Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Voice Recognition

When the youngest was abused
By not one older but two
Threw the family into a quandary
Didn't know what to do

Such horrible news
And what awful shame
It brings on our family
It brings to our name

What can we do
To keep us untainted?
If the truth will reveal
We'll lose all acquainted

We can't change the past
So not much of a choice
We must protect ourselves 
We will take away her Voice

We will question her again
And express our doubt,
We will blame, we will fault
And her Voice won't come out

Convince her she needs
To lie because she's ill
And she's vying for attention
We will keep her Voice still

We will plague her with guilt
And express our disbelief
We will accuse of family torn apart
Her Voice - the cause of all grief

With pressure and force
We will do the job right
Until confident we feel
And can sleep peaceful at night.

And years of pain
Of self blame and self doubt
All bottled within
Cause silence can't shout

But slowly she realizes
Voices - its' hers alone
Cannot be stolen or squelched
She's in charge of the tone

She doesn't need them to listen
Doesn't need them to approve
Their control is a facade
Her Voice - they can not remove

And she promises herself
To cherish and protect her truth
To be there now when no one was
There for her back in her youth

She feels fear as this is new
Her own Voice she hardly recognizes
It sounds low; it sounds rusty
Yet more powerful than she ever realizes

She can't change them or her past
But it's all her choice
Despite the menace; the threats
No one can take away her Voice

Monday, January 23, 2017

What a Donald Trump Victory Means To Me; a molestation victim’s perspective

Let me preface this by saying that I am not an ardent political activist, nor am I much involved. I tend to pride myself as being a conservative, while the truth is I barely know much about conservatism or liberalism and what they both represent. I both appreciated the extra tax refund gotten a couple of years ago as part of some government initiative, and resented my insurance premiums going up due to ObamaCare. I also spent a large portion of my adult life living overseas so I did not have the ability to form an adult political viewpoint of my own. And it never bothered me.
That is until Trump decided to run for president. At first, I believed it to be a publicity stunt. He had no depth nor content. Instead he had a sharp answer, one that didn’t even answer the questions, or even portrayed logic. Statements not backed up by facts. 'Keeping people out of the country and having them pay for it'.Ludicrous. Irrational. Almost comical.
How can someone who says such stupid things get far? How can allegations be exposed, that would ruin anyone’s credence and credentials, be dismissed and overridden? How can someone who is so mean to others not be held responsible for his actions?
I did not dream it would happen. But he defied my wildest imagination. He became the Republican nominee. Through defamation. He decimated each candidate, one at a time, with his nicknames and untruths about them. Through intimidation. He manipulated conversations by not allowing them to be of substance. He made sure no one dared to contradict him by literally interrupting them and talking over them. Through fabrication. He said whatever was need to get to the end of the sentence, so long he got the last word.
He said illogical things, he acted immature, and contradicted himself again and again. And he was mean and fought low. Lower than anyone in such a distinguished position would ever go. And he defended his actions and reactions by portraying himself as having been forced to act like that. Certainly people would see straight through him and his farce.
But no! He had supporters, and defenders, and people that were willing to explain why everything he said and did was really right and just. It sounded wild, almost surreal, that someone like that would even have a fighting chance to run a country. Yet he was actually voted in! By millions and millions of people!
And to me, personally, it was living a nightmare all over again. I have lived and live through this crazy making experience again and again.

Thoughts of previous conversations flood my mind
  • Certainly the onus would be on me, were my brothers’ to be exposed and the family name defaced. The shame I would cause upon such a respected family in the communtiy. How would I dare?
  • It would not be fair to my brothers’ families were it be that my brothers’ not be invited to a family gathering, would I want to be there. Self-understood, no? I mean what did they do wrong to suffer?
  • As a family we may have handled the situation wrong. But now it is my obligation and opportunity to restore peace to the family.
  • If my brother blatantly denied that he ever did something to me, then how could my father not believe him? Why would he lie? To his father? 
  • And as a mother, even if a son molested her daughter, she has an equal obligation to be there for him as well. He is still her son.

The logic displayed above is seen as misconstrued only by me. To my family, these are valid points; there is truth to this that there are two sides over here and it is not so simple. And I am only one and they and their supporters are many. At times of strength this feels infuriating, but most times, it simply feels disheartening.
When Trump became President I felt as if I was personally punched in the face. Not because I care about politics, because I don’t. But because deep down I believed that evil cannot succeed. I believed that pushing people down doesn’t lift you up. I always held unto the fact that manipulation and force won’t make you a winner. Ultimately it is the good and good people, that will triumph and succeed.
And I was proven wrong.
The highest position of power in the United States was achieved through bullying and manipulation. Through shaming and degradation. Through people supporting, rationalizing, accepting and defending such behavior. Even cheering him on!
This has been a crushing blow, a nightmare relived. Of a small child unprotected, unheard and unbelieved. Of someone being drowned out by the loudness and power of abusers, left to feel hopeless and helpless. That there is no way for me, and my reality, to ever have a voice.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Some Awareness on Awareness

Recently an Orthodox organization had an Evening of Awareness on how to protect our children. It seems to be an organization that is very passionate and also, judging from the publicity that surrounded the event,  well-funded as well. It was definitely well-advertised and well aired. I did not attend, and I also just heard little snips online, so my opinion about this may be totally off. And frankly if it is, then I would be absolutely thrilled.

