Thursday, June 20, 2013

Dear Rabbi Nosson Nussbaum, Rabbi Tzvi Berkowitz, and Rabbi Hillel Tendler,

Regarding the letter that you sent to the parents of Torah Institute:  I believe that it is our responsibility as adults to protect innocent children from harm.  Based on my personal experience, as well as ongoing stories of abuse I have heard over the years, I don't think my father should be left alone with a child for even one minute.  I will not be silent and allow one more child to go through what I did.  I am forty years old and safe from my father.  Other children may not be.

I find it very disturbing that you signed a letter to the parent body of Torah Institute stating that you know that the serious allegations I have made against my father are not credible.  I would hope that there is a basic obligation to hear from both sides before making a  decision about truth and credibility.   I have learned through my work with the Bet Shemesh child protection organization,  that any allegations of child sexual abuse must be traced back to the source.  I have never met or spoken with any of you, yet you seem to think you know a lot about me.

You mentioned in your letter that "several parties outside the school" looked into the allegations and found them not credible.  They likely are Rabbi Yaakov Hopfer and Dr. Aviva Weisbord.   Neither Rabbi Hopfer nor Dr. Weisbord  have the ability to be objective in this case as they are both personally connected to my father.

Dr.  Weisbord treated me for a period of approximately six months when I was 18-19 years old.  She has not been in contact with me since.   Dr. Weisbord told me at the time that she was seeing me only as a favor to my father.   She told me that she doesn't usually see her friends' children because it wouldn't be ethical.  She told me that she made an exception in my case because, "I have so much respect for your father."  When she pushed me to tell her the truth about the molestation, (She wanted me to tell her it was my uncle who abused me.) and began to suspect she had made a big mistake, she terminated treatment with me very suddenly telling me, "You have serious boundary issues in your family.  I don't think you want to tell me about it, and I don't think I want to know."

Since then I have heard first hand that Dr. Weisbord's "professional" diagnoses which she apparently has no problem sharing, is that I am crazy.  The fact that Weisbord will even admit that she knows me, or that I was a client of hers, is a basic breach of client confidentiality.

Dr. Weisbord has a lot of hard questions to answer about her blatantly unethical behavior in my case.

When I was twenty, a friend of the family shared with me that my fourteen year old brother molested her six year old daughter.  The family friend was upset by my mother's reaction.  My mother's response was that my father needed to learn (Torah) with my brother more often, and that my parents would be speaking to him about staying away from girls.  When I told my therapist at the time what had occurred, she told me she legally had to report it as what my bother had done was sexual abuse.  I begged her not to.  My family was already very angry with me and I didn't want to give them more reasons to reject me and hate me.  My therapist and I finally agreed that she would ask her rav, Rabbi Goldberger, what to do and would follow his psak.  Rabbi Goldberger told my therapist to make the report which she did.  The family friend would not press charges so the case was dropped.

I am concerned not only for the children in T.I. but also for my nieces and nephews.  Incest is often a painful legacy passed down in families from generation to generation.

My family has not spoken to me about our family problem since I was twenty seven.  They have completely cut me out of their lives because I could not deny my painful experiences or promise to keep them a secret.  I am now forty and in a completely different stage of life.  They have no idea who I am today, outside of my recent communications.

I was very concerned thirteen years back when I heard that a former student had accused my father of child sexual abuse. I had thought/hoped that his abuse had stopped with me. It occurred to me that maybe the reason the abuse stopped when we moved to Baltimore was because my father had access to other children. 

I told a parent of a child in the school that I was concerned that my father was not safe around children. It got back to my siblings and they went to Rabbi Hopfer for advice. Rabbi Hopfer told my siblings to give me an ultimatum. I was to promise never to talk about what my father did to me, or they would cut me out of the family. I told them there was no way I could ethically promise that. 

I wrote Rabbi Hopfer a letter asking him why he had not contacted me before he gave my family this cruel advice. He did not respond. Some months later I called him up several times, and finally he called back. I asked him again why he had not contacted me before telling my family to cut me off. He became very defensive and angrily asked me why I believed that my father's other accuser was credible? Why had I not bothered to check it out? 

I told Rabbi Hopfer that I had checked it out and that although I was not in the room (or the car where it happened) and could never know what really happened to this student, that based on my own experiences with my father I believed that it was possible that he had abused again. 

I told Rabbi Hopfer that I wished that he and my family would also admit that they were not in the room when my father was abusing me and could never be completely sure what my father had done to me. 

I asked him again why he had not contacted me. R Hopfer said he had already spoken to me eight years earlier when he had visited me in the hospital.  I wrote down the rest of the conversation that Rabbi Hopfer and I had right after I hung up with him:

Me: I am a different person now, in a totally different place than I was eight years ago. I was going through a serious crisis then. A lot has changed. I think you should have realized that and called me. Do you remember our conversation in the hospital?

  R' Hopfer: No.

  Me: So you made the decision to break up a family based on a conversation you had eight years ago that you don't remember?

( I do remember the conversation I had with R' Hopfer nineteen years ago in the hospital.  I told the rav at the time that I felt like a holocaust survivor whose family had been with me in the camps, and were now insisting that the holocaust never happened I told R' H' that I was confused and hoped that my family was right and I was indeed crazy.  The alternative was to lose my family. The last thing I wanted to believe was that my memories were true.  I told him I would rather believe my family, believe that I was crazy and live in a mental hospital, than trust my memories.)
  R' Hopfer: I made my decision then that you were not credible and I stuck with it.

  Me: I think you should have contacted me. Why don't you believe me about my father? Do you think I am crazy or evil?

  R' Hopfer: No, but your siblings say that your story is inconsistent. First you said your uncle abused you, then your grandfather, then your father. 

