Two weeks ago, I got an email from a man (let’s call him B) who explained that he is “ frei” (no longer observant) because he was molested by an “Orthodox Jew” and because his molestation (and other molestations he knew of) were covered up by other “Orthodox Jews.” (The quotations serve as a way of my distancing what Orthodox Jews are actually meant to be doing from what these individuals are doing.) B was troubled that I only present Orthodox Jews in a positive light and insisted that I be honest about the situation.
The truth was (as I told him) I had been working on a post about pedophilia in the Orthodox Jewish world already. More and more stories had been coming out about abuse, cover ups, and intimidation. There was even news coverage of a group of Hasidim raising money for a legal defense fund for an alleged child molester. I was more nauseous with every article I read. This is NOT what Torah Judaism is supposed to be about. It wasn’t a topic I could ignore.
I have no interest in whitewashing the shortcomings of certain people within the Orthodox world. Our Torah is perfect, our people are not. There are still many wonderful religious Jews out there, doing private acts of kindness every single day, but there are bad apples in the bunch. Very bad apples. And there are out of whack priorities which have created misguided policies which have been put in place by leaders in the Orthodox Jewish world. And children have suffered – unnecessarily suffered – because of these policies.
I have now exchanged dozens of emails with B and another person working to make changes in the system. I have called and emailed basically every rabbi I know over these last two weeks, trying to understand why these problems have occurred and what we can do to make things better. I plan to write a post on this issue as I get more information, but in the meantime, I realized that there’s something else that needs to be done.
B described to me how his pain has been two fold – the abuse itself, but also how people either looked the other way or actively protected the molesters. I wrote to him, “I’m so sorry! My heart is breaking over your situation. I don’t understand what’s wrong – why are they not *getting* it? Where is the compassion and love? Where are the “paths of pleasantness” and the “ways of peace??”
B responded, “Thank you for your kind words. One doesn’t hear them very often.”
How can that be, I wondered? Religious Jews are supposed to be ALL about compassion. As our sages teach, “Kol yisrael areivim ze l’ze” – “every Jew is responsible for one another.” As far as B is concerned the system failed him, the rabbis failed him, his people failed him, and ultimately God failed him.
B has obviously endured a tremendous amount of sorrow and while I can’t fix all of his problems I realized that there is one thing that I can do for him and every other survivor of sexual abuse in our community with your help. I can ask you to let him (and them) know that you care. That their pain is your pain. That you’re heartbroken over this information as it comes out.
There are too many wrongs that have been committed which have put innocent children into nightmarish scenarios. Let’s come together now and do something right. Please take a moment to leave a comment below, and if you’re so inclined, say where you live, what Jewish community you’re apart of (in terms of where you fall out in the spectrum of Orthodoxy).
All comments are welcome, but I’m particularly interested in hearing from Orthodox Jews – especially rabbis – this time. Please share, tweet, and email this post to as many people as you can, so that we can show both B and the world that there ARE many Orthodox Jews who are sharing in the pain of survivors, who demand that the victims be protected, not the pedophiles. And then please reach out to your local Orthodox rabbi and find out what you can do to help make our children safer, because actions speak louder than words.
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thanks for posting this. I am “back hat yeshivish” and I am glad people are paying attention to the abuse issue – although I realize it doesn’t “look good” & my first inclination was to go against this sort of exposure. BUT….the more I think of victims being ignored because somehow we worry about the image of the Orthodox world….I am not happy with this idea. So…like it or not, we need to do everything we can to a) stop abuse & prevent it and b) reach out to victims and ensure that we are taking care of them.
I consider myslef a member of the Yeshiva world even though I live in a more remote community.
It’s a crime that the more insulated communities are still sheltering and hiding people who commit heinous crimes against children, or women, or those they feel are weaker than themselves that they can prey on. I really hope that people in these more “private” sects do not feel that they have to be silent and let anyone hurt their children for the good of the klal. Don’t be afraid to speak out or be bullied into silence. Hashem is the one true judge.
I am of the reform faith and my heart breaks every time I hear of any child being abused, whether at the hands of a religious leader, the hands of an authority figure in their lives or a complete stranger – though even more when due to a religious “leader’s” depraved actions, it makes me even more heart-sick.
To B, and all those who stand and suffer along side you, know that you have been heard. My your scars heal with the love that surrounds you.
I am orthodox, and I agree with you. It needs to be spoken about and we need to help those victims. No more sheltering the accused. They need to be put away. Thank you JITC for putting up this post,
An orthodox jewish mother from westchester, ny
I’m a Conservative Jew who’s probably a lot more frum than most. I’m also a licensed social worker who has seen the deep, indelible damage caused by sexual abuse and assault. I’ve met many people whose lives are a struggle each day because of the harm this does to one’s neshama — the nightmares, difficulty in relationships, confusion, feelings of betrayal and alienation. I’ve seen some people rise out of the ashes like the mythical phoenix. I’ve also seen people so emotionally crippled that they killed themselves, and I miss them every single day.
I am also a survivor. I went through things nobody should go through. I have PTSD. Some days are better than others. I just thank G-d that He put others in my life who convinced me that I need not suffer through this alone and that nobody, not even the abusers from my past, can take my right to a healthy, positive life away from me. It never got easier, but it did get better because good, caring people showed me that I AM lovable and deserve to be treated like a queen.
If you’re reading this and are going through this, too, please know that YOU ARE LOVED AND YOU ARE NOT ALONE. People out there CARE. Don’t suffer in silence!!! You are not dirty or ugly or worthless or any of the foul things your abuser may have tried to get you to believe. Go to your local hospital, the police, whoever you trust. If you’re a survivor, don’t be afraid to seek counseling. If you’re in NY, call Safe Horizon at 212.227.3000 — they provide support for both people being hurt now and those who were hurt in the past. People want to help you. Honest!!
And to anyone who may be comforted by it, please know that when I light my Shabbat candles every week, even though I may not know you, I pray for YOU and that all of us in pain in this world be enveloped by the loving, healing Light.
I live in a MO community. A dear friend of mine was shunned by many in our community for protecting her daughter from the girl’s sexually abusive father. Fault and blame were placed on the mother for breaking up the family and for reporting the abuse to the police. Since, she has had difficulty with the beit din regarding obtaining her get. I have become sickened by what I’ve witnessed her and her daughter go through and have come to doubt that there is any protection for the weaker women and children in our community. Thank you for bringing this to public attention. We cannot protect these criminals any longer.
All the same as you wrote in your post about Orthodox molesters and their victims could be written about Orthodox murderers and their victims. Why is their no outcry against Orthodox murderers of Orthodox children?
The answer simply is that the murder victims are dead and there is no one to cry out for their spilled blood, while the molestation victims are still alive. Is that fair? Is that yashrus? We don’t hear the same outcry against murderers that we do against perpertrators of molestation? Why hasn’t their been a post here about the murder victims.
And to respond that murder is very uncommon in the Orthodox community may well be true and valid. But that same point is valid about molestation. It is very uncommon in the Orthodox community.
Thank you for your comment, David. But I am so sorry to say that you are wrong that molestation is “very uncommon in the Orthodox community.” That’s not to say that it’s “common,” but it unfortunately is happening more than you might realize and there are many cases of cover ups. I’m addressing this issue, in particular, because it is a serious issue facing our community right now.
i think the coverups come out of fear. the frum world, after centuries of persecution has developed in its culteral DNA a mortal phobia of exposure. there was a man in my granfather’s village in romania who was a mohel. his son was playing with the son of a local peasant and got a hold of his father mohel kit and was playing moehl with the goyish boy. he castrated him. he was a five year old his trying to be like his tatty he didn’t mean to hurt his friend. when the moehl saw this he killed the peasant boy and put him in a barn and burned it down. why? how could he? because if word had gotten outt hat a peasant boy had been mutilated by a jewish child, the entire shtetle was doomed. this would have been the trigger for a deadly porgrom. the authorities would have taken this chance to destroy the, the vpeasants would have gone on a rampage…..coverups were for centuries the only way we could survive. we kept our heads down and hoped no one saw the evil among us because we would all pay the price. this is how it was for centuries and and it has become a culteral self preservation instinct. and question of “what will they do to us if they found out”….unlearning a survival instinct, feeling safe in the hands of authorities is going to take alot of time a patience. it has to happen and eventually it will, just like the culture of bribing officials which last generation was still so ingrained in our society because for centuries it was the only way we could survive in the old world and we brought that mentality here but in time it fell out of practice and we learned that we can safely work within the law here. it will come. but many are afraid, terrified for that underbelly to be seen and that fear will have to be faced.