To be fair, my faith in this organization has been tested. Apparently, the speech given by the Novominsker Rebbe, (speech and my comments here) was supposed to be an endorsement for them from TU. How they managed to get 3 sentences from his speech showing him in support of protecting children from abuse brought out their ingenuity and creativity. Still, amidst my skepticism – even though it is very deep - I have a wish that maybe someone, sometime, can get it right and truly make a difference.

Certainly we all aware that Awareness is only a part, and not the whole, solution. We can’t fix a problem that is not named a problem. And even awareness of the problem is only worth something if it is solution oriented. As with most important areas in life, it is so crucial to be mindful and cognizant about what the goal that is trying to be accomplished, throughout every step of the way. Or else we can get sidetracked in the details and lose track of the bigger picture.

In the situation that we are dealing with, sexual abuse, our community at large has not yet been able to band together to unequivocally prosecute molesters to whatever extent it takes to keep them away from children. Which leads me to wonder, with all this effort being put in to bringing awareness, will it lead to positive, neutral, or possibly even negative results?

I believe there is a very fine line that has to be realized over here. And I digress for a moment by saying, the fine line is not to be 100% sure that a child is saying the absolute truth when he says that someone molested him. This is a snippet I heard from one of the speakers at the Awareness event. He said that there is no room for error on either side, you can’t let someone abuse a child, but you have to be sure that the child is saying the truth. Because if someone is accused falsely of molesting a child his life is ruined forever. Aside from that statement reinforcing the doubt that we are trying to eradicate, that frum looking people are molesting children, it is also factually untrue. My brothers are the most well protected people in society, they have family members that will do whatever it takes to make sure no one ever finds out. I have seen a video of yeshivish men dancing in a court room and hugging someone that was accused of molesting a child, when the judged ruled that there was not enough circumstantial evidence. And I noticed in the congratulatory wishes in the newspaper for the wedding of a son of a Rabbi, shortly after he pleaded guilty and was put on sex offender probation. In fact, the day the there is even a slight negative association to an actual Frum Yid that is accused of being a child molester will be a great victory in the fight towards abuse!

But as I said, I digressed. The fine line I want to discuss is when Awareness can actually be harmful and take people away from the goal they are looking to accomplish.

There are many times in life when we feel that something has to be changed. We have all gone through a situation when we realized, things aren’t working out the way we want and a new plan of action is in order. The question is, what do we do when we feel inside of us that uncomfortable feeling letting us know that what has worked in the past, isn’t working anymore?

Sometimes, we don’t have the strength to make the change. That is where denial comes in useful. It helps cover up the problem, it helps us believe it doesn’t exist anymore. But the thing about denial is, whenever we decide to confront the issue at hand and come out of denial, we can; because we nothing about the situation has changed.

But what if something is done that didn’t solve the situation but makes us feel as if it did? Certainly that would be terrible. On the one hand, it would feel like the problem has been solved, on the other had the problem would still be there!

The Possuk in Mishlei says “Daagah B’Lev Ish Yasichenu L’Acheirim”. If someone has a worry in his heart, he should talk to others. The reason is because, simply the actual talking, even without doing something, makes a person feel better. Verbalizing our pain diminishes a part of it.
So sure it is very important to name the problem in our midst. We have child molesters that are relatives and Rebbeim and Rabonim and children confidantes. However the awareness did not solve the problem. And in fact, even to call it a ‘step in the right direction’, would only be accurate if the path to the finish line is clearly delineated. If not, it is like running very fast, while staying on the ‘hamster wheel’ in life.

So yes, we have now been made aware. And that is one piece of a large complicated puzzle. Some pieces are easier to put together whilst other pieces are still missing to complete it. The puzzle is not a finished masterpiece yet. At all.

And so,please, please let it not cause us to feel better, to believe that something now has actually changed. 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

CarcAsses Et. Al.

The first word that comes to mind when I think of molestation is denial. Certainly in my family. Certainly in our community. And certainly in my family. It is a phenomena that can only be called incredible, or no I take that back, more accurately insanity. Adults inappropriately touching little kids, should cause outrage! These ill people should be publicly shunned by all - that would actually be the knee jerk human response. Instead, the first response is disbelief. And then comes the cover up. And ultimately, protection of the predator. In one word - denial.

Is it because it is so awful that people can't wrap their heads around it, so they deny that it is happening? I don't think so. I think it is because a molester in our community belongs to a family, a shul, a community. If they were to be exposed, then it means that it is a reflection of the people around them. 

Sadly they don't realize that this not true. Molesters are dangerous and harmful. Not only to the children they hurt, but even to the whole religion they hold near and dear. Children who are abused, 'act out' in ways that 'taints' their religious practices. This doesn't reflect the community well. Furthermore, standing up to a molester shows that you are not associated with such behavior, that you abhor sexual abuse. Even if it is a family member, by exposing them you are distancing yourself from them. And when you protect them, they do become a reflection of you. It becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. This is the horrible cycle. Called denial.

Sometimes I think of molestation and the subsequent cover up of the abuse in analogous terms. A molester that is being protected is like a dead animal in the house. Instead of getting rid of the carcass, the protectors put a cover over it. A nice, fancy, decorated cover. But then, as a dead animal tends to do, it starts to rot and stink. And so the deniers then go and spray deodorizers. It helps for a little, and then it starts to smell again. And the quest continues, for stronger air fresheners, different brands.

But it never ends, because the dead animal is still there. Brief respites? Maybe. But it never ends, because the dead animal is still there.

