Tuesday, December 31, 2019

A Chanukah Interview

"Chanukah was a time with my family (of origin) that was very beautiful.  
When you grow up in a Torah family (where incest occurred) people have said to me, your family wasn't really frum, (Orthodox) they weren't really talmidai chachamim, and they actually were in many ways...But they were split off from parts of themselves that they didn't or couldn't deal with.  I have beautiful memories of my family just as I have horrific and traumatic ones.  It has been very hard to sit with both of those realities and embrace both parts of my heritage...The spiritual destruction...The Chashmonaim had to go into the Bais Hamikdash (the temple) and witness all that destruction to the holiest place on earth.  That's what it will take for certain segments of our community who are not yet ready to go in there and clean it up.  For the Chashmonaim it must have been heartbreaking to see what was done to the Bais Hamisdash and find one little (flask) one spot of hope in the midst of all the violation of kedusha (holiness).
That is what we have to do as a community.  When you are sexually abused your kodesh kadoshim  is violated and you have to go inside and clean it up.  You have to be able to face and sit with horrible, horrible, pain.  Not everyone can do that..."

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

It Was an Honor to Speak in Florida Last Month at Anshai Emunah

https://www.sun-sentinel.com/florida-jewish-journal/palm/fl-jj-delray-beach-power-heal-genendy-radoff-20191127-20191121-66wbsoswhza7zj2qmcwszy2yfu-story.html L

From left, Rabbi Jack Engel, Genendy Radoff and Danielle Hartman during the "Harnessing the Power to Heal" event at Anshei Emuna Congregation in Delray Beach.
From left, Rabbi Jack Engel, Genendy Radoff and Danielle Hartman during the "Harnessing the Power to Heal" event at Anshei Emuna Congregation in Delray Beach. (Jeremy Lurie/Courtesy)
The topic of childhood sexual abuse was recently discussed by an Orthodox Jew and incest survivor herself, Genendy Radoff, at Anshei Emuna Congregation in Delray Beach.
Anshei Emuna, a Modern Orthodox congregation in Delray Beach, presented “Harnessing the Power to Heal,” in partnership with Ruth & Norman Rales Jewish Family Services.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Buy my memoir online!


Unkept Secrets

That is the thought that came to mind watching myself and fellow warriors in the film "Unkept Secrets" this week at the Jerusalem Cinematheque.
 I hope it becomes very clear to Baltimore's Heinemann, Hopfer, Tendler, Weisboard and other's like them, that if you try to hide the truth about childhood sexual abuse by killing someone off, like you did to me, and breaking apart families, like you did to mine, not only will you fail miserably but in the end more people will know the very story that you tried desperately to deny, and the very person you desperately tried to silence and destroy than you ever dreamed possible!
The film is playing this Thursday, 7:00 pm at the Jerusalem Cinematheque.


Saturday, March 16, 2019

Reclaiming My Religion (from my memoir The Price of Truth )