@chava: that saddens me so much that cultural preservation was a higher priority than the life and family of a child. there are a lot of grave misfortunes that happen but there’s also honor and compassion for the ones wronged.
it is so much more important to protect our families, each others’ families and to be real and whole and authentic in sharing with the world that yes, there are those among us who are wrong too. bad people come from every walk and it’s so essential to bring terrible things to light so they can heal.
I am Modern Orthodox and I want to say to “B” and all the other victims out there that you have a right to be angry. These predators and those who protect them are all criminals! If they are so worried about the negative image that publicizing these crimes will portray, then they shouldnt have done the crime in the first place! Time to stop blaming the victims!
I am observant (I dislike labels, and i don’t think i qualify as “Orthodox” as my husband isn’t Jewish…but anyway).
I feel agony when I read about the abuse of children in our Jewish “family”. I can’t describe the pain. It pains me that one of my younger brother or sister goes through this. It pains me that one of my brothers or sisters allowed for it to happen.
I asked the question about spousal abuse to a Rebbetzin once (not in my city, she was actually giving a lecture). Her answer basically was “a woman should know better than to pick this type of man”. I was astounded.
I think the problem is, the Jewish Orthodox community really doesn’t know how to handle such a modern type of problem. Although i don’t know how modern it is, i guess it is more the fact that when it happens, it’s known, the community knows, the world knows…it’s the same community (or mentality )that decides rather than educate individuals on internet use, just ban it completely.
Perhaps it is some form of denial, i don’t know. But something needs to be done.
I’ve floated through many different movements of Judaism, but spiritually and in practice I currently fall under the conservadox, slowly building back observance umbrella. It’s beyond heartbreaking when people, especially children suffer through this. Even more so when there are attempts (and successes) at intimidation and a cover-up. It’s important to spread the word and keep these issues in the forefront. Only then can we really work to stop the abuse. These kids are not alone, and they are in my prayers.
Thank you for writing this, Allison. And thank you for having the courage that sadly many do not for continuing to pursue the truth, and bring up a horrible subject that so many will not touch.
When I came forward about my experiences with sexual abuse, I lost my family and my friends. My family were all my abusers, and those that weren’t chose the monsters over me. WHen you try to speak about what you’re going through trying to heal, people don’t want to hear about it. Because they want to believe it doesn’t exist, and there is still SO MUCH a stigma of shame around sexual abuse that should not be there. You wouldn’t be ashamed to say that your house was broken into- because in no way was that your fault. But when your own body is broken into, perhaps because it is your body, it is seen as your fault, and because the word sex is attached, well that automatically makes it dirty. So, people don’t want to talk about it. This silence makes an even heavier burden for the victim, because it sends the message that what was done to them was so bad and dirty that they are bad and dirty if they talk about it Sex has nothing to do with sexual abuse. Sexual abuse is about power, selfishness, and wanting to hurt another human being.
since my memories have re-surfaced and resulted in the end of my career, I, like many, have rejected religion and God entirely. Or, hold Him at arm’s length. As far as I’m concerned,He has some serious explaining to do as to why he left me and hundreds of thousands of other children in the clutches of monsters.
For B., and for others suffering with their experiences of sexual abuse it’s important to know that you’re not alone. There are people who care, who can and want to hear your story. Your story is a part of you, and it matters. A lot. People do care, you just have to find them. (RAINN.org is a wonderful national resource that puts you in touch with sexual abuse councelors and resources in your area, where-ever you may live.)
Sadly, when the abusers are religious leaders/other authority figures you’re taught to respect and revere….it messes you up horribly. 90% of the time it’s a family member, respected member of the community, or a family friend. There’s no “Stranger Danger” here, usually. People say that things happen for a reason- there is no reason for sexual abuse. There is no excuse. It should never happen, and it is never the victim’s fault. Never.
The damage done by sexual abuse is horrendous in the extreme, so much so that if the general public knew just a fraction of the very real damage it does there would be an uproar. Sexual abuse causes brain damage, among other things, which is part of the reason that a specialist trained specifically to work with trauma and abuse victims is such a good idea. Your brain has to be re-trained to think normally again. Sexual abuse of children robs them of their childhood, and of their own developing brains. So many behaviors of adults today are a direct result of suffering sexual abuse. Constantly listening to music, the tv, reading all the time all the way to drug abuse and prostitution.
People do care. The smart ones, anyway. 😉
I’m a baal teshuvah frum orthodox mother. The priority to support victims of abuse, especially children, FAR outweighs any compassion or support that needs to be directed to the Molester. The frum community needs to get over being more concerned about speaking loshon horo while children are at risk of being molested.
i’m so ashamed that this post had to be written, but I’m so grateful that you had the courage to do it, allison. my G-d is about love, my Torah is about compassion and as an orthodox jew, it breaks my heart to know that we couldn’t protect these innocent children from these vile degenerates. your hurt and anger and disappointment are justified, B – you deserved better, you deserved our protection… and I’m sorry. please know that for every piece of filth out there, there are hundreds of us who truly care.
Allison, I am so impressed that you have had the courage to take this on. I hope you are prepared for a lot of backlash from the community. If, by some miracle, you don’t get any backlash for this, please let me know what community you live in because I would like to live there. I am an observant Jew (I don’t use the term Orthodox for a variety of reasons). There is no observant community where I live in the midwest, unfortunately, just a handful of scattered families. I serve on our chevra kadisha, run our mikveh, and do hashgachah. I take the Torah VERY seriously. Anyone who would protect a child molester clearly doesn’t. No matter what label they choose to wear.
Totally on board with this. I’ll b sharing it on G+. Keep up the good work.
Oh, and not a jew (atheist)
I am ba’al teshuvah identifying pretty much as “Modern Chabad”, meaning I hold many Chabad customs (including it’s awesome philosophy) but dress in jeans and look very “normal”. LOL
Thanks for tackling this issue. Abusers need to be outed and sent to prison! No mercy.
I am a ba’al teshuvah haredi light. My heart breaks for people in B’s situation. Recently, I have been disgusted by reading about the pedophile ring in Nachlaot. The sick people who commit these horrid acts steal the victims childhood. We need to talk more openly about it and have more “fences” to prevent these situations from happening. For example many people take yikud between a man and a woman very seriously how about the same stringency for dealing with children. No child should EVER be alone in a room/place with a male (not to be sexist just reality) and we certainly must take our children seriously if they come to us with a problem/suspicion that they have been violated. Please let B know that there are people out there in the frum world who do care and take this situation very seriously and are looking for solutions.
Jen, just have to add that women and girls can be sex offenders, can rape and sexually abuse both boys and girls, men and women. I’ve known girls who were sexually assaulted by their mothers or sisters or grandmothers. And mothers who sexually assaulted their sons. Sexual abuse is not exclusively the domain of men and boys.
I’m orthodox, under the haradi umbrella in many things, lived in TX and now NY communities. I think an explanation of a lot of these “protecters” are that they were either abused themselves or conditioned as well that way and ignoring it to the point of endanger other people, though utterly ussur, is thier way of ‘dealing’ with it. Horrible yes, but perhaps different psychological approaches need to be taken to be effective. There is NO issue of mesiera which is really the only possible issue when someone is a danger to the community. Unless we are allowed to jail and beat them ourselves we CAN and MUST call the police immediately!
I think its stupidity and against our usual logic the way some approach this “exposure” of a problem. How about we start calling the police immediately, and ignoring when the parents/victims/anyone beats the living cr@p out of the abuser? Guess what then we WOULD seriously have almost no abuse. We would have bleeding jailed abusers that aren’t out attacking other Jews.
This whole situation is horrendous and tragic! So heartbreaking! And it’s completely awful how the victims are treated after they’ve gone through their horrific ordeals! I hope that all this outcry affects change! May Hashem heal and take away the pain of the abused.
As a victim of child abuse, I can most definitely relate to the heart break of such betrayal. My heart breaks for every beautiful person who has had to experience such things.
