NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — An attorney spoke Tuesday about a lawsuit alleging abuse by trusted teachers at the prestigious Yeshiva University High School for boys.
As CBS 2’s Tony Aiello reported Tuesday, the 148-page lawsuit demands $380 million for pain and suffering.
The school sits like a fortress at 186th Street and Amsterdam Avenue in Upper Manhattan, but 19 former students said the school was no place of safety.
“They were housing known sexual predators who were roaming the hallways looking for new victims to abuse,” said attorney Kevin Mulhearn.
Mulhearn said the abuse started in the 1970s and continued into the 1990s. The allegations accuse two faculty members – Rabbis George Finkelstein and Macy Gordon.
The lawsuit filed Monday claimed the rabbis repeatedly sexually abused male students, sometimes while claiming to be checking if the students were wearing tzitzis – a ritual garment.
In the lawsuit, one alleged victim claimed administrators offered him a deaf ear when he said a Judaic studies teacher had sodomized him with a toothbrush, according to a New York Daily News report.
The lawsuit said Finkelstein also targeted children of Holocaust survivors, and “implored these children not to add to their parents’ suffering by telling them about the assaults.”
Mulhearn said the alleged abuse “caused a lifelong devastating impact to a multitude of boys.”
The lawsuit alleged longtime school leader Norman Lamm ignored complaints, and the abuse continued.
“What they should have done is report this to police,” Mulhearn said. “These are criminal assaults.”
When Lamm retired last week, he wrote, “At the time that inappropriate actions by individuals at Yeshiva were brought to my attention, I acted in a way that I thought was correct, but which now seems ill conceived.”
Professor Bennett Gershman of Pace University Law School said the more allegations of past misconduct are brought to light, “it has a rippling effect. People see complaints are being made, lawsuits are being brought, and they feel that they want to see justice done for the wrongs that happened to them.”
Yeshiva University had no comment Tuesday. But the school has hired a firm to prepare a report on how it handled complaints about Finkelstein and Gordon.
The two rabbis now live in Israel, and have told the Jewish Daily Forward they deny the allegations.
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