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“Toward the conclusion of the meeting I got into an exchange with Berman, and I mentioned that I was a victim of his shul’s director general,” Twersky said. “Berman said he didn’t believe what I was alleging.” (Berman said he recalled a conversation with Twersky, but not what the conversation was about.)
The following month, Twersky filed a complaint against Finkelstein with Takana, a Jerusalem-based forum made up of educators, rabbis, yeshiva heads, lawyers and therapists who deal with allegations of sexual harassment and abuse made against clergy.
After hearing Twersky’s testimony, Takana met with several members of the Great Synagogue leadership who said they would look into the matter.
Zalli Jaffe, the Great Synagogue’s vice president, said the board took the allegations raised by Takana “very seriously.” But Finkelstein’s denial and the fact that he was able to become principal of the Hillel school after leaving Y.U. were seen as proof that he was innocent.
Jaffe, a commercial lawyer, said the synagogue had always believed the Israeli police investigation and the Takana investigation to be about the same allegation. He said he was surprised at the time that Israeli police would investigate allegations of abuse decades earlier in the U.S., but that he was “stunned” by the Forward’s suggestion that the police investigation referred to allegations of incidents in the synagogue.
He said that the synagogue had “no reason to suspect anything” when Finkelstein was employed at the synagogue, and that if Finkelstein was providing guidance to anyone in Jerusalem it would have been “outside his position” as director general.
Finkelstein retired from his post as director general of the Great Synagogue last summer, slipping into a lesser role of ritual director. He resigned from that post in December after the Forward published its first story detailing allegations against him.
Nathan Jeffay contributed to this story from Jerusalem.