The Torah is such an amazingly solid guide to prevent these nightmares and yet these “bad apples” have gone so off track. It is so important to recognize that if there is one safe haven from devastation and evil it is within REAL Judaism- the Truly G-d fearing people.
You are so worthy and loved and I hope we can all join together to step it up and truly live Torah.
I’m an Orthodox bal teshuva. I’m also a new mom, my girls are 9 weeks and 14 1/2 months. It’s scary to think that I can’t invite just anyone for shabbos now. That unfortunately people are people, imperfect and being being religious although it should push people to become the best possible version of themselves does not accomplish that. As far as covering for these horrible people I’m shocked that such acts occur. As if it isn’t traumatizing enough and unfathomable for anyone much more so a child to become a victim to then realize that others are covering must be the greatest betrayal.Bad people aren’t the norm in Orthodox Judaism, they are the exception which is why it’s great to raise awareness. B, I’m touched by your story. It’s terrible that you experienced such a tragedy but hopefully your story will raise awareness and conversations to make sure one less child is affected.
Allison: I am Jewish. I applaud you for this post. I do not comprehend how anyone could stand in the way of immediately reporting a molester to the police. I view any policies of so called community “leaders” to the contrary as an abrogation of leadership, a misplacement of priorities, and a lack of common sense. It really does not matter which segment of the Jewish people (or humanity for that matter) that I identify with (for the record: I’m a Right Wing Modern Orthodox Zionist son of a baal t’shuva New Yorker who lives in a large LI Orthodox community, and I work for a living, and I learn Torah too). The absolute empathy and compassion that the average Jew such as myself (and pretty much any one of my friends/neighbors with whom I have ever discussed this subject) feels towards any abuse victim, and the abhorrence with which we view molesters, must not be lost in the face of the statements and actions of a minority within a minority of the Jewish people (even if some of them purport to speak for our whole Torah observant people). Proclamations that the community cannot live with (Gezerot sh-ein Hatzibur yachol la-amod bahem) are not valid or binding- any statement advocating protection of molesters at the expense of their victims and the community at large is not something the community can live with. The days of silence are over in much of our Jewish community, and will be over in the entire Jewish community IY”H within a short time. -Abe
I am an observant Orthodox Jew. All I can say is I feel your pain. Me and many of my other coreligionists empathise strongly with you. Unfortunately not enough of us. But the tide is turning.
I think one of the issues was that people didn’t realize how far reaching their indifference to others in many different areas was. Its becoming apparent that Mitzvos like loving a fellow Jew have big ramificaions in both the positive and negative sense, and that Mitzvos like do not molest and their punishments have much more depth than many ever realized.
I think different communities are at different stages of awareness right now, some are worse than others, so let’s not just brand everybody all together. Although we share alot in belief and practice, the beauty of our nation’s unity also lies in its vast diversity.
Another reason these crimes are covered up is because of bringing shame on the families of the criminals. It is despicable!! People are so worried about Shidducim that the slightest negative comment about someone in their family will “damage” their children’s chances of getting married to a “good” person. I personally know of a case in a hasidish community in New York, where a social worker was informed by a boy(a victim) that one of the teachers in his school were molesting students. When the social worker approached the principle, he threatened her. He told her she would never work again in the religious world if she continued pursing this allegation. As it turns out, the principle was related to the teacher and they both came from a very “prestigious” family in the community. The social worker was a balt Teshuva . .and felt felt helpless . . her whole life’s work was hanging on being accepted by the community, essentially they were telling her that they would put her in “cherem” if she did anything, and she also had her own kids to think about.
P.S. I am an orthodox Balt Tshuvah Jew for 11 years, but growing more and more disenchanted.
Amazing, timely, and necessary post.
I totally agree with this article and I think there are many misplaced priorities in the orthodox Jewish world today. There is no room for acts of abuse and pedophelia in the Torah and any ‘rabbi’ who intimidates a victim from going to the authorities or who tries to shield an abuser from punishment is not a rabbi in my eyes, but a spineless piece of slime. We need to protect children, not abusers. This entire situation is a tremendous chillul Hashem. My heart breaks for all the victims. Your pain I cannot imagine as it never happend to me, but I want you to know that I feel for you.
To all these abusers and those that shelter them I say shame on all of you. Your actions have hurt innocent people and have alienated many Jews from their G-d and His holy Torah. Stories like this only further push our non-affiliated brethren away from Torah and rediscovering their heritage. You all have thereby delayed the coming of Moshiach. All abusers who escape punishment in this world are in for a really bad time in Gehinnom and they deserve it.
As a baal teshuva who constantly has to defend my new lifestyle and decisions to an often unsympathetic, secular world this totally disguts me and makes it that much harder for me to show my friends and family that the style of religion I’ve adopted is one that teaches truth, morality, and goodness. We orthodox Jews cannot sweep problems under the rug and pretend they’ll go away. We must deal with problems head-on. Covering things up will only do us more damage.
I am a baal-teshuva, Lubavitcher chassid.
I consider myself observant Modern Orthodox. Such an important topic and so good to see people responding in this way. This should never be ignored. When people won’t go to the authorities because they know there a lack of support and downright added persecution from rabbis etc., the problem grows and grows. The molesters see that they are the protected ones and the victims have to suffer in silence. All wrong. We have to stand against this.
If I knew a member of my own family was an abuser I’d shop him to the cops myself.
hi, i live in an orthodox community and to hear the stories which are coming out more and more about molestation and paedophilia just makes me so sad and furious. there are evil jews just as there are evil non-jews in this world, but when their actions are ignored then all of us who shut our eyes and ears become complicit in the abuse. i share your pain and hope that you keep/regain your hope and faith in G-d and in (most of) G-d’s people, so that you do not let those evil people win.
I very much understand B. Most people who go off the derech don’t go off because they don’t believe in Judaism or G-d its because (unfortunately most of the time) abuse. When our own people fail to show compassion or do something that should be resolved its individuals that suffer. B I 100% feel for you, and wish you a blessed life and happiness, I’m in the same boat myself! 🙂
I am Orthodox and this hurts.
It hurts because I love you, and not just because you’re Jewish, but because you’re a human being.
It hurts because I love the Torah, and not just for its beauty, but for all its truth, even the less pleasant ones.
It hurts because I was raised to trust the rabbis, because I was taught that they were nigh infallible, and they were never meant to be.
It hurts because I know far too many like you.
And it hurts to see you wander away, drowning in anger, sadness, and pain that may never be resolved.
It all hurts, but speaking helps.
If not me, then who?
If not now, then when?
If not here, then where?
Writing as a Conservative Jew, I agree with Chava — The offenses are bad apples, but I think the coverups are partially based in fear of making the PR situation worse. The Jewish people in general are so used to being hated as the scapegoats of the world. Owning up to these horrible acts in a public way brings fuel to the fire for people who already hate and despise Jews of ALL denominations.
For example, look at the irrational global contempt that most of the world has towards Israel these days. Any infraction on the part of Israel no matter how small, no matter how justified (Remember the Flotilla in Turkey?) gets blown up into a PR nightmare about how Israel is a bully, occupier, murderer, etc. Details such as daily rocket attacks, using children & hospital patients as human shields, threats to annihilate the Jewish people — all conveniently left out when the UN smacks a list of human rights violations on Israel. Is Israel perfect? Of course not. Should Israel acknowledge mistakes and make amends for them? Definitely. But when facing a world of people who don’t think Israel has a right to exist and defend itself in the first place — the attempt to be fair, to be the “bigger person” is often twisted and contorted to be justification for why Israel DESERVES the disdain in the first place.
So I think it’s similar in this situation. Reasonable fair-minded people would read a well-written and thoughtful post like this (or a similar article on a mainstream news site or tv program) and they’d see it the right way — that these people doing these awful things do NOT represent the movement as a whole. But if people were always reasonable and fair-minded, then there wouldn’t be a need for a website such as this in the first place.
P.S. I don’t mean to sound like I’m defending a coverup, I’m not, but I can understand the instinct to do so given the current atmosphere regarding Jews, no matter how religious.
B: I want to say that my heart bleeds for your pain. It is unfathomable to me how you could even put one foot in front of the other; forget about religion. The outbreak of these stories has been inordinately painful for me to hear as an Orthodox Jew (married to a black hat rabbi) and mother who had no clue until a number of years ago that this stuff happened in our communities. And I’m happy it is because education is the first step toward healing and fixing.
