38 sexual abuse victims to sue Yeshiva University

The victims were allegedly abused by two staff members during the 1970s and 1980s

By
August 22, 2019 21:07
A view of Yeshiva University

A view of Yeshiva University. (photo credit: SCALIGERA/ENGLISH WIKIPEDIA)

At least 38 former students of  Yeshiva University High School for Boys filed a civil lawsuit for sexual abuse on Thursday in the New York Supreme Court.

One of the group’s lawyers, Kevin Mulhearn, said that the victims were sexually abused at YUHSB (also known as MTA: the Manhattan Talmudical Academy) by a teacher and a principal from the 1970’s through the 80’s.

Mulhearn’s clients have tried multiple times over the last few years to bring legal action against YU, but the lawsuits were dismissed in court on the technical grounds of statute of limitations.

In February of this year, however, the Child Victims Act (CVA) became law in the State of New York.

Under the new law, there is an extended statute of limitations which gives victims of childhood sexual abuse until age 55, rather than age 23, to commence a civil lawsuit.

Additionally, the law created a one-year “look-back window,” during which old claims that had already passed the statute of limitations could be revived.

The law went into effect on August 14. This claim is expected to be one of the largest filings in NY under the Child Victims Act against a New York private school to date.

According to the summons and complaint document, “starting in 1971 and spanning several decades, George Finkelstein, an assistant principal, associate principal and then principal of YUHS, repeatedly sexually abused multiple student victims.”

The documents claim that the Yeshiva University and MTA administrators “refused to take action against Finkelstein, never reported him to law enforcement authorities, and – despite actual knowledge of his propensity to sexually assault children – never took any significant measures to prevent Finkelstein’s future abuse of children.”

It is alleged that Finkelstein also “specifically targeted vulnerable boys for physical and sexual abuse.”

“He preyed upon children of Holocaust survivors and after he abused them, implored these children to not add to their parents’ suffering by telling them about his assaults,” the document continues. “Finkelstein also used his power as an [MTA] administrator to try and keep his victims from reporting his sexual assaults to their parents and other authorities.”

Finkelstein, it claims, reportedly threatened to accuse his victims of cheating, to lower their grades, or otherwise harm their scholastic futures, if they reported his assaults to their parents or other authorities.

The document also alleges that MTA Judaic Studies faculty member Rabbi Macy Gordon, who was employed by YU as a Judaic Studies teacher from the mid-1950s to 1984, also repeatedly sexually abused students.

“He was, however, not reported to law enforcement authorities even after various victims came forward [beginning, upon information and belief, in the mid-1950s and 1960s] with detailed [and horrifying] complaints of his sexual abuse of children.”

In a disturbing account, the document reports that, “Gordon was vicious and sadistic in his abuse” and, on one occasion reported in 1980, “Gordon sprayed a young boy’s genital area with Chloraseptic and then violently shoved a toothbrush [with toothpaste] up the boy’s rectum.”

After the boy and his father reported this to YU’s administration, it “failed to notify law enforcement officials of Gordon’s criminal acts, and failed to warn any students, parents or prospective students that Gordon was a known sexual predator.”

Gordon proceeded to sexually assault “at least two more [MTA] students during his tenure at the school,” the document claims.

SEVERAL OF the 38 victims have chosen not to remain anonymous, sharing their accounts in the documents together with the other 34 victims whose accounts of abuse are also stated.

All 38 make it clear that the sexual abuse has caused them serious harm and that they have suffered life-long trauma.

One of the plaintiffs – Barry Singer, who attended MTA from 1972 to 1975 – alleged that during that time, he was sexually abused on multiple occasions by Finkelstein both in public and private areas of the school.

“Having frequently rebuffed Finkelstein’s advances throughout his first two years at the school, Singer was attacked by Finkelstein in a stairwell in front of other students, while changing classes,” the document states. “Bursting out of a doorway on the fourth floor, Finkelstein grabbed [him] from behind, spun him around and pushed him over the stair railing, while groping [his] genital region,” claiming it was a tzitzit (fringes) check.

He allegedly abused Singer at least six or seven times.

Gordon also allegedly abused Singer emotionally during his time at the school and, according to the document, groped the student publicly, also claiming it was a tzitzit check.

“Singer has battled severe emotional distress and pain throughout his adult life” because of the trauma he endured from both Finkelstein and Gordon.

Another plaintiff was allegedly subjected to sexual abuse by Finkelstein on multiple occasions between 1983 and 1984.

“He has suffered from emotional distress, mental anguish, severe depression, guilt, anxiety, relationship issues and various other afflictions,” the document states.

A third victim, David Bressler, also alleged that he was sexually abused multiple times by Finkelstein, who put his hands down his pants claiming to be doing a tzitzit check, would call him to his office and “often press his body against Bressler’s under the guise of wrestling.”

After refusing to go to one-on-one classes with Finkelstein during the summer, which the rabbi said were regarding “pretextual school issues,” Bressler was expelled from the high school.

The summons and complaint document states that Bressler “suffered severe emotional and physical consequences” following the abuse, as well as having been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder,” among other lifelong damage he has suffered.

Mordechai Twersky was also a victim of Finkelstein’s sexual abuse in 1980, in both his office and home. For years, he tried multiple avenues to confront the school’s leaders on the matter, but to no avail. He also suffered severe emotional damage from the sexual abuse.

Zachary Belil, a fifth plaintiff, was subjected to similar abuse by Finkelstein, and was also abused on school premises and at the teacher’s apartment.

“Finkelstein lured Belil to his apartment by telling him he needed to receive tutoring,” the document states. “When Belil would answer Finkelstein’s questions incorrectly, Finkelstein would wrestle Belil down to the floor, get on top of him and rub his erect penis all over Belil’s body, including his backside and legs.”

Belil turned to drugs as a result of the sexual abuse he suffered.

The anonymous plaintiffs shared similar accounts of sexual abuse to those suffered by Singer, Goldberg and others who have identified Gordon and Finkelstein in the summons and complaint document.

Yeshiva University did not immediately return a request for comment on the matter.


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