This is the story of my family. There has somehow become two 'sides' in the family. There is me, and there are them, two of them. The family is on 'both sides'. They treat my abusers like regular normal siblings. Especially now that we lost a brother, unity in the family is so much more important. They are respected, and revered. But my siblings take 'great care' not to involve me in those interactions. They talk to me separately, email me separately, and don't mention their names to me.

Or at least try. Every once in a while there is a slip up. Air freshener doesn't last forever when trying to combat a carcass. I will be included in an email with my brothers on it. Or a sibling (or parent) will say something that just happened with my abusers. Sometimes, they catch themselves mid-sentence, and switch from saying the name of my brother - and substitute instead with 'someone'. Sure there is an uncomfortable moment, but not uncomfortable enough to realize that they are protecting the wrong people, fighting the wrong battles. It is just a wake up call, to resolve to try harder, or in this analogy, use a different and stronger brand.

My father called me (an unusual occurrence in itself) after the wedding and thanked me for coming, he said 'I made his eyes light up' when he saw me. I mumbled some half-hearted response, saying 'alright', as he continued on effusively. Amongst the conglomeration of feelings that hit me - fury, despair, disgust, bewilderment, and hurt - I also was stuck with a clarity.

He is battling so hard, try so desperately to hold on to his illusions that all is well. The fact that I showed up at the wedding, was the strongest 'scent deterrent' he ever had! But nothing changed. On his part that is. He will continue to dismiss and deny and ignore. But I was able to realize something different. The clarity that I felt, the change that I realized is that he may think he has accomplished unity, But I know he is cementing a divide.

They can all hold hands together, believe we are one big happy family, and disillusion themselves. I am not and will not be part of it. And amidst the pain I feel, a small feeling of liberation creeps in as well.Because no matter how hard they are trying they will never prevail.

Their tactics will never work. The only way to get rid of the stench is to uncover and remove the dead animal from their midst. Air fresheners are no match for rotting flesh. 

Friday, September 9, 2016

Eichah Yashvah Boddod..

There is some solace in mourning together but great heartbreak in mourning alone.

A little over a year ago I lost a brother of mine to cancer. I am in no way recovered from the loss, at all. Still, there was something comforting about a levaya of all of us crying; of a shiva when people came and shared in our pain. Tzaros Rabbim Chatzi Nechama.

In stark contrast was the wedding I went to this week. A different brother over here, one that molested me, made a wedding for his daughter, my niece. In truth, I didn’t think I would get an invitation to the wedding at all. When my husband told the Kallah Mazel Tov, shortly after her engagement by a family bris, her mother who was standing there abruptly turned her head the other way. Three weeks prior to the wedding at my brother’s Yartzheit Seudah, my sister-in-law blatantly ignored my existence. In fact the invitation which I did not think I would get, came a mere two weeks prior to the wedding. And it was a decision I agonized about, to go or not to, ultimately choosing between worse and worser, as there are no ideal solution for these scenarios.

I decided to go to the wedding and to leave prior to the dancing, which I did. I feel the decision worked well for me. But still, it didn’t negate or take away the pain,that comes from these situations. Not during, and not subsequently after. Not from my mother saying “I am so glad you are coming. You will see everything will get better from here” – nor to a sibling of mine sending an email that 'he saw me at the Chupa, and couldn’t find me at the dancing, but was glad that we met ‘oif simchos’ '. Their denial is so hurtful to me, it feels crushing and devastating.

And it struck me – to be mourning, when others are celebrating; to be hurting when others are sharing joy – just adds. It causes the pain of origin to expand and grow; to mushroom into gargantuan proportions.

I’ve come to the realization recently that opposites are not always that far apart. Was my decision to go a sign of strength or weakness? Or was it a mixture of both?   A death is known as a time for mourning, and a wedding a time of rejoicing. But what about this wedding ? I certainly didn’t feel any rejoiceful feelings; in fact mournful would be a more apt description of how I felt. And still feel. One would contrast the seven days of Aveilus to the 7 days of Sheva Brochos. I'm feeling them comparable. What I once believed to be chasms apart have now blurred to very fine lines; so fine that I am finding it hard to make the distinction.

Family focused on the couple walking the aisle – while strengthening their denial

An occasion that is Simcha making – has my heart breaking

And an opportunity

That should have relationships strengthened and resown – leaves me feeling alone, oh so alone.

Thursday, June 23, 2016


(*See below for transcript of the speech)

This, my friends, is the proclamation and response to molestation in the Frum community.

As he is addressing me, a blogger, naturally it would only make sense for me to respond.

Truthfully, the first thing that comes to mind is what was found in Winston Churchill's notes on one of his speeches "weak point. speak louder." Indeed. Indeed. If you can't address the issue at hand, then at least distract by doing something else. 

Is this speech supposed to make us feel comforted? More secure? Wiser? Prouder to be a Yid?

There is a joke I've once heard. Someone asked a friend for a phone number. The friend replied “Oh I know it. 555-4 - I can’t remember the middle two numbers – but it ends in 6”

There is a reason we can laugh at that. Being vague and general doesn’t help much when there is a specific purpose to be accomplished, does it?

I remember when I was in Grade school, a friend of mine had a cold and stayed home from school. She didn’t catch up on the school work she missed, and was scared my teacher wouldn’t accept ‘the common cold’ as a valid excuse. And so her mother wrote “Please excuse Chani’s absence, she had an upper respiratory infection”. And sure enough she was excused. A cold, the teacher knew very well what that was; but wording it as an ‘upper respiratory infection’, who knows what that is? It has the word infection in it. Sounds ominous enough to be excused.

