2 thoughts on “Judaism and Child Abuse – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم
Comments are published at the sole discretion of the owner.

  1. the ultra orthodox rabbis generally do nothing about child abuse, they aren’t taught to recognize the symptoms and until extremely recently, when the Yudi Kolka story, after decades of his spreading misery round, they basically refused to deal with any of this in public. Now thanks to unorthodox jew, and people who are tired of seeing kids and wives suffer…after a number of hi-profile cases like Chayeh Seiger who really got the shaft, things might be changing, albeit veryvi slowly. Using Loshen Horah and the laws of hostages and all that ancient stuff that had nothing to do with criminal behavior in terms of dina Malchutei dina–because after all, the penalty for raping a 3-year old is that you get to marry her–the ultra-orthodox rabbis were able to pull the wool over people’s eyes and force the victims to shut up–or they would be victimized further by being tossed out of school and generally treated like dirt beneath their “perfect” community’s feet.

    When I wote the Shma journal article “Our Dirty Little Secret is no More” more than ten years ago, neither Ohel or Ed Gluck wanted to raise these issues in public. Now they do, now they get it. When the three boys in Bobov, who are now probably married and upstanding members of the community gang-raped a classmate because his father was a BT and his mother was a ger, and then the victim committed suicide, those boys never saw the inside of a jail cell–because why should three more lives be ruined? (so spake one of the most important women in the Bobov community).

    When the late Novominsker Rebitzen was asked why Mikvah ladies don’t check for bruises, she said that no one pays attention to anything her husband says about expensive weddings, they certainly aren’t going to pay attention to that.. she, btw, was a college graduate, and a social worker at the Jewish Family Services in Boro Park, and was my intake counselor when I got a divorce from the guy who battered me.

    When men neglected their children and beat their wives, it was ignored. When the Ungvar Rebbe, Menashe HaKaton Klein (Elie Weisel’s rabbi) started a concubine hotline and declared a moratorium on gets, no one really cared, and from what some wives have told me, there is now an underground concubine society in some orthodox neighborhoods.

    Now the rabbinate is being forced to bring this stuff out in public because of people who have had enough of the nasty dirty secret that was no secret and will now have to be dealt with in a realistic way to benefit and counsel our children. How you are going to find stuff in the Talmud to support a positive pro-active role on the victims’ behalf is beyond me. From the stuff I see in the Talmud, I am far from hopeful. Look at the way they talk about Goliath’s mother–like she had anything to do with anything. Never mind what they said about Dina, who after all, according to Rashi, was “looking for it.”

    You will need to look at the rules governing self-defense– without using pikuach nefesh as the basis for your reasoning on any of this, you will be wiped out before you start. Because the first thing they throw in your face is “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” My machiteynista’s 6-year-old brother was murdered by his rebbe in cheder for not knowing his place in the chumash. His rebbe kicked him in the stomach with a steel-toed boot. The boy died the next day. No one cared, and the rebbe, who was like many other cheder rebbes in that time, continued to teach little children, who grew up to survive the Holocaust, come to America and never broke the cycle.

    Neither did some of their kids. So I wish you the best of luck, because you are on a holy mission, and you need to succeed for the sake of the women and children.

    good luck


  2. First, let me apologize, Jeanette, that I didn’t notice your comment till you sent your trackback ping today. I certainly would’ve responded to you sooner if I had.

    This post was an initial query to any readers who had sources to help me begin my research. I actually wrote a long essay, Judaism and Child Abuse: If You Beat Him He Will Not Die, on this subject. I’m sure you’ll appreciate the sad irony of the Biblical quotation in the title.

    I should add that I did not grow up Orthodox and so my own experience within a Jewish denomination was outside Orthodoxy. But suffice to say, I did not find my own rabbi able to understand (this was in the early to mid 1960s) child abuse. Neither did he help me directly–though by encouraging my parents to send me to the movement’s summer camp he did help liberate me fr. my abuse; thus enabling me to see that there were other Jewish children leading far better & happier lives than the one I was leading. While I continued to suffer at home–at least I knew there were other places in life where people didn’t suffer. This allowed me to hope for the day when I could get away to college & become independent.

    Of course, I’ve lived an entire life damaged by the abuse. So I never was entirely liberated from it. But though I may suffer I’ve ensured that my children will know a diff. life and example than I. That’s a small victory against abuse.
    I have read much of the horrible developments within the Orthodox movement regarding sexual predation by rabbis, etc. It’s heartbreaking. Not so much because it happens because it will happen within any human group including Orthodox Judaism. What is heartbreaking is, as you say, the resistance to confronting the issue and the damage it causes to the victim (& indirectly to Judaism itself).

    When I wrote the Shma journal article “Our Dirty Little Secret is no More” more than ten years ago, neither Ohel or Ed Gluck wanted to raise these issues in public. Now they do, now they get it.

    I’m delighted to hear that you published in Shma. If you read this, could you provide me a link to the article online or a way I can get a hard copy of it? BTW, I’m not so sure Shma does get it because they were one of the myriad Jewish periodicals to whom I submitted my essay for publications. I got a universal cold shoulder fr. every publication including Shma. In fact, they didn’t even respond when I queried them.

    I also want you to know that when I submitted the essay to the Reform rabbinic journal they sent it to a reader for comment on whether it was worthy of publication. I couldn’t imagine the level of fury & vitriol that their editorial reader lavished on my work. He was incensed that I suggested that rabbis had any obligation or duty at all to recognize or deal with abuse among their congregants. I was truly astonished at the response. When I protested the prejudicial response from the reader they told me the editor would review the essay himself. Guess what the reply was? No thank you, of course.

    As far as I’m concerned there is only one rabbi in the entire United States who “gets” this issue: Elliot Dorff at the University of Judaism. He’s an activist on the issue & constantly trying to push the Conservative movement to take a clearer position against abuse. There may be other “good” rabbis on this subject. But I don’t know them.

    As far as I can tell, none of the denominations prepares their rabbinical students to deal with abuse either clinically, pastorally or Jewishly. If they do, they cover the subject in very short order & very broadly. I couldn’t even get any of the various seminaries to respond to phone calls in which I wanted to ask them what type of rabbinic training they offered on this subject. And I attended one of them as an undergraduate!

    The organized community’s response to abuse has been pathetic as you note. They just don’t get it. I don’t know if they ever will.

    When you read my essay, I’d be grateful if you felt like commenting. Another odd thing is that the essay generated almost no comments (I think there may be 1 or 2). And I’d been hoping it would generate more discussion.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share via
Copy link