  Me: When I first started dealing with this, I did not want to believe that my father abused me. Like you, I would rather have believed just about anything else. My therapist at the time, Aviva Weisbord, wanted me to think it was my uncle.

  R' Hopfer: Your own therapist doesn't believe you. 

  Me: The only therapist I worked with who is unethical enough to break confidentiality and speak to you about what she believes and doesn't believe about me, is Dr. Weisbord...and she is also a friend of my father. 

  I'm trying to understand why you would advise my family to do such a terrible thing? What good could this possibly accomplish?

  R' Hopfer: They have to choose between you and your father. They can't be loyal to both of you. They can't stand seeing the pain you are causing him.

  Me: I wonder why you and my family are so focused on my father's pain, which I didn't cause, yet no one seems to worry about my pain. I have lost my entire family because of this. And you have ruined any chances of my family taking any responsibility in dealing with this. Any chance of healing our relationship. If they want to cut me out let them at least own their own decision. Don't you realize that they take your advice as a psak, as da'as torah?

  R' Hopfer: Yes. I realized that.

  Me: would you consider changing your ruling.

  R' Hopfer: No, I still think they have to choose.

  Me: Is it because you don't believe me, that my father sexually abused me?

  R' Hopfer: Yes, I don't believe that he did that.

  Me: How can you be objective about this considering that you trust my father so much? He has taken over your shiurim for you when you are out of town. He has taught your children. Don't you think it would have been more responsible to send my family to someone else for advice about this? Someone who is not so close to the situation?

  R' Hopfer: I believe that I made the correct decision.

  In the end my father is still the principal of an elementary school. If the rabbis in Baltimore care at all about the safety of the children in their community they would insist that my father be evaluated by a professional who is trained to evaluate potential offenders. If they continue to try to "protect" him and demonize, discredit, and isolate me, they are continuing to perpetuate a tremendous evil for themselves and their community. They will be responsible for any new victims of abuse by my father. 

 My siblings insistence that the abuse didn't happen is not untypical.  Helise Pollak is a specialist in treating trauma and incest.   I have known Helise for a number of years.   She makes it clear that it is very common for siblings to deny abuse by a parent, whether they know about the abuse or not. I would like to refer you to two excellent books for a better understanding of these issues; Trauma and Recovery by Judith Herman, and Memory and Abuse by Charles Whitfield. 

If you have any information about anyone else besides Dr. Weisbord and  R' Hopfer, or my siblings, who "looked into this" and found the allegations against my father not credible, please be in contact with me as I am very willing to discuss it with you.

Be aware that this letter is posted on my blog and will be seen by Torah Institute parents.


  1. It will be difficult for parents at the school to believe your allegations against your father, because by acknowledging your story as truth they will immediately place themselves in a position of guilt - for not seeing your father for who he really is, and for not preventing their children from being exposed to a molester. Denial is so much easier to deal with than guilt. Than the feeling of, "I'm such an idiot! Why didn't I know/suspect/sense...?" So the molester is victorious twice. He makes his victims feel guilty for what he did to them, and they therefore usually don't report it to anyone. And then the people who DO hear about it feel guilty for not seeing and preventing the abuse in the first place, so they also fail to act. BALTIMORE: STOP FEELING GUILTY AND DO SOMETHING!

    1. is difficult for parents at the school to believe the allegations because those in power told the parents that the allegations are not credible. No one feels guilty. No one thinks there is anything to be concerned about.

  2. Wake up people!!! Do you really think this doesn't happen!!! Check this link on You Tube!!! Friendly Message to Camp summer staff by JewishCommunityWatch. Molestation does happen and it can happen if we as parents are not wise, and educated. Not all frum Yidden are good people.

  3. Although the implications of all of this are truly disturbing if this is truly a cover-up, I think that without any evidence, witnesses, or others who were abused coming forward, it remains a case of one person's words against another. How should community memebers respond when there is no incriminating evidence?

    1. In my opinion community members should respond by insisting that my father be evaluated by a psychologist who is trained to evaluate potential offenders. Obviously by someone outside of the community who is not beholden to any of the rabbonim there. If my father is indeed innocent than he will have no problem complying and perhaps clearing his name.
      A staff member in the school told me a few weeks ago that he witnessed my father taping a child to a chair. (the child apparently had trouble sitting during class) This is a BIG red flag. It may not be molestation but it is abusive behavior. Adults who control and humiliate children should not be in charge of them.

    2. A current staff member? How long ago did the "taping" occur? Did this staff member report it to the vaad hachinuch or just to you?

    3. Yes, a current staff member. It occurred just before Pesach this year (2013/5773). The parent reported it to other people, which I got word of. The staff member also mentioned it to me, when I brought it up to him. Does it concern you?

  4. The mistake of the Baltimore community and many others is to focus on whether the alledged perp is guilty or innocent. That is the wrong way to go about things because often the truth is obscure and only trained proffesional - NOT RABBONIM - are able to make that determination.
    The issue is what risk does the alledged perp carry. This can be evaluated easily by professionals without the legal system. If someone is clearly a risk to our children, for example there are boundary issues, and other red flags - that is enough reason to have a check done and based on the advice of the tester prevent a potential molestor being near children. Any person suggesting otherwise is clearly in denial or puts others in preference to his own flesh and blood. No proof that molestation actually took place is necessary. If a person is clearly suspected of murder and sadistic behavior would you have them teach your child even though a proffesional therapist trained in violent behavior risk said it was a bad idea. Its also important to focus on what was done rather than who did it. Just because a person is a Rabbi or leader does not mean they are not human and they could have commuted an act that would not necessarily be expected from them.