This speech reminds me of that note. Make it sound like something, something big. So long it sounds like that.  Vague points, ma'amarei Chazal, a sprinkle of Yiddish, a krechtz, a sigh, and he addressed, boldly addressed, 'it'. But can we be so bold and ask, addressed what? Accomplished what? How are our children, we as a community, any safer than we were prior to this speech?

This isn’t politics, where hand gesticulations, tone modulations, and superlatives can get you through the sentence.This is matters of life and death. Pikuach Nefashos Mamesh,

This also isn’t an immigrant trying to express ideas without being able to speak his using his native tongue, he is an American. He even has a college degree. He is a powerful orator, articulate speaker, and known to have a brilliant mind. What is all this fumfiting all about? This is all he can say about the horrific situation?

Now, I am not going to say which point he made that hurt most, although there are plenty of them that are vying for first place. Instead, I will let you know my spin on how and where I think this speech veered into netherland.

There is a story told of a man in Chelm who hired a Ba'al Agala, a wagon driver, to take him to his destination. He cautioned the driver about a large pit that was on the main road, and asked him to take the side roads instead. "Don't worry, son," the driver told him, "I've been driving on this road for 10 years now, every single day. You have nothing to be concerned about." The man fell asleep in the wagon, and was woken up by a jerk and  a thud. The wagon fell into the pit on the main road! The very one he cautioned the driver about! "Isn't it interesting," mused the driver, "I've been driving on this road for 10 years now. Every single day. And every time I come to this pit I fall in."

Interesting indeed...This is the point I want to bring out. When a problem isn't verbalized, when it isn't addressed clearly and specifically, it is not possible to come up with a solution for it. So long we don't admit exactly what the issue at hand is, we can't begin to solve it. If the problem is vague, the solution can't be much clearer,

And with this, I want to share my thoughts, and I will attempt to be as clear and precise as possible.

We all know that there are abuse victims in the community. Everyone knows this. And here is the natural next obvious step that must be understood, internalized, and subsequently dealt with. If there are victims, then that means there are perpetrators; not bloggers, not people that sue 40 years later; but proof that there are sexual predators.

 This realization forces us (and if it doesn't, certainly it must force us) to conclude that perpetrators must be kept away from children so that they don't harm anyone anymore.

It doesn't matter if you are a Rov, a teacher, a neighbor, a father, a brother. It doesn't matter if you are part of a Chassidus, a community or a family of prestige.  If you hurt a child, if you sexually assaulted anyone, you have to be kept away from society.

There is no need to shift the blame on the victims, on the communities, on Avonoseinu Harabim (which, by the way, where does that come in?? But I digress). There is no need to blame anyone but the molesters themselves. And also the Rabbonim, the communities and families that are protecting and allowing child molesters to continue to harm, devastate and decimate our children.

We have a problem. I am living proof that the problem exists. I have friends that are living proof that the problem exists. And sadly, I have friends that are no longer living - but are certainly proof that the problem exists.

Molesters must be dealt with. Molesters must be kept away from children. 

How should it be dealt with?  

With community as caring as ours, as intelligent as ours - we can figure it out. So long we realize that the time has come to become solution oriented.

Especially Al Pi Da'as Torah.

*Here is the speech -transcribed and translated by Yerachmiel Lopin. Yerachmiel kindly gave me permission to use his transcription; heck, it was tough for me to listen to it even once! 
(This is the link to Yerachmiel's comments - well thought out - on this speech Agudath Israel Head Opposes SOL Reform or Going Straight to Police about CSA While Complaining that Bloggers Lie about Haredi Rabbis )

One of the problems that we are facing, more today, that we weren't aware of, and it has to be mentioned, for a number of reasons, is the abuse of young people, b’oifen gufni (physical abuse) and molestation, al d’avoinoseinu harabim (which because of our many sins), have gotten into our tzibur (community).
And the litzonei hador (mockers of this generation) feel that we don’t care about it. The bloggers feel that the Haredi world dismisses the problem and a. they are not sufficiently sympathetic to the victims and b. they don’t do, they don’t care; they are interested in protecting the perpetrators.
Muz ich eich zugen dus iz sheker vikozev (I have to tell you this is a lie and a falsehood). The rabbonim (rabbis) sitting here, knowing perhaps better than I do, how many hours and hours and dozens of hours throughout these last years we’ve sat and deliberated and talked about every single aspect of this problem.
And how we have to see to it that the predators are not there to disturb our children.
How parents have to be sensitive and conscious as to how to talk to their children, and how to sensitize them in an intelligent way against people who chulilah vechas (G-d forbid) are in sakanah (danger) of molesting them [when they go to camp and when they go elsewhere.
And how when there is raglayim lidavor ven men meg yeh redden tzu (substance to the abuse allegation when you can talk to) the authorities un ven men meg nisht redden(and when you can’t talk). I won’t go into the details.
But I feel I have to say it because I’ve heard and other rabbonim (rabbis) have heard that we are being accused of not being sufficiently sympathetic or sensitive to this issue.Und ich zug az iz sheker vikozov (I say that it is a lie and and a falsehood).
Yes, we want to protect our mosdos (organizations). We want to be able to prevent somebody who wakes up 40 years later and he sues a yeshiva for something that happened who knows how many years ago.
But at the same time we have no sympathy for perpetrators.
Und min darf zey mitapel zein, rachmonis oif em und helfen (We have to take care of them, have mercy on them and help), the victims.
I say this as a maimad hamuskar (parenthetical statement), in order to speak birabim(in public) about one little aspect, as to what our community faces from the litzonai hador (mockers of this generation). Halevai (If only) if they would only be litzonim(mockers).

