Monday, June 18, 2012

Yaakov Horowitz: Perhaps 1/3 of Hasidic Children are Abused or Molested

The two posts that follow appeared last week on Haemtza, a blog written by Harry Maryles. I am re-posting them here because Harry's message deserves a wider audience. There is a fire burning in Judaism and it won't go out on its own. Too many people in positions of authority are ignoring the problem or protecting the perpetrators, while, meanwhile, far, far too many bloggers are less brave than Harry. They are unwilling to risk their reputations by speaking out.

There is strength and bravery in numbers. So, I am calling on every blogger of good will to take a small risk and put these posts on his or her blog as a show of support and solidarity and as a way of raising awareness. Let the fact that Hasidic children are being abused while the perpetrators are protected become impossible for anyone to escape. And yes, the small-minded and stupid will complain that you're "Haredi-bashing" but there are children at risk. Follow Harry's example. Put their interests first.

If you're so inclined, you might also send these posts to Chaim Dovid Zweibel of Agudath Israel with my greetings.

And We Worry about the Internet?
by Harry Maryles
Friday, June 15, 2012
I had a hard time falling asleep last night. I received an e-mail from a friend who is intimately familiar with the Chasidic world of hard-core Chasidus like Satmar, Ger and Sqvere. This letter came from the heart. [DB: I saw the letter. It was as Harry describes] This fellow is no spreader of LaShon Hara. He is a modest and gentle person; responsible and intelligent; a loving and caring Charedi Jew of impeccable integrity. He is as straight as they come.

He has always been reluctant to tell his story – the story of rampant sex abuse in the Chasidic world. But I guess keeping all that inside has gotten to him. So in a moment of extreme candor he spoke out in an e-mail.

After reading his letter, I was speechless. [DB: I was horrified] I found it impossible to believe. And yet he practically swears to me that it is so. If what he says is true, there is an incredible level of cruelty and inhumanity shown by Chasidic leaders who either allow or perhaps even encourage the intimidation of victims while tolerating abusers in their midst.

Apparently the rate of abuse among Chasidim is horrible beyond words. According to some of the mental health professionals who deal with them - estimates of child sex abuse and molestation among the hard-core Chasidim is anywhere from 25% to 33%! But even if it were only 10% that would mean that on average - in every class of 30 students there are three students that have been sexually abused. For me - that is a Holocaust!

I can only imagine the kind of “torture” used against the poor families who come forward. Why do they torture them? I guess because they feel they have no choice since all Hell will break loose if the truth comes out. There would be many hundreds of arrests.

Lest anyone think this description of their behavior is not true, I remind you of the case of accused serial molester Avreimal Mondrowitz. He is a Gerrer Chasid. His extradition from Israel to stand trial in the United States was successfully fought by the Ger Chasidic community there.  I would also remind you that nothing like this is ever done without the approval of the Gerrer Rebbe himself. He either explicitly or implicitly approved of it.  Mondrowitz currently roams the streets of Israel freely.

Just to give an example of another “Mondrowitz”- this one in Skvere. I have been told that a top Chasid of the Rebbe molested and raped hundreds and hundreds of children in 3 generations. And everyone there knew about it! He too has fled to Israel. [DB: Harry didn't provide the Square monster's name and photo. You can find both here]

And then there is what is currently going on in the case of accused molester Rabbi Nechemia Weberman. The trial keeps being postponed because of witness intimidation according to my sources. [DB: Your sources? You don't have to go any further then HuffPost. The despicable story is there.]

That intimidation tactics exist is not even a question. I direct you to the words of the Brooklyn DA, a man who has been accused of enabling abuse by being unduly influenced by this very same community:
 “I haven’t seen this kind of intimidation in organized-crime cases or police-corruption cases”
 In other words, they are worse than the Mafia!

The innocent members of these communities (whose children comprise the majority that are not molested) are in complete denial about it. Which is why they have no guilt intimidating victims.

There are just no words to describe what is going on… the dysfunction, the incest, the raping of thousands of children, the terror and violence covering it up…! [DB: And the too-respectable bloggers and the too-respectable community advocates who know the score, but are too timid to say anything.]

As I indicated - I find it almost too incredible to believe the high end of this estimate - 33% of all Chasidic children?! One out of every three?! [DB: Speak to doctors who are active in Hasidic enclaves. The honest ones will confirm that there is abuse in every Hasidic school.]

That 66% of these Chasidic children are treated with the loving-kindness Chasidim are so famous [DB: Chasidim are famous for being kind to children? If anything, Chasidim are famous for permitting corporal punishment in schools] for hardly makes up for the 33% that are sexually molested or abused!! And no one seems to be able to do anything about it!

I know I will once again be accused of bashing Chasidim. This is perhaps the most damning post I have ever written about their community.[DB: So what? They tolerate and protect abusers. They deserve to be based - and worse. We need to stop being intimidated by their threats. Let them call us Charedi-bashers.]

The fact is I don’t want to believe any of it. I hope it is an exaggeration. In fact I hope none of it is true. It can’t be - can it? The idea of so many precious innocent Jewish souls being abused while their abusers are protected is too terrible to be believed.

So since I have no proof beyond the word of an “insider” with impeccable integrity, why bring it up at all? Why mention it in a public forum if all it will do is bring shame to all of us as members of the observant world?

