Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Report about Sunday's White Institutes Conference on Sexual Abuse in Orthodox World

It was truly an amazing conference. I think everyone was inspired and encouraged to do more. The conference was clearly a remarkable achievement.

Richard B. Gartner, Ph.D.
Training and Supervising Analyst, Faculty, and Founding Director of Sexual Abuse Service, William Alanson White Institute for Psychiatry, Psychoanalysis, and Psychology, New York City

Yesterday's conference, "Understanding and Treating Sexual Abuse in the Orthodox Jewish World," was a groundbreaking, extraordinary event. In a short time, the Sexual Abuse Service, headed by Conference Chair and Service Director Julie Marcuse and Conference Co-chair Alison Feit, put together a very full, tightly-run conference that included messages from two prominent rabbis (Daniel Eidensohn and Yosef Blau) ; personal statements from three survivors of sexual abuse; keynotes by Julie, Ali, and myself; small groups led by various members of the Service; further panel papers by Abby Stein, Julie, and Ernesto Mujica, and a brief summing up by Alan Slomowitz.

The audience was rapt and in almost all cases very open to what psychoanalysis has to offer the Orthodox community. One person said to me she was astonished to come to a meeting where psychoanalysts listened rather than judged the community and where so much helpful information was offered.  The conference was sold out and there were probably as many turned away as attended. The conference was aimed both at mental health practitioners in the community as well as what we call (thanks to Jill Bellinson's input) first responders in the Red Cross model (those to whom sexual abuse is first disclosed but who have had no training in how to deal with such a difficult subject with its multi-layered meanings in the Orthodox community).  The audience was clearly wanting more, and there have been some feelers already to have speakers come out to the community, as well as a clear desire for more offerings from the Institute.

Jill Bellinson did an absolutely knock-out job at organizing the details, rounding up and instructing the volunteers, and at every stage of the planning being a voice of clarity and reason as difficult choices were made.  Donations made it possible for us to offer glatt kosher food to the attendees, who in many cases made it clear they felt surprisingly comfortable in our milieu. Sondra Wilk as always was superb at making things happen.

In addition to all I have named, I want to recognize the efforts and contributions of people who led small groups, manned the safe room, participated in the planning (I am sure I will leave out some names, and I apologize to anyone I have forgotten): Gail Harris, Daniel Gensler, Sharon Kofman, Seth Aronson, Evelyn Hartman, and Rivki Jungreis; Shloimie (Stephen) Zimmermann, who was a willing and helpful (as well as brave) supervisee in a live consultation meeting with me; and a group of  wonderful volunteers.

It was a day about which the Sexual Abuse Service and the Institute can be very proud.

Dr. Asher Lipner

All I can add as an advocate for abuse prevention and treatment in the Orthodox community is that everyone I spoke to was equally as impressed as Dr. Gartner.  I too would like to take this opportunity to make the following remarks of thanks:

Thanks to Dr. Gartner for his remarks, his enlightening supervision, and his grasping the need and readiness of our community to learn from his wisdom.
Thanks to Dr. Julie Marcuse whose brainchild this was and who put her all into seeing it through.
Thanks to the awesome courageous survivors Esther Malka, Mark and Joel, who never disappoint and who need to keep taking their show on the road.  Next stop Oprah Winfrey? 
Thanks to Dr. Alison Feit for a brilliant overview of what we have all been learning over years about how and why abuse is allowed to occur in our community and the psychoanalytic explanation for the human behaviors involved.
Thanks to Dr. Shloimie Zimmerman for a "massive" case presentation that left all of us emotionally moved and more sensitive to the experiential real life challenge of doing clinical work with survivors.
Thanks to Dr. Mujica for being so cool, both as a presenter and as a support for the survivors who spoke.
Thanks to Rabbi Eidensohn for the Kiddush Hashem of showing that the Torah can be and should be the most powerful tool we can utilize to prevent and help survivors heal.
Thanks to Rabbi Blau for modeling what a rabbi should be in this day and age.
Thanks to Dr. Nosson Solomon, Past President and one of the cofounders of Nefesh for attending and participating.
Thanks to Rivkie Yungries, currently of Nefesh for publicizing the event on the Nefesh listserve.
Thanks to Sondra Wilk for helping my friend and I and I don't know who else, in "the safe room," where we had a shared moment of survivor support.

Thanks to all of us for showing all of us that we care, and we are starting to get it!!!


  1. Important conference run professionally.
    Are there cd's available?

  2. just posted links to download recordings of the conference



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