A Thought On Abuse In The Jewish Community

I read an article in the New York Times the other day.

An article about abuse in the Jewish community.

And about the way people worked to hide it.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget how I felt after I finally finished it.

It was this feeling of intense depression.

Like, worse than I felt in years.

Except this wasn’t about me.

It was about the world. About this boy. And his father. And their community. And our G-d.

And nothing about it seemed bright or beautiful or worthy.

It was empty.

And dark.

And sick.

All I could think was that I wanted it all to disappear.

Wanted the difficulties, the lies, the abuse, the anger, the horror, to just… go away.

Of course it didn’t.

And so I was stuck in my chair, looking at the computer, feeling the darkness overwhelm.

I think that was the first time I got a glimmer of a taste of why some people go “off the derech” (leave orthodox Judaism).

In the midst of all the anger and the conflicts that erupt between the people who embrace a Torah way of life and the people who leave it…

…are these untold stories.

The darkness.

The emptiness.

And it’s no wonder, then, that there are these conflicts, and these flareups, and this anger.

Because the emptiness and anger and depression that I associated for a few hours in my comfortable apartment in my happy corner of the Jewish world… that’s how some people view the entirety of Judaism. Of the Jewish people.

And when you read an article like this, you can’t blame them.

Because it is dark. And it is dirty. Dirty, dingy and disgusting.

The Holocaust can’t be rationalized away. And neither can these problems.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I wish the world remembered, and I remembered, that behind each conflict between people, behind every chasm that etches its way through opposing camps…

…is often a world of deep, powerful, emotion. Ripping through us like we’re dolls. Often forcing actions without our awareness.

And when there are these abuses, these darknesses, that people have to live with…

…those emotions, and that darkness, and our doll-ness…it’s deeper, darker, than we can ever imagine.

And like a friend who yells and thrashes because he’s in pain, even if it’s directed at us, even if it is even our fault…

…all we can do is allow it, and nod, and comfort (if they’ll allow it).

We don’t have a right to do anything else.





7 responses to “A Thought On Abuse In The Jewish Community”

  1. emma rubinstein Avatar
    emma rubinstein

    Well-written and thoughtful… That’s important that someone like you express what you feel. Behind all these beliefs, we can see the different faces of how a human being is. That’s not only because there are Hasidic. It happens everyday in the outsider world unfortunately! Thanks for not avoiding this subject… These people need help.

  2. Rivka Tauber Avatar
    Rivka Tauber

    What you say is true, and i appreciate you for coming out with this article. I just want to point out that it’s so much more then going “off the derech” and associating The Abuse with their Yiddishkeit. It’s about associating EVERYTHING with their abuse. It’s not being able to get dressed in the morning, or get out of their bed, or see another person, without thinking that they are second best. Or that they were hurt. Or that they know something that no one else in the frum community will believe happened. And that not only will they not believe, but they will abandon them for talking about. It’s about sooo sooo much. I like that you compared abuse to the holocaust, but there’s something i wanted to add to that, the holocaust was open. People knew about it, and it was clear who the enemy is. Abuse happens behind closed doors, by people who the victim knows, and cares about. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, family friends, siblings, even their own Parents…. So in some ways it’s worse.

    In any event, i would like to thank you for opening your blog up as a forum for this topic. change in the community’s viewpoint, the shame and embarrassment that comes with it, starts here. When people start talking about it and debating the truth, (i hope we know what IS true) people, like me, and like my sister and brother survivors can begin to have a voice, not just within ourselves, but within the community at large. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Elad Nehorai Avatar

      Wow, these are really great points, Rivka, thank you so much for sharing them. I appreciate having people that can really enumerate the uniqueness of this situation, since I am not an expert.

      I hope to see you around these parts more 🙂

  3. Avrohom Becker Avatar
    Avrohom Becker

    Very well said,my friend!

    Isn’t that exactly what Moshe Rabbeinu did?

    Despite being an Egyptian Prince,he felt the pain of the Jews slavery.

    You might appreciate this as well!


  4. Mitchell S. Gilbert Avatar
    Mitchell S. Gilbert

    The unwillingness of so many haredim to acknowledge and appropriately respond to sexual molestation in their own community speaks volumes about what really matters to them: Is it devotion to God and Torah values? Or is it a fanatical commitment to promote and sustain a very defined, very finite way of life in which there is no acceptance of ideas or behaviors that aren’t already in the “script.” Want to introduce a new minhag? You must be a heretic. Want to reconsider an outdated dangerous practice like Metzia b’peh? You are destroying Torah Judaism. These people aren’t practicing Judaism, they are fanatic who are only interested in perpetuating a very cloistered way of life.