The answer is that one may not stand idly by while his brother’s blood is being spilled. If even 10% of what I have been told is true, it must be made public – since keeping quiet will only perpetuate the problem - ‘killing off’ hundreds if not thousands of additional innocent children. Children that will become adults one day; possibly themselves becoming dysfunctional members of society and doing the same thing to others that has been done to them.

How can I keep quiet? 

So if my detractors want to skewer me and say that I am an Oisvurf for telling this story and making these charges with unsubstantiated proof - go ahead. Do your worst.

But the more accused sexual molesters like Rabbi Nechemia Weberman are exposed in the media… and the more that community proclaims his innocence and threatens his victims, their families and witnesses to not testify, the more believable this fellow’s words become. The more books like Hush that are published by insiders exposing these same attitudes, the harder it becomes to not believe it.

What is the ultimate truth here? I don’t know. I hope it’s all a lie. But I suspect there is more truth than fiction here. I therefore issue a challenge. If any of this is true - let all victims come forward. Don’t be afraid of the consequences. There is strength in numbers. Report to the police. Tell your story. Testify against the abusers. 

It may be easy to intimidate people as victims come out in drips and drabs. But if they come out en masse, there will be no possible way to intimidate them all. I beg you all: Please do not hesitate any longer. The welfare of your families, your community and ultimately all of Klal Yisroel is at stake.

Update: I have revised the post to reflect the fact that the numbers that have been quoted to me are so shocking that it casts doubt over the whole issue... being too high to be believed and thereby causing a credibility issue. That would defeat the purpose of the post. I have also asked a Charedi Rav who deals with this issue and consults with psychologists about whether the high end of the estimate (33%) is a realistic figure. As soon as I get a response I will post it unedited in its entirety. 

Rabbi Yakov Horowitz Responds
Sunday, June 17, 2012

Dear Reb Harry

I hope all is well with you, and please once again accept my sincerest wishes of nechama and comfort for your entire family on the tragic loss of your grandson Reuven a'h. I met your daughter and son-in-law at the recent Agudah Mid-West Convention and their grace, dignity and emunah in light of all that transpired to their family over the past few years was simply remarkable. May Hashem grant all of you only simcha and nachas in the months and years to come.

In response to your question regarding the validity and accuracy of the quote you mention on your recent post that up to 1/3 of the children in the most chassidish circles were abused, please understand that I have no access to any hard numbers on this matter. To the best of my knowledge, there are no reliable studies to support any firm percentage (which you correctly noted in your post), and to be perfectly honest, due to the "hush factor" one would be correct to question the integrity of the data even if there was published research to reference.

Having said that, I would not dismiss out of hand the number you quote as wildly overstated. There are several reasons for this.

1) Even with all the dizzying number of arrests/convictions of many dozens of heimishe predators over the past few years, there has been, to the best of my knowledge, little or none of the child-safety education campaigns conducted in the non-chassidic community during this time.

2) There is still a stunning amount of support for accused and even convicted molesters among the "charedi street" and even rabbinic leaders as evidenced by the grotesque fund-raiser for Weberman and the public visit of rabbis to Weingarten indicate.

3) The victims of child abuse are far less likely to be referred for professional help -- causing an exponential rise in the abuse rate as the untreated survivors are far more likely to abuse others.

4) The sheer numbers of arrested and convicted predators in recent years point to many thousands of heimishe victims. In Brooklyn alone, there were reports of 50-100 arrests of heimishe predators. With the average pedophile in the general population (where they have far less access to kids) molesting 50-200 kids in his lifetime, the low-ball number would be thousands and thousands of victims. Now just calculate the real number factoring in the numbers of unreported predators.

With all this in mind, how can one rule out an admittedly breathtaking percentage like the one noted in your post? Keep in mind, that the number quoted in the general population is 1/6 of the children. See here . How would one not think that the additional risk factors noted above would not dramatically increase the percentage of children molested?

Reb Harry, abuse happens everywhere. Everywhere. No society is immune from this phenomenon.

The difference between isolated instances/lower percentages and the raging forest fire of a true epidemic, however, depends on the response to the abuse once it is uncovered.

Kindly have a careful read of this essay which ran in Mishpacha Magazine back in 2008 and take a few minutes to click on the links at the bottom of that post.

The great tragedy in the Heimish community is that it is truly "All Pain and No Gain" as there seems to be no change whatsoever from how things were conducted with regard to abuse a generation ago.

From my vantage point, there is a direct and powerful correlation between a community's attitude to reporting predators to the authorities and the rate of abuse among today's children.
If you doubt the validity of that statement, just ask yourself a simple question: If you were a predator in today’s climate, where would you be less frightened to molest a child – in Teaneck or Williamsburg?

I would have loved to take a pass on responding to your question, and I cringe in pain and heartache at voicing my thoughts on this in such a public forum. Nonetheless, there is an enormous responsibility resting on the frail shoulders of those of us in the trenches to warn the members of our community as to the magnitude of the problem with the hope that a paradigm shift will occur in our thinking -- where the safety of our dear kinderlach will finally matter more to us than dealing with the "pain" associated with addressing this problem will entail.

Best and warmest regards


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