Sunday, May 19, 2013

Seudas Hoda'ah

Dear Rabbis and Community Members,
The reason you are invited to view this letter to my family is because my message must be heard. Because of the many years of being totally cut off from my family I have very little hope that they are capable of hearing it. I hope that you are able to hear it. My letter is not meant to blame, demonize, or point fingers about what went on in the past, but only as a vehicle for change now and in the future. As you read, please ask yourself what you personally can do to help ensure that no more children can be hurt the way I was.
Thank you,
Genendy Eisgrau

Dear Family,
You do not know me very well, as we have been estranged for many years. I want you to know a little bit about who I am today. There are no words to express the pain that you cause me by cutting me out of your lives and treating me like I am dead or should be dead. Thanks to Hashem (G-d), who listens to the tears and the screams of his children in pain, I am still alive and not only surviving but thriving. My connections to Baltimore in the last few years have been sparse. I hosted one of R' Heinemann's grand-daughters for a Shabbos at my home with my husband and children a couple of years ago. And I have had Baltimore children in the Gan (Early childhood center) that I founded for children of new olim.
I miss you all very much. You are undeniably a very special family. Part of my strength comes from you. You taught me that we must be willing to take risks to help one another. You taught me to do the right thing no matter what anyone thinks or says about me. Maybe someday you will open your hearts and minds and invite me back into your lives. May Hashem give you the courage to face your own pain and your own fears, and find your own path to healing.
I made a Seudas Hodaah (thanksgiving celebration) in honor of my fortieth birthday. I invited about forty women, all friends who I feel connected to. I would like to share my talk with you.
With love,

There is a well known story about two toads who fell into a bucket of milk. One drowned the other survived. When asked how he managed to escape the toad said, “I jumped and jumped until the milk churned to butter and I climbed out.
My late maternal grandfather was a rosh yeshiva. My father, who was a talmid of my maternal grandfather, is today the principal of a large talmud torah in Baltimore.  As a toddler and young child I spent a lot of time in my grandfathers yeshiva. I soaked in the atmosphere of Torah. The beauty and spirituality of Torah was not lost on me and is still a major part of my life today. 
Now I am going to share something with you that many say I shouldn't.  I have been told it could destroy my family and It may ruin my children's chances of ever getting a shidduch (marriage partner).  I am not worried. I believe that by taking responsibility for the important issue of our children's safety Hashem will grant all of us not only good shidduchim, but stronger marriages that are not marred by the trauma of untreated child abuse.
 So here goes: I remember being molested by my grandfather, my father, and other bochurim (students) in the yeshiva repeatedly during my early childhood.

I am not supposed to be telling you this ugly fact. In fact, I think life would be a lot easier for me, my 11 siblings, and countless relatives that go along with a proper frum (religious) family, if I would not have survived a suicide attempt about eighteen years back.  But after waking in the ICU I realized that Hashem did not intend to let me die, and their was a good reason He allowed these things to happen to me and allowed me to live to talk about them.  At the time, I made a commitment to find out the reason I lived. I have found the reason.
I am the reason.
You are the reason.
The future of Klal Yisroel (The Jewish nation) is the reason.
Today I am publicly thanking Hashem for saving my life.
For a complete copy of my talk please e-mail me at

Following are some of the reactions I received after my talk (names included with permission):

Thank you for sending me your powerful and eloquent statement.  Keep on fighting.
Please feel free to use my name and add that I have known you for years and have always found you credible.
Best wishes,
(Rabbi) Yosef Blau 

I’m so proud of you. I have sent this on. Have you ever had ANY validation from ANY member of your family? I hope the truth comes out for them! It’s so sad that the perpetrators manage to get the message across that NOT TALKING is heroic and praiseworthy and the victim who does expose the abuse is considered the evil one. 

Miriam Adahan

Kol hakavod. That took major courage.
I would like to use my new position to help regarding abuse. If you could write any law, what would it say?
R' Dov Lipman, Kenesset member
I cannot sleep thinking about this evening. It was so powerful; the beautiful setting, the peaceful ambiance, and most importantly your moving words followed by your unbelievable artwork. You are truly an amazing inspiration. I remember when I first met you, recognizing your beautiful perceiving heart and as I've gotten to know you over the years that appreciation has grown and grown.  Now I am awe inspired by you and your strength . I feel so sad for your loss of family but all the women there tonight and all of our children who you've taught are your family.
I still have hopes of someone out there bringing the horrible truth to Baltimore- it's never too late.
Thank you for including me this evening.
Shavua tov and see you Monday!

