38 former students at Yeshiva University High School in New York City joined together to sue the all-boys Jewish school, saying the institution’s leadership ignored allegations of repeated sexual abuse against children.
The lawsuit comes amid a flurry of child sex abuse cases, stemming from nearly every religious denomination but primarily the Roman Catholic Church, as a result of a new state law that created a one-year window for child sex abuse-related lawsuits that had previously been banned due to the statute of limitations.
The students here all attended the school between 1953 and 1992:
The lawsuit accuses former principal George Finkelstein of targeting the children of Holocaust survivors and then imploring them “to not add to their parents’ suffering by telling them about his assaults.”
Like Finkelstein, several more former faculty members, including a dorm counselor, rabbis and teachers are also named in the lawsuit as alleged abusers, though they are not defendants. Kevin Mulhearn, an attorney for the plaintiffs, told CNN none of the alleged abusers are named as defendants because they couldn’t be found, though he may amend the complaint if he’s able to track any of them down. Mulhearn said Finkelstein has lived in Israel for years and is thus outside jurisdiction.
Among the plaintiffs are Barry Singer, who said he wasn’t fully aware of his abuse until he had children himself, as well as Jay Goldberg, a 54-year-old software developer who says he was abused in a rabbi’s office.
Jay Goldberg walked into the stone building just east of the Harlem River in Manhattan for his first day of school 38 years ago, a 16-year-old excited to attend the famed Yeshiva University High School for Boys. But Goldberg says he would soon spend hours being sexually abused in a rabbi’s office at the prep school.
“At the time, I told nobody,” he said at a Thursday news conference in New York. “I didn’t have anybody to tell. He was the person of authority; he controlled the day-to-day activities in school.”
After he graduated, Goldberg says, he endured years of nightmares about the rabbi with thick-framed glasses and a beard, finding his emotions so uncontrollable that he once broke his own hand.
Whether they get the justice they’re hoping for remains to be seen. Still, the fact that these lawsuits are being filed at all is an indication of just how prevalent child sex abuse may have been in religious institutions. The victims were expected to keep silent — and many did, for decades. At least until lawmakers gave them this opportunity to fight back.