They are mazikim (wreckers) as well, those who are always ready to accuse us, to criticize us, out of a disrespect for Torah, for its values, for its principles, and as to how questions are decided- Al Pi Daas Torah.

Monday, February 22, 2016

The Fifth Chelek

 All the Halachos extrapolated from the Torah are discussed and elucidated in the 4 chalakim of Shulchan Aruch. But there are also hanhagos that are common sense. So much so, they don’t even have to be spelled out. Some refer to this as the ‘fifth’ chelek of Shulchan Aruch.
Over the years I realized there were certain things that were terrible things to do, absolutely forbidden. Yet, they weren’t brought down or written anywhere. But they were obviously wrong. From the strong reactions I have received, I knew that these must be part of the 'fifth chelek'.
Here are some examples:
Unseasoned Greetings
·        As someone that works in the banking industry, I am very fond of the secular Holidays. Memorial Day or Labor Day, I’m not partial. I love the free vacation days that they offer me. In a certain sense it is even better than Yom Tov, because I get a day off and my kids still have school.  This year I did feel a little cheated though, because Christmas and New Years both fell out on Friday. Oh well. But anyways, when I spoke to my mother to say Good Shabbos, I jokingly wished her “Merry Christmas." She swiftly replied with a sense of horror in her voice. “I did not appreciate that. I am offended!”
And thus I was introduced to Cardinal Sin # 1 of the fifth Chelek. The word Christmas must never be uttered.
Taken for a Ride
·        My sister came into town for Shabbos to celebrate the Shalom Zachor of her newest grandson. I was too exhausted Friday night, but decided to walk over to extend my wishes on Shabbos afternoon. She was staying by my nephew’s house, close to 2 and half miles from where I live. Understandably they were very surprised to see me. “How did you get here?” my nephew asked in slight confusion. “By taxi.” I quipped. Right away my sister put her finger to her lips and said “SHHH!”. “I know,” I continued. “Don’t tell anyone.” “No,” she said “You are not allowed to talk like that.” Oh.
Cardinal Sin # 2. Don’t even mention a fabricated scenario of Chillul Shabbos
Grave Sins
·        I recently lost a brother to cancer. He did not even make it to his 55th birthday. He was an exceptionally devoted son, brother, uncle and wonderful friend to all. He loved and cared for everyone that he came into contact with. It was a huge loss for everyone who knew him, certainly his wife and family. Since he was Niftar there have been 3 births of great nephews, one even born during the Shloshim. Surprisingly, not one of my nephews named their newborn son after him. It wasn’t a coincidence though; there was an actual cheshbon. He was niftar young and he had a hard life, so ‘sigh’ it is not so poshut to give his name. Instead, the right thing to do is name after a Gadol. Aside from being hurt, I am puzzled. Are we supposed to believe that Hashem gave him the Nisyonos; and his job, was just to do his best with what life threw at him? Apparently not. Instead, we are to believe that we can control the future of our children by the names we give them. Perpetuating the legacy of an incredible person who was there for us, is suddenly insignificant when we now have the chance be there for him. Because we can control destiny. Even if it means hurting his Almonoh in the process. We are in control our childrens' fate.
Cardinal Sin # 3. Don’t die young.
The Cleaning Service
·        I was raised knowing that the most important thing you can and are obligated to accomplish is to keep your house ‘spit and polished’. Being a balabusta was the ultimate compliment, and lack thereof, the ultimate insult.  I was quite young, when I overheard the whispers “Her house is neat, but is it clean?!?. And did you see the inside of her closets?!?” I will never forget the shame and degradation that were associated with those words. This lesson was well internalized by my family. Even though I am in my 30’s I know better than to take out a sheet from the linen closet at my parents’ home. I wouldn’t dare risk messing it up. In fact, there is an anecdote in the family that predates my time, but one that I know well. When my sister was in 3rd grade her teacher gave them time before Pesach to rid the classroom of Chometz. While the girls cleaned the crumbs and snacks out of their cubbies and desks, my sister was busy sweeping-the corners of the classroom. Her teacher asked her why she was doing that, to which she confidently answered “My mother says if the corners of the room are not clean, then the whole room is not clean.” And she continued with her vigorous sweeping.
Cardinal Sin # 4. If your house and closets are not immaculate, you are worthy of being judged and shamed.
Occupational Hazards
·        Close to a decade ago, we applied, as many in our town did, to HUD, http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD to help pay for our rent. As of late, we are having a hard time making ends meet. It was a wonderful surprise to receive a letter in the mail informing us that we were (finally!) approved for HUD. Upon further studying the income guidelines, we realized that if we were to report all what the agency considered income, we would likely not be eligible for the program. We spoke to numerous people, even asked a couple of Shailos, and were told it was okay. I did not feel comfortable with this. I felt that once you start ‘justifying’ here and there, who knows where that can lead you to? And so we started to explore the options of my husband leaving Kollel. I mentioned this to my mother. “So he will become a Rebbi?” My mother asked. I answered he will likely take a course. “You mean in computers??”
Cardinal Sin # 5. The ends (Torah learning) don't need to justify the means (cheating? lying?). Torah is, indeed, 'de beste sechorah'!
On the flip side, anything regarding molestation or molesters, not only don’t make it to the top five, it doesn’t make it to the list at all. In fact, the reactions I have received were at best lukewarm and apathetic. Anything pertaining to this topic is to be ignored, and if had to have been mentioned, then at least should have been forgiven already.
For example:
Regarding Brother X
“K, so just because he did that a couple times, it doesn’t mean there is still something wrong with him.” (And the fact that he fled the country because he got in trouble with the law is completely irrelevant, wouldn’t you think.)
“I’ve spoken to a professional, it seems that the recovery process can take up to 5 years. Can you do it any quicker?” (Quite paradoxical. Someone that can put a time limit on recovery, isn’t much of a professional. And they also didn’t mention the recovery process needed for unsupportive family and friends, ‘it seems’.)
“Look at him today, with his long beard and peyos, why are you harping on things from the past?” (Beards grow, if you don’t shave. That’s just part of nature Funny how someone could get so much credit for the absence of doing something.)
And regarding Brother XX
“He completely denied doing anything to you. So what am I supposed to do?” (Be grateful I guess? Can you imagine if he would have admitted it?)
“You know he is ready to forgive you, if you would just apologize to him” (Truth is stranger than fiction, I could not have made that up if I tried. Mind you that was from his wife!)
“I would spend time with you, except he wants to spend time with me then, so I can’t”. (The clincher. I’m learning not to expect anything more from you, Dad.)
In summation, I once read the following in a book. Little Yankie knows that it is Assur to speak Loshon Hara, and he is also not allowed to play with his mother's camera. But when he tattles on his sister ("Yankie, that is Loshon Hara.") and dunks his mother's camera in the bathtub ("Yankie!!!"), he knows which is worse. Ain't it the truth.
Olam Hafuch Ra'isi. Skewed priorities. Twisted ideologies. All for the sake of right and wrong. But of course. 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

