An Interview with Plaintiffs' Attorney Kevin Mulhearn on the YU Sexual Assault Case 

By: Emily Goldberg Shira Kramer  |  May 14, 2024

By Emily Goldberg, Publication Manager and Layout Editor, and Shira Kramer, Senior Opinions Editor and Social Media Manager

Yeshiva University is no stranger to sexual abuse court cases. With numerous cases in discovery, YU has become extremely comfortable in the Supreme Court of the State of New York. Predictably, YU filed a motion to dismiss these sexual abuse lawsuits. However, on April 2, 2024, the motion was rejected by New York Supreme Court Justice Alexander Tisch, allowing the case to proceed.  

Recently, the YU Observer interviewed lead counsel for the plaintiffs, Kevin Mulhearn, to find out more about these cases. As the lead counsel on the Twersky, et al. v. Yeshiva University case, Mulhearn works daily to fight for the voices of former YU students. 

“This is a really bad case in that the sexual abuse that my guys suffered was pretty extensive,” Mulhearn told the YU Observer. “It’s been a long, long journey.”

A lawsuit was filed in 2019 against YU by over 40 plaintiffs, men who were former students of Yeshiva University High School for Boys (YUHSB), alleging that they had been sexually abused by former YUHSB principal Rabbi George Finkelstein, as well as by Macy Gordon, a Talmud teacher at the school, and Richard Andron, a dorm counselor. These cases range from the 1950s to the 1990s, and the lawsuit alleges that the high school knew about this conduct and ignored it in place of taking an appropriate response. 

Before 2019, sexual abuse cases in New York could only be filed within three years of the incident. In 2019, the statute of limitations was extended, and this number was increased to twenty years after the date of the incident. 

“In 2019, when the legislature passed the New York Child Victims Act, [this] revived previously time barred claims,” explained Mulhearn. Consequently, the Supreme Court of the State of New York offered a “one-year lookback window” for all cases, even those extending more that 20 years. 

“The judge just decided the motion to dismiss; I was heartened by that decision.” said Mulhearn, who represents more than 49 plaintiffs in this case. “The plaintiffs would love to get this case resolved, and have YU recognize its responsibility and [take] some accountability for its conduct.” 

The YU Office of the General Counsel has yet to respond to multiple requests for comment by the YU Observer about their stance on the court’s decision. 

Mulhearn was unable to confirm if any of the cases are attempting to be settled at this time. 

He also decided not to answer the YU Observer’s questions on the similarities between this case and Jane Doe v. Yeshiva University. This case was filed in 2023, when an anonymous Stern College student alleged that a student basketball player raped her in 2021. 

Mulhearn, who has also represented numerous clients besides for the plaintiffs from this case, believes that schools such as YU fail to make protecting kids their top priority. Oftentimes, institutions like YU wrongfully prioritize protecting their own reputations and administrators first. But safeguarding children should always be the most important concern for schools.  

“The secondary consideration is to protect the kids,” said Mulhearn. “They’re all vulnerable. They’re all easy prey to a predator who has an idea of what he wants to do.” 

Many would expect YU, an institution founded on the principles of Torah, to act differently. Yet, regarding these incidents in the past YU failed to uphold these religious principles they claim to hold dearly. Even today, YU’s actions regarding this case continue to counter their Torah values.   

 “YU’s conduct at the time was pretty reprehensible because they had the ability to take more appropriate action, and they didn’t,” reflected Mulhearn, who was raised Roman Catholic. “I think Torah values and Jewish values as a rule are exemplary,” he said. 

“What I haven’t seen is Torah in action on this case yet. I’m hoping that might change.”

For these students, attending a religious institution is an extremely important part of their Jewish upbringing and education. The experience of learning in a Yeshiva often serves as the foundation for their religious identities, a crucial part in their “development” as young Jewish men. 

“The fact that these kids went in there, with their parents’ blessings, and with trust in the institution… to have that betrayed like this is particularly galling,” said Mulhearn.  

Mulhearn believes that schools such as YU must be careful to ensure that they prioritize their students’ safety. “No matter what the setting, no matter how great the reputation of an educator is, no matter how much they’re revered or respected by the institution… you always have to be careful to be on the lookout for behavior that is unsettling and potentially criminal,” he said. “Be very careful: respect authority, but don’t defer to authority.”

The fact that such incidents occurred at YU is extremely disheartening to Mulhearn. The lives of many of the plaintiffs have been detrimentally impacted by the abuse they endured. It is extremely important to continue to raise awareness about such cases, especially within the orthodox Jewish community, so that they never happen again. 

“The damages inflicted by a child sex predator is enormous, and incalculable, and far too often irreparable, and it’s a real tragedy that this was allowed to have occurred,” said Mulhearn. “It’s our hope that by shining a light on this, a lot less child sex abuse will occur, particularly in school settings, in the future.”  

Specifically, he would like to see YU work hard to ensure that such crimes never happened in its halls again. For Mulhearn, the opportunity to represent the plaintiffs in this case does not only mean advocating for them personally, but also striving to raise awareness and create positive change for future generations. 

“It’s my hope that YU and other schools have learned their lessons and are much more on the lookout for this,” he said. “I think it would make me feel good if we realized, at the end of the day, that because of our advocacy work, schools like YU are taking more aggressive and proactive stances to prevent this from happening in the future.” 

Although they still have a long and hard trial ahead of them, Mulhearn hopes to help bring these plaintiffs the justice they deserve. 

“Some of these guys have had their lives really thrown upside down by what happened to them as kids,” said Mulhearn. “The reality is, there’s nothing that would bring back these plaintiffs’ childhood. Nothing at all.”

“No money would do that,” said Mulhearn. “Every single person in this group… when they get a verdict in their favor, would gladly turn it all back if they [could] go back in time and prevent what happened from happening.”