About Denial - The Rosh HaYeshiva, Sex-Abuse & Ramat Bet Shemesh

By A Guest Writer - A Survivor of Abuse

I was one of those “kids at risk” who went off the derech and no one could figure out why. I was from a chashuv family. I was a good kid, a quiet kid. I had everything going for me. My grandfather was a Rosh Yeshiva. No one knew, or wanted to know, that for years I was molested in the yeshiva by my grandfather the Rosh Yeshiva and also by some of his students. One of those students was my father. When I tried to talk about it no one believed me. They said I was crazy. They said I was lying. They said I was saying it to get attention. (I could think many better, less painful, ways that I could have gotten attention!) They said I had a memory problem. They said I had a “vendetta” against my father. They said everything they could think of to try to discredit me and to avoid the truth. They were in denial.

What's unusual about my story is not that I was molested by frum yeshiva bochurim and a Rosh Yeshiva. Child sexual abuse knows no social or religious boundaries. I believe it happens far more than we care to contemplate. What is unusual about me is that I came back to my roots and I am now living a fulfilling Jewish life. I know so many who went through similar experiences and never looked back. Their souls are lost to Judaism forever.

It took years of soul searching and healing to come back. Child sexual abuse is one of the hardest minhagim for families to change. It's pain and shame handed down from one generation to the next. Until someone swims against the tide of denial, stops the flow, builds a dam, and changes the minhag child sexual abuse doesn't go away on its own.

As I began to heal, It slowly became clear to me that I was not created in my abusers image of God, and that they did not own Torah. It became clear to me that the frum talmidai chachamim who abused me perhaps really were frum and really were talmid chacham...But they had a serious problem that they didn't have the tools or support to deal with. They suffered from an addiction they couldn't even admit to themselves that they struggled with. So they passed the molestation problem down to me, and to other children. For years I battled the current of denial, nearly drowned in it, lost my entire family because of it, and eventually thank God dealt with it, for me, for my children and grandchildren, for the future of klal yisroel.

Or so I thought.

A few years back I made Aliyah and moved to Ramat Bet Shemesh. I thought that I was in a safe place to raise my children. Then, last summer my sons first grade rebbe was accused of molesting some of his classmates. It was horrible, and retraumatizing for me. It brought back my own past. I was ready to leave again, this time for good.

Not because it happened. These things happen in every community. But because of the denial. Denial hurts worse then the actual acts of abuse. When I, or my child, is sexually abused our world is ripped apart. One of the saddest affects of abuse is the loss of trust. Trust in oneself, trust in people, trust in God and in the Torah community. It's hard enough believing that the unthinkable happened. That someone I trusted could molest a child. But when my reality is assaulted at every turn by the people I turn to for support it creates deeper and deeper wounds. Denial is our best defense against that which is too horrible to imagine. But it is insidious and hurtful. It takes a lot of courage to face denial and challenge our existing beliefs.

When I saw what the family of the victims went through because of denial I knew I had to speak up. I wish people would think twice about the possible affect that some of their thoughtless comments have on an already traumatized person or family.

We condemn and our horrified by holocaust deniers and yet we do the very same thing to victims of sexual abuse within our community. Survivors of child sexual abuse have gone through a personal holocaust. It would be unthinkable to question the memories of a holocaust survivor. We wouldn't grill them for details of their experiences. We would wait and see if they needed to talk. Neither would we deny them the need to speak of their experiences. Why do we do these hurtful things to people who have already been so hurt and traumatized by sexual abuse?

    If you find out that someone, or someone's child has been a victim of abuse:Offer your empathy and support and ask how you can help.

    Just listen.

    Don't try to defend the alleged perpetrator because you know them or trust them and can't imagine them molesting.

    Perpetrators of child sexual abuse are addicts not monsters.

    My father and grandfather were not monsters. They did many good things in their lives. Molesting me was not one of them. Their actions caused a lot of pain.

    Don't try to place the blame on someone else.

    Don't try to figure out if the child is “lying.”

    Frum children especially, don't know how to lie about this.

    Believe that something bad happened.

    Know that no person would willingly offer themselves to the frum community for the kind of stigma and punishment that families of individuals who have been abused go through when they dare to speak out.

    The community reaction of denial and blaming the victim is far worse than the abuse.

    Know that until your own child is a victim you really don't understand.

    Don't put your child into a school where an alleged perpetrator is teaching.

    You are supporting community denial when you do that. You are enabling perpetrators to continue molesting.

    Let's end the denial and keep our children safe!

    A grateful survivor.


  1. what a powerful post - thank you.

    oddly enough a relative of mine once said to me he thinks this talk about sexual molestation of children is overdone - that kids get hit, abused, whatever, and this is just one more kind of rough treatment they have to forget about and move on.

    I didn't know exactly to explain that sexual molestation is more severe than physical beatings - or is it? although this post might point to one difference - in ch"v a case of physical abuse the parent generally justifies that the kid deserves it, he doesn't cover up his actions.

    what would you say?

  2. This is one of the saddest and bravest things I have read for a long time. I find it so hard to understand why the victim is made to suffer so much more than the abuse itself and is made to feel guilty for reporting what has happened to him/her. At the lecture in RBS last week, with the panel of experts, they mentioned that in some towns the rabbonim work together with social workers and therapists to respond to claims of abuse professionally and efficiently. May Hashem grant our local rabbonim the strength and vision to create such a team in RBS in the new Year.

