With a New York law, the Child Victims Act, taking effect last week that modified the state’s statute of limitations surrounding sexual abuse, 38 former students have sued Yeshiva University, alleging they were sexually abused by three rabbis and other school staff from the mid-1950s through 1986.
Five of the plaintiffs are named in the civil lawsuit, filed on Thursday, against Yeshiva University, Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy, which is YU’s high school; board members of both institutions; former YU chancellor Rabbi Norman Lamm; and Rabbi Robert Hirt, a former vice president of its rabbinical school.
The act allows victims in New York one year to file civil lawsuits, no matter when the alleged sexual abuse transpired.
At a news conference in New York on Thursday, lawyers for the plaintiffs accused YU of inaction, even though it received numerous complaints of sexual abuse spanning over a three-decade period.
Five staff members are accused of allegedly abusing the students, though lawyers said that principal George Finkelstein, who was promoted in the 1980s and named “Educator of the Year” in 1985, and Jewish-studies teacher Macy Gordon did the majority of the abuse.
Gordon died in 2017.
“The lawsuit says Finkelstein repeatedly groped boys, and that he specifically targeted the children of Holocaust survivors, telling them they would add to their parents’ suffering if they told them of the abuse. Gordon, a teacher, is being accused of sodomizing multiple young boys in a ‘vicious and sadistic’ manner using objects, the suit says. Both men have denied the allegations,” reported the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Both YU and MTA declined to comment to JTA.
“Our clients have patiently waited for years to get through the courthouse door to obtain the justice they so rightly deserve,” Kevin Mulhearn, one of the attorneys representing the victims, said in a statement.
“For decades, Yeshiva University was aware of the pervasive problem of sexual abuse by its employees, including high-profile, revered rabbis who were serial sexual predators; and yet it consciously chose to take no action to protect our clients and other vulnerable high school students.”
Mulhearn, says the lawsuit is the largest filed currently under the Child Victim’s Act.
Citing an expired statute of limitations, in 2014 a New York District Court judge dismissed a lawsuit by 36 students alleging sexual abuse at MTA.