By: Sruli Friedman  | 

Judge Rejects YU Motion to Dismiss High School Sexual Assault Case, Allowing Lawsuit to Proceed

A New York judge rejected Yeshiva University’s motion to dismiss a sexual abuse lawsuit being brought by former students of Yeshiva University High School for Boys (YUHSB) last week, allowing the case to proceed after over three years of delay. 

The lawsuit, filed in 2019 and brought by over 40 former YUHSB students, alleges that former YUHSB principal George Finkelstein, faculty member Macy Gordon and dorm counselor Richard Andron sexually abused dozens of students between the 1950s and '90s, with the knowledge of the high school and university and numerous individuals, who failed to take action. The move by Justice Alexander Tisch could potentially lead to the public release of thousands of hours of interview transcripts and other materials from a 2013 investigation by YU into sexual abuse at YUHSB.

“After eleven years of fighting for their rights, my clients are extremely eager to obtain their day in court,” Kevin Mulhearn, the lead lawyer for most of the plaintiffs, who is also representing the plaintiff in YU’s ongoing alleged rape cover-up lawsuit, told The Commentator. “We are also hopeful that the Court’s decision — which was well-reasoned and on all squares with New York law — will help them obtain the justice and accountability from YU which they deserve. I am heartened by their tenacity, perseverance, and fortitude.”

A lawsuit alleging that YU had knowledge of ongoing sexual abuse at YUHSB was originally brought to federal court by 19 plaintiffs in 2013, claiming $380 million in damages. The case was ultimately dismissed in 2014 due to the expired statute of limitations, which at the time in New York generally only permitted victims of childhood sexual abuse to seek civil action until the age of 23. Another case brought by 33 former students in 2015 was also dismissed. In 2019, then-Governor Andrew Cuomo passed the Child Victims Act (CVA) into law, extending the statute of limitations to the age of 55 and removing it entirely for a one-year period, during which the current lawsuit was filed.

YU filed a motion to dismiss the current lawsuit in 2021, arguing that the CVA violated the United States and New York constitutions and that the charges could not be brought following the dismissal of the original cases in 2014 and 2015. During the years this motion was pending, discovery, the process by which parties in a lawsuit can obtain evidence related to the case from each other, was put on hold. 

In 2013, Yeshiva University hired the law firm Sullivan & Cromwell to conduct an independent investigation into the allegations. After thousands of hours of investigating and 145 interviews with YU and YUHSB faculty and staff, a report released by the investigators concluded that “multiple incidents of varying types of sexual and physical abuse took place at YUHSB during the relevant time period … by a number of individuals in positions of authority at the High Schools … including, in certain instances, after members of the administration had been made aware of such conduct.” The investigation also claimed to have found evidence of sexual and physical abuse at other YU schools as well.

The report did not publicize the details of specific interviews carried out by investigators, but during the discovery process it is possible for the judge to compel YU to turn over the information as relevant evidence to the plaintiffs, detailing the knowledge faculty members had of the abuse.

The damages claimed in the original lawsuit with 19 plaintiffs amounted to $380 million. In the previous fiscal year YU’s total expenses amounted to $360 million, and total revenue before expenses was $385 million. It is unclear what the damages could amount to in this case, or whether the institution could afford it without going bankrupt. This comes at a time when many YU professors have not received sufficient raises to keep up with inflation and feel they are insufficiently compensated.

A spokesman for YU told The Commentator that the school “continues to seek resolution while we work through this legal process.” YU did not respond to The Commentator’s inquiry into whether the school would be willing to release the materials from the 2013 investigation. YU also did not say whether it could afford to pay the damages being sued for or whether YU was negotiating with any of the plaintiffs for a settlement.

The lawsuit lists YU, YUHSB, the estate of former YU President Rabbi Norman Lamm, who passed away in 2020, former Vice President of RIETS Rabbi Robert Hirt and over sixty members of the YU and YUHSB board of trustees as defendants.

Gordon, who according to the lawsuit, sexually abused and violently sodomized multiple students between the 1950s and ‘80s, died in 2017 in Israel without ever being charged for his crimes. Finkelstein and Andron still live in Israel, outside of the New York courts’ civil jurisdiction.

The lawsuit becomes harder to conclude as the events of the lawsuit become further in the past and potentially relevant parties and witnesses pass away. 

YU is being represented in this case by the law firm Seyfarth Shaw.


Photo Caption: Zysman Hall, the main building of Yeshiva University High School for Boys (YUHSB)

Photo Credit: The Commentator