  3. The rabbis won't help you. You have to help yourselves.

  4. I'm curious if this guest poster believes that there are ever cases of false allegations. He said children do not know how to lie, but can't mothers in divorces make up false allegations and plant it in kids' heads? Young children might not "lie" but a 3 year old can have false memories planted. We know this from famous cases (Kelly Michaels) etc.

  5. Anonymous said: "I'm curious if this guest poster believes that there are ever cases of false allegations."

    Yes, cases exist. The Margaret Kelly Michaels case, you mention, in the Wee Care Nursery School, was indeed a tragic miscarriage of justice. However, that it has been spotlighted by some for almost FIFTEEN YEARS now, is an indication of its rarity.

    According to the Child Protection Center in Israel, 2% of claims of abuse transpire to be false alarms. US Child Abuse agencies report similar statistics. Which is to say 98% are FOR REAL.

    See my article on this blog: So How Common IS Child Abuse in Ramat Bet Shemesh for further info: http://tzedek-tzedek.blogspot.com/2009/08/so-how-common-is-child-sexual-abuse-in.html

  6. By Guest Poster:

    Yes, I believe that rare cases of false allegations do exist. But I believe that our first response should be to believe and support the alleged victim and not question them. (take your questions elsewhere.) In this community when we hear of an allegation we react as if their is an epidemic of false allegations, rather than the reality, an epidemic of child sexual abuse and denial. Molesters depend on this reaction of disbelief to continue molesting. According to the Religious Woman's Crisis Hotline, we do have an epidemic. They define this as statistically one new child becoming a victim every week in every religious community in Israel. We have a serious problem.

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  9. Can someone substantiate as to whether or not Lemaán Achai has been banned from raising funds in Bais Tfillah because of the JP article?

    I can't believe that here in the 21st century a kehilla such as BT, with sincere, intelligent members would allow such shameful tactics.

    [This post has been lightly edited by a blog administrator].

  10. Yes, I can unfortunately confirm that Rabbi Malinowitz/Beis Tefilla have banned Lema'an Achai from fundraising in their shul, due to the Jerusalem Post article.

    For background, I refer you to my previous article on this blog:
    So How Common IS Child Abuse in Ramat Bet Shemesh

  11. Here is an idea for BT members. Redirect you Beis Tefila membership dues to lemaan achai.

  12. David-

    You may want to consider declining to assist all families who are affilaited with shuls and rabbis who shun Lemaan Achai.

    It is a halachically legitimate tactic, and, in any event, seeing that poverty is a feature (ideal?) of chareidi life, there may be such an uproar againt such rabbis by their own congregants......that the ban will be lifted in a matter of hours.

  13. When Lema'an Achai first started, it offered assistance to *all* RBS residents - both in Aleph and Bet. After a couple of years, it was noted that the overwhelming majority of communities in RBS Bet failed to support Lema'an Achai, although they did request Lema'an Achai's financial support.
    With deep regret, Lema'an Achai withdrew its services from RBS Bet.
    So there is precedent for Lema'an Achai to withdraw support from communities which fail to support Lema'an Achai.
    As the human price for such a decision could be devastating, the halachiks would certainly need to be re-visited by Lema'an Achai's founder & possek Rav Chaim Soloveichik.

  14. Where is the board of btya? Do they agree with the Rav's decision? Why has there not been a public announcement made to the paying members of the shul about their Rav's decision? Perhaps it is time that the word gets out about the decisions that are affecting the ability of lemaan achai to feed hungry families in our community?

  15. we should ask the achdus rbs torah group who organised the very successful birchas hachama to get involved. I read on the list that they have another shiur coming up.
    They have connections and I am sure they could create achdus.
    It would be a big kiddush hashem

  16. Stop fooling yourselves with rediculous concepts such as "achdus". The Jewish people are NOT one nation -- nor do they need to be.

    Ever open a Tanach lately?

  17. Anonymous at 21:23 is right! I'd like to see Rabbi Kornfeld feed all the families in his shul that would be affected if L.A. stopped funding them due to his anti-semetic agenda!

  18. Hi,
    I'm trying to figure out what to do with religion. I was raised frum but everything to do with shabbos and haggim are all mixed up with the inappropriate stuff I did with my dad. I didn't tell but I was taken to jewish child services--nothing done. Most of the entire community banded around him. I ran away and got help from christian organizations, the only people who believed me and helped me. So...how to reconcile my feelings about the community and all the mixed up painful stuff around observance? Any ideas?

  19. Dear JJ Female

    I am so sorry to hear of the terrible pain you have been through. The pain of abuse, and the second blow of rejection.

    There are now Jewish Abuse-Survivors Groups. I believe many of these survivors will have experienced the 'blame the victim' response you have suffered - and can help you through your own crisis about Judaism iteself.

    Ben Hirsch is president of Survivors for Justice:
    Lead Professional: Ben Hirsch
    phone: 212-414-5867
    Email: bhirsch@legrp.com
    Address: Survivors for Justice
    25 Broadway, 17th Floor
    New York, NY 10004
    Website: www.survivorsforjustice.org

    JJ Female, please feel free to contact me directly, as this important question you have raised is now somewhat lost on this "old" posting (postings have a short shelf-life!).


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