton told the Forward in December that after seeking legal advice the synagogue could not reveal the name of the Y.U. official who vouched for Finkelstein.

But in a statement released the same month Lanton said: “We would like to emphasize that during the ten years in which Rabbi Finkelstein served the synagogue, there was never any hint, direct or indirect, of any inappropriate behavior on his part.”

Finkelstein did inform the synagogue a few years prior to the statement that he had been summoned by police in Jerusalem regarding “a complaint reiterating the original allegation,” the statement said — apparently referring to allegations that Finkelstein abused a student in New York.

But the police report obtained by the Forward shows that the summons related to a complaint that Finkelstein assaulted a young man over a period of two-and-a-half years in Finkelstein’s home and inside the Great Synagogue.

The man who filed the complaint said he had family problems and few real friends when Finkelstein befriended him after he emigrated from Israel to America in 2005. “I remember [Finkelstein] saying, ‘I can play the role of father for you,’” the man, now 29, recalled in a telephone interview with the Forward.


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