Reclaiming my religion 

I have a membership at the local aquarium and I often walk over there on Shabbos. I have my card and don’t have to use money. I don’t like handling money on Shabbos. There is a religious injunction against using money on Shabbos, the Sabbath. And the truth is, I’m not so good at this “off the derech” thing – literally, “off the path”, a euphemism for being formerly-religious. My soul is too connected to Torah to just let it all go. No matter how far I try to run, it is a part of me, my identity, my soul. I know in my heart that this is just a stage in my journey toward healing.
I hear the squeak of the dumbwaiter as they pull up our dinner from the basement kitchen. My nose tells me that tonight I will be eating cornbread and lasagna. Tonight, I will eat dinner because it is not meat or chicken. Although I am officially off the derech, I still can’t bring myself to eat traif, non-kosher meat. I don’t know if I ever will. The cornbread is soft and moist, and the cheese in the lasagna melts, creamy on my tongue. When I leave the bathroom, I start to automatically recite asher yatzar, the blessing you make after using the bathroom. I quickly catch myself and remind myself that I am off the derech and not saying blessings.
Going off the derech is not simple for someone with my intensely religious background. But it is necessary. I think that religion should be a physical manifestation of our spirituality. Religion should be about our connection with a Higher Power. Unfortunately, I think that many times, the religion becomes more important than the connection with self and with God. That is when it begins to seem fanatical, oppressive, and stupid.
In my parents’ home, I always felt like religion was above protecting people’s feelings, or caring about them for that matter. God came first, before people or feelings. Damn it, I get so confused. How do I know what God really cares about? I don’t want to measure anything against what my family believes. I always felt separate from them. Like the real me didn’t exist among them spiritually or emotionally.
To sort this out I need to separate Torah from my family, and that means I am taking a break from it.
This is easier said than done. On Shabbos, I hear the lamed tes milachos song, a song about the 39 types of work that are forbidden on Shabbos. I taught my pre-one-A boys this song when I worked in the preschool. The song plays over and over in my head. I know every melacha, forbidden work, that I am violating intimately. After all, I taught them. I can’t get away from it.
And there is something else that, if I am honest with myself, I have to admit causes me crushing sadness. I miss Shabbos. I miss the family time, the sense of connection and belonging. As excruciating as sitting at the Shabbos table was, because of my misophonia, my phobia of eating and mouth noises that I struggle with since I was seven. I miss belonging to something.
 I wonder if God is angry with me for needing to leave religion for a while. And then I have an epiphany: I realize that God likely doesn’t mind. A loving God wants me to heal. A loving God wants a genuine relationship with me. God created man on Friday and only afterwards He created Shabbos. First man, then Shabbos. This proves to me that first you must be a person before you can bring religion into your life and serve God. You have to exist first in order to recognize God. Right now, I am learning to exist. I am just becoming a real person.
I share with a friend that I miss Shabbos, and she suggests that I contact an assistant rabbi in a nearby suburb who she knows to be open minded. We speak on the phone a few times and I explain my ambivalence about religion. Rabbi Fried listens and validates my conflict. He is warm and supportive. He assures me that there are many ways to be a religious Jew and that my family does not own the Torah or religion. He promises that his community and its culture, although Orthodox, is as different as night and day from my family.
After a few months of speaking on the phone, Rabbi Fried gently encourages me to join his congregation for the upcoming holiday of Rosh Hashana. It is an appropriate time to begin something new, he tells me. I go anxiously, and I am amazed to discover a brand-new kind of Jewish community that is diverse, and open minded, as well as committed to Torah and halakha. One main difference between this community and my family is that culturally they are completely American. No one here is obsessed with how people dress, how much Torah they learn, and what “yichus” – a well-connected family name – they have. No one judges anyone else religiously. We are all on a journey to come closer to God, we are all growing and learning. We are all different. Everyone is treated with equal respect regardless of their job title, how much money they have, or their gender.
I encounter many warm and wonderful families of religious Jews who are not afraid of the real world, and are in fact an active and empowered part of it. My jeans and shorts don’t bother them. The people who wouldn’t dress this way assume I have my legitimate reasons. In fact, one of my new friends takes off his black hat when he sees me because he knows the sight of it makes me queasy. The Torah is not his hat. He is not his hat.
This community is diverse. All the way from black hat and wig, to shorts and no hair covering. Some of the members don’t look so Jewish on the outside, but the prayers they say, the Torah they read, the Shabbos they keep is the same one I am familiar with. It is a perfect bridge for me between two worlds and I am so grateful to have found somewhere I can belong spiritually.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

About that Child Molester who Ties Tzitzis* in Jail...

There is a guy sitting in prison right now for molesting his daughter, tying tzitzis and selling them to, um, guess who? Apparently, us!
A friend asked me what we are going to do about this. How can we allow this to continue?! Who wants their husbands and sons wearing these horrible tzitzis?

I am going to think out loud about this for a moment.
You may think I'm crazy, but I think its great that this guy is sitting in prison for molesting his daughter tying tzitzis. I actually think it should be the image of teshuvah for our generation. I really like this idea! If it was a rabbi who told this man to tie tzitzis in prison, I applaud him.

If you are a guy wearing tzitzis, you should be aware of why you are wearing them, and why tzitzis hang down around your sexual organs. My understanding is that the mitzvah of tzitzit is to remind Jewish males why they have a body and a sexuality in the first place, and what its mission is in their lives. Whether you are wearing tzitzis, or not, and if you are using your sexuality on a regular basis for personal gratification, for hurting others, or disconnecting from healthy relationships, then, yeah, maybe you should be sitting in jail tying tzitzis as a tikkun. Because the fact is, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually, you ALREADY ARE in jail if you are molesting someone, or using your sexuality in any way that violates another, or even yourself and your integrity. And yes, I am fully aware that some sexual deviances are obviously worse than others, and some prisons are obviously worse than others.

So guys, when and if you put on your tzitzis, remember that they are part of Judaism's great message of mindfulness, and sexual health. They actually might have been tied by a guy sitting in prison for molesting his daughter, and if nothing else that should be a powerful reminder of what your tzitzis are for, and what we need to work on as a society and a community.

Here's the thing; I suggest that instead of focusing on the guy in prison tying tzitzis, we think about how we use our own sexualitity.  We all need to focus on working towards using this powerful gift  for connection, for holiness, to bring us closer to our spouses and to ourselves, and of course, to our Creator who put us here with specific instructions about what to do and not do with our sexuality.

...Call me crazy, but that is just my two cents.

*A four cornered religious garment worn by Orthodox Jewish males.