Allison: I salute you, for being brave enough and caring enough to be a conduit for goodness and light in a worlds filled with pain.
May Hashem offer healing and comfort to B and all those survivors…those that have gone on to build healthy lives and those that are still bruised, bleeding, and barely hanging on.
I am a Modern Orthodox Jew and I am just as appalled as you at what people (religious or not) prove to be capable of. Especially those that claim to not only follow Torah (or any other religion for that matter) but teach it as well. And what’s worse, they left their victims with scares that can be buried or dealt with but never go away. I am married to a man whose step father sexually abused him and some others. He has come very far in dealing with the hurt and fear that was left behind but even now at 45, he continues to have nightmares. (Some which he comes out of yelling and screaming.) Now he is a Rabbi himself and while teaching Torah he focuses most on counseling people that have been in abusive situations. ‘B’, I don’t know firsthand what you have or do go through but I do see how it has affected one of the most important people in my life. I am not going to tell you that any of the hurt or anger you feel is wrong because it’s not. The only thing in the situation that is wrong is what these people (you notice, I will not dignify them with the title of Jew.) have done to you and others. I am so sorry that this is something you or anyone else has had to endure.
Rest assured that not all Jew are this way. We, as Jews, are commanded to show love and compassion. As the chosen people, we are meant to be examples to the world. It not only breaks my heart but angers me to see how some people allow perversion (and many other hypocrisies) to take seed in their lives, making them capable to doing something as horrible as molesting an innocent child. As Jews, we also have an obligation to fight back when situations like this arise. We need to raise awareness and do whatever we can to help and protect children who are already victims. We also need to do everything we can to prevent these monsters from creating more victims.
Allison, thank you for posting this. Thank you for speaking out. I hope it helps in lighting a flame that will spread and allow us to handle the situation, not only in our own religion, but in the world as whole. No child should ever have their innocence ripped away from them
firstly i want to say i think you are so brave for speaking out and opening up. i admire your courage more than i can explain. I am in my low 20’s living in an orthodox community and i hope one day i can make a difference in the world of abuse victims.
I know countless people, close friends who have been beaten, molested, voliated,abused and are too scared to speak up. People i love have been numbing themselves for years for they fear rejection and judgement if they were to tell people their story, and with every passing day the pain become worse and the numbing becomes main focus. B, i do not know what your pain feels like, but i know what your pain looks like. i have seen it in the eyes of people i love, and i pray for those who have been tortured in such a way every day. i am over come by anger towards predetors but i realize revenge is not the path. i hope we, of the orthodox community, come up with a new system on how to deal with abusers, because this one is failing us every day. i hope you realize that there are people who care, people who share your pain, people who are on your side. We do not judge you, we dont think your different, we think you are strong. You are a survivor and i hope that other survivors can learn from you and find help, comfort, and justice. Thinking of you..
i know it’s challenging for anyone who was abused, in anyway, by anyone, to ever have another meaningful relationship. certainly when it’s your own family/community of religious people who on the inside are like unleashed animals preying on unsuspecting kids. I have alot of intelectual items to say to help you recover into a beautiful human being. i don’t think this is the place for it. I can just say for now that OF COURSE there are those who care (me being one of them) and i’m a good listener if you need a,listening ear.
reach out to us, we are here to help!
Excellent post! My feeling is that most of the issues of molestation and cover ups are in the chassidishe world (though the rest of the orthodox world still has molestation issues, unfortunately). By nature they are very closed due to a millenia of horrific anti semitism, murder etc at the hands of the non Jews. Most are children of holocaust survivors so they want nothing to do with most non Jews.
They also very much fear the outside world because of the inroads that the haskalah (enlightenment of Eastern Europe which caused millions of Jews to move away from Jewish observance)has made over the last 200 years. Therefore, they prefer to deal with problems “in house.” I live in a very yeshivish/chassidish community and change in the way we deal with this terrible, terrible problem is coming. It’s just that change happens very slowly. IN the meantime, let us reach out to all of the victims the way Allison has done and help them in any way we can.
I am an Orthodox Rabbi. True Orthodoxy always protects the victim. It is the Torah way. My peers and I will battle for truth and compassion for the innocent until the war is won and a system is in place to safeguard our most precious treasures. But fear not. Even with the challenges, we shall overcome, stay positive and strong, and continue our role as “A Light Unto the Nations.”
As a Rabbi I add my voice, in my meager way, of support and kinship to you my brother and friend. May Hashem give you days upon days of healing from all of the pain you have suffered, and may your own personal strength be returned as well, for your good, and for the good of Am Yisrael.
B, Hashem loves you and feels your pain everyday. You have amazing strength inside of you to be used for good. I am humbled by your coming forward and Allison taking this to the public. The Torah is perfect and you deserve to have it in your life. Those that did this to you are not deserving of our Torah and deserve what the law has in store for them.
As a “black-hat Orthodox rabbi” I would like to express my extreme sadness for what you have gone through. I want you to know that I care so much about every Jew and you are no exception. May you find healing and maybe be comforted by the solidarity here.
Rabbi Sruly Koval
I don’t know what I am. I’m orthodox in thought, Conservative in temple membership and reform in practice, but I am definitely united with B and all those who share his pain and I am heartbroken, not just for him, but for every victim of child molestation in any community. It particularly saddens me that Jews, any Jews, would try to cover up and protect the perpetrators. As you say every community has its bad apples. Those bad apples represent only themselves and not Judaism and should be brought to justice. Only when we try to hide it does it reflect poorly on Judaism as a whole.
I went to a Chabad as a child. It was a systematic house of abuse. All that they taught be is that God is dead, for how can there be a God that would allow such things to happen to innocent children. the further insult is that the Orthodox and Hasidim flock to defend the abusers and harass the accusers to the point of violence or worse. Thank you, Rebbe, for teaching me that God is Dead
I’m so sorry for your pain, Chono. Chabad, has recently – thankfully – changed their policy and now tells people to go straight to the police. So does the RCA. We do not ALL believe in defending abusers as I hope you see here. But the ones who do are very, very wrong. They must be stopped.
In terms of how God could allow things like this to happen to innocent children – this is not the world of truth. There is tremendous pain in this world, and honestly believing that there’s more to this world than we see – that there’s a bigger plan – is all I can do to stay sane with all the sorrow.
I hope you can find the comfort you need and that you know that so many of us are with you in your pain.
Firstly, Hi. I’m frum (orthodox) wholesome sincere truth searcher Real(if i may say so!) and i’ve lived in the Orthodox community of the most amazing Toronto, Canada and Also New Jersey, USA.
To B- I’m so sorry to hear such terrible things. The frum world cries with u, the good DO out-weigh the bad. They do.
To Mayim – I duno, but i do know one thing. Hashem (G-d) has a Cheshbon (plan)for all His children, He never abandons them….and very often we don’t understand the full picture. Believe me, i’m not defending any wrong doings AT ALL- they are NOT and Never will be the Torah way. But, Fact: We don’t know His ways. Maybe B was put in this challenging situation to shed light on the topic, and therefore help others. Maybe that is his/her ‘nisayon. The Orthodox community does/should/will NOT tolerate terrible things like this. Just keep in mind= Our words carry a LOT of weight, we must be extra careful when we are in the spotlight (as Jews somehow always end up being) Hashem cries with us, He never abandons us. and Kol Yisrael areivim….it’s true. that won’t change.
This was powerful and important.
We should be unambiguous: someone who has a reason to suspect abuse must report this suspicion to the proper legal authorities and must refer the victim to treatment. The faster the predator is taken off the streets, the faster the the victim can begin to heal. We might have some compassion for the depraved predators as well, but covering up their acts does no good for anyone. Clearly, our first responsibility, legally and halachicly, is for the victim.
I am an Orthodox mother of 5 amazing little people. As a woman, a mother and a human being, my heart, my hugs and my compassion go out to you.
You did not deserve this. You should have been protected from this monster. You deserve a life of happiness, love, comfort, security.
Therapy will help so much. Surround yourself with good, healthy people who bring out the best in you.
My heart is with you, and may Hashem bless you with a good and healthy life from here on in.