'Just Musing' Thought of the Week

Molesters can always count on being protected by some Rabbi
Seems they know just how to find the Rabbonim that were awarded this T-Shirt with their Rabbinical Ordination...
It's called a 'cover up'

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

in search of Him

At a family Bar Mitzva I had time to reflect
No matter how much preparation, I have to accept,
Feelings of shortness of breath
And suffocating to death
When I know it’s my brother that I am going to expect

Thankfully he was late, but still no matter when
His appearance will show and suddenly then-
When he walks in
My head starts to spin
Suddenly I’m a helpless kid all over again.

And his wife follows; her nose held high
And daintily (quite snootily) passes me by.
The queen of bitches
The mistress of witches
About her behavior-it’s hard to explain why.

Certainly clear to me that I did no wrong
Yet she’s determined to make sure I don’t belong.
As she gives a sweeping glance
And ignores me with askance
While smiling and laughing with the others along.

If family is a blessing then it is certainly disguised
To me they are a curse, right in front of my eyes
Logic so twisted and bent
To ignore the innocent
And fiercely protective over the truly despised

I clearly don’t understand all or any of God’s scheme
Though at this time I wonder where He reigns supreme
I hope not with the bastards and bitches
Or with the assholes and witches
And I wonder, can I count Him-
                                               As One on my team?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The 80/20 Rule

A number one piece of advice in the parenting books is the 80/20 rule. It is not a complicated math equation, it is simple, really. For every criticism or negative comment you need to tell your child, be sure that there are four positive comments or compliments that you have said as well. 

This isn't hieroglyphics from psychologists, it is simple to understand the reasoning behind this concept. We all know we love our kids. We feel it deep inside our hearts. But our children don’t know what we feel, they know how we act, more importantly, what we say. If we only communicate to them criticism, even though it is constructive, that is all they have to hold on to. All they believe is that they are not good enough and aren't meeting up to our expectations. This dynamic can lead to feelings of defensiveness. Surely the opposite feeling of being loved and cherished. 

But if we cushion our reproach with compliments and warm words they know how we truly feel about them. They feel secure in the affection bestowed upon them. This will manifest itself in a warm trusting relationship.

I would like to expound on this idea and suggest a similar theme to the Rabbonim in our communities. I have yet to see a Rav condone molestation. Yet, ironically, it feels that Rabbonim are so quick to sign letters, publish Kol Korehs, protecting people ‘accused falsely’ of molesting a child. Any time there is a frum person that makes the news in this venue, there are highly regarded people that quickly come to his defense. And then,more often than not, the ‘victim’ emerges as an abuser.  All we are then left with aside from being disappointed, is a mistrustful feeling towards the Gedolim that backed them.(This is vague and general so as not to stray from the point I wish to make. Rest assured there are real hard facts and stories to back this claim up).

To solve this issue, I would like to propose the 80/20 rule over here.

For every one ‘falsely accused’ molester a Rav knows about and therefore needs to protect, he must condemn four other molesters. There is no dearth of victims around, surely it wouldn't be hard to fill the ratio.  Publicly or privately? That would depend. It should be in the same venue he chooses to stand up for the one he feels falsely accused. 

We can’t know what the Rabbonim feel inside, but surely this rule would make it clear where they stand in helping real victims. 

Unless though, we are supposed to judge them by their actions alone. Doesn't that imply that they are not really out to protect victims? Only predators? This is what is understood by what we see, by the naked eye. 

Unless when they speak about ‘kedusha’ and ‘tznius’ it is meant to be understood hypocritically, not literally. 

Unless their goal here is really to protect an image to what they believe frum communities should look like, not the real truth?

The outcome of the 80/20 rule is trust. Actions that don’t follow this idea, imply otherwise.

We deserve more. It is time for us to respect our leaders for their fear of G-d; for doing what’s right, not popular.We deserve to have leaders that have zero tolerance towards molesters instead of creating a safe haven for them. 