Monday, February 25, 2019

The Younger Part

I'm standing alone on a small hill near my home.
The cool morning wind washes over my skin and fills my lungs. The sun is just peeking
over the surrounding hills, and my large white furry dog is sitting alert at my side. My
terrier, Lucky, leaps like a small brown rabbit, through the dense green growth, the grey,
black, and yellow speckled rocks, spotted with pink cyclamen, red anemone, and purple,
pink, white and yellow wild flowers of Israel whose names I haven't yet learned.

This is where I go almost every morning to pray, meditate, and expand my consciousness
by connecting to the source of this magnificent beauty. I am convinced that this hill was
put here just for me. I feel safe and held here by a higher Being of love and truth. My mind
and heart open and join with every other being alive on this complex planet of ours. I
overflow with gratitude, joy, and often almost in the same moment, with tears of pain and
sadness for so, so many of us who are suffering, confused and in pain.

This hill, my hill, is where I expose my soul to my Creator, and put in my request for the
kind of day I want to have. I express deep gratitude for the power of free will. For the
choice of how to start my day. For the power to choose my thoughts and desires. I have
experienced how powerful my thoughts are when I harness and focus them.

D'jango's white ears go back suddenly, and his nose shifts and points to a tiny dot in the
distance. Perhaps a deer, or a jackel, I think. Lucky has stopped leaping and is also
staring at the same tiny dot, which is now moving closer. I can hear now, what alerted
them; a faint haunting wail, the cry of a wounded animal. I wait for D'jango and Lucky to
bark, but they sit by my side silent, alert, watching the dot move toward us. Perhaps it is a
cat. Cats can sound so human.

I can see now that it is not an animal, but a person, running, straight towards us.
Sometimes I encounter other people out here on my hill. There are the regulars: a teenage
boy who come here to walk his dog almost every morning, and the man with the tallis bag
over his shoulder who walks quickly by me to his hill, or his tree, in the distance, to pray.
There are Arab laborers building houses nearby, who sometimes come up on the hill as

This person is none of the regulars. As she approaches I can see now that it is a child, a
girl, in a torn dirty dress. and she is running, wailing, right at me. Her face is twisted in
terror and she is racing forward over the rocks and bushes, faster than seems possible on
the uneven ground. She doesn't seem to see me, or my dogs, and she doesn't slow down.

I cry out in pain as her head cracks against my pelvis and we both fall to the ground. I feel
my head hit a rock and I try not to cry out again, aware that I could easily have cracked my
head open. As I gasp for breath, I feel the child's nails clawing painfully at my arms,
grabbing, digging into me. She is still screaming, and I wonder at how she can run and
scream at the same time. I can't move or breathe well, and I am flat on my back with the
child on top of me.

Even as I recognize her, I let myself think for a second that she must belong to the
Bedouin family who graze their sheep on the other side of my hill in the spring and
summer. I have never seen a child this terrified I think, and then I admit to myself that, no, actually,
I have. I know this child and I have seen her before many times, although it is hard to
admit. I sit up carefully, and hold her, trying to ignore the pain, trying to breathe, and
process the agony in my pelvis, and the agonized desperate child in my arms. Her hair is
matted and her dressed, streaked with dried blood, is so old and worn I can barely see
what color it once was. My maternal instinct kicks in and I hold her small rigid body close
and try to calm her.
"Sh...sh...sh...sh...sh..." I rock her, and I make the soothing noise all mothers make when
trying to calm a screaming, hysterical baby.
She continues to cry and wail and claw. She doesn't seem to see me. She won't release her
grip on my forearms.

We sit there on the ground together, for the next few hours. It takes her that long to calm
down, to stop screaming and focus her eyes. I try to breathe, and stay with her in her pain,
to breathe through my own pain as I did in childbirth, and to remind myself how much
patience it takes to help children who are this badly hurt and scared.
I have done it before and I can do it again. I have been blessed with a special strength just
for these moments.

When she finally begins to quiet down, I tell her that I understand why she ran to me now.
I know it is because of the book I just published about her.
Precious, beautiful child,you can finally, really, trust me. I wrote down your story in a
book that people are reading now. You are not dead, little girl, even though your family
and their rabbis tried with all of their might to make you and your story die and disappear.
You can stop running now, because you are finally here in the present, together with me.
You do exist, and you will always exist, long after we are both gone, because there is a
book documenting what happened to you. You matter! What you went through matters! I
will hold you and protect you forever. You are here for a reason. Your story is a gift of
healing to the world.

It takes time for her to calm down enough to hear me, and to relax. It seems like days
before we can get up and hobble home together. She lets me clean her up and hold her, and
show her how beautiful and safe the world is now.
She goes everywhere with me. Sometimes still clinging, but more often than not, looking
curiously out from the safety of my arms, and engaging with her new safe reality of
existence and purpose.

We are fortunate to have recovered from our experience. Sometimes we still need to cry
together for all of the loss. We have both healed, but the scars are still visible and may
always be there. Faint marks on my arms, a slight pain in my pelvis when I move the
wrong way, and invisible scars on my heart and soul,
that remind me what it felt like to be her.