"Yeshiva University High School held itself out as an exemplary Jewish secondary school when in fact it was allowing known sexual predators to roam the school at will seeking other victims," said attorney Kevin Mulhearn, who filed the suit on behalf of the 19 plaintiffs. "Childhood sexual abuse in the Orthodox Jewish community can no longer be condoned and excused.”
One victim claims administrators ignored his protests when he told them a Judaic studies teacher sodomized him with a toothbrush. Other victims — the children of Holocaust survivors — say a former principal persuaded them not to tell their parents after he sexually assaulted them because their mothers and fathers had already suffered through so much.
The 148-page lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in White Plains, claims Yeshiva officials ignored and covered up the complaints because they feared the sexual abuse allegations would damage fund-raising efforts and bruise the school's reputation.
But Mulhearn said the clock on the statute of limitations should have stopped ticking because school administrators and officials at Yeshiva University, which operates the high school, engaged in years of fraud by portraying the former Judaic studies teacher and ex-principal as exemplary educators long after Yeshiva officials had received reports of sexual abuse.
Administrators honored former Judaic studies teacher Rabbi Macy Gordon and Rabbi George Finkelstein, the ex-principal, when they left YUHS, and scholarships were awarded in both their names even though officials knew both men "had a propensity to sexually abuse children," according to the lawsuit.
Mulhearn represented 12 men who settled a sex abuse lawsuit in December against Poly Prep Country Day School in Brooklyn. That suit also faced significant statute of limitations challenges. Mulhearn said the legal arguments in the Yeshiva suit are "more developed" than the Poly Prep case.
Gordon and Finkelsetein denied the abuse allegations in stories published by the Jewish Daily Forward in December. Both men now live in Israel. A Yeshiva University spokesman said officials could not comment on the litigation.
Three of the plaintiffs say they were abused by Gordon; one of those men left the school in 1980, shortly after he and his father told a high-ranking school official that Gordon had sodomized him with a toothbrush during a violent assault in the student's YUHS dormitory in Washington Heights.
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