  5. Yael Meisels Avatar
    Yael Meisels

    This is100% true. But here’s my personal issue. We (yes, I’m allowed to say “WE” because I am a single Jewish parent) preach all the live long day that “WE” teach our children by example. But what’s the example that we’re teaching? The example is that the victim is dirty and broken. The example is that THE VICTIM has done something wrong (as I heard in a story out of Williamsburg, shocking right? That the 14 yr old that was molested, seduced the married pedophile that molested him. Was then forced to give his attacker an apology). The reason the victims of sexual abuse in our community, leave the community is simple. We’re Orthodox/Chassidish Jews, we are “supposed to be” a “Light unto the Nations”…. What’s holy about a Rabbi/Rebbe/Frum Parent sexually assaulting a child and then turning around and saying “Don’t tell anyone our secret”, in the same breath teaching the child Torah? This example teaches that not only were you violated but Judaism, essentially violated you. The “Holy Rabbis” that are molesting children are ALSO teaching them Torah. The unfortunate reality is that presently, TODAY, this shit DAVKA IS tolerated in the frum communities. And if you dare speak out about what’s being done to you, not only is there no justice but you will be blamed for being a victim and the Rabbi will be protected. Or haha better yet, shipped away to summer camp for “therapy”. Now I sell wigs and do marketing by profession. BH, I am very very good at my job. I DO NOT have a proper education in the field of Psychology. But what “therapeutic” methods are there available other than chemical castration for those individuals that have sexual desires towards children? I’m asking because I don’t know. But how can you chemically castrate a “Holy Rabbi” he needs to repopulate the earth with his (most of the time, stupid) wife that he procreates with, when he’s not assaulting children? When the Yeshiva systems stop stealing our money, protecting pedophiles, adopt a zero tolerance policy for this shit, prosecute in a court room the monsters that do this shit, adopt a sexual abuse program into the yeshiva systems (YES, ALL OF THEM! NO MATTER HOW EFFIN FRUM YOU ARE!) and start running their educational institutions as EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS! There will be less victims that leave the faith. Our religion is supposed to protect us from the outside world. But it would appear to me that the “outside world” is way more interested in protecting children than the leaders of our communities. And if anyone takes issue with anything I’ve stated above. I frankly don’t care. You’re welcome to not buy a wig from me, not allow my children in your school or G-D FORBID “unfriend” me from Facebook! I may not be personally a victim of childhood sexual abuse. But I was briefly married to an ex Satmar boy from Toldos Aharon, that was. Only my poor ex husband had no one. When he was finally able to break free from his nightmare of a life. All he was left with were his skills and abilities that he learned from his community. Which were, and to quote him verbatim “If I take my pants off and let them touch me I will get money”. He learned this well. For the past several years he’s turned to heroin use to “deal with” his life as a male prostitute and being a child of sexual abuse. There was a “Rabbi” affiliated with his “yeshiva” in Monroe that used to pay him for sexual favors. When the wife (who sickly enough is a Shadchan in Monroe, PUKE) finally found out what the hell was going on. She HERSELF starting paying my ex husband for sexual favors! Talk about F ed up! And then when I learned (of course after marriage, already pregnant, lucky ME) about their most recent affair which took place three weeks before our wedding. All she had to say for herself was that she was “sorry” and after years and years of being married to a gay man that was also a pedophile she “didn’t know what else to do”. Which means, she’s so messed up that calling the police or getting bigger authorities involved, in her head, wasn’t an option. She basically thought that the hell of her marriage, was good enough for me, in my marriage. My point none of this is going to stop unless extreme measures are taken to make it stop. That’s not being done. Now you could ask, have you contacted Rabbis and told them what took place? OF COURSE I DID! Was something done? NO! Is something ever going to be done? Yes, I’m writing a memoir because to be frank, I have to. I will spend my life trying to protect children. Because I’ve seen and lived through the lasting damages of what this does to the children who suffer through this abuse and grow into adults. Which btw, are still suffering as a result of what happened to them as children. Someone said to me today, “You can’t write a memoir! You can’t talk about this in public! What about your children?!?!”. I replied, “What about my children!?!?! My children have a mother that will protect them from this evil! My children have a mother that won’t ask an effin “Rabbis” opinion before doing what’s effin RIGHT!”. So, that’s my answer, in regard to my children! Give them hell! Fight until you’ve taken ALL of them down! And raise such hell that the very thought of YOU will scare the EVIL right out of them! And I ask you, as my friend, to do this FOR THE CHILDREN! That’s my 2 cents :D. So, in a way I am a victim of childhood sexual abuse. Because my ex husband suffered, for so many year and was a victim for so many years. That we (his REAL family) became his victim.

    Common Sense and a Possible Solution, just two of the many free services we provide here at Yael Aviva Wigs…

  6. Rebecca K. Avatar
    Rebecca K.

    Both those who abuse and those who cover up abuse are doing aveiros. Usually multiple. Specifically: v’ahavta l’orecha kamocha, putting a stumbling block before the blind (on multiple levels — because abusers whose behavior is tolerated are now placed infront of future victims and because past victims have a stumbling block in front of their future emuna), chillul HaShem, and I could go on and on.

    So why call them “frum,” “Orthodox” or even “observant?” Because they dress a certain way? Because they live in a certain location?

    Abusers should be outed. A community or major figure who tolerates such behavior should be shunned. Those who refuse to do so are compounding the chillul HaShem. We should refuse to call them “frum.”

    Here’s my problem:

    Such tragic abuse cases are being used to slam the entire world of Torah Jewry. But we’re not talking about EVERY community or EVERY group of Jews who is re-abusing victims by disbelieving them or protecting abusers. There are agencies within Orthodox communities who are teaching children to report, are guiding children how to avoid dangerous situations, etc. Already, many NY schools have adopted L.A.’s Safety Kid, and even HaModia has very delicately worded articles about how parents should talk to their kids to protect themselves (particularly before the school year and the camp season starts). Such programs need to spread. More has to be done, certainly. But not everyone is turning a blind eye, blaming victims, etc.

    Any segment of the Jewish community that experiences a tragedy such as the ones that have made headlines must do a cheshbon hanefesh as a community and as individuals and must ask themselves, “Am I really among the “yirei shamyim?” Anyone who blames a victim or turns a blind eye to abuse, clearly is not. They don’t believe HaShem is watching or cares what they do.

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