It would be interesting to hear in this medium from actual perpetraitors of these crimes… What’s their perception of these victims…. What about their regrets?
Perhaps the requirement for them to reveal their email address to be allowed to post here is also one more reason to remain in the shadows?
Kudos to you for bringing this out for all.
I feel uniquely qualified to comment here, as my life partner is serving a prison term because he downloaded illegal materials from an FBI website, yes, much of the material was child pornography. He is a well regarded artist and was working on a piece to expose this behavior in a particular Christian part of society- the source materials were downloaded from the FBI in order to not have to continue searching the internet for them- they are disgusting. In his research he found very little to indicate that in our Orthodox communities this happens on a wide scale- unlike some other religious communities where this is almost a cultural habit. BUT, it still does happen, and we have more to fear in judgment from others than Christians do. This evil is a human frailty, and we should come down on it as hard as possible, and in as public a way as possible. I think that doing so would keep us from being susceptible to attack from the outside, as well it would strengthen our ties to each other, and would guide those with a proclivity to this horrific behavior to avoid it.
I am an observant Jew living in Israel.
It is heartbreaking and outrageous that these things happen and that they are perpetrated by “religious Jews”. It brings into question all the avowed Torah and mitzvot that these perverted people learn and keep. It is so achingly painful to even think about it.
May you find help, comfort and resolution from the horrible suffering. G-d bless.
I am a young orthodox/yeshivish woman (in Israel), a mental health professional who has come in contact (in the few short years since I entered the field) with many victims of abuse. It is sick. It is wrong. It is evil. And protecting the predators (ESPECIALLY in the name of our religion) is a mockery of all that God created to be sacred and healthy. I am sorry for all the pain you experienced. I hope you find the strength and support to do whatever necessary to heal that pain. You deserve that.
As speechless as I am,there is so much to be said. I am so very sorry for the pain and suffering you were subjected to and continue to suffer from. As a strong believer in our faith, I believe my good deeds are your good deeds and my bad ones are yours and vice versa, kol yisrael areivim zeh lazeh. We ARE all responsible for one another in good times and bad, I stand with you in your pain and in your happiness. I bless you with the strength to overcome what has happened to you, to find peace with yourself, with Gd and the good apples in our bunch. Hatzlacha Rabba!!!
As a resident of Lakewood, NJ, widely known for its large Haredi Jewish population, I express real sympathy for the victims in our and all communities. While the Orthodox community overall is finally moving in the right direction, it’s not nearly enough. We need strong role models within our community to help the victims which will accomplish two things: (1) help limit the abuse and (2) bring Torah and Judaism to proper light.
To all supporters of abuse: There is no greater sin than “Chillul Hashem”, desecration of God’s name. There is no greater Mitzva than Kiddush Hashem, sanctifying God’s name.
Let’s take the step forward for once and for all! Maybe in this merit Moshiach, the Messiah will finally come.
To all ever been abused as children, as I started hearing about continuous child abuse in orthodox communities in America and in Israel, AND as I heard of rabbies support or ignore molesters I was shocked, appalled, confused. I cannot explain/understand this. But I can tell you that this is not acceptable to me, and to many other orthodox jews, maybe especially to those who grew up secular and decided one day to return to Torah life. We feel your pain, we love you and daven to Hashem that you will be able to put your life together again and be happy again.
The reason–I believe–many people don’t recognize or “get” just how horrific a thing molestation is, isn’t just because they don’t care, but because they don’t know WHAT to say nor how to respond. It rocks a persons world to be the victim of such a horrific act, and it rocks the worlds of others around them too. When you come face to face with something this horrible it means you have to face the really tough questions (sometimes the ones which have no answer) and you start feeling a lack of security and ability to trust anyone in your world. Most people don’t know how to battle that, so they push it away. Some–even more baffling–choose to stand behind the perpetrator in place of the victim! It’s almost easier to believe someone to be a liar than it is to believe another could be an abuser. (I have personal experience with this so I understand how invalidated this makes a person feel.)
I’m sorry for your pain, B. You’re right–this shouldn’t happen in the Orthodox World. It shouldn’t happen in ANY world. It’s sick, hurtful, horrible and destructive. Pls take my compassion and also my advice–don’t wait for others to validate your pain. Stand strong, find people who love you and support you, and seek a good counselor who you can let it all out to. Let your anger about this not have you grow resentment, but instead move you fwd. When you’re strong enough (that’s for you to decide) stand up and speak out against this!
Whether you decide to again become Orthodox or not, know Hashem loves you. Hashem cares about your pain. Don’t let the stupidity and ignorance of human beings keep you from connection with the God of the Universe.
My advice to other Orthodox Jews? If someone leaves Orthodoxy, the goal isn’t just to get them back to being observant–the goal is to show compassion and love for them and validate why they left in the first place! When one of us hurts, we all hurt.
Your pain is real. Your pain cannot be lessened by those who share it with you. Allow me to share two insights, however, that may allow you some measure of comfort.
First and foremost is the story of the young man who peered through the peep hole of his Bronx apartment and saw a police officer standing there. Opening the door, he was flabbergasted to be thrown against the wall, tied up and blindfolded. His apartment was ransacked and all his valuables stolen.
When the real police arrived to take the victims report they were followed by a gaggle of reporters. It was to no one’s surprise that the reporters reported on an impersonator who was on the loose.
When a person is subjected to abuse such as you and Allison speak of , they are being abused by do not represent what G-d and His Torah represent. Perhaps they dress the part and perhaps much of what they do walks the walk of an Observant Jew. Nevertheless, they are impersonators. But it is important to remember that of the 613 mitzvos/commandments , 365 of them are performed by refraining from certain actions. When someone does something negative and it hurts someone else, that persons level of Observance is lessened. As a famous Rabbi once said; “ A person may look, act and dress like a monkey but a monkey they’re not” Don’t judge a person by their externals….
The second insight I would like to share is the concept of Shalsheles Hamesorah. The Chain of our Torah true tradition dates back 3324 years to when the Jewish people became a nation when we received the Torah together at Mount Sinai. If you read through the entire Tanach, (5 books of the Torah, the works of the prophets , etc.) you will find the every single prophecy that was given over that applies thus far have come to fruition. 38 major prophecies have come true thus far and those that are yet unfulfilled are unfolding before our very eyes. With only 41 people connecting us to that seminal event (3324/an average life span of 80) at Mount Sinai, it is obvious to the person who is willing to see that amazing times are just around the bend. Just like a parent encourages the child he has the most faith in and pushes that one the hardest, victims of abuse and other tests are indications of the amazing potential for growth that HKBH/G-d sees in you. He did not choose for a victim to be abused for G-ds ways are perfect. But, in that perfection, He sees in every victim the ability to , not lay blame but, to accept responsibility for how we react to the suffering we are put through.
I have been with the Noviminsker Rebbe, the head of Agudath Israel of America , when he spoke in front of thousands of people and cried at the suffering and pain victims of abuse go through. I have heard him cry out how we must do all we can to remove the stain from HKBH’s talis (poetic license, mine) and I assure you, dear B., that you are part of something far greater than yourself. You are loved and never alone.
We feel the suffering you are going through and, while only you can decide if you will ever forgive, know that we hear your cries and will never forget.
Rabbi Dovid Winiarz
As a trained social worker I took courses specializing in child sexual abuse and worked with jewish children in recovery from addictions – I’d say almost 100% of them were victims of sexual abuse. There is no greater tragedy than such abuse and the depth of the pain and suffering is unimaginable. I applaud you for taking a public stand. There is so much to be done to protect our children and we all have to be aware and involved. To B and all others who are suffering – vicitms and their families, my heart goes out to you and I pray you get the support & comfort you deserve.
I am a very upset but still orthodox mother form Monsey, NY.
I’m outraged that people who are supposed to be our leaders and protectors of the Torah are turning their backs on our children.
I read the post and my heart goes out to the man. But I am wondering where his family was in all of this? Did they not stand up for him and protect him? Was he not able to tell them, or did they work to protect the interests of the molesters after the event by “hushing it up”?
From what he told me, his abuser was a relative and his family knew about and protected the abuser. 🙁
orthodox mom in England, disgusted people can wear the garb/kippah and hurt people like that. sickens me.
I am a Yeshivish Orthodox Rabbi. I should not be posting on this blog after the big asifah, but this tugged at my heartstrings.
