Thursday, May 30, 2013

I Had One Conversation with Rabbi Heinemann About This...

When I was nineteen I told one of my aunts about my memories of my father molesting me.  I  had always been close with her and desperately needed family support.  I had not gotten any so far.  Her reaction was not concern, empathy, or the offer of support I had hoped for.  She had but one important question on her mind:

"Can you marry a kohen?"

 I really didn't know the answer to that and it worried me because I was dating at the time.  My parents  knew I had issues but were desperately trying to find me a shidduch.  My father told me that he believed that marriage would solve all my problems. 

  Rabbi Heinemann is a friend of my father.  My father davened in his shul for many years.  My father taught his boys and helped one of them through some challenges.  Rabbi Heinemann was my brothers mohel.  He had been to every simcha in my family and knew my grandfather from his years in the Lakewood Yeshiva. 
I called Rabbi Heinemann. 

"If I was raped by my father can I marry a kohen?"


Then the Rabbi asked, "Was it before or after age three."


More silence.   Then a verdict:

"If you say it happened, then no, you can not marry a kohen.  But if you say it didn't happen, then yes, you can marry a kohen."

That was the end of the only conversation I ever had with Rabbi Heinemann about this or anything else.

He did not ask me any further questions.

He did not express any concern.

 I could have been asking him if my flaishig fork that I accidentally used in the milchig bowl needed to be kashered.

 The fact that a young woman with a terribly painful question was crying out to him, reaching out to him for help at the other end of the phone, a real person with feelings, from a family he knows...didn't register at all in his reaction.  

A few years ago a friend here in Israel, and former Baltimorian, told me about an encounter he had with a  visitor in Shul.  The visitor was a friend of his from Baltimore and somehow the topic of my father came up.
My friend asked the visitor what was going on with the case.
The man replied,

"Everyone knows the daughter is not credible.  Rabbi Heinemann says she's crazy and not frum."

   My husband happened to be davening a few chairs away  and my friend pointed him out.

 "That's her husband right there.  Our boys are in the same class in school."

The color drained from the man's face and he sat down hard.  his mouth fell open and stayed that way for a full two minutes.

"I don't understand."  He finally mumbled.  "Why would they say that?"


  1. Yep, that's what they told me, too. That has been the excuse for the unexcusable, "she's crazy."

    Why should I disagree? How could I disagree? I didn't know her any better than the Rabbonim and lay leaders of Baltimore.

    But I did know that the one she was accusing wasn't normal. I knew from his first-hand irresponsibility, I knew from first-hand lies and deception, I knew from other members of the family, I knew from his physically abused victims, I knew from parents of his other molestation victims, I knew from parents of TI students, I knew from discussions with Rabbonim in Baltimore, including Rabbi Hopfer. I knew it when he begged me forgiveness in the bakery, one Friday morning. So I questioned but who do you go to for the truth?

    The answer is the source! You go to the source and don't rely on what others say. Other people may have reasons, may have biases, may have other priorities! I just want the truth. For the sake of the victims and for the sake of the Torah.

    So I went to the source and lo and behold, Genendy isn't crazy. She's a neighbor of my brother-in-law, my other sister-in-law has good friends who sent their children to her Gan, parents of children in her Gan live in my neighborhood in Ranchleigh, her husband davens in the same shul as my father-in-law, my mother-in-law went to the showing of Standing Silent that her organization, Magen, showed in Ramat Bet Shemesh, she is highly respected by previous members of the Baltimore community, who are highly respected when they return to Baltimore. She has a stellar reputation in her community. She's one of the best gannenets in an upper-class community. She's real. She's compassionate. She's truthful. One second here, this does not add up. How can this be?

    He's still nuts and she's normal and even more than normal. I found the truth. Belief was not required.

    Zechariah 8:16: These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace;

  2. Rebbetzin HocksteinMay 30, 2013 at 8:31 PM

    speak, Genendy, speak and keep on speaking. Loud and clear so that everyone can hear. You are not crazy, but what was done to you was crazy. What was done afterwards when you were trying to make sense of it and to heal was even crazier. The craziest thing is that this individual is considered a wonderful educator and has access to children on a daily basis. And that makes ME crazy! So keep speaking, Genendy, so that people start to realize the truth. You are not crazy, but this farce is crazy making. By speaking the truth, perhaps others who have been silent till now can be brave and come forward. Then, something definitive can be done to stop the madness.

  3. When a question of Halakha is asked the rabbi can answer it technically or respond to the person and her story as well. Rabbi Heinemann was unable to deal with Genendy's father having raped her so he simply found a way for her to still be permitted to marry a kohen. what he should have done was first to respond with sympathy and shock to her suffering and offer to help.
    I have known Genendy for over a decade and find her account totally credible. She is a remarkable human being and her ability to remain committed to observance despite what her father, a rabbi, did to her and the lack of support from her community is incredible.

  4. How many siblings do you have? Do any of them side with you?

  5. She called for a Das Torah - for that the Rabbi needs to be surgically objective - if you were under a knife - do you want for your doctor to be all emotional or focused on issue at hand? Please conside this side and may you find Menuchas Nefesh.

  6. Brilliant Anonymous(6/4@9:15): The doctor has the requirement to report abuse, also. No one said anything about "to be all emotional". It has to do with asking what the cause is and what can be done to help that. And yes, that is the congregational Rabbi's responsibility. She wasn't calling the Rabbi of the rape or kashrus organization for objectivity. She was calling the Rabbi of the shul where her family davened frequently and was a close family friend. Halacha is not objective. Halacha is subjective, depending on the person, situation, etc. that is the reason for so many machlokisim in halacha so that there are different dayos to rely on, when needed. Like having a goy do melachos on Shabbos for a kosher caterer or having a light bulb be considered baking or a random generated time on an oven be called gerama.