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US Jewish university in New York City hit with sexual abuse lawsuit

Barry Singer, left, David Bressler, center, and Jay Goldberg, right, who say they were sexually abused while they were students at Yeshiva University High School for Boys in Manhattan, hold a press conference, Thursday Aug. 22, 2019, in New York. (AP photo)

Dozens of former students of an Orthodox Jewish high school in New York City operated by Yeshiva University have sued over claims they were sexually abused by two prominent rabbis in the 1960s, '70s and '80s.

The suit, filed Thursday in state Supreme Court in Manhattan, alleges that the Yeshiva University High School for Boys failed to protect students and even promoted one of the rabbis to principal after he was accused of abuse.

The lawsuit is one of hundreds that have been filed over child sexual abuse allegations since last week, when New York state created a one-year period to file lawsuits previously barred by the state's statute of limitations.

More than 400 lawsuits have been filed across the state as part of a new child sex abuse law. In New York City, 169 cases were filed.

Thirty-four of the plaintiffs attempted to sue Yeshiva University for sexual abuse and facilitating sexual abuse in 2013 but the case went nowhere because it was barred by the statute of limitations at the time.

During a news conference Thursday, three of the alleged victims spoke about disturbing behavior they say went on for decades.

"I didn't even understand at the time that this was sexual abuse; I just knew that this guy was putting his hands all over me," said Barry Singer, 61, speaking of one of the rabbis he said kept reaching into the boy's pants, even in school hallways.

One of the accused rabbis, George Rabbi Macy Gordon, who taught Jewish studies, allegedly sodomized boys in a "vicious and sadistic" manner using objects, according to the lawsuit. Gordon died in 2017 in Israel.

Another rabbi, George Finkelstein, targeted children of Holocaust survivors, the lawsuit says. Finkelstein was promoted from the school's assistant principal to principal even after some of the boys' parents reported the alleged abuse to school officials, the plaintiffs said.

Like Gordon, Finkelstein also moved to Israel, where he worked at a synagogue.

Yeshiva University, which calls itself "the world's premier Jewish institution for higher learning," has trained both secular and religious leaders for the past century.

The Yeshiva University High School for Boys has taught boys since 1916. It's considered the first academic Jewish high school in the US and the first to offer both Jewish and secular studies.

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