I am well informed of the issues having been a victim myself, wtnessed, others molesting children, and other Rabbi’s that I know and friends also have had similar experiences.
I do not believe the issues are greater in our community.
As a social wotker put it, illness is illness and it does not discriminate. In any and every community there are ill people. Although we may want to believe that the Torah is the guiding light of every “orthodox” Jew; it is not. Some are guiding by their illness.
I am not angry.
I have moved on.
Anger will not improve or correct what was.
We can learn from the human weaknesses of others that this is a real issue, to be compassionate to the victims, take preventitive measures for those who have not been harmed yet, and to know that we all must grow, with happiness, and be better people.
Move on, be successful in whatever you do, and you will have no need to be angry. Nothing stands between you, a happy marriage, and success- other than yourself.
I, and many other victims, decide to forget about it, and succeed.
B, thank you for sharing your story and Allison for bringing it to a public forum. Your courage is admirable. I am truly sickened by the treatment you received. My heart aches for you and all victims of abuse who are further victimized when they report the molestation.
My question is: WHY are rabbonim not mandated reporters? Teachers can lose their jobs for not reporting abuse of their students. It only makes sense that persons with knowledge of abuse, and the perpetrators of this abuse, need to be held accountable by law. By staying silent (or worse, supporting the abuser), they are acting as accessories to the crime and should be treated as such.
May this discussion spark enough outrage to change the way our system works, so that the protection of our precious children becomes our first priority.
I am an Orthodox Rabbi whose heart goes out to every victim and whose blood boils at few things more than when anyone gives these terribly unwell criminals any sort of a pass. I am encouraged to think that our community is waking up to, and increasingly addressing this critical issue. I, for one, have been using whatever forums available (e.g.presentations at gatherings of frum/orthodox jews)to bring a greater awareness to the broader community.
no internet asifa will save people from the devastating problem of child sexual abuse may the next big asifa be about keeping our children safe rivka finkelstein lakewood nj
My heart bleeds for B. Although I’m thankful not to have experience the tragedy of losing my innocence, I know people who have. I lived in an ultra Orthodox community but have decided to leave because I got so fed up with the double standard hypocrisy.They were quick to attacking women for not dressing modestly enough but refused to say anything about rampant child molestation problems in their communities.My husband nearly witness a child molestation in act.Had he not intervened,I don’t want to imagine what would become of the poor child. 2 victims committed suicide while others “strayed” and turned to drugs and crime for relief. The perpetrators of these abominable acts are not just random perverts with a criminal record. A vast majority of them are Rabbis,mentors, and prominent community figures, people we normally,admire, trust and respect.2 prestigious Rabbis at a very well known Yeshiva in my hometown have been convicted of pedophilia, one of whom taught my brother. When these people descend to vile behaviors, we not only feel betrayed by the community, but we have to live with the long term repercussions of having been subjected to such brutality. Victims are often forced to remain silent and not press charges.If they decide to seek justice, they are threatened with excommunication and demonized in their communities. Parents who put their communities reputation ahead of their children’s safety are unfit to be parents.Rabbis who won’t address this issue should not be community leaders. That is the simple truth.Religious environments are suppose to be safe for children, not perilous as now we are unfortunately seeing. A criminal is a criminal no matter what his title is. I applaud B for raising awareness and shedding insight on this issue.
I work at the Crisis Center for Religiuos Women located in Jerusalem, a rape crisis center serving religious and charedi women and children all over the country who have been the victim of sexual abuse. When the center first opened in 1993, this topic was completely taboo in the whole of religious society. Since then our devoted volunteers and staff memebers have dealt almost daily with stories of abuse by people from “inside” the orthodox world. Each story is indeed heartbreaking, as you wrote. The only positive point is that over the years we have seen a real change in the religious world, with more people talking about this horrible phenomenon, and more importantly – more people “believing” that it is possible, which is very difficult to do when you first hear this type of thing. We have professional therapists who deal with these type of situations, as well as a staff that gives workshops and lectures to raise awareness and help protect the next generation of children from victimization. you can email us at email@example.com
I am an orthodox Jew. I want B and all victims to know that we love you and want only good to come your way. Hashem should grant you nechamah (consolement) and joy from now till forever.
In a note to Jew in the city, I do not think you worded the following correctly:
“…his people failed him, and ultimately God failed him.”
I know that you are a G-D fearing woman and know a lot about emunah. One of the tenants of faith is that just because you don’t understand G-D’s ways, does not mean you know better than Him. I am only human so I cannot begin to understand why abuse happened to individuals, nor do I understand why the Holocoust happen, nor inquisition, pogroms, terrorist attacks, etc. But I do know that G-D did not fail us. WE just don’t see the big picture right now. I am not as smart as G-D nor all knowing. What I do know is this: G-D does not fail us. If we are going through something hard, G-D is going through it with us.
Thanks for your comment, SLP. Just to clarify, I was trying to speak from “B’s” perspective when I wrote: “As far as B is concerned the system failed him, the rabbis failed him, his people failed him, and ultimately God failed him.” I don’t personally believe that God failed him, but I was trying to show how devastating the abuse and the cover ups were to him – it made him feel not alone alone in this world, but alone spiritually as well. Molestation is one of the biggest reasons people leave observance, so I was trying to emphasize how the abuse and cover up impacted him.
Thank you, B and Allison for your efforts to bring this to public awareness. I felt compelled to comment because a friend and I were having a conversation related to this a few hours ago. When I read the post, it surely was a sign for me to take note.
I am Jew-ish. I find comfort in the Torah and in our culture. My religious education has been independently driven as I grew up in a community with no synagogue and a secular family. I do not currently belong to a congregation. Therefore, my opinion is not going to reflect the demographic that you requested.
Sexual abuse and assault are a human problem. The problem is greater than we know because it so often goes unreported. But these acts are often carried out because the predator needs to feel a sense of power over someone who is powerless in that circumstance. Predators are often found to be those that were previously abused. It is a horrible cycle. For some, this is the only way that they can reclaim the sense of power that they lost when they were abused. For others, they are unsure of how to normalize their sexual feelings and desires because their frame of reference was damaged by abuse. Predators are commonly found in settings in which they have power over a group of people and may coerce their victim(s). Sexual abuse and assault is more common in settings in which the predator is unlikely to be discovered or consequenced. In a position of power, the predator may have the opportunity to influence a coverup, pressure the victim and observers to keep silent, or simply deny allegations based on their shining reputation within the community over which they hold power.
In this situation, there is little to be said to remedy the experience that B or many like him had. But, with his help and with yours, Allison, we can begin conversation about the topic and find a way to break the cycle of abuse. We don’t know when or where the cycle began. Maybe it was an outsider of a community who abused a child, and that child grew up and became an adult that abused another child, for many generations. Knowing the origin of the abuse cannot numb the pain that the victims feel. What can help, is making it socially acceptable for the victim to experience their pain and eventually heal from it, so that the cycle does not continue. The conversation must force awareness, and as communities we must create safe places for victims and help them heal with our compassion and understanding.
In no way do I mean to imply that all victims become predators. This is not true. But only one victim of one predator must be damaged to the point of becoming a predator in order for the cycle to continue. Most predators have many victims throughout their lifetime.
I have worked with many sexually abused children throughout my career. What I have seen are scared, confused children that do not know how to trust the people around them or build relationships with other people. They feel isolated and many internalize their blame. They often are halted in their emotional development when abuse occurs and all of these things can have tragic, debilitating effects.
B, you are a hero. Your voice will certainly save a vulnerable child somewhere, from experiencing the horrors that you endured. I hope that through this work, you find peace within yourself and begin to heal some of the betrayal that you have felt. Allison, you too are a hero, for demanding that the Orthadox and larger Jewish communities address these issues.
I agree with you, C. Just to add my two cents, as it were…I suspect that the origin of this sexual abuse in the Jewish community probably comes from without the Jewish community. What I mean is that such abnormal behavior is totally aberrant to our Torah laws and way of life…so it stands to reason that 2000 years of inquisitions, expulsions, pogroms and Holocaust were filled with unmentionable tortures including rapes. I can only imagine that this included sexual abuse to both men, women and children. The mental illness in the Jewish/frum community, in particular, in higher percentage wise than in the general population…and this abuse over the millenia has taken a toll on our people.
