May 26, 2024
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May 26, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

How many times did we as a couple discuss the tragedy in the religious world of sweeping atrocious actions under the carpet, assuming that no one would ever know?

It isn’t just sexual abuse that has been disregarded. Domestic violence, drugs, pornography, alcoholism and all of the many vices that people become entrenched in were becoming more pervasive in the Torah world. Hurrah for the Jewish religious community, be it Chassidish, Yeshivish, Charedi, Modern Orthodox. (Excuse me if Ieft anyone out.) We can now say that we have caught up with the general world in partaking in so many of the tragic behaviors that ruin families, schools, yeshivas and every other body that we find ourselves a part of.

I remember well when Reb Dovid Cohen, the posek of Nefesh (the International Network

of Orthodox Mental Health Professionals) would take a vigorous stand, paskening on the need to immediately report to the police whenever a person was found molesting or sexually abusing a partner, child, student or anyone else. Many of the leaders in the Chassidish and Charedi leadership threatened him with all sorts of punishments.

I have a personal example of this experience. Approximately 25 years ago, one of our grandsons, then an 8- or 9-year-old camper at Camp Magen Avraham, was a witness to a “rebbe” who was sleeping in his bunk. He apparently actually saw him abuse another camper in his bunk. Although our son-in-law was the camp pediatrician and in camp at the time, he was not even informed the next morning by the administration that an incident had occurred.

Our grandson never told his parents until months later when a gentleman appeared at my daughter’s home in Rochester with a subpoena for their 10-year-old son. The court case was to be held in Monticello, New York. Our children were threatened many times about what would happen to them if they brought their son to testify against the perpetrator. The “rebbe” was the grandson of a well-known rav in Israel, and they hired top lawyers from Manhattan for his defense. I was terribly frightened due to all of the threats that were received by our children. One brilliant mind suggested that my daughter might be driven off the road if she proceeded to go through with this.

My Mordechai traveled to Monticello to be present at the trial and to show support to my daughter and her son. The district attorney in Monticello told us that he had never been approached by so many people from many different walks of Jewish life giving him every good reason why this young man, this “rebbe” should be acquitted.

After hours of testimony, frightening a young boy and his father (who were the victims), they called our grandson to the stand and intimidated a 10-year-old child. The accused was acquitted.

By the way, other children did not testify because their parents did not accept the subpoenas that were served on their children, and it did not take long for the perpetrator to be arrested once again at Westchester Day School on another similar case. He was removed from the school in handcuffs. I imagine that he found some way to have his charges dismissed.

The story repeats itself, over and over again. Another time, in Montreal, a well-known rebbe, teacher and self-designated therapist was finally forced to leave the city after too many charges were made against him. Marriages were destroyed and families were despondent, but his mode of dress assured them of the fact that he could not be doing any of the charges blatantly laid against him. He is now in Bet Shemesh, which seems to be a pattern. If abusers are found out here they move themselves far away to where they can continue with their abhorrent behavior.

What does all of this say? I think that the most important lesson which we need to learn from these tales, and the one that has kept many glued to Jewish news sites for the past several weeks: The perpetrators in these cases are sick individuals. In most cases they refuse help. That is when it is our responsibility to make sure that they never ever have the opportunity to abuse again.

If that means that they should be in jail, then they should be. It doesn’t matter how many children they have, how wonderful their spouses are, or the shadow that this might cast on their chevra. Without help and real intervention from professionals who have the courage to speak out, these people will constantly reoffend. It is also possible that treatment for abusers may not be effective, and they should never be allowed to work again, anywhere near their field. I remember how many times my beloved husband told me that.

We need to raise our children with the idea that they will not be victims because we will not allow it. We read daily of the adults today who are now coming forth with their buried memories of what happened to them from trusted members of the community.

Schools, together with parents, need to address together how to best approach this subject when speaking with our children. Young couples going through the shidduch process need to know that if there is the slightest sign that someone might be “off,” you must do your diligence into checking into it.

I will close with the story I heard from my beloved in Montreal. A couple came to him one week before their daughter was to be married. They had heard “rumors” that the chasson about to marry their daughter did some “things” during his days in yeshiva. Believe me that we are talking of a family who checked everything that the craziness of the world needs to check these days. What were the rumors? He had been abusing boys in the dormitory in his yeshiva.

Immediately they called the boy’s rosh yeshiva who they had spoken to during their original “checking.” When they questioned him and asked him if these rumors were true and why he had not forewarned them his answer was that “the boy in question had done teshuva.” These parents were now grappling with whether or not they should call off the shidduch and of course the wedding. Would any of us have a question about this?

People would often prefer to close their eyes to these horrible situations than to act on them. Let us hope that the world today is willing to face these challenges and do what needs to be done before so many more people will become the tragic victims of silence.

Nina Glick can be reached at [email protected].

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