Monday, February 18, 2013

Channel 4 video erred: Hardliners not majority

The Telegraph   When Dispatches: Britain’s Hidden Child Abuse aired at the end of last month on Channel 4, I watched it with interest. The programme had been widely advertised. Its central revelation was to be that British orthodox rabbis were forbidding their followers to report child abuse to the police. As a member of the orthodox community who suffered abuse as a child, I knew how important this was. [...]

When my sister and I were growing up in the Haredi community, we were abused by a rabbi. Between the ages of six and 11, this man — a member of our close family — physically abused me, and sexually abused my younger sister. The matter eventually came into the open, and it caused a split in the community. Many people made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that the authorities should not be involved. But there was another group that supported our right to report our abuser to the police. We did so, and the man went to prison for a number of years.  [....]

This period of our lives was the most stressful our family had ever experienced. While the court case was going on, my mother was targeted by a group of ultra-orthodox hardliners who despised us for having talked to the police. Somehow, she protected my sister and I from it at the time, and told me the details only recently. It was a campaign of intimidation. Her car was vandalised. Rubbish, including soiled nappies, was pushed through our letterbox. She was spat at in the street, and cursed for generations. Many kosher shops refused her service. She received threatening letters; even our solicitor – a Haredi man – was sent a note saying that if he continued to represent us, his house would be burned down and his children killed.

And most humiliating of all, letters appeared under the windscreen wipers of all the cars in the synagogue car park, stating my mother was mad and we were under her influence. The same letters were sent to our teachers, and to my mother’s employer. Reading this, you are probably wondering why I criticise the Channel 4 programme. The reason is simple. The intimidation was carried out only by a hardcore element of the Haredi community. Many others stood up to them, including my headmaster and our solicitor, both high-ranking rabbis and ordinary people. These people gave us emotional, practical and even financial support, and refused to be intimidated.

A group of senior rabbis even held meetings with those who attacked us, and argued with them, citing Talmudic sources, to suggest that going to the police was the right thing to do. I will always be grateful to these people for their courage and compassion. It was wrong of Dispatches to ignore them, and irresponsible to allow the hardline sects to characterise the entire Haredi community.

The orthodox Jewish community is not a monolithic entity. There are countless sects and sub-sects, and each has a slightly different set of values. Nobody can know the numbers for certain. Perhaps there are more hardliners than moderates; personally, I suspect it is vice versa. [...]


  1. Obviously sympathy for the author of this article and his sister.

    But it only demonstrates that the problem is deepset, is not because of the "internet", mobile phones, or TVs. It is a serious problem that comes with insular religious communities, and power that is handed to rabbis and fear instilled by them.
    I am not attacking Haredi, Orthodox, or any specific groups, since it can happen in reform, Conservative, Catholic or secular schools.

    It proves also that the yetzer hara is not something that can be controlled by learning in yeshiva, having separate buses, same sex schools, etc. Yetzer hara, in psychological sense, can not be created or destroyed but only converted from one form to another.

    Even David Hamelech who subdued his , was only able to do this temporarily, as far as I understand, but please correct me if I am mistaken.

  2. I'm happy to hear the author's positive experience with most community members in supporting them in reporting their abuse. Unfortunately, having been involved in quite a few of such situations, that has NOT been my experience. though most community members I spoke to feel much empathy for the victims, they are nevertheless very uncomfortable taking a hard stand against the perpetrators. I could hardly find someone who would be willing to even confront the perpetrators, let alone go to the police.

  3. When I was a kid I attended a camp in the Poconos. A very frum and famous one. I endured plenty of bullying from my bunk mates because at 13 I was the odd man out. They had all been attending this camp since the age of 7. They decided to make my life a living hell. But I don't like whiners and crybabies.One kid started one with me in front of the bunk. I beat him to a pulp.After I smashed his head against the wall he wept like a baby and nobody bothered me again. I learned several lessons. Frum kids often have the greatest parents who don't have the slightest idea of what goes on when they turn their back's.This includes rabbeim who teach mussar. Also don't back in the limelight of self-pity and seek victim status. A bully understands violence.when it is "Hayadyim Yedei Eisav" use violence.Flowers and candy are not effective against yedei Eisav.In my case I earned the respect of the bunk but not their friendship.I was their to learn anyway.Never teach a child to wallow in self-pity.It leads very often to suicide (Rachamana L"Tzlan).


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