Genendy, thank you for sending me this. So far I only read a few words, and I'm already bawling and can't see enough to read anymore. I'm typing this thru my tears blindly LOL. Just wanted to let you know how powerful this is, already, and I read but a few words.
Still trying to get out of the butter,
Dear Genendy,
I am shocked, saddened and sickened.  I want to take you in my arms and give you a huge hug.  You are one of the most amazing woman I know - totally NORMAL, a phenomenal educator and wonderful friend.  What a nightmare you lived through.  No one would ever know the horrors you lived through by the way you live your life here in RBS with a smile on your face and on open heart, ready to love and help all of us.  G-d should give you strength to endure and to continue on your path to stop the 'blind eyes' that allow this to continue.  
It is a pleasure and honor to know you. I am so grateful you are alive. You give every child you know the gift of learning how to express themselves through their storytelling, their art, their feelings. You are cherished for your courage to tell your honest story. May your heart feel all of the love we have for you.
Can't wait for your book!
Much love,
Dear Genendy, Amv"sh
I just wanted to tell you how sorry I am for what you have endured-physically, emotionally, spiritually. I am so sorry that you had to suffer the disillusionment of discovering how respected, religious individuals can be so corrupt and insensitive. Most importantly, I want to tell you how much I admire your ability to take all of  the horrible injustices that were handed to you and channel them to not just come out ok, but to come out the most incredible, thought out, creative and respectful educator that I have ever come across. You have created a warm, safe, nurturing, and loving environment for so many children throughout the years, perhaps being metakein on some level, what was unjustly taken away from you.
Finally, Evan and I  both want to offer our support in any way that we can provide. We understand that by sharing your story, you have potentially opened yourself up to the most painful and dismissing reactions from the frum community. We feel very strongly about stopping the horrible epidemic of molestation and about preventing the disdainful covering up that occurs. We will gladly stand by you in support as needed. We respect you greatly for speaking out and hope that you are granted the support and encouragement from the community that you rightfully deserve.
With great respect and admiration,
Devorah and Evan
Hi Genendy,

Wow.  Although I am feeling speechless, I felt compelled to write you an e-mail even though all my thoughts are not yet in order from tonight b/c I felt that I wanted you to see an e-mail in your inbox the day after such a big revelation of your personal past and self.

Genendy,  I return home from you talk and I am awed by you. 

I just keep on thinking to myself: wow, that must have taken such a tremendous amount of courage for you to get up there, in front of all your friends and reveal such a personal and private part of your life.  Genendy, I was so moved by your words.  You are a SURVIVOR in the truest and deepest sense of the word.  I cannot even begin to imagine the pain and hell you must've gone through.  It sounded so hellish, I was feeling so outraged just hearing your words!!! I am so so sorry that you had to go through what you did and endure what you endured.  I am so so so sorry how you were treated and rejected afterward. So disgusting and even as you said, worse than the trauma itself.  You are such an amazing person, w/ such high moral and such a beautiful and warm personality.  I have learned so much from you in the short time that I have known you.  I always jokingly say, but it is true, that you raised my daughter and I'm just her second mom.  But seriously, you said tonight that we inspire you but the truth is Genendy, that YOU inspire us!  You are such a special and unique educator and I really have gained so much from watching you interact w/ the children and hearing you and being w/ you and working under you etc.  I want you to know how much you have helped so many children and parents and how the world really is a better place b/c you are in it.  You have done so much w/ your gan and w/ your advice and w/ your knowledge and wisdom and we are so lucky to be a part of your life and to know you.  

Thank you for inviting me tonight and for trusting me w/ your past.  I feel like I have so many questions for you.  I cannot fathom how you endured such a tragedy.  All I can tell you is that you are so loved here in RBS and we all think you are so special. I wanted to speak tonight when some of the ladies were speaking but I was too shy and in shock so I thought I will write you an e-mail when I get home.  

I am so glad that you have the courage to "come out of the closet" and speak about your hellish past tonight.  I learned a lot tonight and I see now that it is such an important part of the recovery and I feel privileged that I was able to be a part of that healing.  I am always here, w/ a very open and listening ear, w/ a very warm and comforting shoulder to continue to be a part of the healing and to hear and listen to whatever you want to say.  

I love you Genendy, I really want you to know that.  We all do and we all are so happy to be a part of your life.  I am so happy that I am able to know you and be your friend.  Thank you for sharing tonight.  I wish that no child will have to ever endure what you and others have endured.  I wish that no child should endure the rejection that you endured from your family and "rabbi's" (should we even use that word? - I mean, how could any authentic "rabbi" ever advise you like that?)

Goldie :)
I am so moved by this, and so honored to know you!  You are inspirational.
This is amazing.  Very hard to read and really horrible, but well done for writing it
 Love you,

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