Most of all, we deserve to hear the words of “V’hayah Machanecha Kadosh” uttered to mean what they were truly meant to. 

 Inspired by tonight's Asifa in Lakewood NJ entitled "V'Hayah Machanecha Kadosh"

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Going off THE Derech-revisited. Is there really only one?

My son recently came home from school and told me a joke he heard that day. There were two Chassidish bochurim that made up between each other that they are going to ‘go off the derech’. They decided to meet at a bar that night. One of the boys came with his payos off, no Yarmulkah, and dressed in jeans and a T-shirt. He was surprised to see his friend waiting there, dressed in his traditional Chassidish garb, langeh rekel and all.
“Didn’t we make up that we are becoming frei?” He asked his friend. ”Don’t worry, I’m with you in this.” his friend replied, “I have gum in my pocket…”

Now of course this is not a true story but it got me thinking. Ask any of our kids what is expected of them, and I’m sure they have been trained well enough to give the right answer. For the boys, well it would be, to be a ‘good boy’, get into a top Mesivta, marry a wonderful girl, and sit and learn “kol yemie chayav”. A girl would have to add that she is willing to support her husband, and take care of the kids, the house, the bills, and not disturb her husband for anything, so that he can learn b’menucha. These are indeed wonderful aspirations. But is this the only way we are teaching them that they could succeed?

As a side note, even though this is what is being preached in the finest Yeshivos and Bais Yaakovs with utmost sincerity, there is still a little hope that not everyone will follow this path, because they do need money too. But this will never be stated. We recently received a dinner journal from my husband’s alma mater, stating that one of the philanthropists of today, an alumni of the Yeshiva, has now become the ‘executive chairmen of the administrative committee’. I gave a small chuckle. My husband remembers when he was bounced out of the place; the successful business he now runs was started in the Yeshiva’s dorm. I’m sure the Yeshiva didn’t want to be associated with him then. Fast forward twenty years. Now he is one of the ‘Yeshiva’s alumni’ that they pride themselves by. But I digress.

Shlomo Hamelech, the smartest of all men, said ‘Chanoch L’na’ar Al Pi Darko’. This is from one of the most well quoted verses, but I believe it begs a question. Shouldn’t he have said 'Chanoch L’na’ar Al Pi Haderech’? Educate your child on the path, the path to Nitzchius? Could he be insinuating that there is actually more than one path that the Aibeshter agrees to? If so, why is it that it seems that society is so judgmental of people not following ‘the script’? Maybe they are following the path suited for them. Not every child needs to be the community’s idea of the ‘perfect catch’, and not every child is meant to. As Shlomo Hamelech said, there are many ways to serve Hashem. Perhaps it is our job to start believing just that.

If a boy wishes to wear different clothes colors or Yarmulka fabrics and sizes, it doesn’t mean he has been baptized. If a girl wants to wear nail polish, she did not necessarily become a hooker. A child with an appreciation for more upbeat music, doesn’t mean he will be a DJ in a night club. And getting a job that requires Internet access doesn’t translate into watching pornography.

It can, however.

If we erroneously stress the ‘one path’, the only Derech, we are in essence forcing our children to make choices they never intended to make. ‘Echad Hamarbeh V’Echad Hamamit.’ Perhaps we should start letting our children be, really be, who they are meant to. And let us see their needs and desires as something real. Let’s allow them to find their own individuality without having to throw everything away. Because sometimes, all they really want is, indeed, only a stick of gum.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Palindrome of the Victim

Child Abused

Relax can't Worry
He Promises,
Feeling Good. 
Fulfilled Enjoyment.
Pleasure is Nothing
Heart is Pieces Crushed
Gone forever Innocence
Life Altering

Altering Life
Innocence forever Gone
Crushed Pieces is Heart 
Nothing is Pleasure
Enjoyment fulfilled
Good Feeling
Promises he.
Worry, can't Relax.                                                              

Abused Child

Sunday, March 30, 2014

to live the lie

the feeling of distress
when it is the dress
that needs to impress

what are we inspecting-
what values reflecting-
what ideals respecting?

when a beard grows long
and the tzitzis knots strong
then you can belong

feel free to rape
any size and shape
don’t need to escape

will be protected
and even respected
all accusations deflected

if the look is devout
that is what it’s about
never mind the inside-just out

there is no inhibition
it’s religion by definition
this is our tradition

how can you feel-
how can you heal-
when this is meant as real?

the pain is refused
the logic is confused
when you’re the one-

Who was abused.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Monday, February 24, 2014

'Just Musing' thought of the week

"I am struck by the difference in meaning-
 between 'well people' and 'well-meaning' people..."

Sunday, February 23, 2014

To Mourn the Living

This week we are coming up to the first Yartzheit of my father-in-law, Zatzal. The year was a hard one, and milestones are particularly poignant. It is as if a force beyond our control causes us to reflect.

I remember the phone call I got a little more that a year ago informing me that my father-in-law collapsed. My husband and his siblings flew out to be with him during his final days. It was five days of uncertainty. The question wasn't if he will recover but rather when it will be over. On that fateful Monday, his numbers started going down. My husband got a haircut and took a shower in anticipation of what was upcoming. Late afternoon the family gathered in his hospital room, and watched his blood pressure steadily decline. They said Vidui and Shma with him. All the numbers dropped to zero. The family tore Kriah. He was gone.