I do not mean to make any excuses…just trying to shed light how this kind of thing can happen to a people who live by G-d’s Laws…sexual aberrant behavior is clearly spelled out in our laws as to what we are NOT to do. This is the only reasonable explanation that I can come up with for this base behavior in our community. Now we have to deal with this as effectively and humanely for all concerned.
Torah is down here with us, and is no longer in Heaven. Hiding behind Torah to justify abuse and other horrors, is a profane act by people who are either confused, or are themselves profane. I’d compare such acts to Avodah Zarah, i.e. social position displaces G-d. Helping victims of abuse and preventing abuse are acts that sanctify Torah.
Rachmanes on the victims, and on all of us. Allison, you have kishkes!!
I am an Orthodox rabbi and social worker. I work for Project S.A.R.A.H., an agency specifically devoted to Jewish victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence. Indeed, B is not the only victim of this problem. We help treat people like this and we do community education and prevention work to try to reduce the incidence of it occurring.
I am Orthodox and BT (returnee from non-observance). I live in Monsey. I have three children, one of whom is a bright little boy who has Asperger’s Syndrome. After Leiby Kletzky was murdered last year, I heard a story a few days later about an attempted abduction of a young girl that happened around the corner from my house. I don’t allow myself to live in fear as it is not healthy, but it bothers me that we moved to a suburban, more well-to-do Orthodox community so our children could have a safer and more homogenous experience, and I know that there at least 3 registered Orthodox pedophiles living with 5 miles of my house. The religious community does not openly talk about these issues, and it is only because I have internet access and lived in the “other world” before my Orthodox life that I know about the existence of pedophilia. A Yemenite frum woman (who was so sweet and wonderful!) watched my oldest son after school a couple of years ago. She left him outside with her 1 year-old unattended, while she talked on the phone in the apartment. I told her that you can’t ever leave your kids alone in America because of pedophiles and other dangerously cruel people, and she had no idea what I was talking about because they did not have to worry about those kind of issues in Yemen (obviously there were other issues in Yemen they did have to deal with that are different than the culture here in the States). No one in the religious community had explained it to her when she and her family came to live in the community, and I was sad to be the bearer of bad but true news. Awareness is slowly rising and education is the key to making that happen. I am so sorry for your painful experience. It had to have been a terrifying experience, and believe me, I can understand why it is hard to have faith in G-d and the Orthodox community after what you’ve been through. Just know though, there are many of us who are trying to live the way the Torah truly intended Jews to live. Those of us who are trying are not isolated and few in number, we just seem few in number because the media focuses on the few bad examples rather than talking about the larger and more beautiful tapestry that makes up the Orthodox world as a whole. We care for you and we share in your pain, because this is what Jews do and what makes being Jewish so special.
My heart is consevadox but I practice reform Judaism. It took me more than five years to report to “the rabbis ” of the city of the of the ORTHODOX man / rabbi / sex & love addict who sexually abused me and who emotionally abused and tortured me. After a few weeks, I called back to check on the staus of my complaint only to find that ths “other ” rabbi had betrayed my trust and talked to the perpetrator and his ex- wife. Based on the circumstances, they figured out who I was, and now I live in fear of being exposed to my husband and family. Once again, the Orthodox protecting there own,
Fast forward to a an Orthodox rebbetsin who is a very learned woman, and , just a short discussion with her and my years of guilt and shame are disappearing. May “B”. Find the right support to overcome this horrible life- changing experience and may B come back to our Religion knowing there is good, there is love, there is HaShem..
I was not raised Jewish, but I am very interested in converting. I was molested as a child, and the act of covering up molestation is not unique to Orthodox Judaism. 1 out of 3-4 women and 1 out of 5-6 men are sexually abused as children. While talking to another survivor of childhood sexual abuse, she told me that she initially reported the abuse to her school nurse. The school nurse’s response was, “Oh, the same thing happened to me. You’ll get over it.” The proper response would have been to immediately contact child protective services. Now, there is the thing that happened to me that “isn’t a big deal” (although it certainly feels like a huge deal to me), and then there is the possibility that something else happened and that I blocked the memory and am in the process of recovering it. While talking to a family member recently about having nightmares that were possibly flashbacks to a blocked memory, this family member said to me, “So, what, are you going to hold this over our heads?” Instead of showing sympathy, this person (and so many others I have spoken to) began to be afraid of what would happen to other members of the family if I were to talk about this or (God forbid) press charges. It is all too common in any community – religious or not – to protect the offender and to shame and silence the survivor. This has to stop. Right now I am making an attempt to do volunteer work with BARCC (the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, which was invaluable in my healing process) and also facilitate survivor-to-survivor networking. It is so incredibly helpful to share your story with other people who understand what you went through and who will not try to silence or shame you. I would encourage B to do two things if he hasn’t already: to contact a local rape crisis center and utilize their resources, and to read “Healing Sex” by Staci Haines (it’s largely geared toward women, as the author is a woman, but has invaluable resources for becoming comfortable in your own body and dealing with the aftermath of childhood sexual abuse). Hopefully doing those two things will be as helpful to B as they were to me. Silence is NOT golden, and it solves nothing. Survivors need to reach out to one another to heal and tell their stories.
I am a simple Jew currently attending yeshiva in Eretz Yisrael, and seriously contemplating starting a family of my own.
It’s nice to see so much sympathy for victims, but I want to enable my future child to protect him/herself from becoming a victim.
What advice do you have for parents to protect their children, or to enable their children to defend themselves long enough to call for help to arrive?
Thanks for your comment, Adam. I’m not an expert in this area, but look up rabbihorowitz.com – he handles these issues in the frum community. From what I’ve learned, I’d say the number one thing is communication. Talking to your kids at a young age about people who could hurt them, God forbid, and always keeping the lines of communication open so they feel comfortable coming to you if there ever is an issue. But definitely check out Rabbi Horowitz’s site!
A courageous article. I would add the observation that it is all too common for members of any religious community to implicitly exempt themselves from responsibilities related to honoring of one’s fellow human. All too often, laws of ritual observance (Mitzvot Bein Adam LaMakom) are allowed to replace (instead of support) laws pertaining to treatment of others (Mitzvot Bein Adam LaChavero). There is a sense of entitlement that is commonly fostered in religiously focused environments. This sense of entitlement becomes the gateway to the kind of self-righteous indignation that becomes the fortress of the criminal and his protectors.
I don’t really fit any one category. I am an American Sephardic Jewish BT who is most comfortable in charedi society but believes in Torah U’mada.
B, I can’t imagine the depths of your pain but admire your courage for speaking out. Abusers of innocent children are the lowest of the low no matter what community they are from, Jewish or not.
Many thoughtful posts here, but none reiterate Allison’s disclaimer in the very first paragraph regarding “Orthodox Jews”:
“The quotations serve as a way of my distancing what Orthodox Jews are actually meant to be doing from what these individuals are doing”.
Any Jew who commits any act that is against Torah principles is not a religious Jew. Period. It doesn’t matter what community they belong to or what they wear. Anyone who defends such a person is an accomplice, plain & simple. Some people in the Orthodox world are insulated and misconstrue the meaning of “dan l’kaf zechut”. There is no excuse for not learning the warning signs of abuse. It’s on the rise in the Orthodox world because it’s on the rise in general. Society has become hyper-sexualized–it’s everywhere. Anyone who thinks that their kids are safe b/c they don’t have a TV or Internet is a fool. I have to be careful what streets I drive on because the billboards here in LA are so explicit.
Please realize that perpetrators of abuse are not models of Orthodox Judaism or Torah. They are sick INDIVIDUALS.
B, There is so much value in Torah learning & living that you should not deprive yourself of because of the “bad apples” you have encountered. There are probably more abusers proportionally in the secular world. It may seem more rampant because we Orthodox Jews live in a community; we interface with many more people than the average secular American. The danger is what I call the “Facebook Effect”, i.e., we think that anyone we know (or have a mutual acquaintance with) is a “friend”. Familiarity breeds trust but we still have to be careful. When the abuser is a person of authority, it’s even worse.
I highly recommend “The Shame Borne in Silence” by Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski. This book brings the issue to the forefront and is a great educational tool. You can see it here:
There are several Orthodox professionals who are working to promote safety from predators. I champion their work.
