By Harry Maryles (Emes Ve-Emunah blog)
December 2, 2013
It has come to my attention that many people see this post as some sort of endorsement of Nuchem Rosenberg. This is inaccurate and I apologize for not making this clearer. Rabbi Rosenberg is not the most relaible source on matters of sex abuse. I want to emphasize that the claim that 50% of children in the Chasidic community are sexually abused is grossly exaggerated.
We cannot possibly know the numbers since communities like Satmar generally do not cooperate in surveys - especially surveys like these. If I remember correctly, experts believe that the percentage of sex abuse in these communities is the same as that of the general population.
My purpose for citing his words in a recently published article was to 'get your attention' and make the point that the spiritual and emotional 'murder' of so many children in these communities takes a back seat to issues like making sure stockings worn by their women have seams in them. Again, I apologize for any misunderstanding.
The Gemarah in Yoma, 23a-b (yesterday’s Daf Yomi) has some very unflattering commentary about the state of the Jewish community during the first or second Temple Era (It is not clear from the text which era the Gemarah is talking about – but if I had to guess, I’d say it was the first.) Briefly, we are told the story of how a Kohen was chosen to have the honor of performing the Terumas HaDeshen (the symbolic first shoveling of the ashes from the alter prior to the offering of the daily sacrifices). They used a lottery type system.
But that was a rabbinic enactment after a couple of violent incidents occurred. Before that they used to allow the Kohanim (priests) to race up the ramp of the alter. The first Kohen to reach the top of the alter, received the honor. Eventually the competition got so fierce that a when one Kohen saw another one running ahead of him, he took out a dagger and stabbed him to death.
The Gemarah goes on to relate that the father of the slain Kohen ran over to his son while yet alive but writhing in pain. He declared, that the dagger was not Tameh (spiritually impure by virtue of coming into contact with a dead body). The dagger was removed while his son was yet alive.
The Gemarah then comments that murder was apparently so common in their day, that people were more concerned about whether a murder weapon was Tameh than they were about murder!
My friends, little appears to have changed. It is rather well established that sexual abuse is tantamount to mental and spiritual murder. It very often ruins the life of the victim. Depressions is very common and often results in suicide. The OTD (abandoning traditional religious observance) rate of abuse victims is very high. I don’t know what the numbers are, but it would not surprise me if the majority of abuse victims go OTD.
Even those who somehow overcome the abuse, adjust to life, and remain observant, have a lifelong issues to deal with. How common is this ‘murder’ in the Orthodox world? I don’t know. Accurate statistics are probably impossible to come by. The more right wing a community is the less like they are to talk to a statistician trying to collect data.
But if it is anything like what is described in an article in an internet publication called Vice.com. The numbers are beyond belief.
What kind of numbers? How does 50% of all Chasidic children strike you? That is the number of children estimated by Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg that are sexually abused or molested in Brooklyn's Chasidic community. The following is his description of his initiation into the world of sex abuse in the religious world:
On a visit to Jerusalem in 2005, Rabbi Rosenberg entered into a mikvah in one of the holiest neighborhoods in the city, Mea She’arim. “I opened a door that entered into a schvitz,” he told me. “Vapors everywhere, I can barely see. My eyes adjust, and I see an old man, my age, long white beard, a holy-looking man, sitting in the vapors. On his lap, facing away from him, is a boy, maybe seven years old. And the old man is having anal sex with this boy.”
Rabbi Rosenberg paused, gathered himself, and went on: “This boy was speared on the man like an animal, like a pig, and the boy was saying nothing. But on his face—fear. The old man [looked at me] without any fear, as if this was common practice. He didn’t stop. I was so angry, I confronted him. He removed the boy from his penis, and I took the boy aside. I told this man, ‘It’s a sin before God, a mishkovzucher (male to male anal sex). What are you doing to this boy’s soul? You’re destroying this boy!’ He had a sponge on a stick to clean his back, and he hit me across the face with it. ‘How dare you interrupt me!’ he said. I had heard of these things for a long time, but now I had seen.”
According to Rabbi Rosenberg, the perpetrator of this particular incident sits on the modesty council passing judgment on ‘serious’ violations of Tznius. Like a man walking in the street with a married woman that is not his wife.
Rabbi Rosenberg has been ‘thanked’ for his efforts by being condemned and completely ostracized from his Satmar community.
Other victims’ advocates were interviewed for this article and they do not paint a pretty picture either. One of them believes that the estimates of 50% are low. God have mercy!
I realize that ‘defenders of the faith’ will all come out of the woodwork now and condemn this article as pure fiction and anti Charedi propaganda. That people like Nuchem Roseberg have zero credibility. And that these advocates cannot be trusted as they all have an agenda. They are at best exaggerating and at worst lying in order to further that agenda. (In my view their agenda of eliminating sexual abuse is a good one to further, but I digress).
It should be noted that Modern Orthodoxy does not get off the hook either by those interviewed as they blasted the slow response to Baruch Lanner. But that is beside the point.
Which is that it seems that issues of Tznius - like a man walking with in the street with a woman that is not his wife - is of far greater concern to the rabbinic leaders then the ‘murder’ of their own innocent children. As it is to their followers who are indoctrinated let their rabbis do their thinking for them.
What are the real numbers of abuse in these communities? Like I said, I don’t know. But my best guess based on everything I've read is that they are huge. Far greater than anyone ever believed or expected. Unfortunately we will probably never know the real extent of it.
Is it 50%? 30%? 20%? Or perhaps it is only a mere 10%. In Williamsburg alone that equals 4500 children! A lot of children being murdered by people who enjoy continued respect in these communities even after accusations are made and proven in court. As is the case with convicted serial child rapist, Nechemya Weberman. All while the victims are kicked to the curb. After all who cares about them?! They all went OTD anyway! We have to worry about the Frum people of our community and make sure that they have the highest level of Tznius possible.
When will these communities wake up? My guess is… never! The question is, what do we do about it?