The truth is we really lost him a year before that. My kind, wonderful, and wise, oh so wise, father-in-law suffered from Alzheimer's during that time. He looked the same, always neat and put together, his smile was still there when he greeted you effusively, as he always did. But he wasn't there.

It is always hard to compare emotional pain. But there was a certain aspect of this year which, dare I say, was easier than the last year that he was alive. Death, particularly of someone we loved so much, is heartbreaking. But it was almost as if we have permission to grieve now. We are allowed, so to speak, to mourn our loss. It was harder to process our emotions when he was alive. How can we miss him, if he is still here? Compounding the difficulty were the teasing moments when he was lucid. They were far and few in between. Not enough to have him back, but enough to have us struggle with feelings of guilt for the sadness we felt.

His Yartzheit is coming up and the year of Aveilus will end. It's not easy. My husband will be allowed to go to Simchos again. It doesn't feel like a relief. He doesn't have a father anymore. There is a void in his heart forever. But the healing is gradual, albeit subtle and also painful. Time has it's way of slowly dulling the intensity of the loss. Bit by bit, the period that we can hold on to the acceptance that he is no longer with us is stretching longer There are still the times the pain resurfaces acutely, such as by milestones that we wish he could be here to share with us. And we feel surprised at the ability we have that allows the reprieve to return, the pain less piercing, the ability to move on.

This all comes to mind when I struggle to come to terms with the loss I have to contend with. The loss of my family, may they all live and be well. I've come to the realization, after many, many years of trying to get them to understand, that they won't. Not that they aren't capable. They are a highly intelligent bunch, for the most part. They don't want to deal with the reality. They don't want to come to terms with how devastating it really is. They don't want to put in the work, they don't want to feel the horrific pain. They won't allow themselves to understand what I went though, what I continue to go through, and how they too are really affected. They rather just leave it as my 'issue' alone, they want to have no part.

I lost them all, but they are still here. The illusionary affect is so hard to process and come to terms with. How can I accept a loss that is not a loss? They really can change. They really can get it. And they really won't change. The realization brings tremendous pain and unfathomable anger towards them. But it feels never ending. How can you mourn a continuous death that really isn't dead? The grieving process seemingly never ends because I can't achieve the closure that acceptance necessitates.

I am in no way belittling my husband's pain and loss. And I am also not belittling mine. As hopeful as I feel that my husband can eventually and slowly put his life back together again, I don't share the same sentiments about myself. Alas; the living weren't meant to be mourned.

Monday, January 27, 2014

'Just Musing' thought of the week

When people I speak to seriously don't get the traumatic affects of molestation so many years later, I feel like telling them "I wish the same on you, and then you will understand."
But I really don't.
Instead I bentch them with my whole heart and soul that they should be Zocheh to always be so naive and stupid.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

NEGIUS def. Turning highly intelligent people into brainless brick walls

Recently I had the opportunity to spend Shabbos with my family. As my fate has it, it is also the family of the one who abused me. Yup, I have been molested, again and again, by my very own brother. I don't believe the English language has words to describe the painful state of affairs involved in such a situation. Complicated? Complex? Way too trite. Unfortunate? Horrific? Sounds lame, at best. There is nothing that can do justice to describe the gut wrenching and crushing situation I find myself in. The least I can do is to dispel the myths associated with this situation.

  • You can't be on both sides. This is actually is a myth inside a myth. Firstly, there are no two sides to the story. Period. Secondly, we may be two siblings, we share a family. We are two children, we share the same parents. One of us is horrifically wrong and one is horrifically punished for being right. By my family being there for both of us, they are siding with one person only, and that is the molester in the family.  
  • Abusers aren't ‘otherwise ehrlich and healthy’. Someone who molests young kids repeatedly is incredibly sick. Even if his garb likens to that of a Rabbi. Even if he can expound on a deep Torah thought. And even if he can shuckle devoutly and appropriately by Shmoneh Esrei. Only if you would be comforted by a doctor saying “The patient is on a respirator and in a coma, but besides for that he is okay” can you feel confident with the description of someone that “molested his sister recurrently but Baruch Hashem he is fine now”. Both statements are equally nonsensical.
  •  He will not ‘ruin the family reputation’ were they to demand of him to take responsibility for his actions. The family is ruining their own name by not mandating justice. True he shares the same surname as his parents and brothers, and that might feel like a reason to deny what he did in order to protect themselves. But make no mistake; he certainly does not have his family’s best interest in mind. He cares about one thing, like he always did, and that is to fulfill his corrupt and selfish needs and desires. Eventually he will spiral out of control and be exposed for his wrongdoings. And by then it will be too late. The family will be defined by and associated with him, because they did nothing to stand up against him.
  •  The same manipulation he used on me to fulfill his sick perverted desires, he is using on the family to protect himself. Sometimes he will look real devout and talk of feelings of remorse, other times he will act out in rage. Sometimes he will point out how his wife and children will suffer, other times he will threaten to harm himself. The family can’t stand up to his manipulative behavior. They can’t see through his lies. They take him seriously, and fall for him every time.
  •  I am not the one who is causing the family to suffer. I did not make the horrific mess, he did. He should be obligated to clean it up by owning up to his actions. It is not my responsibility to keep his secret, and when he is exposed, it is not I who caused harm to the family. He wreaked the havoc, not I. He is at fault; he is to blame. It has everything to do with him and nothing to do with me.

In closing, I’d like to end with one more myth.

  • A person can only die once. Being the target for misplaced blame and anger; being falsely accused and invalidated by those nearest and dearest to you, will kill a human being again and again and again.

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