Thank you for this post.
This week, I attended a program by a new organization called Magenu (Magenu.org) which is training all the schools in Brooklyn (Parents/ teachers/kids) about safety.
It was so wonderful and educational.
The children at the yeshivas who are implementing their program will 100% be much safer from these terrible people.
Good post. I’m disturbed that you wrote that “God failed him.” God never fails.
Thanks for your comment, Rachel. Let me clarify something: *I* don’t believe God failed him – *he* believes God failed him. I was simply trying to show how broken this formerly religious man was from this, not describe my feelings.
We just found out that my sister was molested by what was a young bochur in yeshiva. She was only in preschool at the time and told my mother that a man was coming into the class bathrooms – which were open and unsupervised while the kids were outside during recess. It wasn’t uncommon for bochurim to come into the classrooms and borrow supplies and etc. When the teachers were told they brushed it off and claimed that it wasn’t true. Having been a teacher in that school previously, I remember how open it was and how many of the teachers sat outside and shmoozed and allowed kids to run in and out of the classrooms to use the bathrooms.
The fallout from being hurt by that man leads to PTSD and our efforts should be on strongly helping these adults and preteens heal. So they can possibly learn to get on with their lives.
The pain and destruction abusers cause to their victims and their victims families can never be erased or forgiven.
Why someone would want to steal a childs faith and trust and childhood is beyond belief and understanding.
How are they supposed to go on and grow up and have a normal relationship and family?
A ganif- thief steals money or an item from another- a value can be put on it.
But how do replace peace of mind, self respect, faith and trust in humanity and in ones self – how do you replace a life that no longer includes the possibility of a spouse and children and a family life…. this is way worse!
My heart is broken for my parents and their grief and for my sister- who is suffering terribly, she is a loving giving and gentle person who no longer wants anything to do with being Jewish.
Bigger pictures no longer comfort me. I see such suffering and pain and If G-d wants us to love Him and be compassionate, He should truly watch over people with better care. And not sit quiet while innocent people are suffering and being hurt.
Thank you for writing this. I just want to know if the victim’s should forgive their molestor’s? Or is this against our views as Torah observant Jews?
There’s one place child molesters belong, and that’s six feet under.
It’s a scary world we live in, having to deal with such atrocities as molestation, but I must applaud you for writing such an eloquent article on the subject. I am an Orthodox Jew, and every time I hear about these perverted and subhuman attacks, it makes me sick. I feel the world of that poor victim, shattering to pieces, from one cruel, selfish act. I feel the confusion when the people who are supposed to love him/her viciously turn their backs, in favor of ignorance and denial- of dodging conflict, and social acceptance- of radically mutated and misguided ‘rules’, and following the flock- over comforting a pained soul. I feel the depression, the anger, the hopelessness when that poor sad victim realizes he/she is all alone in the fight to remain sane. I feel the faith in community, in loved ones, in Hashem begin to ebb away. But most of all, I feel the tremendous blow being dealt to each and every single Jew in the world, when some lowlife is allowed to get away with such depravity- when everything is v’nahapoch hu, the victim being shunned and humiliated, while the perpetrator is lauded as a saint- all in the name of religion. That sickens me. To see my G-d being falsely portrayed as someone who demands sanctuary for a child molester, and banishment for a victim?? That fills me with rage. I have an unwavering belief in Hashem and the Torah, and I know that the G-d I base my life around is the essence of Goodness. So to see His laws become so distorted and twisted, so EVIL, yes PURE EVIL, fills me with a fiery indignation, to say the least.
My favorite line of yours is definitely: “Our Torah is perfect, our people are not.” Such a profound statement. Our Torah contains no flaws. We do. We were entrusted with the power to be a light unto the nations. Many of us are beacons in a world of darkness. Some of us squander this gift for a false sense of righteousness, snuffing out the candles the rest of us have worked so hard to light. It’s your standard, garden variety radicalism- twisting and skewing the halacha to such extreme levels as to be colossally destructive; Levels that only hurt our brothers, our sisters, and ourselves, both on an individual and global scale. By protecting molesters, the Chillul Hashem is amplified, spreading false views of our G-d to the world at large.
May we be zocheh to see only light, to see our victims healed and cared for, our perpetrators locked away, our radicalism wiped out, our devotion to following in the TRUE derech of Hashem restored unanimously, and ultimately the speedy rebuilding of the beis Hamikdash.
Thanks again, Allison, for not being afraid to let your voice be heard! And to all those victims out there, there are plenty of people who care. Kol tuv!
I’m former Orthodox, now secular, and I’m shocked that no one saw this coming, or that anyone could think their community would do things differently than what B’s community did to him. How can you be surprised when there are still Catholics who will swear that all those kids raped by their priests are exaggerating, or are out for a buck? How many times do we have to hear their laity, or especially the various priests and bishops, publicly blaming something–anything–to take the stench of the corruption and immorality in their religion?
You’d be fooling yourselves if you think the Catholics were unique in that, though. It’s true of every religious group. There will always be people who will take the side of abusers.
It would help if religious people, of all stripes, would accept a few hard facts.
1. Religion doesn’t make anyone moral. Really. It does a whole lot to make them bad, though. To quote physicist Stephen Weinburg: “With or without [religion] you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”
2. Being clergy does not make someone moral, but every religion is full of people who think that their clergy can do no wrong. Even the less gullible followers will AUTOMATICALLY believe their clergy is good before they will everyone else, 99% of the time..
3. The very nature of religion, with its built in us-vs-them mentality (ALL of them have this feature–think about it), makes sure that followers close ranks when a threat arises. Especially when that threat comes from within their own ranks. Feature. Not a bug.
Add all that up, and you get a community turning on someone who dares to imply that their holy man isn’t moral.
For so long, every victim who came forward heard, “How dare you say that about Child Rapist clergyman! He’s a good man–our rabbi/priest/minister!! He’s a man of gawd!” The people who said that didn’t just decide on their own that their clergy was moral. They were carefully cultivated to think it, because religion can’t continue to exist without instilling obedience and deference to authority in its followers.
Until you address this problem of unearned authority and the foolish idea that your religion makes people moral (it doesn’t), then some new horror will arise from within your ranks again. And again. And again.
And quit grafting your religion onto the real morality that has given us better understanding of the evil of child abuse of all kinds, and taught us true compassion for the victims. That wasn’t religion, and certainly not ay of the book religions. Far from it. In fact, religion only had MILLENNIA to get a grip on the problem, and was a decided and miserable failure at it. The Buddhists sort of came close…but didn’t quite make it. The book religions? Oh dear. Wayyyyyyy behind the curve.
Everything we think now about child sexual abuse is thanks to feminism and secular humanism. Sure, people sort of know it was wrong, but they were the ones who got us not to bury our heads in the sand anymore about child abuse–of any kind, They’re why we’re aware of this problem and talking about it, and why we’re no longer blaming, shaming and shunning the victims, unlike religion which spent millennia ignoring the problem. When it wasn’t covering it up.
You make some great points with which I agree, though you have some other points with which I strongly differ. The one point I’d like to address, however, is the assertion that religion has no track record in instilling morality. Anecdotally, I know that not to be the case.
I know many people who eschew gossip in all its forms because of what they learned from religion. I know people who are scrupulously honest in business based on what they learned from religion. I know people who are charitable to a fault because of their religious values. The real acid test? I have known countless high school and college students who were chaste because of their religious beliefs. So it’s inconceivable to think that absolutely no one ever refrained from robbery, rape, assault or murders that they otherwise would have committed if not for their religious education.
I agree that all people are human and therefore flawed, so it should by no means be inconceivable that a religious person – even a clergyman – could be guilty of such a thing. But in your zeal to counterbalance the naiveté of those on one extreme, you seem to take things a little too far in the opposite direction. Religion’s track record may not be perfect, but I think it’s still pretty respectable. Abuses? Sure. One can easily point at all the child molesters and the Westboro Baptist Church and the Crusades and decry religion. But remember that the majority of religious people are keeping quietly to themselves and living moral lives, not making headlines or history books. “Rabbi Embezzler” is what makes the news. “Religious Man Tithes Income” doesn’t.
All those guilty of the abominable crime of paedophilia should face exposure, condemnation and punishment. May the Almighty deal with them harshly.