For many reasons, this was a sad week in our country. The obvious reasons loom over Newtown, Connecticut and words cannot express how sad and empty we all feel. There are no good answers when children are harmed, much worse killed. They are the most vulnerable among us and they look to us; they rely on those older, wiser and hopefully more reasoned to keep them safe and guide them into adulthood so that they can do the same. We have failed in so many ways.
When the school that I attended as a teenager was exposed in the Forward and then the New York Times this week for having allegedly covered up or somehow given passes to faculty misconduct toward the students, my heart dropped. This “great” institution of learning and Jewish continuity was shamed in public, and all of the memories I have as a young man came flooding in. My heart, however, did not drop for the disgrace Yeshiva University faces, it dropped because somehow I think that perhaps I might have been disgraced, too.
You see, I knew the stories of Rabbi Finkelstein all too well. People close to me were his targets; I also knew people who were chosen more often than others; I also knew that “everyone” at school knew it, too. Yet did I, did my friends, do all they could to call attention to it? Was it a 14, 15, 16, or 17 year old’s responsibility to that?
That is what gets me. This was not a new revelation in the mid nineties when Rabbi Lamm apparently asked this principal to leave quietly. That might have been the tipping point, when a parent finally threatened to expose the school for the shenanigans that went on there for what seems to be over two decades. It certainly was not news to anyone.